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Author Topic: Why is cottonwood ignored?  (Read 24175 times)

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Offline jrokusek

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Why is cottonwood ignored?
« on: May 02, 2007, 12:48:30 AM »
So I cut some cottonwood while I was testing and tuning my bandmill.  Man - it's some DanG nice stuff!  Looks like it could pass for maple to the untrained eye.  I'm going to throw some stain on the boards and see what happens.  Might make nice furniture.  There's actually a little bit of figure in the middle picture - top board.  How about framing lumber - anyone use cottonwood lumber for framing lumber?

Jim








Offline mur

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2007, 01:26:23 AM »
Hello jrokusek:

Even worse than aspen, cottonwood gets no respect.  Properly cut, dried and finished - it's a show-stopper.  I haven't finished any for a few years - but the last I ran - clear 1x6 T&G V-joint - came out gorgeous.  People dropping by the shop when I was preparing it couldn't believe that it was cottonwood. 
I did see one barn cut from cottonwood.  The wood rots easily so keep it very dry - and I would definitely check its load bearing capabilities.  Knots are quite often large and rotten.  I only saw the good stuff.  And some of the reaction wood is impossible to finish.  It can be a bit of a challenge - but when it works and you get it right, it's beautiful.
And I did run into a fellow from Vancouver Island, BC. who knew of a family there using cottonwood to run their furniture shop.  The wood can be stained to look like cherry and walnut apparently - but that's hearsay.
Don't dream it, be it.

Offline Larry

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2007, 04:25:54 AM »
I dont ignore cottonwood...never have found a wood yet that couldnt be used.  An old thread with a pic of where I used cottonwood in kitchen cabinets.

http://www.forestryforum.com/board/index.php?topic=7990.0

I have some cottonwood stashed away that has some of the prettiest and tightest curl ya ever saw.
Larry, making useful and beautiful things out of the most environmental friendly material on the planet.

We need to insure our customers understand the importance of our craft.

Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2007, 05:55:14 AM »
We don't have cottonwood or aspen in my area.  But, the reason different woods get no respect is probably twofold.  One is that cottonwood is awful soft.  For a furniture or flooring wood, the general public needs/wants something that will hold up pretty well.  So, the softer woods get to be used as interior furniture parts, as long as they are stable.

The other factor is that there needs to be a relatively good supply to create a demand.  We had a chance to develop a wormy oak when the gypsy moth went through our area.  But, there was no guarantee of supply to meet any future demand.  Cottonwood may be in the same boat.

But, you can create your own niche market for cottonwood.  Niche markets are the things that can make or break a small wood operation.  Just brush up on your marketing skills. 
Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Offline Larry

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2007, 07:08:45 AM »
I guess Batesville Casket is one of the larger users of cottonwood for caskets.  An inspector working for Batesville told me they are quite picky about getting high grade cottonwood.

There is also an export market...but I dont know who is the end buyer.  I sawed to comsel and prime grades while back but the money wasnt good nuff, so I quit.
Larry, making useful and beautiful things out of the most environmental friendly material on the planet.

We need to insure our customers understand the importance of our craft.

Offline olyman

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2007, 08:23:35 AM »
cootonwood is rodney dangerfield of wood------you can build any building out of it---its at least the same density as soft pine--and what is the structural lumber you buy made of---but as mur said--it cant be on the ground----rots quick----

Online beenthere

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2007, 09:36:19 AM »
cootonwood is rodney dangerfield of wood------

Great analogy der..... ;D
south central Wisconsin
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Offline Steve

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2007, 10:12:59 AM »
I am so thankful that Cottonwood is not a commercially valuable wood. The river bottoms and creek sides of the West would be bare if it were.

Steve
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Offline urbanlumberinc

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2007, 10:26:42 AM »
I think the reason cottonwood, and other viable timber species are ignored is probably due to ignorance.  Just about anyone who knows anything about wood will have something to say about cottonwood, but ask them if they've ever used any.  It's amazing how many people hold a negative opinion about something that they know little or nothing about.  I've been cutting up a whole lotta cottonwood lately for fence pickets (gonna stain em heavily), and have found some really neat curl in some of it.  I'll be the only guy in town with a curly cottonwood fence 8)

Offline jrokusek

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2007, 03:15:13 PM »
Most of it is burned around here - not for firewood - because most people consider it junk wood.  Not me.  I'm going to start playing with it for various things.   Last night I stained one of the boards before I went to bed.  I bought it into work today to show it to a guy who works for me....don't think he's going to let me have the board back!  Somehow I have a feeling he may wind up with some cottonwood baseboard & trim in his basement remodel.  He said it looks like Aspen, Poplar or Maple when finished.  I just think it's some nice looking stuff and can't wait to get more of the logs.  I need to do some research and see how much strength it may have for framing .  I have this small garage project in mind.....

Offline Larry

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2007, 05:20:33 PM »
I have the construction strength properties for cottonwood, but there packed somewhere in a box when I moved.  Think??? that Don P gave them to me so ya might try an IM to him if he doesnt respond to this thread.

Two counties in north Missouri raise tobacco and barn cure it.  The barns built to cure tobacco are monsters...some maybe 40' tall.  Almost all were built from cottonwood.  Keep the roof rain tight and they would last a 100 years.
Larry, making useful and beautiful things out of the most environmental friendly material on the planet.

We need to insure our customers understand the importance of our craft.

Online beenthere

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2007, 07:51:29 PM »
jrokusek
There are some pubs on cottonwood strength around, and here is one that might give you some info.

Iowa hardwoods - including cottonwood
south central Wisconsin
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Offline TexasTimbers

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2007, 03:42:47 PM »
I found this thread via our search function. I was trying to find out if Cottonwood would make a good interior siding choice. My wife asked for something very light in color if not dowsnright white. I think my question is answered. It sounds like it should make very nice interior T&G finishing.
I didn't find anything on drying it though. A little further digging should find what I need toknow but in the meantime if anyone has dried any I'm all ears. I would like to go right into the kiln with it if it is feasable.
I may cut one down today. My dad told me that when he was a kid Cottonwood was no secret at all. He said for me to just start noticing how many barns are made of it and still standing. He too emphasized that as long as you keep it dry it's as good a framing lumber as you can cut. He titled his head a little when I asked if it would make good interior finish and then said "Well I can't see why it wouldn't."
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Offline Larry

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2007, 05:17:35 PM »
Cottonwood in north Missouri is not nearly as white as say basswood.  More of a creamy white.  Easy to dryjust keep it on the fast side to prevent stain.  Boards should be sawn with a 180 degree rotation to keep the grain balanced.  You will still loose some boards to twist.

Some cottonwood has a tendency towards being fuzzy when processed.  A Shelix planer head helps to control it a lot.  Sanding also can bring out the fuzzies.  Black cottonwood has fewer problems than yellow cottonwood (think this is local name).  Texas cottonwood may react entirely different from what Im used to seeing.

Ive seen it used as interior paneling and thought it quite attractive.
Larry, making useful and beautiful things out of the most environmental friendly material on the planet.

We need to insure our customers understand the importance of our craft.

Offline Ianab

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2007, 05:59:07 PM »
Quote
He titled his head a little when I asked if it would make good interior finish and then said "Well I can't see why it wouldn't."

My thoughts exactly.
Before I cut a whole roomfull I would get a couple of sample boards and see how they process and finish. But T&G wall panelling isn't really a demanding application, if you can get the boards up and they look OK then the jobs done.  :)

Cheers

Ian
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Offline TexasTimbers

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2007, 06:06:19 PM »
We just had a small but wicked cell move through and nixed the felling. These two trees are right down my street about a mile and a half. One is a female and snowed all its cotton last week and the lady finally told the husband to get rid of those DanGed cottonwoods. One is a male. So we are only talking two modest size trees. But probably enough to do the guest room and two of the kids'  bedrooms with a little left over.

I do have a spiral cutterhead on my planer so I shoud be allright using it. I'm not gonna sand it. Gona run it through the planer then the T & G and throw it up there. Like Ian says "then the jobs's done" Cheers. ;D
The oil is all in Texas, but the dipsticks are in D.C.

Offline tsodak

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2007, 07:45:11 PM »
I am a complete rookie at this, but I have been cutting cottonwood and stockpiling it to build my barn out of. I have cut a couple four or five big boys from up here, and I have been really impressed. Not a lot of movement so far, although I am just getting it started drying. I am cutting significantly oversized so I can resaw if needed, and anything that moves can always go into the fencing board or just naile up as sheathing.

Cut a 24 which is as big as I can handle into 4 8x8,s 12 feet long  last night along with assorted slabs.  Them babies will make you grunt when you move them. The stuff I cut a couple of weeks ago looks really good under my hand power planer,  I will see if I can get some pics yet tonight.

Tom

Offline Squirrell_Boy

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2007, 11:38:19 PM »
Cottonwood grows huge and straight around here. Definately has no decay resistance and i wouldn't cut any with lean or twist as it is well known to be prone to drying issues with this. I have a friend who is an incredible sawmiller and woodworker and as picky about what logs he cuts as anyone i've ever met and he likes it. I imagine some large trees would produce a large amount of clear wood.

I have seen some beautiful furniture made from it. Out west in Utah and surrounding states the pioneers made this primitive, but well joined furniture from it and often painted it. They would cut it thick 1.5 to 2 inches thick and join the carcass with large dovetails. These pieces are highly desired and some people are now reproducing them. I imagine they would be fairly light weight. I always appreciate that when i move furniture.

It may shrink and swell more with changes in humidity. I'm not sure. Just use quatersawn in drawer or other areas where this is an issue.
"Of course we don't know what we're doing. That's why they call it research." Albert Einstein

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #18 on: June 05, 2007, 05:52:39 AM »
Mur's cottonwood out there in BC is black cottonwood, almost identical to our balsam poplar (balm-of-gilead). You guys are talking about eastern cottonwood. There is some huge black cottonwood near Terrace along the Skeena R. shoreline and islands. I wouldn't use balsam poplar because it's so wet and dotey in the heart. Those straight tall stems look nice while on the stump though, and I love the smell after a rain.
Move'n on.

Offline jrokusek

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Re: Why is cottonwood ignored?
« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2007, 12:34:00 PM »
It's nice to see this thread brought back!  It appears we have eastern cottonwood here in South Dakota.  http://www.northern.edu/natsource/TREESA1/Easter1.htm   Can't wait to get the sawmill running and cut some for woodworking.  I think I might make a bookcase from it.  At least it won't be so heavy that I won't want to move it!

Jim


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