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Apologies if this has been covered before. 

I have an old oldish holly tree that I'm going to cut down,  my question is how would I go about making the wood usable?

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If it was in the US, a problem with Blue Mold infection after cutting is about universal.  It is a critical problem if you wish the wood to be snow white.  Your var. may not be white to begin with, some are yellow.   I was told here that Blue Mold is not as bad in the UK.  But, I will proceed as though it were.

Blue Mold discolors, but otherwise does not affect the usability of the wood.  It is just robins egg blue or grey.

To counter it, Holly is harvested in the Winter.

The cut ends are sealed on site.  Old house paint will work as well as anything.

It is cut into billets and debarked as soon as possible.  It is then immediately loaded into a kiln and stickered for drying.

Holly is wet when freshly cut.  As I was bandsawing an unsealed log, the blade was pushing water out of the end,

I made my own "kiln".  1" foil faced foam insulating sheeting,  200W- 400W of incandescent light bulbs as the heat source.  A DC muffin fan as a low cost water vapor exhaust.  A thermometer (digital - holds the highest temp) make it too hot for the mold, but not much more.  It will take a couple or three months.  It is faster than air drying, which is 1 year/inch.

Holly wants to twist as it drys.  A lot of weight on top of the stack can counter this, but at our scale and volume of wood that is difficult.

 

Not much works for us better than Holly.  It is hard enough.  holds an edge.  bends well.  takes well to wood dyes. Almost no grain or pores.  I think the grey infected wood makes for a more realistic deck than white.  Excellent for framing timber, but above miniature scales,  this requires a volume of wood that is better supplied by easier to obtain species.  Works well for beams, clamps, hooks, deck furniture, and especially planking.  Dyed black, it stands in for Ebony, without the hassle of toxic and invasive wood flour.

 

It should be worth the effort, despite the harvest challenge.  Even if your stock winds up stained by the fungus, it will still be as suitable for our purposes as anything you can find.

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Thanks,  I'll have a go at drying it out when I cut it down. The trunk is about 4 -5 inches round, 5ft tall and very straight. If I succeed I should have a decent amount of wood. I'll let you know how I do.

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Coincidentally, I just scavenged some holly from a neighbor that is freshly cut down.

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These pieces have a greatest diameter of 3.5" and smallest diameter of 2".

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I tried to cut it so as to exclude major branch points. These segments are about 12" in length. Jaager, I guess I should paint the ends and peel the bark when possible. But are you recommending that I go ahead and rip it into sheets prior to letting it dry?

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For the fun of it, I labeled the straightest piece with the date and with its weight.

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I also have this older and fully seasoned complex piece of holly that is as great as 8" at its base. Since I now have momentum, I will probably start on cutting it up.

When using holly for ship modeling, is it necessary to worry about excluding the pith at the center of the log, or is all of the wood fair game?

Edward, sorry for hijacking your post but it seemed like very good timing to add to your post and not start a new one.

 

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If you don't cut it soon, it will split as it dries. Slab it as soon as you can. Of, course, winter cutting when the sap is down is the ideal. Now is not the  best time of year.

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JD,

Billets are 1" to 2" thick sections of a small log.  The width is whatever it turns out to be.  Doing thin slices on wet wood is probably a good way to lose all of it.

If you do not seal the transverse cut surfaces - the ones that cross cut the fibers (tubes) - more water will leave from the open tubes than thru the walls.  The vastly uneven drying will produce severe checking.  The wood will experience extensive splitting. Often along the total length.  Minor checking at the cut ends is the norm no matter.  But another coat of sealer may help.  The last time I did this, I used left over enamel paint and a sheet of Bounty as an applicator.  Latex gloves.  no cleanup - it does drip, so do not do it over any unprotected  surface that you care about.

Removing the bark speeds drying.  Some wood has wood eating insect eggs and larvae just under the bark.  If they are present and not removed, the dry wood may be Swiss cheese.

The pith in most wood is not useful.  In some species it is spongy.  It is also an origin for checking.  Removing it may reduce splitting and increase the yield of usable wood.  Even though I like the face of quarter sawn slices,  I usually slice a billet with the blade going thru the pith. 

Was it Davis or Underhill who wrote about collecting branches after a wind storm and using the branch forks to get knees and hooks with naturally curved grain?  I think species where the branching is close to 90 degrees are more useful than those with acute angles,  but not all branching is bad.  It is not good for billets,  but those sections can be their own thing.

 

A log wants to roll and has no even edge to ride against a fence.  A carrier board that lays on the table with a straight edge for the fence.....  the log can be fixed to and overhang the other edge of this carrier.  I use  right angle timber framing brackets to hold a log,  Short pan head screws (1/2") for the carrier and long drywall screws to hold the log.  The carrier is a bit of a problem with a table saw - it costs 1/2" depth per cut.  With a large bandsaw - which is the tool for this - no problem.  The problem with large logs is the maximum distance the fence can be from the blade.  But in this situation,  I do the dangerous thing and long axis bisect the log with the chain saw.  This for sure removes the pith and a lot more.  For what you have, this is not a factor at all.

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Great feedback. OK, my plan is to cut this recently harvested wood into logs of reasonable lengths, then put exterior latex on the ends. I will get it to my neighbor's bandsaw as soon as I can for "slabbing", as you call it Druxey. For an individual log, I will probably split it right down the middle first, then slice what is left in such a way as to exclude the pith. Then I have to find a place to sticker all this wood!

 

For the older piece I showed you, that will go to the back burner since it is already dried over many years.

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As you can see, it already has long splits in it. And much of the bark is still on.

IMG_5588.JPG.023a2088db19724b5fbd6c63459bf60c.JPG

 

 

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Yup, that's what happens to the log if not processed promptly. However, if you can access your neighbour's saw soon, that is much better! Read up on quarter sawing as well.

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Sometimes splitting isn't a bad thing when it comes to modeling wood. A split can ruin a good wide plank, but we're interested in smaller pieces. The split tells you where the grain is weakest. Let nature start the split and then bust the log apart with wedges driven into the split. That should give you a fairly flat side to start slabbing. You can take a  plane or draw knife to the flat where it split to level it off for laying on your saw table, if need be. That can save you a lot of possibly dangerous sawing on larger whole logs. While getting the most marketable lumber out of a log is an important financial consideration in commercial production, we have the luxury of using only the choicest portions of our raw timber.

 

Think of a log as a cone, not a cylinder. The trunk or branch is thinner at its extreme end. It tapers. If you slab without regard to that taper, you get "grain runout." You will be cutting across the grain as you square the log. Working with split wood ensures the billet won't have its grain running off at the edges. This causes problems sometimes with warping and always with planing. When working with small pieces, grain runout across a piece of plank stock, for example, can result in the strip snapping where the grain runs clear across the strip. If appearance of the grain is a consideration, it will cause problems if you are really anal about appearances, too. Particularly with masts and spars, it's always best to use a piece that has no significant grain runout. 

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22 hours ago, Jaager said:

Was it Davis or Underhill who wrote about collecting branches after a wind storm and using the branch forks to get knees and hooks with naturally curved grain?

Some years ago we had a scratch builder that did that.  I think he was in Germany and basically, whenever he went for a walk (daily I think) he kept his eyes open for the fallen branches.  

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I found even nicer pieces of holly on my second visit to the brushpile, including logs of 5-6" diameter with extensive straight segments and no branching. Some are as long as 24"! And there is even more there if I want it; but I am having to restrain myself! 

 

I took a couple of pieces with painted ends, and started work on de-barking them. For this I was using my best available tool, a sub-optimal 3/4" width chisel. Now I am in the market for a draw-knife!

 

Hopefully I will be able to get to the bandsaw later this week.

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Nice JD.  I would so be tempted to grab it all.  Even if only 20% is usable in 2-3 years having more at the beginning is better (and think if you could get 80-90% good wood at the end).  Certainly better than just letting it rot.  And it is an excuse to buy more tools of course :dancetl6:

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JD,

   If the wood is invaded by Blue Mold and is grey or blue,  it should be just as sound as normal Holly.  It is similar in hardness to Black Cherry,  so it is not rock hard.  If you can dent it using significant pressure, but does not crumble, you are golden.  It takes dyes well,  so the fungal stain is not one that you are stuck with.  It is suitable for most every part of hull.  It is reserved, because it is expensive and difficult to obtain.  Commercial - the infected wood is seen as trash.   If yours is grey, it may useful as is for bottom planking for pre-1770's hulls - before coppering - that were treated with light colored gunk.  It can be affected by humidity changes,  so I would shellac the hidden inside surfaces and use another species for spars.

I would be greedy, be very, very greedy.  Get as much as can be had.  The Fates do not offer opportunities like this much more than once in a lifetime.  If nothing else, it could be useful for sale or trade in the future.  Unless stored using poor conditions, it will out last you.

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What the others have said JD.  Holly is like the ship modeler's gold.  And just about as hard to find it seems.   If anyone ask why you're collecting it, tell them it's the kid's inheritance.;)

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Actually, good quality holly is becoming scarcer and scarcer. Get as much as you can and, if you have excess, give some to your model-making friends.It'll guarantee their admiration and affection for you!

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My bad.. I either fat-fingered or my brain had a senior moment.  Meant to type in holly and ended up with boxwood.  

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I got to the bandsaw tonight with a 12 inch log of about 4-5" diameter, and a smaller one about 2-3". The smaller one already has a big check in it:

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But I cut it up to get flitches of about 3/8" thickness. 

 

How's this for a first attempt at quartersawing:

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These pieces are 1/2" to 3/4" in thickness. I took what the bandsaw would give me. My technique needs work; the pieces are of variable thickness due to difficulty controlling the log against the fence of the bandsaw. I forgot to finish cutting one of the corner pieces on the right.

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My kiln! AKA a shelf in the garage. I am gonna need A LOT more space. There is a lot more wood to come, including pieces of 24" length.

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Good start. There'll be time later to dress the wood. Now, remember to paint or wax the ends and sticker the slabs for even air circulation!

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Been doing pretty well with quartersawing these holly logs. Do I need to go out of my way to remove or avoid the pith, or is the pith something that will become obvious once the wood has dried? I am told that any residual sapwood on the outside surface of the slabs will just flake away, so I am not worried about that part.

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I am not sure that Holly has a pith that is a bother.  I am guessing that it is as hard as the rest of the wood, or it will pop up as you do your final slices and you can discard it then.

With your thinner billets, I am guessing that the physics of drying will have any checking go in the thin direction.   But a disaster if it is otherwise.

If you took a quarter sawn slice that is the diameter of the log, with the pith in the center and in the middle, your ambition to have a wide board may be thwarted if it cups as it drys.

No definitive answer here. You pays your money and takes your chances.

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On 5/12/2020 at 3:03 PM, jdbondy said:

Edward, when you notice that a neighbor has cut down their Buxus sepervirens, please let me know and I will come across the pond to get some!!

We have some small ones in the garden. If my wife don‘t mind it, I can take one down for you. Wait 2 years and then - you will at least be able to scratchbuild a bottleship out of it. 🤗 

 

About three years ago the boxwood borer - an exotic parasite - started to kill almost all boxwood plants in the neighborhood, so the ones in our garden may be the last ones alive in the street (because in the end I sorted the borers out by hand). Almost all nurseries stopped selling boxwood trees and the people started to substitute them so they are hard to find here these days.

 

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