I have been thinking lately about what makes a good oak log for joinery. I walk by a large pile of oak logs each day, and I decided I can show you what doesn’t make a good one. These logs are all in the parking lot at work, and will be used for one thing or another by the artisans’ department at the museum; house parts, fence pale, etc. If you haven’t been watching their blog, here is the link again. It’s well worth a visit, says me. http://blogs.plimoth.org/rivenword/

Learning to read the bark is an inexact science; but many things can be worked out…one problem is that experience with bad logs will teach you a lot about what’s going on there. I am reminded of the saying:

Good Judgement is the result of Experience

Experience is the result of Poor Judgement.

example # 1 – quite simple, clearly a loser for joinery. Knots, two hearts at the bottom nearest the camera, weird, mis-shapen bole.

red oak

Next, another red oak I think. Pith of the tree is way off-center. Usually a sign of a tree that has grown on uneven ground – a hillside most commonly. That results in tension within the log. Twisting and warping in boards made from this log. Rarely reliable stock inside.

off center

Now this one shows some promise. White oak this time. Nice tight furrows in the bark. No big lumpy bits, a kink near the far end, or that’s a short log lying right against this one. Joinery most often uses short sections. 4 or 5 feet is about the longest you need.

this one shows promise

Then I looked at the end grain. Off-center pith, wind shake (large tangential cracking) bole is oval not round. and an injury or buried metal near the bottom right hand segment of the end grain.

walk away

What next? The long scar in the bark of this white oak indicates some trouble inside. Might be lots of good wood in this log, but right along where the scar is will become waste.

scar in the bark

More? This one might be all right for a while. Not the roundest, and some knots after five feet or so. But a short log near the bottom of this trunk might be worthwhile.

semi OK red oak

This is more like the shape I want in the end of the log.

nice & roung

This one has some checking from sitting out a while. But these can help you when you’re shopping. Look for end grain checks that are flat. If they curve ,the wood inside curves also. Here’s a good end grain view.

good splits

Now the easily worst of all. Anybody could see this one’s a bummer.

weird growth rings

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