I’m really not a wood-collector

I can’t be a wood hoarder (or collector) – I don’t have room. But for someone who claims to not collect wood, I sure spent a lot of time lately gathering it. Much of my wood of choice is green wood. If your eyes get bigger than your stomach for green wood, you end up with stuff that goes bad one way or the other. Some green wood rots, like birch for spoons. Some gets insects if you don’t get the bark off. Like oak. Here’s former spoon wood that never got made:

Winter is the easiest time for a green woodworker; no insects to invade the stashed timber. I have this pile of riven oak bolts standing outside my shop; this time of year there’s no hurry to deal with them. These are between 5 and 6 feet long, a few shorter sections in there too. Most is oak, a few are hickory that just came in this week. 

I have started to split them up and rough plane them one by one. Removing the sapwood and the bark is critical, that’s where the creatures get in. I have some joined furniture coming up – 2 joined stools, a chest of drawers and a wainscot chair. But then I need a place to store the planed oak bits…here’s a small stack up in the edge of the loft. I’ve glued the ends so they don’t check. I often write the date on them too, helps me keep track of what’s what. These are drawer parts and frame stock for a chest of drawers that’s on my list. The chair rungs behind them are a bit too wiggly to be good enough; but too good to burn. For now…

Before most of that oak work, I have two large pieces to build for the Old House in Cutchogue, Long Island out of white pine. A settle that’s essentially 5 feet square and a dresser that’s 6 feet wide and 7 feet tall. Like much early pine furniture, the originals that we studied to base these on were made from wide white pine boards. The settle for instance – the narrow parts are 15” wide. The uprights are from an 18” board.

This week I went to visit a friend of mine to get some of this white pine. We had to sort through a lot of pine boards, because there were too many 24-26” wide boards and we didn’t want to cut those down to 15” stuff. An interesting problem to have – boards that are too wide! I couldn’t leave all those two-footers behind, so a couple came here to be future chest lids. On the left is one of the settle’s uprights – it’s about 18″ wide, the board beside it is maybe 24″ wide. One or two small knots in the settle piece, the other board has none. 

I pulled one down from my loft that I’d been saving for a couple years, and cut it for a chest here in the house that has been wanting a lid for a while. So I can stash one board where that came from. But clearly it’s time to sort and clean out the loft and use it for real storage, not dead storage.

The next day found me helping some friends sawing out white pine boards, and some of them came back here too. These are green, just sawn. So their storage is easy, outside, stickered and forgotten til next year. Some 20” one inch boards, and one 2” thick plank; about 12 feet long. I’m in the midst of covering this small stack with leftover boards from building the shop. 

Then back to the first stop, where now there was a section of green hickory up for grabs. I split some out, about 6’ long. Chair parts, basket rims and handles. This needs pretty immediate attention, hickory has a lousy shelf life, and is best worked green. A detour, but a fun one. 

I disassembled my lathe to make room for all this oversized work; just finishing up the bedstead now, then will begin work on the pine pieces. You can see how tight it is in there. The long rails are just seen by the through tenons in the foot board’s posts. 

Here’s the wedged through tenon. After this photo, the wedges got trimmed a little, the tenon got chamfered on its corners.

After these large pieces, I’ll re-assemble the lathe. By then, it’ll be spring and I’ll start travelling and teaching. Better get to it.

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13 thoughts on “I’m really not a wood-collector

  1. Hello Peter:
    It is very interesting to see your thought process. For someone who is not as experienced as you are, the simple decisions that you make are informative. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for the great information Peter. We have all seen green woodworkers and chairmakers split a log and dimension it into bolts for immediate use. However the knowledge to remove the bark, split off the sapwood, and rough plane the stock is helpful to us more casual woodworkers as we deal with our “green” gold. I know in my own case I either have too much green wood or none at all, and all too often have lost stock to the forest floor. More tips on preserving and storing material is always welcome.

  3. Sad part about green wood, you need a plan and the time if you’re harvesting a tree, we can’t be wasting them, if it’s waste already, well then so be it. Even then I’m disappointed in myself if I don’t get to it, I am lucky to have some neighbors and friends that burn wood here in the very cold north woods of Wisconsin and are more than happy to bail me out! Enjoy all your posts Peter. Thanks!

  4. Mark Anderson and I went to Kennett Square to a small mill there, Mark needed a pine bard to make a repro lid of the 1698 Woburn box here with squiggles, but the guy also had some nice maple 8/4″ stuff about 14″ wide but wane edged. That’s for Cromwellian rear posts and front posts. It was snowing so we kept slipping in frozen ruts.

  5. Peter
    Thank you for this post, very informative. I was wondering if you have had any expereine with CNCing green wood? I just got myself an x-carve from robosavvy.com and I thought you might be the right person to ask.

    I would be worried about getting the router spinning at the wrong speed and or using the wrong bit.

    Thanks again for your lovely blog,
    Bob Green

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