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Thread: Question(s) regarding Wood

  1. #1

    Question(s) regarding Wood

    I have been fortunate to strike up an arrangement with a local sawyer near my home in Md. I can get Poplar and Oak cut-off that they seem to treat like slab wood and disgards. Although I have to pick through large piles (which is no problem), I get a good pick-up load for about $50.00. Since joining the forum I have added a new Rigid 13' Planer and bought a used Rigid Jointer from craigslist for $200.00. I was amazed at how nice these tools prepare the lumber. I was also relieved after having bought just common Pine from H/Depot for two projects.

    My Questions:
    1.) I naturally try to select fairly straight pieces when going thru the cutoffs.
    The lumber is piled up and I expect has been exposed to the weather for probably anywhere from 3 months to 2/yrs. When I get it home I am Stacking and Stickering it as I have read to do in my woodshed which is 100% under roof.
    Keeping in mind the time it has been cut, is this method correct?

    2.) I have read that (New) lumber needs to dry for approx 1-yr.
    Wanting to get things rolling and (not) wanting to buy commercial lumber, after letting it air-dry for 2-3 weeks, I ran some of the first load with my new surfacing tools. After running it thru my planer it smooths it down beautifully, exposing the grain nicely. After cleaning it up somewhat I than run it thru the joiner and back thru the planer for final width pass.

    Although I don't have a Moisture/Guage, it seems like the lumber is in good shape to use on projects? I do let it acclimate in my small shop for 1-2 weeks

    3.) Last Question: Since a great deal of this is Poplar and readily available, is this wood good for most projects? I've read that it doesn't like stain, etc?

    Projects I am concentrating on are Pie-Safes, Drysink, etc. I also plan to try building a Table with Terracotta Tile top.

    In closing: The information that everyone helped me with in selecting tools and answering many start-up questions helped me tremendosuly in building my first project. In addition to building out my shop, my first Pie-safe made quite a hit with my wife and family members. Again I want to thank everyone for their input and patience with us beginners. This is more fun than I had originally thought it would be! The Mrs is even getting used to the $$!!

    Already need a Bigger shop and more Clamps....

    Bruce N.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Lakeport NY and/or the nearest hotel
    Couple of things come to mind.
    First off, you've got it pretty well figured out. Stickering etc will help dry the wood out over time. The only thing which might help you out, is if you were to build a solar kiln, which would reduce the drying time. Another item you might want to invest in is a moisture meter. Other than that, you've got the tools you need: Jointer and planer, and even better a sawmill which will let you get wood cheap, what else could you want?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    Sounds like you are headed in the right direction Bruce!

    When you sticker the wood, make sure the stickers all line up, one on top of each other.

    Buy a moister meter, it is an expense, but one that is well worth it in the long run. I'd also suggest a metal detector, I know my Wizard II had paid for itself several times over by finding hidden nails in wood, the blades in my planer and my jointer have been saved several times.

    I do not know much about Poplar, I know a lot of guys use it for the insides of drawers etc. For regular cabinet work it if does not take stain well, maybe a nice Shellac would give it a warm natural look, then coated with something tougher like poly? Or maybe you could try that milk paint stuff, some really like that look, and I'm betting the Poplar would work well for that.

    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Lakeport NY and/or the nearest hotel
    Poplar is technically a Hardwood, but it is a very soft hardwood. I've used some of it, it machines well, but dents easily. Many woodworkers use it as a secondary wood (drawer sides with a different species for the fronts etc...) in a project. It will mimic cherry with the proper stain/finish.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    Can't blame you for trying to save money. (my [2nd] favorite pastime )

    But, that wood is outside, sap wood, stuff. And it is mostly bark wood. Storing wood with bark on it is a gourmet buffet for bugs.
    Sorry to be the 'aginer' in the crowd, but I have doubts this project is going to work out for you. Mostly that stuff is good for being cut up and saved for next winter's fireplace.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Frank, these are cutoffs, not bark slabs. (Or at least that's how I'm reading Bruce's post.) I don't think they are necessarily cause for disappointment, nor prime fireplace candidates.

    Bruce, another way to monitor moisture (or more specifically, dryness), is to weigh the wood, and when the weight stops dropping, it's as dry as it's gonna get, at least in that storage location. Of course, it's not practical to weigh a whole stack of wood, but if you cut a 1' piece from each batch as you get it, you can weigh it when you first get it, mark the weight on it, then weigh it every few weeks until you see the weight stabilize. At that point, it's probably safe to assume that particular batch is dry. (This is assuming each batch has consistent moisture content.)
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  7. #7

    Follow-Up to Answers

    Thanks for the feedback guys. Vaughn is correct, this wood is not Bark-wood. Typically people buy it for Siding for Barn/Shed type buildings. This guy also pre-fabs them as well to sell. Mostly Board & Batten. Regular cuts of poplar are available @ $4.00 per 10-Ft board which seems pretty reasonable as well? I guess he discards the cut-offs due to split-out etc although I am able to salvage 6-ft lengths in pretty decent shape. The Oak planes out nice as well but is almost too hard to shoot thru with my air nailer!

    I figured I would need to buy a moisture guage. They seem to run about $100My specific interest because I don't know wood very well yet is with the wood being exposed to the weather as it is, does it start its aging process even though it is piled up and discarded?

    Thanks for all the replys-

  8. #8
    Penn State Industries sells a moisture meter for 30 bucks. Mine works fine. Wood can be decieving, it can look dry and machine fine but still have a moisture content of 18% or so. Below 10 is what you want or you will have problems. Like someone said, poplar is a good secondary wood, but is kinda bla looking (and soft) for most wood projects. I don't see much reason to stock up on too much of that.

  9. #9

    You're into the fun stuff.

    Buy a moisture meter. There are two types, pin and electro-magnetic (no pins). I have one of each, and each has its place. If I were to have only one, it would be the pinless. Wagner is a top brand for this style. Not cheap, but worth it.

    Also get Dr. Hoadley's book "Understanding Wood: A Craftsman's Guide to Wood Technology". $26+ at Amazon, free shipping, hard cover. Water and wood. You should know about it. Most moisture meters don't measure above 32%. The reason for this is that that is the point where the free moisture has escaped and the bound moisture is starting to leave. That's when shrinkage begins. It sounds like you have the possibility of dealing with some high moisture contents. Dr. Hoadley has a good discussion of this.

    Some defects are actually admired...spalted maple is an example, resulting from fungi attack. As long as the integrity of the wood hasn't been compromised you can use it.

    A year per inch of thickness is a rule of thumb, but your moisture meter will eliminate the need for rules of thumb. When it's dry it's dry. But then that begs the question of what is dry. Chuck's right, most houses are 6% in winter. But they're 10-12 in summer. Total climate control even changes that dynamic. Wood attempts to stabilize with the moisture level of its environment, taking on moisture when the humidity rises, releasing it when the humidity drops...the reason it moves. The applied finish affects the rate of moisture exchange...some finishes do a better job of this than others. The pieces you throw in your truck probably have varying moisture content...some may have been out there long enough to be usable now...stack and sticker what isn't. Wood at 20% mc will not be usable for furniture after 2-3 weeks in the shop. Only your meter knows.

    The nice thing about what you're doing is that not every piece of wood you pick up screams at you to be careful because it was expensive. You can afford to experiment, and you should. Hang a board in your shop and measure its width and MC at various times of the year, noting the humidity level of the shop. Try different finishes. Whatever doesn't work out helps heat the shop in winter.

    Poplar wouldn't normally be the wood of choice for fine furniture, except as secondary wood. But not everything you build is going to be fine furniture. It has many uses. But might be a good idea to stock up more on the oak.

    Lot to know. One of my regrets is the rest of my life won't be enough time to learn it...on the other hand, it's a fun journey. You have a good start.


  10. #10

    Thanks Ed

    Thanks for the great feedback and overview. You are dead on regarding the type of wood I am acquiring. It appears I am handling it correctly and should be in good shape once I get a M/C meter.

    I intend to use the poplar for drawers, etc. Right noe I'm attempting to build a "Craftsman" Desk and one of the steps is Laminating the legs. I'm using the Oak for the outer layers and also have to Re-Saw 3" pieces to "Skin" 2/sides.

    Learning a great deal between reading articles and asking for guidance thru the FWW forum.

    Thanks again,

    Bruce N.

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