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Thread: figure in wood

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    Southern Louisiana
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    figure in wood

    so you wood guru's, what causes a piece of wood to thave figure in it, let's say curly maple or quilted maple. i have a few uneducated guesses but i thought i'd hear from some of you who may know for sure first.

    also, how does a lumber mill know when maple is curly if they aren't planing it to a smooth finish. if it's still in the rough how do they know. i also have a guess for this one that relates to my guess for the first one, but i'd like to hear other ideas first.

    ok, so let's hear it

    thanks
    chris

  2. #2
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    Floydada, Tx
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    From what I have read and been told, figure is cuased by either a quick change in grain direction(cuase unkown) or diase(sp) will also change the figure(ambrosia maple).

    As far as seeing figure when it is rough sawn, well, Im maple and oak I look for little dark or light spots(rays) in the board. After looking at hardwood for a while you will be able to see it. Before the tree is even cut they can tell by looking at the bark of the tree. I am not even going to try to grade trees by looking at the bark, but then again I just starting milling my own logs.

  3. #3
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    Delton, Michigan
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    i agree with al chris and asked alogger that very question the first thing he said that from the bark and where it was growing will affect the figure of thelumber big time.. he pointed out some birdseye from the truck andhe had a warehuse full of alot of birdseyemaple and quilted maple... i have had a fair amount of lumber cut and have handled every piece after awhile you can see in the rough state bt i am not a bark watcher yet. stress is a very major factor the best birdeye for him came from sandy wind blown hills,, he would look at the topmaps for the conditions then look for the trees...
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
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  4. #4
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    As I understand it, curl and quilting is usually the result of stress, like from a large limb. The curl will develop in the trunk beneath the limb. The same can occur in large branches for the same reason. I've not found any birdeye in my Maple so I can't talk to that. And I can usually see enough of the grain in roughsawn Maple to tell if there is any curl present. Oak is a little more difficult, but I've noticed curl in roughsawn Oak as well. If the grain running through a board looks like what I've tried to represent below (like waves or ripples across a pond) then you have a good chance of having curl.
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  5. #5
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    Can the branches be used for boards? I was told they uaslly have to much internal stress.

  6. #6
    No.

    A big name college professor tried in earnest a few years back to prove that the logging industry was wasting way to much hardwood (the ratio for softwood is like 80% of the tree-hardwood is like 50%). Anyway he tried special kiln techniques, special sawing techniques and after a year or two of study concluded that the limbs just don't make for good lumber. I forgot where I read this, but its a well known study.

    I know first hand Popil is only good on the first few butt logs. We were sawing a popil top into boards and the tree pinched so tight from internal stresses that it stalled the sawmill. Now this was a 327 Chevy engine driving a 1901 52 inch rotary sawblade. To stall something like that just by pinching to pieces of wood together is quite the pressure.

    Last year I harvested a Maple on my own property. The tree was straight, growing on flat ground, and showed no signs of any stress at all. Just the perfect soft maple tree. When I went to saw it on the bandsaw sawmill, the boards that popped off it were odd. They peeled off in the banana shape. 3/4 on each end and 3 inches deep in the middle. No signs of stress, but man did it ever have some in it.

    You just never know when you cut into a tree what it will give you.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  7. #7
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    If you look at the bark, you can usually see the curl etc.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    If you look at the base of this tree, I would think, the wood in there

    I saw a show on TV once, I cannot remember, one of those "Norm-like" shows, the host went to a hardwood supplier and asked this very question, and the guy basically said that no "one" cause had been found, to his knowledge, but he thought that fire had a lot to do with things like burls forming, as most burls were on the downhill side of the tree, and when a fire happens, the fire goes up the hillside, and scorches the downhill side of trees, while the uphill sides remain relatively untouched.

    I'm just glad we get to buy it and use it!
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    William Arthur Ward

  8. #8
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    I cut two large limbs from one of my soft Maples with the intent of milling them into boards. Each branch was 9 - 10 feet long, 9 - 10 inches across and straight as a string. My friend who owns a portable saw mill told me he would mill the trunk for me once I cut the tree down, but he wouldn't mill the branches. Said I wouldn't be happy with the result after they dried. So I listened and cut the branches into bowl blanks.

    Maple can be tricky to mill. At least soft Maple, from what I'm told. Apparently it the trunk twists and this is quite evident in my three soft Maples. The trunk of my Silver Maple is fairly straight. Travis, this "twisting" could have caused the odd milling of that Maple.

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