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A good friend gave me two cherry logs about a year ago. I should have put them inside, but instead stood them on concrete up against my house, figuring the eaves would keep them dry enough. Nope. They started sprouting a fungus I call wood ears in late summer.

About a month ago I finally bought a wedge to split the logs, which went fine. When I stripped off the bark, I noticed a ring of light-colored wood maybe a half-inch thick just under the bark. One person told me that was sap wood and normal, but a wood-wise friend told me it was "pithy wood" and indicated rot. He said I needed to get it off and might be able to save the hard wood underneath.

So, yesterday afternoon I took my angle grinder with a Harbor Freight knock-off of one of these King Arthur grinders. That grinder disc worked great and what I found beneath that "pith wood" has me really excited. Take a look:





If any of you have done any creative work with logs like these, can you tell me:

  1. The logs were cut about a year ago and sat since then under my eaves on concrete. How do I know when they're dry enough to work?
  2. Following up on #1, I know I want to make an old-fashioned dough bowl out of one split, plus some knife scales. If I go ahead and make those, and the wood is not fully cured, what's the worst that can happen?
  3. Do you think the spalting and color I'm seeing on the outside will have penetrated into the log? That's good, right?
I appreciate any guidance or answers you can offer. If you know of websites that might help, I'd love it if you'd pass those along.

Thanks!

Kentucky Fisherman (Louisville)
 

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I haven't experienced that particular problem. I do know that there are moisture meters that will tell you the moisture/water content, and they aren't too expensive. Try Woodcrafters, Rockler or Highland Woodworking to see what is available. What does the split side of the log look like? Also, if you rip them to boards or scales thickness, be sure to paint the ends with latex paint or wax to help prevent checking while drying.
 

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Tinman is right

Moisture meter
I am a carpenter not a wood turn. Here is what I know. Wood that is used for gunstocks furniture etc. the ends are sealed to get a slow stable drying. If stored indoors they figure one year per inch thickness. The outer soft layer is the sap wood that still carried moisture to the leaves from the roots. The heart wood looks like it has spaulding which is staining from mold spores. That is not a bad thing if you like the look. As to how stable it is to turn I am not an expert. My guess is for a bowl it would warp. I know wood turners use different products to stabilize wood.
 

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I cut knife scales out of Texas Mesquite. I won't touch a piece unless I know it's been cut and dried for at least 5 years. For knife scales, and I could be wrong, but I think you're going to be disappointed. Knife scales requires the wood figure to be extremely concentrated otherwise it tends to look plain Jane blah. While nice figure in your pieces, the figure isn't dense enough to get real pretty scales.
What can happen if you work it and it's too wet? It will split open on you after you have a finished product. I've seen it split smooth in half. Frankly, I think you're looking at drying this wood another 4 years at minimum. When I dry my wood, it goes the open ceiling joists of my brothers carport. It's out of the sun, has a little heat on it from the metal roof, and it has air on all sides to even dry it. For knife scales that are real pretty, you're looking at cutting those out of the base trunk of a tree where the wood curls outwards to the roots. Roots with curves and twists make the best looking scales but it's hard to find that condition and still have enough wood to make a matched pair. Sometimes, you're left with only one option and that's a knife block for a hidden tang knife.
FWIW, we also cure Texas Mesquite for rifle stocks using the same method. Takes a pretty good mesquite tree to make a rifle stock. Dry time is minimum 8 years. We don't use a moisture meter to test for dry. We use a circular saw and watch for sparks off of the blade. No sparks, it isn't dry enough yet. Don't know how hard Cherry gets but Mesquite gets like concrete hard when dry.
 

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Sealing the ends only is zactly what an old head told me 48 yrs ago. He mentioned paraffin wax and bury it in a hay mow . . . let it dry through the sides but don't remember length of time.
A Bud texted me re your post and said cherry is a very damp wood, your bowl would split. His suggestion was to ruff it out and finish in 6 mos.
Me? I've already told you more than I know.
My Dad was skilled at wood turning but I never got into it.
 

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Bark left on is the kiss of death. You have to saw it to get it to dry properly. After sawing I paint the ends with old odds and ends of paint that I have laying around, paint the ends with several heavy coats, then keep it inside. Some of the best wood wood we have in our house came from native oak sawed and air dried.
 

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Figured wood

Here in Salem OR The state hospital, where One Flew Over the Cockoo’s Nest was filmed, there several very old black walnut trees that where taken out for a remodel. After they were removed it was found that the guy that removed them under contract was a friend of the General Contractor. The guy cut them off above the flair of the roots. It never went out to bid. It got really ugly when a local exotic wood wholeseller found out about it. He said thousands of dollars was lost because they where not cut them off below ground. Like Trapper mention that is where the good stuff is.
 

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The curly grain is called burl, and is from the root ball or from where many limbs and roots come together. Cherry is very light sensitive, so keep it out of direct sunlight if possible.

Regarding stabilizing wood, one of the chemicals used is called PEG = polyethylene glycol. It has also been used in binding together metal powders in some processes for making powder metallurgy parts or metal injection molding parts.
 
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