Doe Orchards' old John Deere nestled in the rows.
This post by Kari Hultman put the bug in my ear about getting some apple wood. I had noticed a sign down the road at Doe Orchards in Harvard, MA, selling apple cuttings for firewood. I called them and left a message to see if they had any larger uncut wood for woodworking.
Larry Doe called me back to say they did have some bigger pieces, but it was all green. I told him that's fine, since I do green woodworking. I told him I'd stop by Saturday.
Looking at the weather report, Saturday's not going to be very nice. Today, however, is beautiful, so I used up a vacation day and headed over there, where Larry and Mark Dodd were clearing sections of red delicious and cortland trees.
Larry pointed me in the direction of the red delicious. He said the long stumps were still in the ground; he uses the leverage to pull out the root ball. Interestingly, he mentioned that growers were moving away from larger diameter apple trees such as these, so in 10 or 15 years it might not possible to find this wood.
The red delicious row, with a half dozen trees being cleared.
Loading up the van. A new definition for "Pick your own!"
These trees were all cut in December, so the wood is not totally green. I picked pieces that were 8-11" diameter, with the clearest sections I could find.
One load about ready. I limit it to one layer so I don't damage the suspension or get stuck. Each chunk is roughly 30 lbs. I still have snowshoes piled in the seats!
While I went home to unload, Larry and Mark loaded their trailer with the cortland wood. It was larger and clearer. The red delicious was much more gnarled.
Mark Dodd with the load of cortland.
I picked out the largest diameter, longest clear sections of cortland after they hauled it out of the field. I paid Larry for a load of firewood and headed home.
Stacked at home, cortland in front, red delicious with darker heartwood in back.
While we're at it, some cedar from the neighbor's house across the street. I think this was a shrub that got seriously overgrown.
Closeup of cortland, showing the fine end checking exhibited by all the pieces.
My lumberjack tools. I've split an 8'-long, 20"-diameter oak with these wedges and sledges (I'll have to post that video some time). The items at the lower left may not be familiar. From bottom, three birch gluts to hold open a split; a froe from Drew Langsner, a modern version of an ancient riving tool; and a hickory sapling club for driving the froe. The chainsaw is not really big enough for this kind of work. I also have a Shopsmith bandsaw in the basement.
For anyone contemplating using a chainsaw, first contemplate this OSHA diagram of chainsaw injury locations. Ouch! Yes, by all means, buy the safety gear and take a minute to put it on.
Now the question I have for you is, did I just buy a bunch of firewood, or did I get some good project wood?
Here we can use the power of the Internet to bring together two resources, this supply of apple wood, and the combined knowledge and experience of the people reading this.
If you've worked this kind of wood (either the apple or the cedar), I'm looking for suggestions on what to do and what not to do. Let me learn from your wisdom and your mistakes!
- What should I do to dress this wood? Should I split it with wedge and froe? How small? I can get it down to eighths easily. Should I flitch-cut it with the chainsaw, bandsaw, or handsaw on a sawbuck? I've done the latter with 8" birch after it sat in my garage for months; hard work, but not impossible.
- Should I work it as soon as possible, or let it season some more first?
- What about end coatings?
- Should I debark it?
- Where and how should I store it, outside or basement? Stacked and stickered?
- What kind of projects would this wood be good for? Any particularly good uses for quartersawn (or quartersplit) stock? Can the apple be used for plane bodies if I sticker the splits for a few years?
Larry told me his neighbor had tried to make something out of a nice straight section that had been seasoning for a while, but not long after he cut it, it twisted all out of shape. So it still had a lot tension bound up in the fibers.
The other reality is that I don't have a lot of time available to work this wood if it turns out it needs to be used quickly. Worst case, if it becomes unusable, I can just burn it in the fireplace. But I'm hoping to do better than that.