A Special Moment

On some woodworking blogs you’ll hear the blogger talking about “Aha!” moments. Moments of clarify where it all comes together. Something that was previously not understood suddenly makes perfect sense. Here at johnjoiner we try to stay off the beaten path. Today I present you with a woodworking blog exclusive.

Last night while woodworkers across the globe were enjoying their special Aha! moments, I was having … wait for it …
a Duh! moment!

In August I took a spoon carving class where we worked with green birch and the instructor let me bring home a couple small logs. I kept these safe in my humid basement until last night when I decided to open one up to start on a new spoon. When I sawed the log open I saw that it had started to spalt. Not an attactive spalt, but plain gray spots of unusable fungus that I think you can see in the second photo.

“Bummer,” I thought, wondering if I had to use the birch the same week I brought it home, or if I should have done something else to it to keep it wet and still prevent it from beginning to rot.

Later while I was scrounging around for wood to become my next spoon blank it hit me. (I think Duh! moments come and slap you up-side the head.) I’ve spent enough time in the woods camping and making firewood to know that when a green birch falls it practically starts rotting before it hits the ground. You hardly ever find downed birch that isn’t completely rotten. So I shouldn’t have expected my log to last four months in my basement. I wonder if I had just ripped it length-wise down the middle when I got it home, if that would have made the difference.

Fortunately the instructor also sent me home with a couple small pieces of somewhat green cherry. So there you have it, web exclusives, fungus, Duh!, all in one post.


About johnjoiner

Computer nerd by day, Dad and woodworker by night. Woodworking blog at https://johnjoiner.wordpress.com/
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5 Responses to A Special Moment

  1. Wow…I’m writeless in response.

  2. I haven’t worked with green woods, but my understanding (mostly per Roy Underhill’s latest book) is that when you get a log, you need to take the bark off to get it to dry since the bark is essentially waterproof and will not allow the tree to dry (otherwise, trees would dry out and die).Also, most logs should be split or cut through the middle to allow the log to dry without checking and some species need to have the end grain sealed to prevent checking.With some logs, just splitting them open might be enough to get them to eventually dry to a reasonable state.A dry basement helps too…

  3. R Francis says:

    They last along time if you put them in the freezer. Suggest you make them into rough spoon shapes first to save space – and get permission. When they get kicked out, a plastic bag with green shavings seems to keep them going a bit longer. And then a plastic bag which you turn inside out every day is good for drying without checking.

  4. David says:

    I think if you wax it, it would help keep it green with out roting… I know turner do that to there blanks. I don’t know if birch would be different! David

  5. johnjoiner says:

    Thanks for all the ideas.Luke, the spoon carving is a lot easier and faster if done with wet wood. In my class we would put all the spoons we were working on into a big tub of water while we left for breaks or lunch. So I was hoping to keep the wood from drying too much. I like the idea of splitting the log.R.Francis, I’d heard of using the freezer, but not about the bag and green shavings. I’ll try that.David, I’d thought those waxed turning blanks were dried first. But maybe it’s for other wood species. I think that would accelerate the process on wet birch.

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