Friday, July 10, 2015

Woodworking: Sumac Drying Experiment Part 2- Sawing, Painting

With the bucket of latex paint at the ready, I could now get these chunks of lumber ready for controlled air-drying.


Even right after you cut a tree down, the ends are already cracking (also known as checking). After more than a couple minutes, if you don't paint the ends, then things won't turn out- your log will split. This is because you've failed to stop the cracks from forming. That's part of what you need to do.

The solution is to cheat nature. By cutting about half of an inch off the lumber, less than 6 hours after cutting the tree, and then painting the ends right afterwards, we can skip the worrying about getting the lumber painted right after the tree cutting.

There's a method to the madness. It helps to cut and paint one end of each log, then begin on the other end of another log. This allows the paint to dry on one end of a log while you are cutting the ends off of the other logs.

It helps to use a bench vise, covered with a rag, to grip the lumber. You don't want to scratch or squish the lumber, so the soft cotton still allows the log to be gripped without damaging it.

And a note to anyone else who attempts this project... Your hands and arms will be SORE if you use a hand saw. It definitely would help to have a bandsaw, table saw, or chop saw, if you decide to take on more than just a couple logs. Also, please use a dust mask if you are getting sawdust in the air.

Boring, but predictable. Green sawdust makes a huge mess.

The inside of the log is quite pretty, though... Look at those rings. It'll (eventually) make a nice woodturning piece!


Moving onto painting the first ends... there will be drips. Make sure that you lay out dropcloths or tarps to catch any drips of paint.

You'll be getting sawdust in the paint. Pour out some paint or keep the can just for this project, but don't expect that your paint will be good for painting walls any more.

Don't forget to paint over any stems or side branches that you cut off.

A nice, thick layer of paint.

I did four coats of paint on each end of each log. It helps to put a piece of masking tape on each end of every log, and tally up how many coats you've completed.

Sap is slowly leaking out of the bark still, dislodging the paint as it dries.

Another layer of paint.

Slow progress. Make sure that you get around the bark on the ends as well as on the ends themselves.

 Looking pretty good!

A finished log, painted on both ends. I allowed about 45 minutes of drying time between coats.

 Now that you've recut and painted the ends of your sumac logs, you just need to wait for the last coat of paint to dry... and then it's time to move onto the next step!