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Raw wood to handle

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Agent_H, Mar 12, 2017.

  1. Agent_H

    Agent_H Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    Instead of derailing another thread,
    I’m looking for a little input from members who have riven/split out staves for tool handles from fresh wood to finished handles.
    What I currently have:
    1. Fresh Cherry logs at about 4.5’ and 6’ lengths split into quarters.



    *28” Boys axe for reference.

    I won’t have time to get to real green shaping but I would like to hog them down and set them properly to dry for future projects.

    My initial questions:
    1. Should I cut the 6’ in half?
    2. Do I remove the bark now?
    3. Should I trim up the ends to below any checking/splits?
    4. What do you guys paint the ends with to minimize checking during storage and curing?
    5. Should I take them down to thick blanks relatively handle-sized before storage?
    Tricks and tips are welcome.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2017
  2. Woodcraft

    Woodcraft Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 7, 2016
    1. Depends on what you are going to do with it. /I would not bother if it is just going to sit and dry.
    2. I do. It dries faster and is easier to remove green.
    3. Yes, so they do not travel. Ideally I split and cover the ends before checking starts.
    4. I use wax.
    5.Yes, green carving is much easier.
    That is my opinion, I make a lot of utensils and other wood objects/decorations. I am sure the cat can be skinned several ways.
    Hacked likes this.
  3. rjdankert

    rjdankert Basic Member Basic Member

    Mar 10, 2011
  4. RedFury

    RedFury KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 17, 2015
    I agree with Woodcraft all the way but this is the first I have heard of using Cherry for handles. Is it good? Second, your split pieces look pretty white. I divert cherry logs that show up in the firewood yard over to the bandsaw mill and they are quite red inside. The white on my logs seems to be just the sap wood on the outside. Are your pieces young enough that they are mostly sapwood or is cherry in Oregon different from Cherry in Florida?? I have 4 cherry logs sitting over near the mill right now. Not too big. Maybe 14" diameter by 12' long. In the past I have gotten some 24" diameter and that is some serious lumber.
  5. garry3


    Sep 11, 2012
    I use Elmers glue to seal so I think a thick coat of almost anything will work. If the sap is running in your climate the bark will peel off easily. If you don't take the bark off it will do just as nature intended and prevent moisture from escaping. Maybe that is better, but it hasn't worked well for me in the spring and summer. The problem with spring cut wood is it can warp really bad.

    I will usually pull the bark, seal the ends and then tie wire the staves back together just the way they were split using some scrap wood as spacers, top, bottom and middle.

    I am not in your environment though and don't really know what you have. With fall and winter cut wood I can just split it and seal the ends, no worry's at all.
  6. phantomknives


    Mar 31, 2016
    what i do is split, bark, carve with hatchet, carve with machete then drawkinfe, spokeshave then sander
  7. quinton


    Nov 4, 2006
    I cut my staves when the sap is down, and leave them 3 or 4 inches longer on average than the finished handle to allow checking to be removed from each end. I don't seal the ends any longer because I have only minor checking from the way I dry my wood.

    I also leave the bark on to slow the moisture release.
  8. osage outlaw

    osage outlaw

    Feb 21, 2015
    I cut and split out 200-300 bow staves each year. I'm already over 100 this year so far. I used to seal the ends with polyurethane or shellac to prevent checking. This year I switched to Tight Bond wood glue thinned with water. It's much cheaper and seems to be sealing them just as good. The bark and cambium layer will be easier to remove when green. Some woods will check on the back if they are not sealed after the bark has been removed. I'm not sure if Cherry will. I've never cut any of that. Another reason to skin them now is wood borers. Once the bark is removed they won't lay eggs on the wood. The smaller you reduce the size of the staves the quicker they will dry out, but they also have a greater risk of warping. You can clamp them to a 2x4 with spacers to help them stay straight. Keep your staves in a dry location. Most types of wood develop fungus and rot very quickly if not dried properly. An osage log can lay on the ground for decades and still be solid inside. Good luck with your staves.
  9. Square_peg


    Feb 1, 2012
    Checking is caused by differential drying/shrinking. Coats the end. I've seen thinned Elmer's glue recommended several times. Any paint will do. I use whatever rattle can I have handy.

    I would remove the bark. Leaving it could lead to warping.

    5. I've done it both ways and it didn't make much difference. I suggest carving at least one of them green. See how it goes. Forum member G-pig has done several green with good results, minimal shrinkage or checking. And it carves so much easier green.
  10. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    Lots of good advice here. Controlling the drying process is tough when you live somewhere that is bone dry indoors during the winter. Patience is definitely a virtue and the old saw about air drying is to allow 1 inch thickness per year. I had some luck 10 years ago with bagging rough shaped fresh wood pieces in drycleaner bags. These are made of super thin clear plastic which breathes enough that differential drying is moderated. 'Buttering' the ends with wax or left over paint doesn't do any harm either.
  11. AJF

    AJF KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 15, 2007
  12. jblyttle

    jblyttle Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 3, 2014
    With my hickory, I split it up and then spray painted the ends. It checked anyway but not bad, and I then cut a couple inches off of the ends once it was dry.

    I'll say this- with my experience using cherry, and it is limited, I may suggest using that wood for shorter hatchet and hammer handles.
  13. garry3


    Sep 11, 2012
    Some one here was using it to make real nice handles. Finnish hammers and smaller things. They where very nice as I recall.
  14. Agent_H

    Agent_H Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    Woodcraft, Bob, Red Fury, and Garry, Phantomknives, Quinton, Osage, 300six, JBlyttle, n Square_peg I appreciate the info share - keep it coming.

    Red Fury, it could be something else I guess. What strikes you when you see it - bark, color, heartwood (or lack thereof) to sapwood?

    An id here reminded me that there is red scat with pits in it along the trail-uphill and downhill from the three trees there each year.

    I've gone to the coast several times over the last year and a half and hunted ash on property that is owned by friends and acquaintances to no avail. Taking it on site without regard of permission and the potential natural/terrain/view impacts have kept me from taking what I have found just being out and about.

    Just funny that something workable might have been right here. If this ends up not something usable then I look at it as now I’m that much more ready for when something does present itself. Weekends I keep my chainsaw in the back of my truck.

    Felling trees is great if they need to go but I actually won't take them unless necessary – I guess meaning normally not just for my personal use or pleasure. That leaves smaller trees, dying trees, and fresh windfall - which this is but happens to be bigger and maybe something worth the time. My plan is to go through the appropriate motions regardless. Do – Learn.

    Trimming, end coating, spacers, green roughing, and many things mentioned here really valuable.
    My little microclimate does stay saturated to moist all year round. Deer, lots of frog, and Redwing Blackbird.

    Time, not interest, is my main constraint.

    I do, on the other hand, have plenty of glue and exterior latex paint…
    Very nice indeed :thumbup:

    Appreciate it guys.
  15. jblyttle

    jblyttle Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 3, 2014
    Fresh cherry wood has one of the nicest aromas.
  16. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    I've had a pair of Black Cherry canoe paddles for almost 40 years. The wood is light weight and not very hard but the flex properties inherent to it is astounding.


    Jan 6, 2016
    Looks more like some sort of Birch or thereabouts. Cherry should have at least some color in the heartwood. And I understand it has a bit lower moisture than many other woods.
  18. Canadian Mojo

    Canadian Mojo

    Jan 5, 2016
    Mountain ash (Sorbus sp.) or plum (Prunus) maybe. I know Canada plum (P. nigra) has a dark heartwood though.
  19. Square_peg


    Feb 1, 2012
    Wild cherry or bitter cherry can be mostly light/white colored. The trunk also looks a little like red alder but I've never seen such a red branch on red alder. If it were red alder the ends would turn red where it was cut anf if you shave the bark the cambium layer will turn red in a short time.

    Here's some wild cherry for comparison.

  20. Agent_H

    Agent_H Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    I hate to enlist you guys to ID wood but would closer pics help?

    Also, I'm ok if it isn't handle worthy - thought it was fortuitous to be right here.

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