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Wood - usable, how to treat it?

Jul 16, 2005
For last few years there is trunk of walnut (diameter is about 30-40cm (12-16"), length about 1-1.5m (3-5')) laying outside in the garden.
It isn't on the ground but lays on crossed branches (like inverted profile "y_y", remotely resembles a park bench), bark is peeled here and there and whole trunk is subjected to weather (rain, snow, wind, sun). Both ends are crackled (and extended, cracks are directed from centre to outside).

However trunk is long enough so it got me thinking whether it can be of any use (in case there are not any flaws and cracks in the middle portion)? Do you think it is dried up (so it can be used)? Do I need to treat (stabilize) the wood somehow? Or apply some wax or oil?

You will have to cut it up into boards first. Then see if there is any wood you would want to use. It is most likely still wet from the elements and will have to dry slowly. Once the boards are cut you can either seal them with shelac or wrap them in plastic. This will allow them to dry slowly. Put them in a dry place out of the weather and wait 6 months or so. Then get the moiture meter out and see what the moisture content is. if it is above 10% it needs to dry some more. You can get the walnut stabalized but it does not have to be. Just a good oil or wax will bring out the figure. I personnaly have given up on trying to process trunks or branches etc. The only time I do is if i can clearly see very nice figure, then it's just a waiting game.

Good luck
Chuck makes many good points and I am in agreement as to processing logs,

especially, walnut. Some walnut crotch wood or burls can make nice handles

but overall it is fairly plain as a wood goes. Even though it is classed as a

hardwood it is actually fairly soft.

The people who dry wood for me like to have it " sticked up " to dry for a

year before they put it in there dryer. This makes for less shrinkage as it is

being dried to 5 percent or so. Stabilizing after it is dried will make it much more

machineable and useful as a handle material.

Thanks for the replies :thumbup:
First time I hear of walnut being soft - I thought, excluding exotic hardwoods (ironwood, snakewood, ebony(?) etc.) that it is probably hardest wood commonly found (=growing in temperate climatic zone) around here. Thanks for the info :thumbup:

What reminded me of presence of walnut in the garden is this BM
IMHO it looks good.

I don't have any moisture meter (actually I didn't know something like that exists :)), I thought it may have dried up for the years outside, it certainly looks dry :) (when it's not raining outside :)).
It almost sounds like it isn't worth of hassle :confused:

I think I'll try to cut it and put into cellar for some time. Should I cut it lengthwise or transversely? Should I remove bark or not? Also what plastic should I use - the soft, thin one (used e.g. for groceries) or the thick tough one (like e.g. car cover tilt)?

Also what oil (commonly accesible) should I use? I'd like to (try to) use it for handle scales. I know stabilizing should prevent wood from moisture, however I don't know HOW to stabilize wood (=is it some chemical treatment, or is it procedure?)

I don't want to invest much into this, as results are pretty uncertain and I'll probably screw the wood anyway by my attempts of "processing" it even if it dries properly, so please no expensive/uncommon stuff

(or if you think it is really waste of time, tell me to forget about it please :))
Hi huugh,
In the past, I've split the wood, kind of like fire wood, along the end grain cracks that have already started. The wedges may(?) have better integrity than if you saw across unseen cracks. Then, maybe, you can clean up the chunks on a band saw into usable forms. It may seem like a big log to start with, but in the end there'll be a lot of waist. As the others have mentioned, it's not likely to be anywhere near dry in the center. If you want to go low tech, consider sealing the end grain of your keeper blocks with left over paint or wax and then letting them slow dry until they don't loose weight anymore. If you plastic wrap tightly keep an eye out for molding.There are good stabilizing shops, but you might try searches here for 'wood hardener'. If you're not seeing hints of real special grain, consider prepping just a few choice pieces instead trying for maximum yield.
Good luck and take care, Craig
I wouldn't bother, but if you want to see what you can get for handles,do this:
Cut the ends off the trunk at least 8" in (to remove the cracked wood).
Cut the trunk into 2' sections.
Cut each section into a square timber,cutting away the sap wood.
Cut each timber in half lengthwise.
You will now have a bunch of about 8"X4"X2' planks.
Paint the ends of each board with a sealant.House paint will work, as will paraffin wax,shellac, or varnish.This is to stop the ends from drying too fast and splitting.
Cut up a bunch of 2' pieces of cheap 2X2s. Put two down and place two planks on them spaced about 4" apart.put on two more 2X2s and put down two more planks,etc until you have them all stacked to dry. This stack must be in a dry and preferably warm place. A cold and damp basement won't work. An unheated garage will do better. Good air flow is a must.A real small fan gently blowing through th stack (from a couple of feet away) can speed up things. Too much air can lead to checking, so only a tiny fan will do.Let them air dry for 6 month to 2 years,checking until the moisture is below 10% (or until it stops going down )
When finally dry, cut the planks up on the band saw into 6/4 or 8/4X4" boards and let set for a month of two. Check moisture again,and if OK cut up into handle blanks.
I believe walnut must be stabilized. If I were you I would try to get handles out of it, just because I think its kinda fun to process wood. One more addition to what Stacy said: I think that wood dries a little faster when it is closer to the ceiling. I just read that somewhere so it isn't the gospel. You would have to do some research on a stabilizing service in the Czech Republic or somewhere close by. The other alternative would be for you to do it yourself.

Good luck. Hope you have a nice bandsaw!
walnut doesn't need to be stabilized, but it does have some big pores and can have some little voids if you get a crotch or burl section. fill/finish/seal it using a gunstock finishing kit. Brownells has one that is based on the Purdey or Holland & Holland finishing recipe. If you find a kit that has a product called "Slack-em" oil, that is a copy of the Purdey ingredients. As for hard wood, ebony and snakewood are hard, but they are also very brittle. i have been working a bit with lignum vitae, which is the densest of woods, but it is quite "moist" and oily when you first cut into it, so it is much easier to work. It darkens and hardens up in a relatively short time. I found the same thing with African blackwood. i heard that it is actually a member of the rosewood family and it works in a similar way to the Brazilian rosewood that i have. I have had bad luck with snakewood and ebony.....cracking problems while working. Putting them on a standard lathe is impossible for me. ironwood is a little better, but not much.
Thanks to all for advice, I'll try to cut it the way bladsmth described.

I don't have a bandsaw nor any power grinder (for shaping to form), just small hatchet, knife or two :) and one small and two bigger hand saws so wish me luck :)