Ask WWGOA: Using Fallen Wood


In Ontario, Canada, I have free fallen trees cut down by the city to walk away with. How long is too long to consider fallen wood to be not green enough for re-sawing? The trees have been down two winters. What tools and blades will do the job?

Submitted by anonymous


It can take intact trees quite a while to get too dry, but there are lots of “it depends.” The larger the diameter of the tree, the longer it will take to dry. If the bark is still on, the trunk will have dried more slowly. I’ve left logs for a couple years, hoping to get to them later, and once I cut the dried out ends off, they were amazingly wet inside.

To determine if the log is ok, first have a look at the end. It’ll probably be cracked pretty badly. Using a chainsaw cut about 12” off the end. See if the cracks have penetrated to the point where your new cut is. Keep cutting chunks off the end until you get to a point where there aren’t any more cracks. Then use a moisture meter to check the intact wood. Hopefully it’s 25% or higher. You can then start processing the log.

You can rip the log with a chainsaw. It’s best to use a dedicated ripping chain, available from chainsaw suppliers. You can also make the cuts on a bandsaw using the widest blade the saw will handle, 3 TPI (teeth per inch).

Using the search window on (upper right hand corner) search “logs” and you’ll find quite a bit of info on this topic.


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15 Responses to “Ask WWGOA: Using Fallen Wood”

  1. Fritz Semos

    Perfect answer. I like this true answer. Thanks.

  2. bobcatcob

    I saw a candle holder for three cnadles I saw a candle holder for three candles . the two pieces of wood are joined with a finger joint. I lost the magazine. If this was in your magazine, could you tell me what issue? Thanks Robert

  3. p.ornot

    I cut some Cherry wood slices from about 1 1/2 in thick to 2 3/4 thick with bark on. I want to use the slices to transpose pictures on them. I ran them through my planer and letting them dry. They are splitting which makes them un-usable for my use. How can I stop, if I can the splitting or how to dry them?

  4. bernie olsen

    log laying decaying log sawed into lumber sticker & stacked covered top &ends where it gets good air flow do not put in shed right off

  5. Cliff Cobert

    Do you have plans/diagrams to make a joint similar to the one in the attached picture? I am a Premium Member. 17157569_1230791980362114_1092047261684483043_o.jpg Cliff Cobert

  6. Steve Uselton

    Depending on the type of trees you are working with, you can get a lot of insect damage if the trees are untreated and left laying on the ground. The white oaks may not be as bad as some species but I have had some damage from Long Horned Beatles (engraver bores). I live in Texas and may have issues you don't have up north.

  7. Donald Cox

    Cut your trees into lumber then strip stack the lumber into piles and keep out of the weather ( in a shed ) until the lumber dries until usable about 20 or 25 % moister .

  8. bill mobley

    i live in shawnee kansas. i have a black walnut stump that i dug out of you yard. it is about 20" deep and 20" across. i do not have any way of cut it up. would somebody like to have take it off my hands. it is in my drive way and would love to get rid of it.

  9. Kelly Craig

    The diameter of the tree, what you want to use if for and the type of wood is critical to answering this question. As long as the tree is not rotted, it's fair game for someone. Small pieces can be gold for lathe work. If the wood is dried slower, fewer cracks might appear and larger pieces could be salvaged. I picked up some sycamore chunks given away on craigslist. They were nearly two feet in diameter and about as long. They could have dried for several years, but I cut them into beams and such, sealed the ends and have nice wood for mallets, pens, kitchen tools, bowls and so on.

  10. Stanley Brown

    years back I dropped several dead valley oaks (California) although it was tough on sawblades, I was able to salvage some useable lumber (riddled with poweder post caves) that was quite stable...Conversely a dropped ornamental pair tree (kiove at the tiime) which was immediately slabbed twisted to ther point of non-useable.... I think it's a cra[ shoot. At best you gamble an afternoon and if it pays off BINGO!!