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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21 Responses to “Ask WWGOA: Using Fallen Wood”

  1. 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

    • Customer Service

      Hello Bob!

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  2. 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?

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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 .

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!!

  9. Bob

    Hello, On the subject of fallen/cut wood, I live in the UK, midlands, over the past few years I’ve collected various lumps of wood from our local nature reserve. Most are logs cut from wind damage or selective pruning. Most of the original trees were oak and Cedar and were planted around 100ys ago by a local land owner. Due to a lack of maintenance in the 60s 70s 80s the woods fell into a poor state with many trees setting themselves.
    I try to collect good timber from the oldest trees, most are of a manageable size that I can carry out to the car. I tend to put the through the band saw to square them up and to remove the bark. I date them and photograph where the were found. My intention is to make small objects out of them, I made a box for my daughter’s wedding that people could drop mementoes of the day into.
    My question is I stack them off the floor on a wooden shelf in my garage, they are there through the British seasons, the cold and damp of the winter and the warmth of the summer, should I turn them occasionally? After how long should I cut them into usable pieces? Will after cut the drying process continue?
    Lots to consider, thanks for your time, Bobecc

    • Bobwojo48

      One thing I would not do is let an amateur anywhere near that tree to cut it down.

  10. Trish Percival

    Hi, There are several questions in here, but the subject is 50+ old White Oaks that are dying in my residential lot and whether they are desirable to woodworkers.

    Sadly, white oaks, the dominant tree in my area, are dying. On my property I have 4 dead or almost totally dead trees still standing, but with few limbs/leaves. One is dead so long that bark is starting to come off and another is a HUGE tree that is still alive, but is starting to list toward my house so fast that I am afraid I am going to have to have it taken down, though I hate to do it. I believe it will cost me thousands of dollars to have this live tree removed. A couple of years ago I had one about the same size that was almost dead taken down, and when it was cut, I was shocked to see that only about the bottom few feet of the wood had damage to the middle. The rest looked beautiful, yet the tree company hauled it away and maybe it ended up as plywood. This seems like a waste.
    Are there woodworkers who might want this wood? The white oak of similar size that was cut 4 years ago was 80 inches around on the second cut log, at least that is how big around the two rounds that I asked them to leave for me are now, after drying for all that time.
    In order to be useful to a woodworker, would it be better to let him/her see the tree first? Is there some instruction I should give the people who will cut it? Would the woodworker prefer to come and pick up the logs or be willing to pay to have them hauled to his/her shop? I live in Atlanta, near I-75.

    • Customer Service

      Hello and thanks for your inquiry. I’d suggest placing an ad on Craigslist with the dimensions of the tree, and offer it “as is” for best offer pricing if you are not able to find comparable offerings on the site. As an alternative, you might contact a reputable local sawyer who can come out, size it up, and offer you a price. Most woodworkers don’t have the capabilities to deal with something like that themselves, so they rely on professional or semi-professional lumber mills to slab out the tree for them.