Milling and Drying Cottonwood

Tips on how to handle cottonwood for good results. July 28, 2006

When should I mill cottonwood and is there anything vital I should know about air drying cottonwood? I want to use it for a barn floor. The trees haven't been cut yet. Someone told me this wood should be milled ASAP because of quick degradation after the tree is down. The trees will be cut a week or two from now, just as leaves begin to come out.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
The lumber will have the best color if it is milled ASAP after cutting the trees down if the weather is warm. Degradation is only staining for the first few weeks.

From contributor F:
I try and wait several weeks or a few months to get the staining and coloring. Most of my customers prefer the stains and colors created by waiting.

From contributor D:
If you can, use a blade with a little wider kerf and keep it sharp. Cottonwood tends to tear and drag on the sides of the blade, which builds up heat. Not so much of a problem with green wood, so you should be okay. I've found that dry cottonwood is the one of the most difficult species to mill. Just a little tip to make the job go easier.

From the original questioner:
I've been told that cottonwood warps more than other woods. If this is true, does this mean using metal straps to bind lumber stacks is a must? Since there's so much water in this wood, should the stickers be thicker to allow for more air circulation?

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Metal straps will loosen as soon as the wood shrinks, so you need a strap that can be tightened often. They will help somewhat, but with cottonwood, it is hard to control all warp. Thicker stickers can help air drying, but because they reduce kiln capacity, their benefit is negated.