Sawing and Drying Apple Stump Wood

Apple's hard to deal with expect a lot of time and effort to yield only modest results. May 31, 2010

I was given an apple tree stump this week. It's 20" round x 3' and it was just cut down. I have tried several ways to dry apple before with no luck. What is the right way to deal with a piece of wood like this? At this point there is no checking.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor J:
This is not an authoritative answer, but I have several wide boards of apple I air-dried in my basement after completely coating them with melted paraffin wax - ends, faces, edges and all. This of course makes drying very slow, and since my basement is rather humid, these boards are probably still around 12% MC. They are cupped and twisted, but they didn't check and they have no color problems.

From contributor C:
Even the straightest, clearest apple is difficult to dry... Root burl is likely next to impossible if you're trying to get lumber out of it. My first suggestion is to keep it wet until you can find a mill with a veneer knife. Check some of the veneer mills that sell on eBay. You can probably talk to several shops that way. Have them slice it and press dry it. Be sure to use a backing veneer. Barring that, you may want to research ways to dry very thin boards (1/8 inch).

From contributor U:
It's good for turning. And, after all else fails, smoke some meat with the chips.

From the original questioner:
Thank you. I was told by an old timer that if I socket it in antifreeze it would not check. Has anyone heard of this?

From contributor T:
I took down an entire 6 acre apple orchard a year ago and all the trees were 60-90 years old. I processed every tree and found at that time 50% was worth saving for the mill. Once I trucked all the logs to the mill I found that only 50% of what I saved was worth actually sawing, and what I actually sawed I flitch cut for maximum yield and better grain alignment opportunities for the woodworker. In the end I wound up with about 2,500 board feet of beautiful stable apple ranging from 4" to 24" wide, 4/4 to 16/4, and 5' to 10' long. The checking has not been bad, but I took the precaution to triple coat the end grain with Baileys end sealer.

Harvesting apple is a very costly, wasteful, and time consuming task, but if properly done can be very rewarding. In order to get stable apple you simply must be picky about what logs you saw, and very selective about how you align the grain into boards on the sawmill. This along with lots of end sealer, and weight on top of drying piles is key.

There are veneer mills for sale on eBay!?

From contributor U:
Don't know what "socket it" means, but if the old timer was suggesting soaking it in anti-freeze, specifically to mimic the effects of PEG, that's close, but not quite right. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, but PEG, which is traditionally used to prevent checking, is polyethylene glycol, a different compound. In any case, both of those will change the appearance and feel of the wood, perhaps in an unacceptable way.

From contributor C:
Sorry... What I meant to say is that there are sawmills which process veneer on a small scale and sell their products on eBay. I use a couple "go to" sellers that provide me with excellent leaves. Although having your own veneer slicer would really be awesome... I bet if one were diligent, one could eventually find one on eBay for not a whole lot of money.

Contributor T is right. Turning applewood into something approaching useable lumber is wasteful and time consuming. Also, wood from orchard or yard trees has a lot more tension, which most likely is the product of pruning for a short but wide canopy, as opposed to the taller, more natural growth of an apple. I'm sure contributor T could tell you much about that! Anyway, the important thing is that you find someone who can slice your wood into veneer... You will get the highest yield with least amount of degrade.

Contributor T, whatever happened with that log you suspected was American chestnut? Did you ID it as something else? I just cut a big bur oak last week and as soon as I saw the butt end of the log, I thought of your chestnut.

From contributor T:
The log was an American chestnut. I got this confirmed by a couple universities and foundations that I sent samples out to.