Will Down Logs Dry in a Year?

No, and not in 20 years either. January 27, 2008

I plan on milling several logs - doug fir, bigleaf maple, hemlock. Many of these have been down for several months, a few of them for at least a year. I know there is end-checking. How dry can I expect the lumber to be once it's cut? I live in western Washington, with cold, wet winters and dry, warm summers.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor S:
They aren't dry, other than the ends where you see the checking! I just cut some 30"+ Douglas fir from the Oregon coast that had been felled over thirty years ago and it was still green (+20% MC). Had some stain and rot, but nowhere dry. The checking on the ends may be a loss depending on what you're going to use it for and you'll probably have bugs in the sapwood and blue or red stain in the fir.

From contributor T:
Not dry at all. No idea where this myth started over felling trees and waiting a year or whatever, thinking the logs have cured. Ha! I do a lot of reclaimed resawing work, like 250 year old hand hewn beams, and these things will even shrink after sawing. The only dry beams I know of are the ones next to fireplaces and stoves, as long as the roofs are okay on these old structures. Some of these beams are even too dry, around 4-5% MC!

From contributor A:
Some trees do dry some. Cottonwood and sycamore are two that I notice the most. I have sawn a walnut log that was 30 years lying in the barn, and it was dry to the core (15%MC). You will get it some in SYP but rot is more of an issue. But for most oaks and stuff, you really do not get a whole lot of drying. After all, the bark's job is to keep the log from drying out.

From contributor T:
It all depends on the species, but when species like maple, sycamore, pear, and many others lay out for too long, they will stain throughout the log, ruining the color.

From contributor W:
I've cut some big leaf maple here in California, and the wood is very friendly for drying, but the problem will be the uneven moisture content. The interior will still be wet but the ends of the log will have dried out somewhat. You may have to hack off the outside 6-8" to get to some nice unchecked material. If you dry it without trimming, the ends will no doubt crack a bit. Did you seal the ends of these logs? Everybody on this thread confirms that the inside will be wet still. I've cut some old redwood that has been down for 100 years and it's dead green in the middle. Lucky you - big leaf maple is nice stuff.