Found Beutifully Figured Lumber being thrown away

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Forum topic by RichardDePetris posted 08-25-2015 02:50 AM 2349 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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61 posts in 2135 days

08-25-2015 02:50 AM

This weekend I was driving through my residential neighborhood and saw something that made me hit the brakes and turn around. No it wasn’t a beautiful woman or a stack of benjamins, but it may have well been. It was a stack of logs neatly piled on the curbside next to large brown paper bags of clippings. I pulled up and started loading them into my trunk. They were very wet and appeared to be cut the previous day. I chose the largest diameter ones and hesitated about getting the smaller ones. They were mostly limbs, but they were remarkably straight. In typical junkie fashion, I rationalized that it beats paying $5 a bag for wet firewood at the grocery store so I grabbed them anyway.

When I got home, I piled them up under my porch until I can find time to properly mill them. I found some wilted leaves still attached to some of the logs and used them to identify the tree on the web. My excitement ebbed a bit when I discovered it was crepe myrtle a classic ornamental tree with little utility in woodworking besides turning stock or walking canes. Neither of those appealed to me. I figured that I could cut it up for use as turning stock when I get around to getting a lathe.

I took my ax and cut off a flat on one side to inspect the grain. I finished the flattening it with my hand plane when I nearly dropped my Stanley on the concrete floor in awe:

I just struck gold. The wood was absolutely gorgeous. Even as wet wood, it had a very striking figure that was prettier than any curly maple I’ve seen.

I don’t have any specific plans for this wood, but I am considering using it as paneling. I may use it for making some kind of musical instrument as it has some interesting tonal properties. When I was unloading it, one of the logs fell on the floor and made a piecing ping sound. Not sure if it is a characteristic of a tonal wood, but the resemblance to curly maple makes me wonder.

I will have to seal the ends and wait for it to loose some of its moisture and then move them inside during the winter. I store logs near the intake of my HVAC. So far, I’ve had excellent results drying lumber this way, taking a couple of months to dry most species to useable levels.

13 replies so far

View HokieKen's profile


10249 posts in 1588 days

#1 posted 08-25-2015 12:05 PM

Nice find!

That’s a good idea using the HVAC intake too. Never heard that before but will definitely tuck that tidbit away.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View bonesbr549's profile


1583 posts in 3517 days

#2 posted 08-25-2015 12:58 PM

Dang that had to be one heck of a bush. My wife love those, and I do to. Ours are large but no where near that size.
Nice find.

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View RichardDePetris's profile


61 posts in 2135 days

#3 posted 08-25-2015 02:42 PM

Dang that had to be one heck of a bush. My wife love those, and I do to. Ours are large but no where near that size.
Nice find.

- bonesbr549

Yeah, and that’s one of the smaller branches. I still have to process them all.

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 1626 days

#4 posted 08-25-2015 02:50 PM

Good find. I routinely check cut logs to see if there is anything interesting. Once I found some very nice spalted apple. I sent it to a friend’s kiln for drying unfortunately it never came back. Mark – I hope you make some great projects from the spalted apple.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View soob's profile


271 posts in 1658 days

#5 posted 08-27-2015 12:16 AM

I grabbed one of those from the curb once. I did not have any anchorseal at the time, so I painted the ends with paint. It warped and split like you wouldn’t believe.

So I’d suggest cutting it asap and drying it as slowly as you can.

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2457 days

#6 posted 08-27-2015 12:27 AM

That had to be some pretty big crepe myrtles

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View RichardDePetris's profile


61 posts in 2135 days

#7 posted 08-27-2015 02:00 AM

Yesterday, I moved them out for sealing and saw some crack on some of the smaller diameter logs and almost freaked when I realized they were old previously cut stubs. The fresh cut ones were still Ok. This is a very fast drying wood with a tendency to crack. You have to know how to harness the beast.

As you can see the white ends are the freshly cut, while the dark colored ones were trimmed when the tree was healthy. In the Southern part of the US, Crepe Myrtle grows big and fast. This particular one probably fell ill from an infection. Many homeowners trim them to get more flowers, but neglect to seal the ends which checks and creates an even larger and deeper surface area for infection.

My wife had purchased a bunch of paint samples because she couldn’t make up her mind. We stored them in the garage with other paint. I used them to seal the end grain. i started with the blue paint which the logs sucked up like a blueberry milkshake. After about an hour I flooded the ends with orange paint, which created contrast from the first layer of paint.

Yup, dem logs sho’ awe thirsty! I used about three pints of paint for the entire bundle. Crepe Myrtle requires lots of water and has very porous end grain and a thin bark to maximize absorption of water. You should treat it differently from other lumber. Leave the bark on, seal the grain and allow it to dry on its own in a shaded, humid environment. The logs should be dry to the touch before you attempt to mill it, otherwise it will check violently. I will mill these logs in four months when the moisture has dropped considerably. Once they reach a certain moisture level, the cracking will cease. In fact, the large hollow fibers will collapse tightly dramatically decreasing its ability to absorb moisture.

I’ve worked with small pieces and they were very hard and stable.

Here is some info on the wood from wood database. I was surprised to find out that it is imported as lumber:

View bearkatwood's profile


1792 posts in 1461 days

#8 posted 08-27-2015 02:39 AM

Nice score. Those are fairly good size. I bet you could get a very nice jewelry box out of one of those. Years ago I bought an old crock pot and use canning wax to seal the ends. It makes a mess but it works. Good find on the beautiful wood. I would like to see what you do with it.

-- Brian Noel

View RichardDePetris's profile


61 posts in 2135 days

#9 posted 01-07-2017 06:11 PM

Most of the crape myrtle has dried and hasn’t checked badly. Given the cold weather today, I decided to burn some pieces that were too short, too checked or too boring in figure to be of any interest. I remember scoffing at woodworkers who burned lumber and now I am doing it too.

I have to say that crape myrtle makes an excellent firewood. It burns hotter and longer than hickory or oak. Here’s a photo. Feel the burn and yearn:

View bruc101's profile


1355 posts in 3991 days

#10 posted 01-07-2017 07:19 PM

We have 12 of those trees in our yard. They’re large trees and are very hardy trees that require seasonal pruning and a little fertilizer every once in a while.

I had to build my wife a gazebo where they’re located. If I showed her that grain and sad maybe we need to cut one of them out I would probably be sleeping in her gazebo.

Beautiful grain.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View TheFridge's profile


10858 posts in 1936 days

#11 posted 01-07-2017 07:34 PM

I just saw some in a fellas warehouse. He tried kiln drying with very poor results. Looks like air drying is the way to go. That figure is crazy. Almost makes me wanna go chop a couple down. Theyr everywhere in Louisiana.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View RichardDePetris's profile


61 posts in 2135 days

#12 posted 09-06-2017 01:28 PM

I finally milled some small pieces and made a couple of chisel handles. Please check out my latest post.

View splintergroup's profile


2771 posts in 1672 days

#13 posted 09-06-2017 03:02 PM

I love peeking into “firewood” to see what lurks within. Most of the small stuff never gets a second glance by many people, not enough material to make anything more than a small box, but as you have found out, there be gold in them thar logs 8^)

We have crepe myrtle, but things grow slow here. About 5 years old and the main trunk has just reached 1” diameter (Wheee!)

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