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which is a good wood for a relatively large project?

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Forum topic by halfmoon posted 10-01-2020 01:59 PM 885 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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halfmoon

5 posts in 26 days


10-01-2020 01:59 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m going to be carving a live edge slab into a Celtic Cross- a much bigger project than anything I’ve done before- and am asking for advice about the wood options at a local lumberyard. They have a good selection of live edge slabs that have been kiln dried. I’m looking to get a slab about 36×25-30 inches and 2 1/2- 3 inches thick. I’m assuming the closer the board was to the center of the tree the less likely it is to warp or cup. These are the selections they have on offer:

Bay Laurel
Black Acacia
Claro Walnut
Deodar Cedar
Eastern Walnut
Monterey Cypress
Sycamore
Valley Oak

The finished piece will be outdoors so a wood that has at least a little weather resistance is preferred. The fact that it will degrade over time is part of the project. Any guidance is greatly appreciated.


25 replies so far

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

3414 posts in 2681 days


#1 posted 10-01-2020 03:34 PM

I have no idea what your answer is. Most will go to the lumber yard and look to the wood for guidance I don’t see how a perfect stranger can know.
I do think it’s cool that you’re lumber yard have Deodar cedar. ( true cedar)

Good Luck

-- Aj

View ibewjon's profile

ibewjon

2080 posts in 3676 days


#2 posted 10-01-2020 06:06 PM

Sycamore will rot quickly. The cypress in the Midwest is rot resistant, I don’t know about monterey cypress.

View Phil32's profile

Phil32

1144 posts in 786 days


#3 posted 10-01-2020 07:00 PM

Why would you choose a live edge wood for carving a Celtic cross? The outline of the cross should be the edge of your carving. Re: the wood: I have a large outdoor carving that has survived nicely for twenty years. It is “Redwood” (actually Cedar) from a Big Box store. Design the cross and its placement to shed rain water.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

3722 posts in 2377 days


#4 posted 10-01-2020 07:33 PM

Hmm, Let us look these up:
https://www.wood-database.com/wood-finder/

Black Acacia is generic name.
If it is ironwood, it is rock hard, tough on tools, and near indestructible outside.
If it is black wattle, has about same properties as walnut – not so good for being outside all time.

Bay Laurel is Myrtle species and not very good outdoors.

Cypress and Cedar have similar outdoor durability and bug likeability. Work OK outside. They are softer and would be easier species to carve on list.

White Oak is great outdoors, but red oak is not very good as it open pores.
Most of the S. CA oak I have seen is California black oak which is cousin to red oak and listed as not durable outdoors?

Best Luck.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View drsurfrat's profile

drsurfrat

155 posts in 70 days


#5 posted 10-01-2020 07:40 PM

I don’t think nearness to the center has to do with the cup or warp of a board. I have found that right at the pith is very unstable. The angle from the center of the tree is the better pursuit. Radial (i.e., quatersawn) is the most stable.

Will it be inside? outside? planted in the ground? Big differences to the life of the cross.

Useful general guide, (your woods are not listed, though).
https://www.rockler.com/wood-species-guide

for stability:
https://woodwright.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Stability-Wood-Flooring-Chart.pdf

rot resistance:
https://robidecking.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/USDA-rot.pdf

-- Mike (near Boston) ... Laziness is the mother of invention, necessity is the mother of exhaustion - me

View halfmoon's profile

halfmoon

5 posts in 26 days


#6 posted 10-05-2020 04:20 AM

Many thanks for the advice and resources!
I’m using a live edge slab simply because that seems to be the only way to get a single piece of wood wide enough that isn’t glued, as I need to avoid glue as it will be outdoors. I live on the central California coast where we get much more sun than rain and it will be under a tree. I may put it under cover when a storm is on the way. I’ve thought about redwood but don’t think it will take as much detail as I’d like to get. I’ll either make a separate replaceable stand or make holes in the bottom for stakes to stand it up with.

Thanks again for the help!

View drsurfrat's profile

drsurfrat

155 posts in 70 days


#7 posted 10-05-2020 12:25 PM

Ok, if you will put up with more opinion, I grew up in So Cal. I don’t think you need to worry about stability, it’s a single piece and will move all together.

Rot resistance will be more important, the suggestion of white oak seems like a good one and apparently valley oak is one of them.
from Wikipedia: ”Taxonomy Valley oak is of the white oak evolutionary lineage, which is officially known as the subgenus Lepidobalanus.”

I think the most important part is termite resistance. We had a redwood deck turn to powder from them. They are terrestrial “dry wood” termites and can survive in wood down to 3% moisture. Make sure that there is no direct path from the dirt to the wood. Setting it on steel posts works. If you can, seal the bottom with Henry’s roofing tar. It’s incredibly messy, but eventually hardens to a pretty impenetrable barrier. Your aesthetics will be important, but these things might help it last.

-- Mike (near Boston) ... Laziness is the mother of invention, necessity is the mother of exhaustion - me

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2726 posts in 1046 days


#8 posted 10-05-2020 07:16 PM

HalfMoon – welcome to the forum !!
when you get the wood on hand and start your project, please make a project page
for it so we can follow your journey.
will you be carving it by hand, router, or CNC ???
do you have a design or sketch on paper yet that you can share ?

.

-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View Phil32's profile

Phil32

1144 posts in 786 days


#9 posted 10-05-2020 10:09 PM

I would suggest not carving the Celtic cross with only vertical grain. Even with the ring, the arms of the cross are cross-grain, making them easily broken.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View halfmoon's profile

halfmoon

5 posts in 26 days


#10 posted 10-13-2020 03:54 AM

Thanks again for the replies. I viewed the slabs today, they’re ok but something thicker than 2 1/2 inches would be nice. When I first looked for wood I searched for something 6-8 inches thick and 20-24 inches wide and found nothing, but perhaps I wasn’t looking in the right place. I need at least 4 feet. Any suggestions?

View ibewjon's profile

ibewjon

2080 posts in 3676 days


#11 posted 10-13-2020 01:11 PM

Keep looking. Find a small mill or a woodmizer owner and have the slab cut to order.

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

5864 posts in 2270 days


#12 posted 10-13-2020 01:33 PM

The problem with using a slab that includes the center of the tree is that the juvenile wood at the center is likely to crack and warp. If possible, you would be better off finding a slab that does not include any of the first 10 or so years (rings) of growth. Juvenile wood at the center of the tree shrinks and swells at a higher rate than mature wood and is what causes the worst cracking and warping in wood. Assuming it will be displayed vertically and not in contact with the soil, it will be much more durable than say a table top, especially if it is protected from direct sun and doesn’t have frequent wet and dry cycles. Also, with it going outside, you probably don’t need it to be kiln dried so you might check on Craigs list or FB Marketplace for local sawmill or even just a guy with a mill selling slabs and see if they can cut you exactly what you want. It is likely to be cheaper than a lumber yard. Air dried wood may be easier to carve as well.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View drsurfrat's profile

drsurfrat

155 posts in 70 days


#13 posted 10-13-2020 03:40 PM

https://woodmizer.com/us/Find-a-Local-Sawyer
this list has icons telling who sells slabs.

http://www.woodweb.com/cgi-bin/directories/sdd.cgi

http://portablesawmill.info

https://woodfinder.com/search.php

-- Mike (near Boston) ... Laziness is the mother of invention, necessity is the mother of exhaustion - me

View PBWilson1970's profile

PBWilson1970

123 posts in 277 days


#14 posted 10-14-2020 04:48 PM



I would suggest not carving the Celtic cross with only vertical grain. Even with the ring, the arms of the cross are cross-grain, making them easily broken.

- Phil32

I agree strongly with this. Will you add some sort of mechanical fastener to keep the arms attached?

You could also think about using a half-lap, Lincoln-Log-style of attaching the cross piece. A well-fitted joint with Titebond 3 or a marine epoxy (West Systems is a great choice) will withstand the elements. Heck, Epoxies are used in boat construction and will see more moisture than your project will ever see.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

View halfmoon's profile

halfmoon

5 posts in 26 days


#15 posted 10-14-2020 10:10 PM

One sawmill has offered a 4-8 inch thick fresh sawn slab, undried. I assume it may split or warp over time, correct?
Plan A was to get a thick dried slab, and have the ends of the crosspiece extend no more than 5 inches out to the sides from the ring. I was thinking after carving it would still be at least 3 inches thick and that would be sturdy enough, despite the cross grain issue. Still a concern?
I was wanting to avoid glue for durability, but it sounds like epoxy may last. Is there any reason (other than cost) to not glue 2 pieces of 2 1/2 inch slab together with the grain running 90 degrees to each other to make a 5 inch thick slab? I would avoid having to notch out a channel for the crosspiece that way, which if it does separate over time would be in a bad aesthetic spot. It would be 2 pieces of slab glued horizontally.
I expect to oil it regularly, rather than polyurethane sealant, if that makes any difference on the durability of glue.

I really appreciate the help y’all are giving here.

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