Friday, April 30, 2010


This tree got blown down in one of the recent windstorms, of which there seem to have been more than normal this spring.  It’s been sitting down at the cutting area, patiently waiting for me to get to it. Today was the day.

It’s catalpa, which is not a well known tree in this part of the world, native to river valleys in Ohio and vicinity. It is very popular as a street tree, since it seems to withstand pollution very well. It has big seed pods that hang off it all winter, making it quite easy to spot once you know that factoid.

The wood is dark, the grain is kind of like ash but darker, and it has a very distinctive smell when cut.  It is a “hardwood”, but is still relatively soft, close in hardness to chestnut or alder.

I had a couple nice catalpa logs last winter, this is the first decent one I have found this winter. I am pretty sure I'm the only guy in town with several hundred bf of catalpa stacked up beside the house!

Unfortunately the camera died right after I took this first (and thus only) picture. You can see where I was cutting the trunk just at the point where the branches begin. The branches were kind of wild and uneven, I am sure they would have produced a lot of very splitt-y and unusable wood. After I got this cut done, I peeled the rest of the bark off the trunk part, rolled the log slightly to move the knob on top over to the bottom, moved the other chunk with the branches out of the way, and set up my guide (an 8’ long 2x8) on the top.

Conditions were perfect - the sky was clear, the log was on a bit of an angle so that gravity helped the cut, the wind was strong and blew all the dust and exhaust away from me as I cut, and the chains were sharp. I peeled 6 2 1/2” thick by 6' long by about 18" - 24" wide slabs off the log before I came to a bad knot in the wood and decided to call it a day.

Here is the result, temporarily leaning against the garage next to the Elm of Death. The visible face of the catalpa shows the nasty knot that caused me to stop cutting. The other slabs are not that bad.

All in all a very nice day resulting in some very nice wood, and I was there and back in 2 1/2 hours. Only had to stop to sharpen once.

Getting close to the end of the cutting season now, probably only a couple more weeks. It doesn’t matter to me though, I have no storage space left! It's actually good, I will get to spend more time in the shop building stuff.


  1. Hi Dan,

    I just came across your blog from a link on Jacques Breau's blog (we're known to each other).

    Anyway, very interesting stuff, and I like your philosophy - slow to me means careful and determined and equals worthwhile results (you certainly have reaped the rewards of your labour).

    I use elm quite a bit. It is local Nova Scotia wood and I don't find it smells bad and it can be frustrating to work, but I like the results.


  2. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am looking forward to seeing Jacques soon.

    It must be a different variety of elm that you are working with, or maybe kiln dried wood has the stink dried out of it?!