Sunday, June 14, 2015

Contemplating Arbutus

Arbutus is not common in the city, in fact I know of only a few trees in town. And I have never found it in the log dump. But it is native to nearby undeveloped areas that are a touch warmer/drier, such as the cliffs above West Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island. I have seen it along the Skeena River in northern BC, and I believe it grows as far south as Mexico. In the US it is called Madrone.

I received a couple small firewood sized pieces from a friend several years ago, but the main part of my supply comes from two trips I made a couple years apart to the property of a family friend on one of the smaller Gulf Islands. They had several trees which had come down in the winter due to accumulations of heavy wet snow. Due to the two ferries required to get there, it was an overnight trip to get there, although I was able to get back at the end of the day of cutting.

I cut from this same log on both visits, which were a couple years apart. The other trees which had come down were both hung up in other trees so I did not go anywhere near them! The slabs were about 16" wide and I cut them at 8' so they would fit in the truck.

Four years later when I went back to cut some more, the wood had started to stain quite a bit.

I air dried the slabs for two years before running them through my dehumidifier kiln. My experience is that Arbutus is the most badly behaved and frustrating wood to try and dry! The amount of waste is incredibly dismaying. It cracks freely at any excuse and it also warps tremendously.

These slabs are from my first expedition. The cracking is evident.

Here is a close up, the grain is very lovely.

From my second expedition, the wood has a much darker tone to it due to the staining from sitting on the ground for an additional 4 years.

And the grain is still lovely despite the staining.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

More Wood Contemplation

Monterey Cypress

This is a very common local softwood, although it is not mentioned in my go-to tree book "Street Trees of Vancouver", which surprises me. I find it in the log dump all the time, it is one of the most common trees to show up there. Some logs can be in the range of 2 feet in diameter.

I am not 100% sure that it truly is "Monterey Cypress" (Cupressus macrocarpa). It was identified for me by one of the most knowledgeable local woodworkers, and I have also referenced it in Romelyn Hough's epic tome. So I am pretty sure, but there is still a tiny chance that it could be something else, perhaps a hybrid or something.

Its bark has a touch of  red/pink in the cambium. The wood itself has lovely shades of orange and tan, and since the tree generally seems to grow fairly straight here, when quartersawn the grain has a very regular straight appearance. The slabs dry quickly and rarely exhibit any warping or cracking. Well behaved I call it!

The wood invites comparison to Port Orford cedar in my mind. The aroma is similar, and delightful, but a bit sharper or perhaps spicier. But not overwhelming or cloying in any way. It is of course soft, and it is fairly light as well, lighter than PO Cedar. It often exhibits interesting streaks of colour, oranges and pinks and tans.

The local cabinetmakers love PO Cedar for the insides of cabinets and draws, its bright white colour and aroma are perfect in that application. My feeling is that Monterey Cypress is equal to PO Cedar, but having a bit of colour and personality of its own!