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.

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