With the winter storms just around the corner, fall is an ideal season where the vigors of summer growth can be cut back to reduce the likelihood of falling limbs. This annual prune back not only reduces the stress to the trees by allowing the wind to pass through but can also bear dividends to the carver. The larger than normal limbs of four inches in diameter can be cut into twelve to twenty inch lengths and left naturally to dry out. The time span for the timber to dry out to a stage of being usable can range from three months to six months as a minimum, although I like to leave it longer, depending on the environment where being stored. In my instance it is the garage, unheated.
With my own cuttings I stand them on end allowing a natural frow of air to dissipate the moisture. I also leave the bark on so that the drying out process is not too fast so as to prevent cracking. By standing the logs on end gravity plays a big part in the drying out process with the moisture falling to the bottom of the log and the top drying out. In this instance regular rotation will allow an even purging of the fluids and a less likelihood of cracking. Once the two ends feel as dry as each other the logs can then be stacked horizontally until needed.
With the majority of the moisture now evaporated, the log can then be cut on the bandsaw into 1/2-1 inch slices and stacked for an additional month. This will purge any remaining moisture, reducing the chances of twist in the timber making it then ready for carving. The beauty of preparing your own lumber especially for small carving projects is, you are able to use so many different varieties that are not so easily available from your local lumber yard. With preparing your own material it also gives you the opportunity to use the wood with a varying degree of wandering grain which will give a unique pattern to your carving, admittedly it will not be the easiest material to carve but the benefits are, a very striking end result. Needless to say, I will be assessing my own trees to see what needs to be thinned out for this winter.