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My neighbors have a big beautiful madrone that got severely damaged by the the big storm we had last week. They told me I could have it. The top broke off at about 20 ft and the trunk that's left standing is really big. But what excites me is that the trunk is amazing straight for a madrone. I'm thinking it may not have the massive wonkiness that madrones are prone to when drying.

I know I'll have to dry it carefully and completely but any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.
 

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You're a lucky guy to get this wood!

When I lived on Ruxton, I had the opportunity to get huge amounts...unfortunately, most of it got burned as firewood! It was criminal I know, but much of it got turned into all sorts of interesting items.

Now, about your tree. Was it still growing plenty of leaves, or were there just a few at the top of the tree? That will tell you whether or not it was still fully growing, or if it was on the way out.

Does the trunk have any bark left on it? Or has the outside turned grey?

When you cut the tree down, you will know if it was very much alive by the dryness (or not) of the wood when you fall it.

You are right about these trees rarely growing straight, it is their habit to grow anything but straight.

How big would you guess the diameter of the trunk to be?

Expect to find evidence of cankers inside the tree itself, and likely on the outside as well. Some of these can be incorporated into interesting projects.

If there is any way you can do it, try and get the tree milled into lumber as soon as possible. Make sure it gets cut oversize because I can almost give you a cast iron guarantee that it will twist during the drying process. If the tree is very nearly dry inside, which does happen if the tree is very old, then the boards don't twist as much.

If you are lucky, you will see some incredible colours inside the tree, especially right at the bottom. See if you can get the tree cut right down at ground level if possible...lots of interesting wood there.

Does it by any chance have a burl growing anywhere? These are usually close to the ground.
 
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My neighbors have a big beautiful madrone that got severely damaged by the the big storm we had last week. They told me I could have it. The top broke off at about 20 ft and the trunk that's left standing is really big. But what excites me is that the trunk is amazing straight for a madrone. I'm thinking it may not have the massive wonkiness that madrones are prone to when drying.

I know I'll have to dry it carefully and completely but any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.
take it from the top???
But I suspect you only want to know about drying...
(PDF'd on drying included)...

Common Name(s): Madrone, Pacific Madrone
Scientific Name: Arbutus menziesii
Distribution: Western coast of North America
Tree Size: 50-80 ft (15-24 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1.0 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 50 lbs/ft3 (795 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .58, .79
Janka Hardness: 1,460 lbf (6,490 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 10,400 lbf/in2 (71.7 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 1,230,000 lbf/in2 (8.48 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 6,880 lbf/in2 (47.4 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 5.6%, Tangential: 12.4%, Volumetric: 18.1%, T/R Ratio: 2.2
Color/Appearance: Color tends to be a cream or pinkish brown color, but can also have dark red patches. Madrone is known for its burl veneer, which has many closely-packed clusters of knots and swirled grain.
Grain/Texture: Grain tends to be straight, with a very fine and even texture.
Endgrain: Semi-ring-porous or diffuse-porous; solitary and radial multiples; small pores in no specific arrangement, very numerous; heartwood deposits occasionally present; parenchyma absent; narrow to medium rays, spacing fairly close.
Rot Resistance: Madrone is rated as non-durable to perishable with regard to decay resistance.
Workability: Madrone is easy to work with machine and hand tools, and compares similarly to Hard Maple in working characteristics. The wood can be difficult to dry, and has a tendency to warp or twist. Madrone is an excellent turning wood, and also takes stains and finishes well. However, water-based glue joints should be thoroughly dry before further machining to avoid subsequent sunken glue lines.
Odor: No characteristic odor.
Allergies/Toxicity: Besides the standard health risks associated with any type of wood dust, no further health reactions have been associated with Madrone. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Madrone is most often sold as burl veneer, which tends to be quite expensive. Madrone lumber, if available, is also expensive for a domestic wood species, easily costing more than other premium domestic hardwoods such as Cherry or Walnut: its price is likely to compare similarly to Myrtle, another Pacific-coast hardwood.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Veneer, turned objects, and other small specialty objects.

Comments: Madrone burl is highly prized as a decorative veneer, while Madrone lumber is a very dense and finely-grained hardwood that’s similar in appearance to fruitwoods. The wood burns long and hot, and as a result it is also used for firewood and charcoal.
Madrone’s botanical species name, menziesii, is in honor of Scottish botanist Archibald Menzies, who discovered the tree in 1792 during the George Vancouver Expedition—his name is also applied to Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)....

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If it's what we call arbutus (grows near salt water and the bark peels on it) I have some I got from Vancouver Island and it turned out pretty good. My longest pieces are only around 4' but it dried straight. I quartered it. Mine started out about 8" in D.
 

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I'm getting the impression that Phil's talking about some serious wood ;)...the 8" stuff may be his firewood (?).
We had a monster on our Saltspring Island property. Long before we bought it, a lightning strike had taken off a main branch low down; the branch's stump was as big around as me.
Unfortunately all those pics from back then are on prints...nothing digital. :(
 

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From Wikipedia. The wood is durable and has a warm color after finishing, so it has become more popular as a flooring material, especially in the Pacific Northwest.[16] An attractive veneer can also be made from the wood.[17] However, because large pieces of madrona lumber warp severely and unpredictably during the drying process, they are not used much.

Sounds like the quarter cut is key to getting usable wood. And, that it is not suitable for projects that will be outdoors.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
thanks guys. Yes - arbutus, it's scientific name is Arbutus Menziesii. Apparently, Canadians call it arbutus while us southerners call it madrone. The trunk of this tree is at least 20" in diameter though there is so much debris around it I haven't gotten a tape measure to it yet. The wood database says to dry it really well before cutting due to the strong tendency to warp. I'm wondering if that is applicable to the typical twisted arbutus/madrone form. Maybe I could saw this straight trunk sooner. I have a spot that I could tent it near where it is so curing could be easy.

You can find nice example pieces out there - for some reason I get a lot of flooring hits on google. The burl wood looks really nice but that's not what I have. This Canadian site makes me hopeful that I can get some great looking wood from it. I'm thinking that it might make some interesting router bowls that incorporate live edges. There's an inn on Whidbey Island (Captain Whidbey's) that has several walls made from madrone logs - pretty wonky looking as I recall.
 

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thanks guys. Yes - arbutus, it's scientific name is Arbutus Menziesii. Apparently, Canadians call it arbutus while us southerners call it madrone. The trunk of this tree is at least 20" in diameter though there is so much debris around it I haven't gotten a tape measure to it yet. The wood database says to dry it really well before cutting due to the strong tendency to warp. I'm wondering if that is applicable to the typical twisted arbutus/madrone form. Maybe I could saw this straight trunk sooner. I have a spot that I could tent it near where it is so curing could be easy.

You can find nice example pieces out there - for some reason I get a lot of flooring hits on google. The burl wood looks really nice but that's not what I have. This Canadian site makes me hopeful that I can get some great looking wood from it. I'm thinking that it might make some interesting router bowls that incorporate live edges. There's an inn on Whidbey Island (Captain Whidbey's) that has several walls made from madrone logs - pretty wonky looking as I recall.
Hi Phil, yes we call it Arbutus north of the border.

The biggest section cut from an Arbutus that I have ever seen is about 6 feet or so across, and it is in a business somewhere down in Oregon. My old timers' won't let me remember the name of the outfit, but they do all sorts of work with the wood and their machinery is powered by huge belts from overhead drive shafts. At least it was when I was there some 25 years ago.

I would cut the tree up as soon as possible, then sticker it and either put some heavy weights on top, or put some decent cargo straps around it and snug them up tight. The longer you leave that trunk, the more difficult it will be to cut...unless you can get a sawyer out there with a portable bandmill. I cut several very old trees, over 90' tall and about 3 feet thick on the island when I was there.

The biggest tree on Ruxton that I had anything to do with - it broke off during a big storm - was 45" across. Somewhere I should have pictures.

If you can prevent the movement during the drying process, there's a fair chance you might come out with some straight wood in the end. We used to paint the end cuts with latex paint. It seems to work about as well as anything to help with the splitting.

Twenty inches is actually not a very big tree, but you should still be able to find some interesting colour in that trunk.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
finally got in to measure it. 28" diameter. the still standing main trunk is 18' (from the base to the break). It's really straight and has little taper. There is another 10' section on the ground that's reasonably straight. I looked closely at the break and there is no rot at all. The tree guy thinks he can get me 2 8' lengths and one 10'.
 

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finally got in to measure it. 28" diameter. the still standing main trunk is 18' (from the base to the break). It's really straight and has little taper. There is another 10' section on the ground that's reasonably straight. I looked closely at the break and there is no rot at all. The tree guy thinks he can get me 2 8' lengths and one 10'.
Phil I have not heard of this wood and if you don't mind keep us informed with pictures and text as you dry and use this wood.
Thanks
 

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Sure will, Don. It's mostly in the Pacific Northwest. What's kind of significant to me is that my brother in law is buried in a graveyard in southern Oregon that has the most beautiful madrones I've ever seen - big, healthy trees. Every time I see a madrone, I think of him.
 

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Phil I have not heard of this wood and if you don't mind keep us informed with pictures and text as you dry and use this wood.
Thanks
As Phil says, it is a Pacific Northwest coast wood. It likes to grow near the ocean.

There are plenty of these trees in Oregon, Washington and the lower reaches of British Columbia. I can't specifically remember seeing any in Northern California, but I wouldn't be surprised if their range extended into Norcal by a couple of hundred miles.
 

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finally got in to measure it. 28" diameter. the still standing main trunk is 18' (from the base to the break). It's really straight and has little taper. There is another 10' section on the ground that's reasonably straight. I looked closely at the break and there is no rot at all. The tree guy thinks he can get me 2 8' lengths and one 10'.
Twenty eight inches, OK, now we're talking. That's a seriously nice chunk of wood. Should give you a few years worth of project wood.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Here's a picture with me standing at the bottom. It was hard to get one that showed the height of the break and the ground. The odd thing about it is the lower trunk does not look at all like a madrone but the upper part that broke off has the smooth and peeling bark. I think it's because it grew up in a stand of douglas firs (two are in the picture). Still, very strange for a madrone.

By the way, I bet they do grow in northern cal as there are really healthy stands of them in Jacksonville, OR. Very close to the border.
 

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OK...well now that I am officially GREEN with envy....! :smile:
 

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It took me a couple of days to get around to it but I took a pic of a couple of small pieces on the top of my small pile of arbutus plus two others. I don't have a good camera so the pictures aren't that good.Taken in natural sunlight BTW. The 2 closest pieces are arbutus. I have a little bit of the pith in one piece and it cracked but is is only superficial.The wood is very light colored, slightly creamy in color. It has the medullary rays https://ca.images.search.yahoo.com/...=medullary+ray&hspart=avg&hsimp=yhs-fh_lsonsw that maple is known for but not as pronounced. It's hard and heavy. Mine dried very well and those pieces are at least 15 years old. They moved very little after I cut them. I haven't tried resawing them yet so I don't know if that will be a problem.

The farthest piece is white birch for contrast and it's been cut for much longer than the arbutus has. The piece next to farthest is something I threw in because it is also native to the northwest. It's Douglas maple which is usually a bush but I've found some good ones that are 6 to 8" in diameter. The colors are really nice and it has better medullary rays than many other maples do. Unfortunately it has so much tension in the wood that I've never been able to get a board out of it. It does however make beautiful turnings on a lathe and they are stable. It's considered a weed species so rarely would anyone care if you took it. It's easy to recognize because it has the traditional maple leaf.
 

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We had a potbelly stove when I lived in northern CA and I remember buying a cord of madrone from a guy to use as firewood. Never thought to use it for anything else.
 

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There are lots of trees and shrubs that have usable wood in them although some have very limited uses like the Douglas maple. Another NW species that is one of the nicest looking woods I've ever come across is hawthorne. The outer wood is creamy colored with chocolate colored flecks in it and the heartwood is very dark. It also grows very crooked and is hard to find any large enough and straight enough (at least in my area) and to make matters worse the thorns are very hard, very sharp, and hurt for hours after they puncture you.
 
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