How Long Can a Log Sit Before Sawing?

      How old is too old to be worth sawing, for down logs or standing dead trees? February 4, 2011

I have a few nice red oak logs ranging from 12ft to 18ft in length with a maximum base diameter of 30" and a minimum top diameter of 14". How long can the logs sit off the ground in the open air without cover before they are no longer worth sawing into boards?

Also, if a tree has been girded and is standing dead, how long can it stand before it's not worth sawing into lumber? Assuming the trees are red and white oak, cherry, or maple? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
As a rule of thumb, there will be a measurable loss in four to six weeks of warm (over 50 F) weather. It is just a rule of thumb.

From the original questioner:
What would say is a measurable amount? I actually dragged these logs to a staging area last fall and they sat there through the winter. Do you think I'd be better off using these logs as firewood?

From contributor B:
That's what I do. I get old dead trees or logs and slice them up. The sapwood is unreliable, but the heart wood has been just fine so far. The worries I expect are bugs and rot, and they, of course, exist. But why throw it away just because of a time frame? I have found absolutely beautiful wood in standing dead trees, and seek them out. I get mostly big leaf maple and black walnut. The maple spalts with time and is something you cannot get in a fresh tree. The walnut, while I haven't obtained tons of it, has had coloration in it I have yet to see in a fresh tree. Wood is an artistic media for many a woodworker. Slice it up and see what's in there. If you pay to have it sliced, it may be hard to take the leap. Maybe you could find a sawyer in your area who, like me, would take the chance doing it for a share of the wood.

From contributor P:
If you have a mill, I'd try sawing them. Cut the sapwood off into fat slabs which you can buck up into firewood if necessary. Even if the heartwood is stained; you can saw the oak up 2" for decking equipment trailers. While white oak works better, the excavator tracks beat the deck up enough so they generally wear out before they rot out.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
White oak and cherry will do the best (last the longest), but red oak is a bit more likely to deteriorate (mainly stain, insects and an increase in checking). Hard maple can begin to lose color within a white; with stain, it becomes paint grade and it is hard to sell at a profitable price.

From contributor M:
Sometimes it depends upon the usage of the lumber. This cherrybark red oak was over five years old and yielded some very beautiful lumber.

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