Drying Split Catalpa Logs for Benches

Catalpa dries well and is fairly rot-resistant. January 23, 2012

The near dead catalpa across from me was finally taken, and the crew cut me two 4-foot sections and split them lengthwise. My chainsaw art friend is going to make benches for the outdoor pit. Advice on drying them properly would be appreciated.

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Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor A:
Chip the bark off most quick and put the legs on. Then just seal the top and ends. It will take years for the chunks to dry and catalpa is pretty rot resistant. By leaving the bottom open will allow the moisture to weep out. The rot spots on the face can be filled with five min epoxy then sanded smooth and sealed.

From contributor X:
Catalpa lends itself to thick benches like that very well. It doesn't take as long for a thick flitch like that to dry as most other species, and because the wood is so stable end checking isn't nearly as bad as most species.

I agree with going ahead and building the bench, as the wood shrinks it'll tighten up around the leg tenons. But I don't think I'd seal it right away. You probably could but I'd let it sit in the shade for the summer around your fire pit and air dry - not close enough to the pit to get any extra heat. Then in the late fall or maybe even next spring finish it. Maybe try it both ways and which turns out best.

From the original questioner:

That all makes perfect sense to me, and you've really filled in the blanks between all the botanical info and the finished product pics. The pit is in a cypress grove, so perfect location for the summer-dry plan.

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From contributor K:
I wouldn't bother with any finish if it were mine. If you do, you will need to maintain it every year. For a crude bench like this, no finish looks better. Like teak, it may turn black down in the pores during long wet periods, but wetting it with bleach water will kill all the mold and mildew. After a rinse and dry, a light sanding will make it look like new for another year.