Lumber from a lake bottom??

Is it possible to dry logs which have spent 50 years underwater? January 31, 2001

Can I air dry logs that have spent the last 50 years at the bottom of a lake? They will be sawed into beams, 2x's and boards.

Forum Responses
Many times, the logs pulled up from lake bottoms were bacterially infected and now are very weak, compared to freshly cut logs. Drying must be done slowly.

However, the stresses when drying logs are so great that I expect you will have lots of cracking even if the logs are fresh; if infected, even more.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

In British Columbia, the species often found by divers are mainly W. hemlock and W. larch. The practice with these species is to let the landed logs "dewater" on the beach for one day, then mill them within the week to retain colour and soundness.

Precisely because of the presence of bacteria, I would kiln-dry exclusively. Drying is said to be easy because of the evenness of moisture and the open tyloses.

I have worked with sunken hemlock and it is almost always very poor in quality before it is dried. Hemlock has logs that are called "sinkers" that will not float. They are nearly 100% severely infected with bacteria and are full of ring shake, especially at the butt end. Chances are good that this is the quality that you will find--at the least, be very careful!

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

I have 4000 b/f of this stuff. I left it to air dry for the summer and now it seems fine. As for selling it--good luck. I haven't even been able to sell 1 b/f at half the normal price.

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Comment from contributor A:
I pulled up a massive 35" diameter yellow birch from the bottom of a lake where my great-grandfather had a sawmill and a logging operation circa 1890. I cut it up into lumber and kiln dried it. You could not tell the difference. Maybe you could, only because 12" wide quartersawn hardwood 10' long with no knots is so rare it could only come from another era.