Old Sycamore


From original questioner:

Thought I'd post a couple of photos from my current project, which is salvaging sycamore logs buried under a sand bar along the Missouri River. The one piece that was carbon dated is between 400 and 650 years old! Some of the logs are 5' diameter and 60' to the first branch. Right now, I'm just milling the tops-- small stuff under 36" diameter. Ring shake made a lot of it unusable, but there was still plenty of good lumber. We were fortunate to have a loader available to help load and turn the logs. This was one of the few cases where I was glad to be cutting on shares, and I have about 1,000 bd ft air drying.

From contributor JS

Can you post a picture of the lumber? Would be interesting to see what colors in the wood, you may want to try quarter sawing some of those big chunks!

From contributor Ke

Dave, you really should QS those logs. What you could get for that lumber is much higher than the plain nondescript lumber you are making.
It makes me feel a little sick just thinking about it. At least stop long enough to do a google search to see what you could be getting for nice wide QS Sycamore.

From contributor Te

WOW!! Dave what a Blessing to be part of the project like that. Is there more info on the project....private...public...how did it come about...how were the logs found??? by chance ...knowledge...some history??
What's your plans with your part???
Just awesome getting to saw history!!!

From contributor Da

Thanks! This was one of those things that just fell into place. It is a private operation. A sand & gravel company considered the logs a nusiance. It looks like there are at least 40 more logs. This was just a trial run to see what shape the wood is in.

I have quartersawn sycamore, and the grain is beautiful. I QS as much as possible, but the sawmill is limited. Plans for the future logs are to quarter them with a chain saw, then quarter saw the pieces on the mill, though I'll mill some wide slabs, as well. Right now, it is raining, and I don't want to uncover the stack, but will post photos of some boards as soon as I get a chance. I do, in fact, feel privileged to be part of this project!

From contributor Te

It would be a shame to quarter those big old logs down to such small sizes in order to 1/4 saw them. Save at least a few of the largest ones and have them sawn on a mill that can handle it. Logs that old have a worthwhile story just because they are that old and how they were found, and at least a few of the largest ones deserve to be solid table tops - not boards.

We don't want to see the pictures of the mill show us the wood!

From contributor Ma

Looking good Dave. I chuckled when you said that you did not want to uncover the lumber and let it get wet. It has been under water for 400 years.

From contributor Ge

The wood from such logs must be dried very very slowly as it is not as strong as today's wood. Also, ring shake indicates weakening of the wood as well. So, dry it more slowly than you can imagine.

With many logs, we know that bacterial infection in the living tree weakens the wood and also results in much higher than normal MCs. This is why the logs did not float but sank. So, it is common to see ring shake in sunken logs because the wood is bacterially infected, wet and weak.

From contributor Du

Hey Dave,
That is an exciting adventure. Good work !!

From contributor ar

Best of luck Dave!

Experience with 10,000 y.o. swamp kauri tells me you are in for a treat.

Saw as many complete width slabs as you can,- that is where the money is.

Drying? Ha! They never dry out completely, at least if you try, you will end up with weetbix or the US equivalent. No problemo mate. If you do not get 85% recovery then you are doing something wrong.

Best of luck, I am jealous ;-))


From contributor Ke

I have to wonder if those of you who recommend cutting wide plain sawn slabs, are in the business of using the lumber for a finished product.

Plain sawn Sycamore is just another white wood, too plain to be used for much more than frames for upholstered framework.

I've got 40 years of custom furniture and interior finishings, and if I had those wide slabs in my shop, they might sit around for too many years, then finally would be ripped up to use for secondary wood like drawer sides.

I'd like to see some finished product made from this to inspire me. Maybe my creative juices have just gone dry.

However, if show me some really nice wide QS Sycamore, I can assure you that the creativity will flow, and marketing will be easier.

Some years ago, I got involved with some guys digging up 20 - 30,000 year old cypress. While it was not decayed, it had lost a lot of it's integrity, and luster. I made a few things out of it, but never sold the first piece. I might add, that it seemed like a GREAT idea in the beginning.

Good luck with this project though. Your milage may differ.

From contributor Te

Hey Dave, Got any updates for us....maybe a few more pics!!! Find anymore history behind this???

From contributor Ja

I cant wait to see the end product of this project.