Seasons and Logging

The time of year when a tree is cut may affect drying time, and also can have other effects. April 18, 2009

I have tried looking in the archives, but I can't seem to find anything on the best time to cut trees, in particular eastern red cedar. It seems as though I did read somewhere the sap goes into the ground in the winter time. I'm sure itís in here somewhere, I'm just having trouble finding it. Any help would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor A:
I have always tried to cut trees when they are at their most dormant state. This would be January into early February (in western Washington). The reason for this is that there is less moisture to dry out of the wood in the drying process.

From contributor A:
Everyone is correct; trees can be cut down at anytime. There is the least amount of moisture in the tree is when it is dormant. There drying takes about half as long than when trees are cut down in mid to late spring. This works for me but in all reality, this never happens.

From contributor Y:
ERC is an evergreen and the sap never really goes down. They grow year round. But in the summer the ticks are worst and the logs will check faster due to the dry hot weather. In the spring the bark will peel off if you peel the day you cut it down.

If you do not think that the phase of the moon does not affect wood then that is fine. But if you fish/hunt/garden and saw many logs and are awake when you do it then you will notice the moon effects many things.

From contributor G:
If you have a cold climate, you can take advantage of it to protect the forest floor and smaller plants/trees (your future tree supply).

From contributor T:
As long as you're going to mill within a few weeks debarking ERC isn't really necessary. The cooler the temp, the less likely bugs are going to be a big problem. After limbing, don't leave them laying flat on the ground - put down a few sacrificial poles and stack them loose on the poles. For large piles you can use a loose crosshatch method to allow for good airflow. Leave some airflow between them and keep the direct sun off of them. If improperly stored it's the sapwood that will degrade quickly. In the early stages it will turn from white to cream, and then it will turn punky. If you must (for decorative reasons) debark cedar then, as stated earlier, harvest in the spring when the bark is easier to remove and don't waste any time between harvesting and debarking. I've seen a pressure washer used for this with stunning results.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
There is more moisture in the wintertime in the tree (a percent or two more) than in the springtime or summertime. I do not know where the story comes that all the sap goes into the roots, but it is 100% incorrect. Do the roots have a hollow space? Think about all the water in the tree; where could all this go?

Another false statement is that winter cut dries faster than summer cut; they both dry the same, although certainly air drying in warm weather is faster. The reason that some people wait until cool weather to cut trees is that staining (fungal and chemical) is very slow when temperatures are cool. Another false statement is that you cannot surface check lumber in air drying during the wintertime. Another is that it takes a year to air dry per inch of thickness.

From contributor C:
ERC lumber will air dry in a few weeks to a month in the warmer months of the summer and dry months of the fall to about 12%. The one thing I have noticed of winter and spring cut trees is that the cedar beetles will lay eggs and have plenty of moisture to keep them alive during early summer. Late summer and fall cut logs dry rather quickly and are much less susceptible to the beetles. The beetles we have either leave tracks on the outside of the log or tunnel only in the sapwood. We leave a lot of small logs, 2" to 4" to age. The furniture makers like the mottled coloring of the log and love the tracks made by the insect larva. Also after a year or so the bark comes off easily in strips.

From contributor B:
Is there any change in the regeneration potential (stump sprouting) of a given spp. of tree cut in the summer vs. the winter? If so, why would that be?

From contributor A:
ERC does not hardly ever sprout from the stump no matter what time of the year you cut it.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
ERC is a prolific seeder, but most of the seeds will not germinate unless they go through the stomach of a bird, where the acids etch the shell and allow for germination. This is why a lot of ERC is seen along a fence line where the birds deposit the seeds, etc.