Value of Lumber from Diseased Orange Trees

An interesting story of a sawmiller considering whether to make the effort to harvest trees from an orange grove. Some parts may be usable. January 25, 2010

I have been given 20 acres of very old growth Valencia and navel orange trees. The orchard has some disease within it, and the grower is forced to remove the entire grove.

The trees are about 16" to 24" diameter at the stump. Most stumps will be from 2.5' to 4' tall. There also many large branches about 6" to10" diameter and possibly as much as 7' or 8' in length. I have a Wood-Mizer lined up to cut the harvested wood into lumber.

The orchard is to be removed next week, and the stumpage/trees to be ground up and fed into a bio-furnace.

I can take all I wish, but I have no real experience with this lumber. I must harvest within the next 5 days! Should I load up or should I pass? The trees are about 150 miles north of LA, California.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor T:
I can't find a single reference to the characteristics of the wood. If I were in your shoes and didn't determine it isn't worth the effort, I would roll the dice and get as many as I could. I have never seen ugly wood, so I think the risk vs. reward is tilted in your favor.

How many times do you get the chance to harvest orange trees? I would probably grab them even if someone told me the wood is not worth firewood. But that's how I am - often choosing to go against the grain. It doesn't usually pay off, but when it does, it more than makes up for all the times it didn't. I say hook up your trailer, grab a buddy and some end sealer, and hit the road.

From contributor L:
Should be interesting for turning wood if nothing else. I too know nothing about it.

From contributor O:
I have seen it offered for sale on eBay, but never bought any. I have read that it works nicely, and it looks attractive, if not dramatic. Saw as much as you can get, saw some boards, make some turning blanks, and if nothing else, it can be sold as a specialty wood.

From contributor C:
I know a guy in Florida who uses orange wood in his meat smoker. He says it's great for chicken. If I were you, I would get all I could. Cut a few and get them air drying. If you can find no info on a drying schedule, treat them like oak and dry slowly to start and weight the heck out of them. If after a few weeks they look good in the stack (no cracking, no deflection), start cutting the rest.

From contributor B:
It is an awesome turning wood. I wish I lived closer - I would get some from you.

From the original questioner:
Today I took two workers and a chainsaw. Within 35 minutes, the first log was loaded on my trailer. Started the second tree and the chainsaw blew. Went south in a big way! We were able to use a hand saw to complete removal of the limbs, then loaded it onto the trailer.

At the shop, I played with a small piece. The wood is light with gentle graining. When cutting, I got a whiff of cucumber. I will take the two logs to the sawyer tomorrow.

By the way, one log is 16" D x 7' and the other is 17" D x 11'. Of course, the "D" was measured at three feet above the ground. The 11' ft long log had tapered down to 9" D. I have the opportunity to return next Saturday for more of these large logs.

From the original questioner:
Just returned from the sawyer, a bit disappointed. One tree had a great deal of rot, but also a bit of spalted wood nearby. Probably less than 20% yield from this tree. The second tree was quite nice, with a few veins of spalting. Should be able to use 75%+ from this tree. We cut a few 1" x 4" x 6' boards, a lot of slab cuts up to 16" x 6' (4/4), and one 8/4 slab about 18" x 5'. I also had a 4" x 4" x 5'-6" cut. It has a nice vein of spalt wandering through it. I have all the material coated with Anchorseal. Will let it set in the shop for a couple of months, then into the racks for a nice long sleep. I saved all of the slabs and knots. Hopefully a turner or pen maker will be able to get value from the waste.

From contributor T:
Most of us have never seen orange wood. You can't leave us in the dark like this! Please get some photos up.

From the original questioner:
This picture is at the mill.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From the original questioner:
I talked to the farmer and several others, and based on the quality of the wood I obtained, and the cost to obtain, I have decided not to harvest additional logs.

From contributor T:
Those flitches should make some unique coffee tables. I believe I would have to get another load of them, but I understand you not wanting to.

From contributor C:
Excellent flitches. What did the farmer say that convinced you to not get any more logs? Also, you may want to start by air drying in the shade before you move the lumber inside your shop. Drying too fast initially will ruin them.

From the original questioner:
The farmer told me about the disease that has spread through the orchard. He told me experience says the rotten cores may be fairly widespread among those trees exposed to the disease. He also told me his schedule is to get the trees out of the ground and over to a grinder by mid-week.

I have found nothing to tell me the wood has any fantastic value. To date, the cost has been well over $10/bd ft just to get the trees harvested, hauled, and milled. If my time is worth anything, I would have to add two days of my worth to the equation.

As for the location for drying, I have no options except my commercial building. I live in California and must endure the "recyclers" who have the rights to anything they can carry away at night. So I must dry within my business warehouse, or forget the effort. I have not had a negative experience with drying inside.

The picture is not of flitches, but of 4/4 slabs cut with an LT40 Wood-Mizer.

I took a picture of a 4" x 4" x 5' and several of one piece of crotch. The crotch wood was wet with water to enhance the grain.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor T:
I often use "slab" as well when referring to a flitch because I realize the term is so universally accepted, and also because I used to think a flitch was called a slab.

While terms vary from region to region and slang is often used, a flitch has at least one live edge and generally is thought to have both. "Flitch sawn" is a term used to describe the method to produce a flitch or flitches, which is also referred to as sawing through-and-through.

If you saw the entire log through-and-through from start to finish you end up with a boule. Boule cutting was George Nakashima's favorite way to take a log apart. I do it frequently as well.

A slab is the first cut off the log that has one face and no edges. You can get up to four slabs off a log, and after that you start getting flitches unless you square the log into a cant, which will produce lumber. Some of the first few pieces of lumber off the cant can have some wane but that won't necessarily make it a flitch; it does preclude it from being a slab though since it has more than one face and at least one edge.

This is my current understanding of the two terms anyway, and as always I welcome any corrections. I also realize the use of a word can be so ingrained in a region that it is essentially the official meaning, whereas it means an entirely different thing just a state or two over.

From contributor G:
What a waste. Turners and carvers would love it. Chips, chunks and sawdust sell for $10/kg to BBQ enthusiasts.

From the original questioner:
All of my turner friends have had a go at the pile. I have enough left for my turning and a few small projects.