We’re all busy just trying to survive. A bit of pressure from this or that just adds stress to your day. It molds you, shapes your character, you adapt and keep moving. Well with trees, its not a whole lot different. A tree that grows up sheltered in a secluded area with good soil and protected from the harsh environment, grow up tall and straight. Other trees (the 99%) grow up in not so great a location; side of an embankment, poor soil conditions, high winds. It all adds to the stress of growing up straight and tall. Trees, just like everything else, adapt and carry on.
Trees show signs of stress, like branches that grow in one direction in a windy area, or trees that grow with a bit of a lean to them. No matter the cause, the tree is adapting to the stress. Note in the tree below, the main trunk grows at an angle, and its only once it got to about where you see the tree fork off, that those limbs start growing straight (more or less).
When I do get to cutting that maple tree in the picture above, I’m sure to find what’s called ‘reaction wood’. Case in point, this ash log I cut today. Note on the end of the logs three cracks. This log was only cut down 3 days ago. So the cracks are not from drying. The cracks are unfortunately, from stress. The tree is literally telling me what’s going to happen with this log. With one slab cut from the log, here is where we start. So far so good. You can just see the heart wood (darker wood) of the log appearing.
Another half inch board is taken off and more heart wood is exposed. If you click on the picture to see the enlarged image, you can see that the end crack that is about 1 o’clock position is showing itself to start running up the heart wood.
Another 1/2″ slab is cut off the log and you can now see heart wood exposed on the other end.
With yet another 1/2 inch slab cut away, the stress in the heart wood shows itself. As soon as the cut was completed, the board cracked.
Knowing now that this log is not going to amount to much, this following cut is 2 inches thick. About half way through cutting a crack opened up on the far end, like 1/4 inch. When I was done cutting… SNAP… and the slab split in two.
Now its just a game of ‘let’s see how much stress this log has’. I turned the log on the bunk and took a couple inches off the top. I have not even completed the cut and you can see the amount of reaction in the wood.
Flipping the log around and milling the other side, a similar reaction. Its at this point I figure all I might get from this log are two square cants in the middle. I’m not setting my hopes high.
Cutting the two cants from the middle of the log. Not surprised at all with the reaction. But I have faith. They’ll go in the pile of wood to be dried and once dry they will go back on the mill to be squared up.
After all that, we set our sights on the big ash log in the pile. Let’s hope there is more stable wood in this log.