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In my region (eastern Holland) Ash seems traditional. Does anyone around here know how long it should dry before I can safely carve and finish?

Thanks in advance!
 

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The standard recommendation is 1 year for each 1"/2.5 cm. It is generally better to gather wood when the tree is winter dormant. Wood w. sap in it is more likely to split while drying.
 

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Good advice from gdenby! Also if you coat the ends with something like wax or Anchor Seal -- it will help keep the stick from cracking, Our ash is being destroyed by the Emerald Ash Bore.
 
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