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drying saplings

15748 Views 11 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Rad
I was told to dip the ends of green saplings and branches into paint to stop the ends from checking. What do you guys do?

I have read that wood should be placed in an airy shed, etc., for drying. I live in Michigan where it gets quite cold so, would my enclosed shed or garage be okay? The above mentioned branches and saplings still have the bark on them. Wood types are mostly poplar with a couple of white birch and maple.
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I've used a product called Anchor Seal to seal the ends -- it works well! Also applying melted wax on the ends works.
I, and some others on this site, have also "dipped" in pentacryl -- a wood stabalizer.
I hang or stack mine in a garage/barn.
As Rad mentioned, some use Pentacryl. It is very expensive, about $65 - $70 / gallon. It does seem to help. I made dipping tubes from PVC, and because the Pentacryl isn't volatile, I just leave it in the tubes and reuse it, adding more when needed.

I can see now that it will take me several years to figure out what works best for me.
I've never dipped my end in anything and my crack is fine! :lol:

I dry my saplings in the attic space over the garage or in the garage itself. It gets blazing hot in summer, cold in winter and damp all year long. I've never had more than a tiny bit of checking (cracks at the end of a drying board) in a sapling.

Saplings are usually not too terribly thick and the lack of large heartwood/sapwood differentials will mean that you won't have much variation in expansion and contraction across the thickness. That's what causes checking, as parts dry faster than others.

One way to not care so much is to leave the stick longer on both ends than you want so you can cut off the checked ends. I've only had one piece of wood check all the way down, and that was a three-foot quarter of an ash log I wanted to turn into a froe club. (no not a social organization for people with large curly hair styles). it was a surface crack because the section of log was still quite thick with all of the sapwood and heartwood intact.

I lived in Michigan for almost 13 years. I know it can get cold. I also know that the winters tend to get very dry. Your garage should be fine. The only problem would be if your sapling gets truly frozen while it is very wet. But that's probably not very likely. You'll probably be fine.

If you do want to dip, some cheapo woodworkers use plain white glue, like Elmers. It's messier to work with, but much, much cheaper. Not sure how well it works as I've not used it. Others just use whatever latex paint they have left lying around in rusting buckets in their garage. The idea is to stop moisture escaping through the ends, which are much more porous and thus more likely to dry faster, and keep all the evaporation coming out of the face of the wood which supposedly will mean it will dry more evenly. That's the theory anyway.

Try a couple of different things, including nothing at all, and see what works.

Good luck!
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I just cut mine long and don't worry about dipping ends. I was going to try some dipping earlier this year but never got around to it and the stick is fine
I agree with the non dipping approach. Just cut them long, then cut off the cracked ends after it is dry. Heck, they're usually free and plentiful... just get some extras and then use the best ones.
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A smear of Elmer's white glue over the ends and where side branches were cut away has been working for me.

I keep mine in the garage here in Northern Indiana. I shuffle them around a couple of times a year. No problems from the heat extremes that I can tell.

I didn't seal the ends of the first sticks I gathered, and often had checking going down more than 2" from the ends.

Also had 1 that erupted from a bug infestation. Fortunately, no other sticks seem to have been infected, but I wrapped all the nearby ones in black plastic and sprayed Raid inside.
I hear, and agree to some extent, what these other guy's are saying -- but I work to hard locating, cutting and sometimes digging the saplings up to chance checking! So I always like to coat or dip! Of course I also do other wood working projects, using larger pieces of fresh cut wood, so I got in the habit of protecting my ends!

You have to work out what is best for your needs and wallet!
Always protect your ends! Good advice my momma gave me years ago.
All good advice given above.

My experience has been similar.

-harvesting sapplings in the summer, or when the sap is still running is more prone to cracking/checking as opposed to when

the sap isn't and the leaves are off the trees.

-a slow dry is best but takes patience, so if you have a prized piece with a nice twist in it or great shape, I leave the bark on the

stick and will seal the ends with wax or some other type of sealant.

-cutting the stick longer as mentioned above is a good idea.

-date your sticks with month and year on the end of one side and include type of wood if possible and leave it be for probably

over a year. It can take up to a year for every inch thickness of the branch to dry out fully I've read on wood forums in the past.

-variety of wood harvested, location, and storage all will play a role in how the wood dries and if it cracks or not. I've found the

western red cedar I harvest up here doesn't split at all but the Great Canadian Broad Leaf Maple, or worse the Paper Bark Maple

I've harvested needs an immmediate seal or it'll split down the entire length of the stick. Black Locust is bad as well.

Hope you find some good information on this thread which will be of help.


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I agree with the non dipping approach. Just cut them long, then cut off the cracked ends after it is dry. Heck, they're usually free and plentiful... just get some extras and then use the best ones.
+1 same here...Just cut them long and dry them out........Btw, I'm in Florida( high humidity) and you can lay a stick on the ground and in a few days it will be pulp. I have conducted some experiments to see what'd be the best way to season them. I left some outside, some raw and some naked and inside, raw and naked. Anything outside rots and/or cracks( all along the stick), period. Inside, naked is the best. When I'm drying them out, it has to be in a climate controlled envronment.
One of the factors in favor if soaking a stick (especially a shillelagh) in pentacryl -- is that it is a modern way of "re-greening" the wood. Re-greening was a process used by Erie stick makers of old, to keep their fighting sticks flexible so they wouldn't "fly" (break).
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