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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have fresh cut several Osage Orange and Honey Locust this month (12/2015) with plans to make walking sticks from them. Should I let them dry for a period of time (like Oak and Hickory), if so how long? Can I peel the bark and sapwood off now before drying? What is the risk of checking if I peel the bark and sapwood now? Or can I just go ahead and work it all right now?

Thanks for any insight you that have such experience with these woods might offer.
 

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Hi and welcome.

Fresh cut sticks need drying if your planning on doing any sanding or carving on them. A rule is 1 year for for every inch of thickness. However a lot varies on where they are drying and if bark is peeled off they will dry faster than if it's left on. My advice would be peel a few of the bark and leave a couple with it left on. If you want to avoid checking seal the ends with wax or glue or a sealer of some kind, it slows the drying time and minimizes checking. Hope this helps.

Sean
 

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Yes, seal the end, and any place a side branch may have been cut away. Even woods harvested in the winter when the sap is down have a large amount of water in them. As the moisture evaporates, the wood shrinks. Where the grain is open, it shrinks too fast, and the wood develops "checks." 1 year per inch of thickness is the standard. Note, many people cut their sticks longer than needed, because even w. sealing the end, they begin to check when the work starts, and the end sections have to be cut away.

As far as removing the bark, I can only offer some observations from my experience. The most dramatic cracking I ever had was from peeling the bark off a mulberry stick just after cutting it. It came away very easily. I had sealed the ends, but within 2 days, I was getting lateral cracks, followed by end checking a few days later. In the end, I only had handle size pieces from more than a 4' length.

I've read that some species are OK if de-barked before curing, and that others are easier after a few years. Unfortunately, I've never seen any lists that have many matches between them.

If you can immerse the wet sticks in a wood stabilizer, that will drive the moisture out. But the piece must be completely submerged. I stuck a 4' long stick in a 3' tube. When I cam back the next day to flip the piece, the exposed wood just above the stabilizer had all split from the stress. I did get a usable 3' long section, but that is about as short as I find useful.
 

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I would just add that were you store the sticks well also affect the drying time. I live in a very humid part of the country so my drying times is always longer. I have some wire shelving hanging near the ceiling were I store the sticks. It is the warmest area with the heat rising and there is good ventilation. I also tie them together to minimize the bending as it drys.
 
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Yes, cut longer thank needed, date the sticks month and year on the top and species if known. If you get into to any degree you might find its quite enjoyable getting out locating wood. Quite a number of wood carvers and Rabologists have wood stored for the next season or two drying. Anyhow, experiment, ask questions if you need help and have fun! Great group of folks on here always helpful.

Sean
 

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So far I've been leaving my sticks long until they're cured. I leave 1 or 2" stubs on any small side branches until the stick is cured too. That way the checking is minimized or eliminated on the parts I want to keep. If I found a really unique stick that was just long enough I would seal the ends before drying it.

The rule of thumb to let wood cure a year per inch of thickness seems to work well. You can also weigh your wood and work it once it stops losing weight too. It's more cumbersome than just waiting to me though. I haven't tried them but there are other methods like boiling or alcohol immersion that people have used for drying wood quickly. Usually they're smaller pieces like wood turning blanks.

I've only peeled a couple sticks. One was a flowering plum blank that had dried at least 2 or 3 years. It was pretty easy to do. The other was some oak dead wood I found. The bark pretty much just fell off.

It all depends on the species and the conditions the wood is in.

I tend to like the British style of leaving the bark on the shank. Many woods have very attractive bark. The bark is also naturally weather resistant.

Rodney
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks to everyone for the response and great information. It is just what I needed. Have a wonderful holiday season and a great new year.

Bill
 
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