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Red Oak "Odor"

Discussion in 'Firewood, Heating and Wood Burning Equipment' started by GM_DaddyMac, Oct 29, 2009.

  1. GM_DaddyMac

    GM_DaddyMac ArboristSite Operative

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    A buddy and I recently scored some dead fall red oak via CL. It was a large tree (nearly 30" at the base) and given the amount of rot and other decay would guess it had been on the ground for two years or more.

    As we cut into the trunk and larger limbs there was a very pungent odor. When I got it home and began splitting the odor became more pronounced. I am accustomed to the earthy smell of most woods when split, but this seemed to be even more intense. Even though it has been down for some time it is still quite wet. When I split the large rounds with a wedge, sap / water surfaces.

    My wife and neighbor have commented that it smells like dog or horse sh:censored:. It is close to the house now as that is where I do my splitting, but will be moved to the far end of my yard to season. As more experienced wood harvesters, processors and burners I have a couple questions.

    A. Is this normal with red oak given what I have described?
    B. Will the odor dissipate with 2 years of seasoning?
    C. Should I leave it uncovered for the first year of seasoning to allow rain and snow to rinse some of the smell away?
    D. Will that same odor appear when it is burned?

    My wife has already declared if it smells like it does now she will not allow it in the house or in the fireplace. Any insights would be appreciated.

    Thanks.
     
  2. cre73

    cre73 ArboristSite Member

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    We always say oak smells like pis* when split. The smell will go away after seasoning, and it is well worth the wait.
     
  3. howellhandmade

    howellhandmade Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Yes, oak does have its own odor. Smells like silage to me, and some of the big trunks have a kind of spongy white fungus permeating the heart that seems to make it smell even stronger. The smell will dissipate. I split and stacked two 190-year-old oaks that I had cut in my back yard this past spring, and for a while the smell was intense, but the stacked wood does not smell now. I've burned some of the scraps that were small enough to be dry now, and notice no odor in the house or while burning. I stack in rows with a little air space in between, and cover just the top with thick poly tarps.

    I wouldn't keep or burn rotted wood, though. I discarded over two cords of soft, spongy, heart wood from the two oaks. I split away the sound outer wood and stacked it, and stacked separately some that was borderline -- not perfectly clear, but too solid and heavy to throw away. I can't tell you how that wood would have smelled or behaved in the house, but there's no problem with the good stuff.

    Jack
     
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  4. burroak

    burroak ArboristSite Operative

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    lol, oak can have alot of different smells. It depends on where it came from. Once it dries out it should lose most of the smell.
     
  5. coog

    coog Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Red Oak does have a distinctive smell.I like it, and yes, it goes away as it dries.Trees that are infected with wilt have their own distinctive odor...fruity-like.It is the means of attracting the beetles that spread the disease.


    Wherever A injures or annoys B on pretense of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel. (Mencken's Law)


    Great sig line.Might be my new favorite.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2009
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  6. ghitch75

    ghitch75 AboristSite Guru

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    we call it piss oak around here......it will stink your house up!!!


    but it burns good....smell gets a little better seasoned.....but it's still there..
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2009
  7. Curlycherry1

    Curlycherry1 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    As a woodworker I hate red oak. When I mill rough sawn boards it makes my shop smell like vomit. Hence my wife and kids can always tell when I am working with "vomit wood" as they call it.
     
  8. jburlingham

    jburlingham Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Answers to your multi-part question

    A. Every Red Oak I have ever cut has the strong smell as described, be advised yellow jackets seem to be very attracted to it.

    B. It will dissipate, and if you split it it will go much quicker, as the moisture seems to hold it and bark holds moisture.

    c.I would season as any other wood, and cover just the top of the pile leaving the sides open for the air to get at it.

    D. I have burned better then 10 cords of red oak in my life, and I have never noticed an odor after seasoning, not even during burning.
     
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  9. ray benson

    ray benson Tree Freak

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    Got to agree, the smell can be very strong after a rain.
     
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  10. PA. Woodsman

    PA. Woodsman Addicted to ArboristSite

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    And flies! :greenchainsaw:
     
  11. woodbooga

    woodbooga cords of mystic memory

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    If they put that smell up in bottles, I'd buy a small supply if the price was right.

    To me it's sweet ambrosia. My mind associates the smell with gettin out there and gettin it done. Makes me think of lacing up the boots, sharp chains, topping off the oil for once without overfilling, and an empty truck bed that soon won't be.

    The perfect compliment to oak whiff is the smell of 2-cycle exhaust. Like a whoopie pie goes better with a bottle of Moxie.

    To be sure, fresh-cut red oak smells like an expired jar of Ragu dumped on a sweaty pair of tennis shoes that have been in a gym locker since the Clinton administration.

    But I like it. :)
     
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  12. coog

    coog Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Always smelled like money in the bank to me.
     
  13. jburlingham

    jburlingham Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Woodbooga, I would have to agree with you on that........
    It stinks, but it's a good stink, it means heat for the winter, it means getting it done,and It reminds me of times spent with my father.

    As far as 2 stroke smoke, that makes me very happy, but not as happy as a Moxie, Whoopie pies are good, but can be too sweet if you eat the whole pie.
     
  14. woodbooga

    woodbooga cords of mystic memory

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    Back in the batters box. Figured I'd actually try to be relevant to the OP's questions and not go off on another tangent about rotten pasta sauce, regional soft drinks and the associative olfactory epistemics of a certain fresh cut hardwood:

    A - yes. :)
    B - If split definitely. Unsplit oak does tend to retain moisture good. I've never kept it in the round for that long, but left unbucked in length, it'll keep the oak whiff for a good long while.
    C - Can of worms. We regularly have cover vs. uncover threads that go on and on. IMO, if your committed to 2 years, you're going to be fine either way.
    D - Nope. Entirely different bouquet. Good earthy aroma. Some even fancy oak for meat smoking. I doubt there'd be much interest in oak-smoked meat if the end product was thew taste equivalent of oak whiff.
     
  15. NC4TN

    NC4TN ArboristSite Operative

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    Right on! Also I might mention that since Daddy Mac's tree was down, the tannic acid that we all love to smell had probobly fermented on sapwood side next to the ground, which gives off another distinctive smell!
     
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  16. acer saccharum

    acer saccharum ArboristSite Member

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    The stink from red oak reminds me of dog crap. White oak on the other hand, that is sweet perfume.

    And like others have all ready said, it does dissipate.
     
  17. GM_DaddyMac

    GM_DaddyMac ArboristSite Operative

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    Thanks guys for all the feedback. I have cut and split oak before, but as noted the smell of this particular trees was considerably more pronounced.

    I live in the burbs -- so I do not have hardwoods on property or a woodlot to cut from, so when oak is available you go get it, because it will not last.

    Woodbooga -- I wholeheartedly agree. When we got the go ahead I was totally psyched -- chains sharpened, truck loaded and lunch on board. I do not get the opportunity to run a big saw very often, but this certainly made that possible.

    I cannot say I "like" the smell, but recognize it as a couple days of hard work, chips flying, hanging with a friend -- for my (our) personal comfort. I still have the second truck load to finish splitting, but will get to that over the weekend. I split by hand so it is a good workout and a reason to be outside.

    Thanks again.
     
  18. woodbooga

    woodbooga cords of mystic memory

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    Does the tannic acid pervade the entire tree? I know it's heavily concentrated in the bark which was prized by tanners who'd crush it up in barkmills for their tanpits. Hemlock too. Which begs the question - why doesn't hemlock have oakwhiff if it's the tannic acid that imparts the aroma?

    If someone knows, I'll be in your debt. I've wondered this for years.


    We're in good company!

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    [​IMG]

    Calvin Coolidge was doing hay in Plymouth, Vt. when he was informed of Warren Harding's death. He was sworn in as president by his father, a JP and they toasted the event with a couple of Moxies. :cheers:
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  19. ropensaddle

    ropensaddle Feel Lucky

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    Red oak kicks.



    It smells though lol.
     
  20. Coldfront

    Coldfront Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Elm smells worse to me we called it piss elm. Red Oak and chainsaw smoke is what I live for, notice my sig.
     

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