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Advice on saving wood from Ash trees (plus Mexican Mock Orange)

Discussion in 'Homeowner Helper Forum' started by ChrisH89, Jun 4, 2018.

  1. ChrisH89

    ChrisH89 New Member

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    Location:
    San Jose
    We've got some very old redwood fencing that's finally being replaced, but two fairly large, roughly 20 year old European Ash trees (either Narrow-Leaf Ash Fraxinus angustifolia or Fraxinus excelsior, though they look very much like the latter otherwise, and the buds are darker brown than I can find pictures for the former, but not 'jet black' as F.excelsior is supposed to be, more of a dark chocolate brown) and wanted to know if it's worth saving the butt logs and possibly crotch wood for carpentry and turning.


    Given they came up against fencing, they're not perfectly straight, but I wasn't sure where the line was between marginal use (or firewood) or something worth saving. They're too small to be of much interest to any larger scale mill, but some small scale or DIY shop might be interested. (that and if the trunk is too curved for practical board or stave use, it might have interesting figure for turning)



    Along the same fence, there's a pair of quite tall (around 20 feet) Mexican Orange Blossom Trees (we've been calling them mock orange, but they appear to be Choisya ternata) that aren't endangering the fencing, but we're also leaning towards taking down. Mom is on the fence (no pun intended) over trying to keep those, but they'd need heavy pruning at the very least and I'm not sure they'd respond well to being topped or anything of that sort. (I know most trees don't and it's generally a bad practice, and was also just considering leaving the stumps and seeing if root stock came up enough to make shrubs out of, that or possibly leaving several feet of trunk and some of the lower branches and letting it leaf out again from there)


    There was some controversy over fire danger of those orange blossom trees being fire hazards, otherwise I'd consider simply thinning them out, pruning them away from the roof, and leaving them at their current height.


    It'd be an obscure thing to use for woodworking, but if anyone thinks there's interest in some long sections of Mexican Orange, I'll keep that in mind too. (I'm not sure of the structural properties, but it might make some interesting walking sticks or some sort of turning, or maybe carvings)


    Removal of the old fence starts on Thursday (June 7) and I believe the tree removal follows that, so I've kind of waited to the last minute for advice here, but any input would be helpful.



    On a side-note, there's also some old-growth 4x4 redwood posts and boards in that old fencing (something we failed to take note of when the main portion was removed some years back, sadly) and I'm hoping to scavenge some of that, too. (there's one large section of 2x12 retaining wall that's probably no good where it's in contact with soil, but around 6 feet of it that's just open air on both sides and seems solid ... our fence contractor said it was just trash, but I'm skeptical there)
     

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  2. Marine5068

    Marine5068 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Location:
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    Best to remove what you want of the fence and be prepared to remove(or take down the trees) at the same time.
    Then asses to see if you want to removed all the trees or just the ones between the houses.
    If it's as hot as I figure in San Diego, I would lever the last two trees for shade. Build them into your new outdoor living design. Maybe some nice seating or cafe style are under them.
    Also any wood you'd like to keep, make sure it's stored up off the ground(no ground contact) and covered with a sheet of steel roofing or not at all. No tarps.
    That way it will stay dry, mold free and reduce the attraction to wood boring beetles, ants or termites.(they prefer soft, damp wood)
    I would use the good old redwood pieces and make new stuff with them too. Maybe some planters or small benches or plant/pot stands, a new shelf(s) for the new fence to set plant pots on, etc.
    It's up to you and your imagination.
    Good luck and show us what happens.
     
  3. ChrisH89

    ChrisH89 New Member

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    Update: work doesn't actually start till Saturday, but I've ended up tearing some bits down myself in the process of removing some of our plants to avoid death by trampling.

    We've decided to keep the Mexican Oranges, just cut them back to below roof height at the nearest branching points. It might not be the healthiest thing for the trees, but it seems the best compromise for keeping them. (and going by existing hard cuts on them, they don't seem decay prone)



    In any case, I'm familiar with Ash's properties and its poor suitability for outdoor uses (and related difficulties in air drying), though with previous experiments on some smaller, younger trees we took down years ago, the local conditions don't seem prone to rapidly destroying the wood. (compared to what's happened with apple limbs or a California Walnut we took down: the latter seemed a particular magnate for termites) This type of ash also has bark that peels quite cleanly while green, but I'm not sure that'd be good to do while drying. (stripping the bark seems to encourage more checking from rapid drying from the outside in causing the outside to split radially, forming checks that continue inward) Stripping the bark also seems to encourage mold or mildew with this Ash, while leaving it on doesn't seem to encourage borers like it does for fruit wood (at least around here, it seems like apple, plum, cherry, apricot, etc tends to rapidly harbor insects under the bark once it dies ... ). There's some younger Ashes we'd cut down years ago that came up much too close to the house and I'd tried saving the wood from those, but it was nearly all sap wood and I didn't end up doing anything with it beyond giving some away as firewood eventually and keeping one section of a log as a sort of decorative feature on a path. (it's held up surprisingly well given Ash's reputation to decay when untreated ... and hasn't attracted termites, unlike the remains of a California Walnut we had ... or almost any other fruit tree that's had dead wood/decay near the base, though apple seems much more prone to that than cherry, plum, or apricot ... borers still love those, though)


    I was mostly wondering if the ashes were worth keeping as logs to give to someone capable of milling it, and what sort of lengths would actually be useful. (our contractor is more keen on firewood lengths, and aside from that, there's still the question of transportation, as this is in a fenced-in back yard with no vehicle access limiting things to whatever could fit on a dolly, wagon, cart, wheelbarrow, etc ... and the added weight of green wood would also be considered; still, I could probably see 6 foot lengths being feasible, or varying lengths aimed at selecting straighter pieces given the bowed/curved trunk of the larger one)

    That and the lengths would at least need to be small enough to practically move out of the way during construction. (and just short enough to avoid damage or liability issues when taking them down) Still, the butt-log is closest to the ground and should be the most practical to make the longest.


    I'll get some measurements on the girth and calculated diameter tomorrow (or later today, rather), but I believe the larger one is over 20 inches in diameter at the base.

    I hate seeing stuff go to waste, and between that and regretting not saving/salvaging/donating the majority of the old fencing when it was torn out around 12 years ago (I was in high school, but I’d already tried to get my parents to save the stuff, but I wasn’t home when most of the demolition happened … that and they ended up using low grade, knotty sap wood for out new fencing, but that’s another story) I’d rather make the most of what’s left.

    I can vouch for the trees also not having any nails in them (that redwood is another matter, obviously), though I’d also imagine any small-scale/DIY milling operations would tend to take that as a possible risk in most cases when considering milling trees taken from yards and such.
     

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