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How long to dry spruce poles

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  • How long to dry spruce poles

    How long should Spruce be stored to dry before working with it?

    I recently cut three White Spruce trees, each 4-5 inches in diameter and about 15 ft long for the purpose of building a sailboat mast, yard, and boom. Sometime in the next few weeks, I will strip all the bark and paint the ends before placing them in a connex for the winter.

    How long do I need to let them dry before I can start working them down into my finished product. I would like to start working on them as soon as possible (I have to reduce their diameter to 2" tapering down to 1-1/2") but I don't know what an appropriate time frame is. This is my first time working with harvested raw materials.

  • #2
    You would be better to let them dry before working on them if they warp any then your finished product will be warped. If you let them dry then you will be able to produce a straight product.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Big Bend View Post
      You would be better to let them dry before working on them if they warp any then your finished product will be warped. If you let them dry then you will be able to produce a straight product.
      Right. So my question is how long is long enough. To be "dry"?


      • #4
        That is hard to say if you get the bark off and put them in a covered area so that the air can move over and around them it will speed it up. Also support them so as to lessen the chance for them to bend or warp. I don't think that there is a answer for that it will depend on how the weather is and where they are stored. The connex will help hold the moisture in with out circulation.


        • #5
          This site has some interesting information that may guide you. I had never heard of soaking the tree in salt water to allow for the salt to speed up drying times! Good luck with it.


          • #6
            Firewood one year, we pretty much all know that. The guys making custom rifle stocks out of really expensive burls want seven years seasoning after the first year of drying...

            I got a cousin down in Anchorage makes guitars, he watches DOT auctions for 12x12 spruce beams that were used for bridge building here before statehood, loves working with them.

            I read about a violin once made by a WWII vet who was a violin maker already before he got drafted, and picked up a chunk of beam wood from the ruins of Monte Cassino after it was on the wrong end of an artillery barage. Best violin he ever made, the wood was estimated to have been harvested 500 years before 1945.

            Never made a mast. If you have space and trees, I would be tempted to cut and season twice as much as I was going to need, and try it with the first spruce pole summer 2016.


            • #7
              Considering you're not making cabinetry out of the wood and hence can live with some warping I wouldn't worry about waiting years and doing a moisture check every few weeks on your poles. I know primative bowyers who work their bow staves green fairly close to finished dimensions and then do their final tillering when the bows have properly dried.

              I'd say work them green to 1/4-1/2" of finished diameter, let them dry and then finish them. A 2+" dia dowl is going to try several times faster than a 4-5" dia log. Provided you take off equal amounts of wood from all sides, warpage shouldn't be much worse whether you work the wood green and let it cure or let it fully cure and then work it. However checking may be significantly reduced if you work it green then dry it.
              Those that are successful in Alaska are those who are flexible, and allow the reality of life in Alaska to shape their dreams, vs. trying to force their dreams on the reality of Alaska.

              If you have a tenuous grasp of reality, Alaska is not for you.


              • #8
                Warm dry air is needed to drive the moisture from green wood. Use Sitka not White Spruce for sailboat masts/beams.


                • #9
                  Thanks for the responses. What I took from this so far is to go ahead and start working the mast down to size and to not store it in a connex.I'll find room for it in my garage-we have a heater and keep it at 40 all the time. I guess I'll give it a year and see what happens. I cut three poles and can probably get away with two, depending on what type sail rig I use, so if next year I mess it up, I'll wait another year. (at which point I go to a hardware store and buy aluminum tubing.)


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