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When to cut a dying Sycamore

Discussion in 'Logging' started by andy close, Apr 11, 2018.

  1. andy close

    andy close Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    My parents have several large Sycamore trees on their property along a river. One of them was struck by lightning a couple summers ago and is dying out. My parents are hoping it will bounce back but that's unlikely. We'll see what it looks like as leaves start sprouting this spring.
    I'd like to harvest the tree and have it quarter sawn before it's unusable.
    Assuming it's still hanging in there, should we just wait until it's in obvious decline before doing anything about it? Or does that exacerbate the risk of rot & bug infestation, assuming that hasn't already begun?
     
  2. Mike1950

    Mike1950 Founding Member Founding Member Full Member

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    sycamore rots and spalts easily - pictures would help.
     
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  3. andy close

    andy close Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    Thanks for the reply, Mike.
    I'll see if I can get some pictures and rough dimensions of the tree.
     
  4. andy close

    andy close Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    The sycamore is ~34" in diameter at ~5' off the ground. It's a pretty straight trunk up to where it begins to branch out at ~20'.
    The crack shown in one of the photos below has been there for a couple years and still feels solid. You can't dig into it with a fingernail anymore than you can other parts of green trees.

    IMG_2694.jpeg

    IMG_6946.jpeg

    IMG_5535.jpeg
     
  5. Karl_TN

    Karl_TN Member Full Member

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    Have you considered the cost of milling & drying this dying tree against the cost of buying qtr sawed Sycamore boards?

    -Karl

    PS. If you own a decent size chainsaw (75cc or bigger) then consider investing in a Alaskan Chainsaw mill for one off projects like this. I can cut up to 32inch wide boards using my Alaskan mill but it can be very hard work. See my recent post on Flame Boxelder boards under Sawmilling forum for some examples.
     
  6. andy close

    andy close Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    Karl,

    I had 3-4 Ash trees milled up last year that my father and I took down for one of his neighbors. (https://woodbarter.com/threads/pricing-for-neighborhood-ash-processing.32924/)
    I'd consider picking up a decent chainsaw and alaskan mill if I knew that I'd get into milling. I guess it may be on par with hiring a Sawyer with a portable mill; which is what I did for the Ash. I'll have to call the Sawyer I used for the Ash as well as a couple of the local sawmills near here to get pricing for a single tree to be quarter sawn. I want to say it cost me ~$500 for the Ash to be milled; which I believe was a little less than $1/board foot. I'm guessing I won't do quite that well for the Sycamore considering it's a single tree & I'd like it quarter sawn.
    As for drying, the Ash had been dead & drying for a couple years & is currently air drying. I'll have to pick up a meter to check it's MC a little later this Spring. We're considering building a solar kiln for the Sycamore. I haven't looked into having it dried commercially. It may air dry as well considering I don't have immediate plans/need for it. It would be stacked and stickered under an awning behind the garage so out of direct rain/snow but open to the air. I'll have to treat it with borax if I go that route.
     
  7. DKMD

    DKMD Sawbones Staff Member Administrator Global Moderator Full Member

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    I’d be tempted to harvest it before it starts to leaf out. Although I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to milling and drying lumber, I suspect the lower moisture content of late winter will make drying easier than if you waited until late spring. Of course, if it’s completely dead, I don’t suppose it matters.
     
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  8. woodtickgreg

    woodtickgreg scroll, flat, spin Staff Member Global Moderator Forum Moderator Founding Member Full Member

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    I'd cut it before it leafs out, it already looks pretty sad. Clean up is a lot easier without all the leaf. Sap will be low in it this time of year as well.
     
  9. FranklinWorkshops

    FranklinWorkshops Member Full Member

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    If the limbs are dead, the longer you wait to cut the tree, the more dangerous it becomes. They are called widow-makers for a reason. That tree is dead so cut it very soon. Just my opinion.
     
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  10. CWS

    CWS Member Full Member

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    Sycamore can rot easily once the base is damaged and with the damage in the picture it could already be hollow:old: in the center. That makes it even more dangerous to cut. The time to cut it in my opinion is as soon as possible.
     
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  11. Karl_TN

    Karl_TN Member Full Member

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    whathesaidThat tree looks pretty much void of any live cambium layer so it's either dead or almost dead. Don't think about touching that tree with a saw without putting on a chainsaw helmet first.

    Lightning strikes cause both external & internal damage to a tree. Getting the tree cut down will let you determine if the trunk is solid enough to justify paying a sawyer his setup & cutting fees. Hope to see some more pics regardless.
     
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  12. andy close

    andy close Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    Thanks everyone. I appreciate your input. :)
     
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  13. Salt4wa

    Salt4wa Member Full Member

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    Karl makes a good point about a lightning struck tree. Around here, anything struck by lightning seldom has enough solid wood to make trying to get lumber from it worth while. Too much internal damage - usually very shattered.
     
  14. Herb G.

    Herb G. Member Full Member

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    There's one thing no one has mentioned so far. Sycamores are known for dropping limbs with no warning at all.
    Especially dead Sycamores. Where I used to live there was a 125' tall Sycamore right next to a creek.
    The creek would run dry after it hit that tree. It sucked down running water like draining a sink.

    One day it dropped a limb about 2' in diameter & 60' long for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
    It cleared a path to the ground from 80' up in the air. It also took out 2 large pine trees on the way down.
    Made a hell of a thud when it hit.

    :scare3:
     
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  15. FranklinWorkshops

    FranklinWorkshops Member Full Member

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    I’ve heard that eucalyptus trees do the same thing. Usually in a drought, the trees will suddenly drop a limb which helps the tree conserve water. Maybe other trees do that.
     
  16. andy close

    andy close Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    bummer. I was hoping the lightning strike may make for some interesting character.
     
  17. Salt4wa

    Salt4wa Member Full Member

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    Heartwood never heals. Lightning cracks it alot - turns moisture to steam in fraction of a second. Also, if you ever find a nice log that had some high powered bullet fired into when it was still a tree, you'll find the cracks from the bullet may extend a foot or more into the surrounding heart wood.
     
  18. andy close

    andy close Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    so, my father had an arborist out to take a look at the Sycamore. the guy believes the tree didn't take the full brunt of the lightning strike since it's so close to the water and says the tree is actually healing. he recommended removing the bark where it's peeling back so that it it stays dry and heals faster. I guess we'll wait and see how it looks this year.
    Thank you all for your responses.
     
  19. FranklinWorkshops

    FranklinWorkshops Member Full Member

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    That's great news. This growing season will tell you everything you need to know. If the leaves come back on all the limbs, it's good to go.
     
  20. Alex Beck

    Alex Beck Member Full Member

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    As it has been pointed out already, sycamore is not particularly rot resistant. When it was hit by lightning, somewhere in the top was severely damaged, the trunk also probably began to split from the top at this time. As the tree progressed, water intrusion moved into the damaged portion at the top and it ran down the cracked and damaged area which further hastened the decay of the tree. By the looks of the tree, certain rotten spots and loss of bark, the heart of the tree is likely rotten. Its a large tree so there may be some usable lumber but the sap wood & outer portion of the heart is likely the only part of the tree thats fairly intact. I would take the tree down asap. Quarter sawing will give you that beautiful quilted pattern. Be careful when falling the tree because your hinge wood is likely rottten or heavily decayed. You will be able to tell when your chainsaw plunges into and it cuts much faster than normal. If the tree has a heavy lean be extra careful as the trunk could barber chair on you. Good luck.
     
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