how to prepare wood

I have cut down a couple of trees in the last year. One was a pear tree, the other a juniper. Anyway the logs were sitting around, and I thought I would do something with them. So I cut some 1/4" slices which I thought would make nice place mats after a bit of work. Then the wood dried out and they all cracked radially. Is there anything I could have done to avoid this?

Use polyethelyne glycol to stabalize the wood.

Some sort of oil would have been in order. Linseed Oil may have helped, or Teak Oil. Teak Oil has a tendency to stain things brown though. If you don’t want that, I’d use Linseed Oil.

Hope that helps.

You have to control the drying process, otherwise, as you found out, the wood changes dimensions too fast and cracks. Woodturners (who use a lot of “found” wood) will take logs and covers the ends with wax or paint in order to control the rate of drying. They might also put the wood in plastic bags filled with sawdust and vent the bags periodically until the wood has reached a low moisture level.

If you’re making lumber, you can either air dry or kiln dry your boards. Air drying means that you cut your boards and “sticker” them – stack them between thin sticks that allow air to circulate. Kiln drying means that you stick the boards in a big oven and heat it to dry out the moisture. (Kiln drying is a bit better in eliminating powder post beetles and other pests.) In either case, you’ll probably see some checking at the ends of the boards.

Note that if your boards include the pith (the center of the tree), you will get checking no matter what you do. So to make boards, you have to take slices off the log, either radially or parallel, that don’t pass through the pith.

Another semi-related question.

I have 2 trees that died of natural causes in my backyard (max diameter of 6") How would i go about drying these for firewood for use in my fireplace (is it called seasoning?)

Cut 'em and stack 'em outside. Up off the ground, exposed to the rain, but with good air circulation. Give them a year or two ideally.