Wood for out/in wales


Wooden Canoe Maniac
Where do you folks get long pieces of wood for in/out wales?

I have a friend who'll let me cut down some ash. I believe fresh wood bends/steams better. What's better: wood from big diameter trees or small? I guess with the former you'd have to worry more about knots/limbs - that area wouldn't bend. And an 18' hunk of large diameter tree would be quite heavy!, so would a smaller tree be suitable? And aside from knots, what part of the tree should be used assuming steaming would be needed: the inner part?, outer part?

Any thoughts?
True green wood bends better than dry wood, but as wood dries it is susceptible to drying defects such as mold, checking, twisting, and shrinking. Because of this it is better to air dry the wood before using/bending it. A good compromise between ability to bend and lessening drying defects is when wood has reached a moisture content somewhere between 12-25%.

As far as diameter of the tree is concerned, 16-24 inches is good. Smaller diameters all the way down to 12 inches are capable of producing acceptable wood for canoe building but they should probably be left on the stump to grow more. Over 24 inches and the wood can start to lose its’ tenderness so to speak (from a bending point of view). It really depends what kind of radius you plan on bending. For gunwale stock I wouldn’t limit the diameter size of the tree. For really tight bends I would keep it under 24 inches, maybe even 20. But then again I have milled 36 inch diameter trees 20 feet long and have never had a problem bending the wood from those trees.

Generally speaking the clearest wood from any tree will come from the outside. Larger diameters usually produce more clear wood than smaller. The more you saw a log the poorer the quality gets. Clear straight grained wood is just that, clear and straight grained. It doesn’t matter where it comes from within a log (unless you are concerned with things like the difference in color between the heart and sap wood) as long as it is clear and straight grained and doesn’t contain the pith.