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Sycamore

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Mike Garnham25/03/2008 13:15:00
4114 forum posts
1 photos

I have a large amount of huge sycamore boards, stored away as for the last 6 or 7 years. When we felled the tree initially, and had it planked, I stored the boards flat with spacers between each one, and made a sort-of open-ended tent over the pile to keep the worst of the weather off it.

A couple of years later I came to move the boards, and discovered that most had got a fungus growing on them, and half the boards were so weakened by this that they were broken up and burnt. Now I have the best boards stored in my garage.

I made the legs and rails of a table from one of the pieces:

/sites/5/images/member_albums/6440/Table-Old_Elm_&_Sycamore.jpg


but I noticed when working it that it is not the same as most wood!!!

If you take an off-cut and snap it, it snaps cleanly, at right angles, and with no splitting along the grain........almost as though it were like polystyrene. It is really quite weak.

So, my long-winded question is this:

Is this the way sycamore is supposed to be, or has it been damaged by the fungus? Is it useable for furniture in this condition, or am I destined to spend the rest of my life turning sycamore bowls? Does sycamore usually have a darker "stain" in it as you can probably see in the photo?

Mike

Big Al25/03/2008 13:25:00
1547 forum posts
65 photos
Mike I have used sycamore on many occasions and have never found it to be weak. To avoid staining saw mills tend to stand it on its end rather than stack and stick it as sycamore does tend to stain rather easily. Al
Mike Garnham25/03/2008 13:27:00
4114 forum posts
1 photos

.......sounds like mine is knackered then! Any of you turners want any of it......there is an awful lot!

Mike 

Olly Parry-Jones25/03/2008 13:32:00
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2776 forum posts
636 photos

We use sycamore a lot at college - it's an affordable hardwood that it is quite easy to work with hand tools. It is quite close-grained, which may explain why it breaks so cleanly and doesn't leave many splinters, which could otherwise happen with oak, for example.

Some of the stuff I've used does have "darker patches" (don't know the technical term!) but we tend to disgard for finished work and keep it only for practising. I think it's still perfectly usable; it's up to you whether or not you intend to feature it as part of your design. I'm not sure what causes it but, as long as it's not soft enough that you can scoop it out with your finger, I'd have thought it would be fine to use?

Generally, I think people prefer to see lighter timbers that are nice and clean. You can also get some really nice medullary rays if you're lucky, which run across the grain and catch the light well.

Rob Johnson25/03/2008 18:08:00
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378 forum posts
19 photos

Hi Mike,

from the pic' I would suggest that the black outline discolouration is " spalting".  Big Al is correct that mills normally "End Stack" Sycamore, as this reduces the chance of staining/colouration by allowing rapid surface drying.

When it is darker  (pink to mid brown) it is often sold as "weathered".  

Having low resistance to shock loads, the ease of snapping may be due to fell shakes which can be a devil to see.

I think the addition of these oft seen blemishes add character to a piece and it is supposed to be good for steam bending!

Regards Rob 

Mike Garnham25/03/2008 19:28:00
4114 forum posts
1 photos

Thanks Rob......

The ease of snapping was uniformly throughout all of the scraps, so I don't think that it was felling shakes so much as just a very weak timber. I don't mind the look of the blemishes at all, and the news that it is said to be good for steam bending (which seems right with its very uniform and fine grain) makes me think about it again for its original purpose.......the "melting dresser"!!

We certainly never had anywhere to end stack it..........I wonder if stacking it on edge might have been a sensible compromise? 

Mike 

Stuart Swann28/03/2008 17:57:00
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64 forum posts
4 photos

Hi Mike,

Can you describe the physical appearance of the fungus?

There are three modes of decay in wood.

White rot (the lignin is destroyed leaving the wood very spongy and bendy and often light in colour)

Brown rot (the cellulose is destroyed leaving the wood very brittle and often darker brown in colour)

Simultaneous rot (where both lignin and cellulose are destroyed leaving the wood light in colour usually and very brittle like you sycamore)

Sycamore in its living state (and also just after felling) is prone to a simultaneous decay organism called Ustulina deusta. This fungus destroys both the cellulose and lignin to similiar degrees leaving the timber weakened and prone to a brittle, biscuit like fracture. The spalting (or pseudosclerotic plates) you see within the wood structure are physical barriers produced by two different funguses (often of the same species) to fend off destructive attack from either party. The plates are formed quite early on in the development of the fungus which can mean the timber is still useable as minimal destruction of the wood structure has taken place. Beech is very commonly attacked by the same fungus. Its presence on a trees buttress roots is a bad sign and indicates urgent felling of the tree is required.

Hope that helps

Stu

derek willis28/03/2008 19:37:00
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2314 forum posts
1 articles

Mike,

Sycamore is notoriously difficult to use, I've known a joinery to up prices because of it.

Derek.

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