I came across a fallen tree the other day which had plenty of good wood in it. As we all know, wood is getting expensive and sometimes we all look to outsource materials from wherever we can get them. You may be wondering, can you build with green wood?
In general, you can build with green wood as long as you take a few precautions and set up joints to allow for cracking and shrinkage.
Whether you can use green wood or not depends on the wooden project that you have taken up. Though dried or seasoned wood is mostly preferred, you can still use green wood and not regret it.
The two main reasons for using green wood are- it is less expensive and softer than dried or seasoned wood.
In case you are thinking about how and what can you build with green wood, keep your thoughts aside and continue to read. This article will take you through the different aspects of green wood and also share some tips and techniques with you regarding how to store green wood and prevent it from cracking or splitting up. So, let’s begin our journey!
What Is Green Wood?
Green Wood refers to the recently or freshly cut wood that has not yet undergone the drying up process. It contains more moisture content when compared to dried wood.
Why Should You Use Green Wood?
Green wood is inexpensive and easier to be produced. Since it is softer than seasoned wood, it can be cut easily.
Green wood is a popular option used in the industry of hand-woven baskets. You can also use it to build rustic furniture. Green wood is simple to work with. It is lathe and chisel-friendly.
Did you know you can build with green cedar? I wrote an article on it here.
Working with green wood requires a lot of preparation and involves a long process. Once you start using green wood, you will love the smell and the feel of the recently chopped wood. The traditional tools used for working with green wood will make you remember the good old days when wood was left to be air-dried and did not require to be mechanically dried.
If you are trying to construct a home out of green wood, then you need to accept the fact that there will be shrinkage. Generally, wide pieces of lumber shrink more than the narrow ones. I would avoid using boards that are wider than 6 inches.
Also, you have to give special attention to the joinery when you are using green wood. You need to be aware of the shrinkage tendency of green wood. Avoid using green wood as a fuel or for structural purposes. Though it is sometimes used as fuel, it emits less heat than dried wood.
While working with green wood, you will notice that the nails drive into it without much effort. Green wood is the best choice only if you are trying to get a particular or a specific authentic look of your woodwork.
Where Can You Use Green Wood?
Thinking about what can you build with green wood? Well, the answer is right here.
Green wood has been long in use since the 19th century for making timber frames. Throughout the decades of its usage, skilled carpenters have designed and employed a special kind of joinery system.
Such a joinery system helps to work with green wood. New methods of bringing and holding timber together have popularised the use of green wood.
Green wood responds well to all the traditional construction techniques used for windows, doorways, partitions and the main foundation.
You can use green wood to build barns. For this, select a particular species, for instance, the White Pine. It is remarkable as it does not bend or warp. It shrinks very little compared to the other trees. The cracks that appear from drying are also relatively smaller in size.
You can also build strong structures of timber frames joined in green wood. It not only looks strong but also gives an ethnic look. The eco-friendly aspect of green wood can never be denied. Using green wood is much safer and economical than mechanically dried or seasoned wood.
While using green wood, make sure you don’t mishandle them. Do not allow moisture to be completely removed from your wood.
By using green wood, you would also be contributing to the growth of the local economy. With a rise in the use of green wood, the local economy would also thrive and prosper. Using green wood supports small scale industries and helps local sawyers to earn their livelihood.
How to Seal Green Wood?
Sealing green wood is a great technique that prevents the wood from swelling, shrinking, and splitting. Most woodturners make use of a substance called Polyethylene Glycol (PEG).
It does not technically seal the wood. What it does is that it displaces the water so that the cells get dried up without letting any shrinkage to happen.
To use PEG effectively, first of all, let it melt completely into the water. It will have a wax-like appearance. Then, submerge the wood into it for some weeks.
PEG has certain drawbacks or limitations as well. It is best suitable only in cases of smaller pieces of wood. It also leaves a residue that makes it difficult to glue the wood and give it a proper finish.
Apart from PEG, I will also recommend you to use Pentacryl. It is a kind of wood stabilizer. You will be able to brush it on the surface easily. It also penetrates quickly into the wood.
You can apply it to both small and large pieces. Since it does not leave any residue, you have the liberty to use any glue of your choice and complete the finishing of the wood. Only remember to let the wood dry up before you use the glue.
For more information, watch this video:
How to paint Green Wood?
The general products which can be used to paint dry wood will not work in the case of greenwood. If you have made up your mind to use freshly cut green wood for your wooden work, you will be happy to know that there are some special products available in the market that will help you to paint.
Before starting with the painting, you only need a bit of preparation. With the proper preparation, you will be able, to begin with, the painting process right away. You will also be able to avoid the long waiting period for the wood to dry.
The steps listed below will help you to paint green wood:
Take 150-grit sandpaper. Sand all the overly rough spots with it. Fresh paint will not be able to remove any visible spots. So, the sandpaper will make the surface smooth and you will get a better finish after the painting is done.
By using a damp rug, just wipe off the remaining dust from sanding.
Next, use a paintbrush and apply the wood sealer to the woodcut ends. The green wood sealer will help you to prevent the wood from splitting up after drying. Though you can apply the sealer to the entire piece of wood, the woodcut ends are the most important parts.
Therefore, you need to seal those areas. You can buy a green wood sealer from any hardware store. Before going to the next step, wait for the sealer to dry up entirely.
After this, you need to use a stain-blocking primer to prime the wood. Apply the primer with a paintbrush if the wooden piece is small. Use a paint roller if the piece of wood is relatively bigger.
When the green wood will start aging and will begin to dry up, it will release natural oils. The natural oils thus released might cause discoloration of the paint at some places.
The stain-blocking primer is designed and effective to prevent any sort of blemishes. You will easily get it in any hardware shop. It is also available in some artist supply stores as well. Before you proceed further, wait for the primer to dry up.
Choose an oil-based paint and apply it on the green wood. For small spaces of wood, paint can be well applied by using a paintbrush. For a comparatively larger wooden area, a paint roller will be a better tool to paint with. Wait for the first coat to dry up.
Apply the second coat only when you are sure that the first coat has dried up completely and is smooth to touch. Let the wood be as it is for the next 24 hours. Do not use the freshly painted wooden item.
Though one of the good features of oil paint is that it will dry up in a couple of hours and give a glossy look to your green wood, but waiting patiently for 24 hours for the color to get completely dried up will yield better results.
How To Prevent Cracks In Green Wood?
When compared to dried wood, green wood is a bit difficult to work with because of its cracks. Still, many people use green wood mainly because of its aesthetic appearance which gives the finished wooden product a refreshing look.
If you are trying to carve on green wood but are confused about how to prevent it from cracking, go through the following tips and tricks and use these techniques to make your wood carving stand out among the rest.
Let the wood remain wet:
If you have taken up a green wood project, then you need to keep the wood wet from the outside. You need to prevent the wood moisture from being evaporated. If the external layer of wood dries faster, then your wood will shrink in size. The inner wood will remain wet as a result of the moisture inside. This will cause your wood to crack.
Some quantity of water will inevitably escape from the wood. So, the outer layer is prone to get quickly dried up. To prevent cracking, make sure that the wood is wet from outside.
Use a spray and dampen the wooden surface that you are working on. If you need to take a break while the carving process is still on, spray lightly on the surface.
Cover it as soon as possible with plastic. Wood always attempts to maintain its moisture balance. So, it will also seek an equal distribution of water inside it. This will make the moisture inside the wood shift to the outer layer which is comparatively drier than the inner core.
Keep one thing in mind. Do not cover the wood with plastic for a long time. The wood when covered with plastic for many days will lead to the growth of mold on it. Before you resume the carving process, remove the plastic, or replace it with a new one.
Be cautious about what you choose:
Different species of green wood have different uses. Always choose the one that will serve your purpose to the fullest. Try to use the wood that is available in your area.
You will be having better knowledge about your native wood and how it would respond to the external environment. Locally harvested green wood has lesser chances of having cracks too.
Use it fast:
Since green wood is soft and very flexible, it needs immediate attention. Start your woodwork as soon as possible. The faster you start, the lesser are the chances of it cracking or splitting up.
To keep the moisture inside the wood intact, you can cut them along their lengths, and in rounded shapes.
How To Stop Green Wood From Splitting Up?
Splitting is a common issue that you will come across when working with Green Wood. The following techniques will help you overcome this problem:
Seal the wood:
Sealing will prevent the wood from interacting with its surrounding environment. The best sealant available for green wood is Anchor sealant. Clean the surface of the wood and apply the sealant with a spray or a paintbrush.
Use boiled linseed oil:
You can also use boiled linseed oil in place of a sealant. In that case, sand the entire area of wood and then apply the linseed oil on it. Keep it in an open space without sunlight and let it dry.
How To Store Green Wood?
Storing green wood is a crucial step if you want to use it efficiently. Here are the details of certain methods that you can follow to store your wood and prevent it from any decay:
- Cut – Cut the entire log and split it up into several parts. In this way, it would be easier to store them.
- Wrap – Wrap or cover them up in plastics. This will lock the moisture inside the wood for a long time in winter and a few weeks in summer. Make sure that there is no mold growth.
- Freeze – Freezing the wood will be helpful in keeping them green. Let the plastic cover remain to avoid drying up.
- Submerge – Submerging the wood into water will prevent it from premature decay.
For more information on how to store green wood, watch this video:
How Can I Use Green Wood For Woodturning?
Turning green wood bowls is an enjoyable process. It is something that you will love to do.
The most significant step of turning green wood bowls is to make the bowl walls even. Besides the thickness of the bowl, what you have to make sure is that the bowl walls are even right from the rim to the bottom.
While working with green bowls, never expect the bowls to be perfectly round-shaped. Due to the gradual decrease in the moisture content, the bowls might become a little elongated and distorted as well.
The best results I have had in turning green items are as follows:
- Turn the wood roughly and leave the walls thick
- Store your turned project in an airtight container or bag
- Leave it to sit for 12 months to dry naturally
- Once dry, mount it back in the lathe and turn it down to its final dimensions.
If you are turning the whole item while green, try and complete the process of woodturning within a short time.
You never know what changes you might observe due to the alterations in the moisture content if you keep the wood untreated.
Many people believe that one cannot sand green wood. This is partially true. If the wood surface is full of moisture, then it will be difficult to sand it. If the wood is wet, wait for some time and let it dry.
After it has become comparatively drier, you can start your work with sandpaper. Using green wood is a less expensive and environment-friendly alternative to seasoned wood.
Being less hard to work with, green wood adds to the visual appeal of your woodwork. You only need to take proper precautions to prevent the splits and cracks, and you will notice how stunning, aesthetic and real your wood items would look.
Employ the best strategies and use green wood effectively to have a pleasant building experience.