Good wood for "shop stump"?

I am looking for help in choosing a good wood for use as a “shop
stump”…not sure what the technical term is but I will be using it
for a vise and anvil base, as well as to hammer grooves into for use
in forming. This is going into a home shop so I am concerned about
introducing a family of termites and/or other insects. What would be
the best type of wood for this use? Ideally it would be hard enough
that a groove hammered into the end grain would maintain its shape,
but not so hard as to make it impossible to form the depression in the
first place. I also know that some woods are more susceptible to
insects, any input would be appreciated.

BTW: I live in the New England area (Cape Cod), so something like
Redwood (not that it is a good choice) would be hard to get.


This is going into a home shop so I am concerned about introducing
a family of termites and/or other insects. 

You are right to be concerned about this. When I lived in Austin
Texas I called an Arborist and told him what I was looking for and
asked for his input. He recommended a very dried and aged (with all
the bark off) pin oak stump (the pin oak is one of the Texas oak
trees). They connected me with a stump removal company - I told them
how high and wide I wanted and ask for it to be cut so it would stand
straight. They delivered one to me that had been in their “yard” for
over a year - totally dry, grey wood and wonderful to work on. All
the bark was off of it. They said it had been treated previously for
termites. However, after it sat in my garage on the concrete floor
for 3 years, I did find that ants tended to nest in the trunk part.
Once I sprayed and killed the ants, I then coated the base and sides
with a heavy clear acrylic varnish that soaked into the wood. This
seemed to solve the problem and I never had insects again. And I
loved hammering on that wood top. It took a while to get the first
indent to my liking, but once I got started with it, it was a delight
and I had indents of all shapes and depths - always could find a spot
to my liking. After a couple of years, I moved it inside by my
workbenches which was infinitely more convenient and also served as
an extra surface to lay tools when my bench was a total mess.

Good luck in finding just the right one. The stump removal company
gave me my stump and I paid them a few bucks for delivering it. So
call around and I’m sure you can find whatever you are looking for.
Do not get hickory - it is way too hard.


Hello Joe Cuteye, Just to set your mind at ease, you won’t bring
termites into your home with a wood stump. In North America, the
little critters live in a colony underground and tunnel their way to
food sources like cellulose, scrap wood, or your home. If the stump
did have termites in it, they would be present only to collect food
and carry back to the colony; they could not survive without access
to the colony. You might bring in some wood roaches (I think they
are found in New England); but again, their habitat preference is
outside and they would not find your home attractive enough to
infest. Now thay your termite worry is assuaged, someone else can
address the best type of wood for your purposes. Judy in Kansas, who
has been battling the ubiquitous termite. Gotta’ respect the little
guys who survive quite nicely without vision and live underground!

Judy Being a native Floridian, I am well versed in termites having
spent huge sums of money to treat houses I’ve bought with termite
infestations - and I’ve had dry wood termites also - you just don’t
want to have either kind. But one thing I have learned is to watch
out for any wood you bring into the house.

If you’ve ever had the “pleasure” of buying an antique chair or
chest to discover that it contained dry wood termites, you would know
the concerns about bringing “untreated” wood in the house. And yes
they can do substantial damage. Chances that you “import” a major
colony from a stump is highly unlikely, but I think one does need to
exercise some caution with bringing any exterior wood piece into the
house. Following is an excerpt from a termite website.

"Among the wood inhabiting termites, there are various specialists
such as rotten wood termites, damp wood termites and dry wood
termites. Dry wood termites can be very serious pests of houses and
furniture. All wood inhabiting termites produced fecal pellets. If
you have dry wood termites in your house you are likely to see the
coarse sand-like pellets long before you discover the termites

Dry-wood termites, as their name suggests, are capable of infesting
dry wood that is not in contact with the ground. They do not
construct long tunnels to the soil surface, making infestations
harder to detect. One sign of dry-wood termite infestations is the
presence of hard, dry fecal pellets that resemble sawdust. Under the
microscope the pellets have pronounced dimples giving them the
appearance of dry corn kernels. Dry-wood termites are larger than
subterranean termites (winged reproductives are 7-11 mm long), and
they construct larger galleries. To prevent dry-wood termites, keep
all vents and openings covered, and seal all cracks. Drywood
infestations are generally easiest to control by removing the
infested wood and replacing it with new wood

My stump is made from a 12" x 12" square support post from an old
building that was being taken down. It was of course already fully
dried so it’s extremely hard and having used it for more than 20
years, it’s been perfect. No bugs and the cracks haven’t changed
through the years. You might try salvage yards for them.

Hi Bonnie, After reading your post I gazed across the road from my
farm, and there stood the companion barn to mine that is being
salvaged by some friends. Today, they were there, and I walked over
and there was a 12 x 12 piece 2’ tall that they had holding up some
pieces off the floor of the barn. My friend brought it over to the
porch for me and it’s drying on 3 large cabin nails I set
horizontally to lift it off the top of my ‘hammering’ shelf. It was
a bit wet from all the rain we’ve had, but basically like yours, dry
and tight and not too hard. 150 years old (so I guess it’s pretty
hard, but doesn’t seem that way). I’m really looking forward to
using it. Cheers! Dinah. at Bonny Highland Farm

Hello bericho1, Very good point. Thanks for offering info about
the dry wood termite. I was not specific enough by simply saying
North America in defining the type of termite “available” in nature.
Your variety - the dry wood termite - can be found in the United
States in a narrow strip from Virginia, south to Florida, along the
Gulf of Mexico and from Mexico to Northern California on the Pacific
coast. We don’t see them in Kansas unless they have been "imported."
All we have to do is put the infested furniture outside to freeze
during the winter and the termite is history. There are some
advantages to having cold winters!

I was thinking New England when responding to the posting.  Thank

goodness we in the northern areas do not have to deal with those dry
wood termites or the Formosan subterranean termite. Of course, we DO
have carpenter ants and some carpenter bees - great little
opportunists. Judy in Kansas, who has learned to eat crow while it’s still warm :-).