Also, what should I do to get my stump ready for indoor use?
Dry it out, I assume, but for how long? Do I need to debug it? If
If you look in the Orchid archives you’ll find a number of threads on
the stump subject which you might find useful. Some of those aRe:
I’m also going to include a longish reply I sent privately about a
year ago to one of the above threads. It’s about the curing and
preparation of a maple stump but a lot of it will apply to your
situation as well. I’ve cured large oak pieces using the method
described though I’ve never been lucky enough to get a stump sized
piece to work with. I’ve since heard of a real lazy man’s way of
treating a large piece like this which is to keep pouring automobile
anti-freeze over the wood until it won’t soak up any more. This is
supposed to take days … and once it dried you’d have a non-splitting
but poisonous block of wood. Not what I’d want personally.
Anyway, here’s that previous reply:
I’ve harvested and cured many kinds of wood in the pursuit of one of
my hobbies, hand-carved wooden spoons, and learned that maple is one
of the trickier ones due to it’s tight, dense grain.
Let me begin by saying that you are very lucky. I’ve had a number of
stumps over the years but nothing like maple. Any stump --wood like
that in particular-- is a great addition to the jewelry making studio
and with care it will last forever. It’s utility is virtually
If your stump is just cut the first thing to do is to slow down it’s
drying process ASAP. With hardwoods like maple they tend to want to
dry as fast as they can and that means splits, shakes and sometimes
total disaster. I once had a Hawthorn stump --beautiful wood by the
way, light sand color, beautiful grain structure with blood-red flecks
through it-- that I left on the balcony for a weekend: it split
itself into small pieces, like a shattered car window. Heartbreaking!
The process I’m going to describe is slow and labour intensive but
the results are usually close to perfect. And since you’re likely
going to have this stump in your studio for the rest of your active
life it’s not a bad trade-off. To the best of my knowledge there is
no substitute for large pieces like this. For smaller pieces you can
use a chemical solution called PEG which displaces the moisture from
the wood but on log or stump sized pieces there isn’t enough
penetration for the PEG to be effective. Another issue is that PEG is
very attractive to pets when it is wet --something about the chemicals
involved-- and it is very poisonous if ingested.
So, the best thing to begin with is a wax solution called “end-sealer
wax” which you can usually find at a woodworkers hobby supply place.
The stuff I use is Lee Valley Tools (www.leevalley.com) product called
“End Sealer for Logs” but there are many variations on this so use
whatever you can find locally.
The basic approach is simple: cover the entire surface of the stump
with the end-sealer wax, double or triple coats on the endgrain, let
it dry until it is mostly clear (a few hours) and place the entire
thing in a big garbage bag. Seal off the bag --ties are best-- and
stick that in another bag. Seal that off and leave it for at least a
week. Check it to see that all is well. You should have beads of
water forming in the bad and on the stump but no splitting of
checking. Doesn’t hurt to re-do the endgrain sections again just for
Now you can decide whether you want to take the “lazy” approach which
means you uncover the stump, put it in a cool, dry place out of
direct sunlight for 6 to 8 months and take your chances. You’ll almost
certainly get some splitting but if you paint them over with the wax
solution as soon as they appear it might not be too bad. It depends
very much on the type of wood and the grain of that particular piece.
If you’ve got the root stems at the base of your stump then the
splitting can be quite marked. Less if it’s just a section from near
the base of the tree.
If you want to take the slow and careful approach you’ll certainly
get better results but it will involve some amount of care and
attention. It begins by re-sealing the stump in the bags and waiting
another couple weeks.
Now begins the long, slow process: open it once every couple of weeks
to let a little of the moisture vent off. A couple hours is good,
enough that the actual beads of moisture on the wood disappear.
Re-seal it and let it sit for another couple weeks.
Repeat this for at least 2 months, longer if you’ve got the patience.
The slower it goes the less splitting you’ll get. Unfortunately you
can’t just ignore it because if you do the moisture will build up and
mold will set in and then you’ve got other problems which are best
After 2 months of this you’ll have a pretty good idea of what your
end result is going to be. If you’ve avoided splits and checks so far
then everything is going great and you’ll likely be able to finish the
process with great success. If you do get splitting then paint those
over with the sealer wax immediately and slow your process down by
increasing the times between bag openings. It’s hard to be exact
because the process varies depending on the wood you have, the time
of year it was cut, etc. You just have to play it by ear.
Anyway, depending on the size of your stump, after 2 months or so
you’ll notice that the moisture beads stop forming. Drop your cycle
time down to a week and leave it open for 4-6 hours each time. Repeat
for at least another month, 2 is better.
Then start leaving the stump out overnight once a week. Another month
or two of this. If all is still going well you can start doing one
day cycles: one day in the bags, one day out. Another month of this.
By this time --its been as much as 8 months at this point-- you just
take it out, put it in that cool, no-sunlight place and check on it
periodically. After a few months of this you can check your stump to
see if it’s ready to use. Drill a small hole --1/4 inch drill-- in
the base of the stump. Go at least an inch in, gathering the shavings
as they come out. What you want to do is feel the shavings to see
what the internal moisture is like. If the shavings are damp to the
touch then the stump needs more shelf time. Seal up the hole you’ve
drilled with the wax and return it to it’s cool, no-sunlight place.
Once your test shavings are feeling dry-ish the stump is ready to
use. Scrape of the wax, then wirebrush the entire surface of the
stump to get the rest of the excess wax off. Now it’s time to find a
home for your spiffy new stump in your studio!
I should mention that there is one other alternative to this
do-it-yourself approach. You could take the stump to a commercial
lumber mill and have them treat it for you. (not applicable to all
types of wood) They’ll basically steam the stump to drive off most of
the moisture. In a wood like maple you will almost certainly get some
splitting but you’ll also have your stump back and useable in a
couple of weeks.
The downside to this is that the splitting may continue for weeks and
it may require you to do the wax treatment anyway. Of course your
overall treatment time will be dramatically reduced. A side effect of
this process is that the wood is basically cooked during the steaming
and will end up much more brittle than if it had dried naturally.
If you don’t intend to use the surface of the stump --the end grain–
as a hammering surface then this brittleness may be of no concern.
Personally I wouldn’t make that tradeoff because having that work
surface available to me is part of my reason for having the stump in
the first place. Another option would be to cover the upper surface of
the stump with sheet copper, thereby avoiding any splitting concerns
I hope some of this was useful. Feel free to contact me off-list if I
can be of further assistance.