Finishing a cut tree log


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Old 10-23-14, 06:51 PM
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Finishing a cut tree log

We recently cut down a Catalpa tree that had been in our yard for over 50 years.
I had a section of the trunk cut and saved for sentimental reasons. I'm not sure what to use this for....tabletop or just lean it against the house for decoration.

The sanding is just about done and I have decided to stain it with a cherry wood or reddish color and then 2 coats of glossy poly.

There are a couple of cracks that are through the entire block of wood that need some filling (See photo). My husband told me to just use polyurethane to fill it, but I think that would make it stand out more.

Does anyone know what would work the best for filling the cracks?
Thank you.
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  #2  
Old 10-23-14, 07:02 PM
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I recommend Epoxy.

I have done a project like this before on a few logs. One was for a plaque for a European mount for a deer and the other was a table I made for a friend of mine. The plaque had a worse crack then yours and I used epoxy to fill them which worked well but did leave some small bubbles. I then used some polyurethane to finish it.

The other one did not crack and I just poly-ed it. The ones I have on deck are going to get an epoxy finish that looks like a bar top. If I have any cracks with that I will just use the same stuff to fill the cracks.
 
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Old 10-23-14, 09:32 PM
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Thank you, Tolyn, for your reply.
Epoxy is a very strong substance and lasts forever.
The only problem is staining it….I think.
Is epoxy translucent?
I was hoping to make the cracks less noticeable and use opaque filler.
The fact that the cracks go all the way thru the log….maybe epoxy is the better choice.
I’ve been sanding on this slab of wood for so long that I hate to mess it up.
 
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Old 10-24-14, 02:44 AM
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Here is something I came across, Haven't tried it but looks cool.
 
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Old 10-24-14, 03:13 AM
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Don, whatever it was, didn't come through.
 
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Old 10-24-14, 04:03 AM
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The only problem is staining it….I think.
Any staining would need to be done prior to apply the epoxy. Epoxy is like poly as it will seal the wood preventing the absorption of the stain. Many but not all epoxies are translucent. End grain generally stains darker than the rest of the wood and may need more than 2 coats of poly to get a fine finish.
 
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Old 10-24-14, 04:07 AM
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The only problem is staining it….I think
End grain absorbs stain more than the rest of the wood and might come out darker than you desire .... so a lighter stain might be in order. The epoxy needs to be applied after the stain as it will not take stain. Many but not all epoxies are translucent. It may take more than 2 coats of poly to get a fine finish.
 
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Old 10-24-14, 04:35 AM
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The cracks are a natural part of that log. Where the cracks are, and how the rings have grown around them show a time in the trees life. IMO I would not try to hide them, just fill them with something clear to stabilize them.
 
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Old 10-24-14, 04:57 AM
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Will try again went brain dead and forgot link
Absolutely Wicked DIY Glow-In-The-Dark Wooden Shelves
 
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Old 10-24-14, 08:13 AM
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Epoxy won't take stain so tint it whatever color you want it to end up as. I don't know about glow-in-the-dark filler but I've seen contrasting-tinted epoxy fill used on cracks, knots, repairs to hardwood floors & I think it looks better than trying to hide it. Different strokes...

Q: How long has that chunk of catalpa been drying? A piece that thick could take many months to equalize to your home humidity so your cracks might change.
 
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Old 10-24-14, 08:19 AM
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I guess epoxy is the answer and the cracks are a natural part of the wood. I remember the tree was hit by lightening. Maybe that caused the crack. I’m also trying to keep the bark on, which has been difficult. Elmer’s Glue helped a little with that.
The glow in the dark repair was a little too wild for me. lol

This log has been in our garage since mid august.

Thanks everyone.
 

Last edited by nottyn; 10-24-14 at 09:19 AM.
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Old 10-24-14, 09:50 AM
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How ever you decide to finish it, I really like the idea Tolyn posted, the bar top coating.
It looks really nice and thick, almost like a sheet of glass on top.
You wouldn't happen to have a practice piece for testing stain would you?
That would be ideal.
 
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Old 10-24-14, 03:38 PM
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When that log fully dies, it will open a itself up and look like pacman. You will want to displace the water with a product like pentacryl so it doesn't shrink and crack on you. Preservation Solutions -
 
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Old 10-25-14, 01:47 PM
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I’m finally just about ready to apply the stain.
Using a 220 sandpaper with an orbital sander really makes the wood surface feel like glass. It was mentioned that the edges will get darker than the middle…should I use a wood conditioner first?

Catalpa trees are good for nothing. The wood stinks when burned, low BTU’s, the leaves are too big to compost as is, the tree leaves tons of debris all year round and the wood is not very nice looking. Live and learn. That is why I want to stain it. Otherwise just a poly or whatever finishing coat would suffice.

I looked up the epoxy products and read the specs. The one bad thing I discovered on all the brands found is that they cannot take sunlight and will discolor and dull. I wouldn’t mind the discoloration, but the dulling wouldn’t be good. So maybe a marine varnish or poly might work. I’m still going to get some epoxy for filling the cracks.

Also. I have a question or two about the bark that I’m trying to keep on the log….should I apply stain to it? Since the log might be a permanent outdoor decoration, should I apply the poly or varnish (whatever finish I decide on) to the bark?
______________________________________________________
Now I just read, "drooplug's" post and am puzzled and frightened. What do you mean?

"it will open a itself up and look like pacman."
Do you mean the crack will get bigger?
I also have been noticing fine, short lines forming all over the log, but I thought it was my poor eyesight causing me to miss them at first. I will definitely look into the product, "pentacryl".
___________________________________________
I will post a picture of the log when finished. Hope that’s ok.
 
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Old 10-25-14, 02:03 PM
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BUT, catalpa trees harbor catalpa worms!!! Great for fishing. Just had to defend the species a little.
 
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Old 10-25-14, 02:07 PM
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Wood shrinks as it dries out creating cracks. The bigger/thicker the piece of wood, the longer it takes to dry. Wood conditioner is mainly used to even out the stain's absorption over both hard and soft areas in the wood. It also tends to make whatever stain is used to come out lighter in color.

It would really be nice if you had a scrap piece of the same wood to experiment on! Normally end grain will absorb more stain and come out darker than the rest of the wood. Oil base poly/varnish alone will deepen the colors naturally in the wood.

While I have lots of experience staining different woods I've never done what you are doing. I suspect the bark will come off no matter what you apply over it although you might could glue it back on and then seal it.
 
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Old 11-05-14, 03:33 AM
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I must say its looks amazing. And you can use wood putting for that cracks .
 
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Old 11-05-14, 04:12 PM
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Now I just read, "drooplug's" post and am puzzled and frightened. What do you mean?
This what I mean: http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/cross...d-24379065.jpg
 
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Old 11-14-14, 11:28 AM
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Final Pictures

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I said I would post my finished project so here it is.
Hope it's not too late to post in this thread...

Winter came upon Minnesota so quick and severe and I had to speed up my project. Of everything I could have used on the wood, the one thing that was needed most was what drooplug suggested, the wood hardener.

The wood is getting lots more cracks in it but I finished it anyway.
Maybe it will be used as an outside decoration.

Anyone else out there that is thinking of doing this type of project....use the hardener before doing anything else.

I'm having trouble uploading pictures. Will be right back...I think they are too big.

OK I reduced the size and here they are.

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Last edited by nottyn; 11-14-14 at 11:45 AM. Reason: add pictures
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Old 11-14-14, 01:27 PM
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Looks sharp .............
 
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Old 11-14-14, 09:14 PM
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Thank you,

I ended up using poly alone.
No stain, wood conditioner or hardener.
As I mentioned....the wood hardener would have been the most important thing to use. Cracks keep appearing all over so I will keep it outside.
 
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Old 11-15-14, 04:27 AM
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I don't know that keeping it outside will stop the cracking although the wood might not dry out as much on the exterior where the humidity isn't controlled/lowered. Will it be exposed to the elements? if so, did you use a spar urethane? regular poly doesn't weather well.
 
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Old 11-15-14, 08:19 AM
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What I meant by keeping it outside is that I'm giving up, more or less.
If I had just a few more days to use the hardener, but winter came so fast and I had to get the car into the garage. We had a three day warning so all I had time for was three coats of poly. I used Miniwax's Helmsman gloss poly. So when it goes outside, it can crack all it wants. Of course, it would be nice if it didn't crack. I should have started the project sooner.

We are taking down a huge Black Ash tree that is not diseased next year. It has become dangerous to the house. This is just a side note and I was very surprised when hearing this; The trunk is so straight, long, thick and perfect and our tree cutter said it could be worth up to $8,000. I will get a slice of that and really do a nice finishing job on it.
 

Last edited by nottyn; 11-15-14 at 08:21 AM. Reason: black ash not basswood
 

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