How to dry a raw Arbutus wood log round for a coffee table?

by BARBARA LEE
(Canada)

I have recently been gifted a beautiful very large round of an arbutus trunk. The tree was healthy but had to be felled, due to its size and unstable location. I have placed it out of the weather, on my condo patio, to use as a coffee table.

I want to do whatever I can to preserve this beautiful natural treasure. Is there anything special I should do to stop it from cracking, as it dries?

Can I oil the surface to preserve its rich color? I plan on raising it off the concrete, so it doesn't suck the moisture out too rapidly and air will flow more evenly. I live in southern Vancouver Island, face north west, so my patio only gets afternoon/evening sunlight.

Thank you for any advice you have to offer.

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Arbutus Ron here!

Hi Barbara,

Thanks for writing such good questions.

Sadly it will crack as it dries and shrinks. It is the nature of wood in the round and especially Arbutus wood.

All you can do is to try to slow and minimize the process. When done you will most likely have to cover it with a glass or plastic top for use as a coffee table.

So you can add oil to the ends to seal it and slow the drying down, but it won't stop the cracking. It will still be beautiful in the end. It is just part of the wood and nature's process.

Yes keeping it off the concrete is wise to allow air flow.

If you want a natural finish, use walnut oil or the polymerized tung oil you can get at Lee Valley Tools. Apply to the ends liberally and repeat as you see fit. The other surfaces will want oil as it becomes much dryer... this will preserve its nice colour.

I myself do not have much experience drying in the round because I cut it to avoid cracking.

Perhaps other readers have more ideas.

Let me know how it works!

Ron

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