Non timber forest products

Ron Wenrich woodtick at
Sun Feb 9 09:45:45 EST 1997

Larry Caldwell <larryc at> wrote in article 

> The pulp market has been pretty depressed this year.  Nobody around here
> been able to peddle any junk trees either, the mills just don't want
> Summer before last, they were paying $30/ton for oak and madrone, enough 
> to make land clearing a break-even proposition.  The local white oak
> worth much as lumber, since it stains easily.  A local cooperage has 
> started to ship 10,000 barrel lots to France, though.  It seems our white
> oak is comparable to the European white oak for wine barrels.  It's a
> market, but they've got a mill going with 90 employees.
> -- Larry

I've always been amazed at the lack of understanding exhibited by the
lumbermen on the West Coast about hardwoods.  When I worked in Oregon in
the '70s, all hardwood was considered "junk".  White oak, here in the east,
does not stain any worse than any other hardwood.  In fact, closed prorous
woods, such as tulip poplar and maple, stain much easier.  After cutting in
the mill, all lumber should be put on stickers to prevent staining, and
allowed to air dry.  One week on sticks should be enough to dead pile for
shipping without stain degrade.  I have found that only the sapwood will
stain readily.

White oak is used in barrels because the pourous ring structure grows
shut..the process of tylosis.  This allows white oak to be used without
leaking.  Red oak will leak like a sieve, at least for whiskey.  I know
that at one time, the Spanish were using red oak when it was cheaper than
white oak.  They said the sediments stopped the vats from leaking.  

At one time, we had a rather large barrel industry in the east.  There was
even legislation that stated that whiskey barrels could only be used about a good lobby.  However, barrel staves could only be
produced from the best part of the tree, namely the butt.  After veneer
white oak became popular by the Europeans, the availabilty of the stave
logs dwindled.  Another factor in the decline of the barrel industry was
that about half the log was unusable.  The logs are literally quartered. 
Lumber that wasn't quartersawn was discarded.  Since the pieces were short,
they just chipped them.  It was an unprofitable practice that brought about
the demise of many operators.  They could have made strip flooring from the
remnants or started a dimension mill, but didn't.  The last local operation
folded about 10 years ago.  They thought their reprieve was the Japanese
buying the operation for the production of barrels to be used for making
Scotch.  They made all the barrels they needed, then sold the operation.   

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