A like a memento please.
December 9, 2012 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm taking down a plum tree. What uses are there for the wood?

It's a friar plum cultivar (prunus salicina) if that matters at all. Here's a picture. It's a little over twenty feet tall. The main trunk is about 8" in diameter and rises about 4' before branching out. From there it has 3 main branches, 4" - 6" in diameter, rising another 10' or so to the crown.

Supplemental questions:
I haven't cut it down yet. What's the best way to maximize the useable wood I'll get when cutting this down?
How much wood am I likely to have when all is said and done?
I'm not that crafty, how difficult/expensive would it be to find someone (local to me) to work this wood for me?

Primary question:
What are some creative/unique uses for this wood?

Final question:
Is this a crazy idea? Am I better off with it as firewood?
posted by zinon to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Great for smoke cooking.
posted by Max Power at 12:47 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

According to this plum wood is a desirable woodworking wood, but is difficult to work. I like bowls turned from interesting woods a lot.
posted by cmoj at 12:59 PM on December 9, 2012

lumberjocks.com is probably a great place to ask this question.
posted by fake at 1:21 PM on December 9, 2012

When my dad cut down a plum tree a little bigger than that one, he kept some long and somewhat straight pieces to lathe into rolling pins. Not sure if he ever made them, though.
posted by dorey_oh at 1:36 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

It'll give you a pile of wood, but not a huge one...

The trunk is too thin for turning bowls, which is a pity. Also the tree looks like there'd be a lot of knots, which pretty much eliminates any of the more sophisticated woodworking solutions. You could quarter-split the non-knotty sections of the thick part of the trunk and turn some candleholders. Or make a nice footstool out of the bits or something. Nice-looking wood, but pretty hard; you'll need sharp tools.

The branches for your fireplace, or for smoking food.

The procedure is: cut it down now when it's cold and dry. Cut in sections, split or cut into quarters across the core, stack loosely in a well-ventilated place, use next summer, or later.
posted by Namlit at 2:02 PM on December 9, 2012

I (sadly) had to cut down a plum this past summer, and my neighbor jumped on keeping some for firewood.
posted by 4ster at 2:20 PM on December 9, 2012

Making pens out of wood is a thing; the supplies for doing it are easily available, so if you know someone with a lathe, they should be able to do it easily. A lathe can also be used to make spindle/finial-type ornaments, which you can hang on a tree or wreath or just in a window. You could also have small pieces made into beads or charms for use in a bracelet or necklace.

Spoons are another idea. Also, little tiny boxes.
posted by amtho at 2:43 PM on December 9, 2012

Make buttons out of the smaller branches.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 3:36 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

A friend cut down a plum tree last spring and gave me the wood. Her tree was about 18" across so the process was a bit different - we milled a bunch of 1.5" thick boards from the main part of the trunk, cut some turning blocks from the base, crotch, and larger branches. The wood was all coated with anchorseal and has been drying for the past 8 months or so.

Some of the wood has started to crack - as it cracks I've been throwing the remaining good sections of each piece on the lathe and making tool handles, small bowls, kitchen utensils, etc. The wood isn't anywhere near as difficult to work with as I expected after reading about it online. The bad news is that even with the end grain sealed and stacked indoors with consistent relatively high humidity, the wood is plenty happy to crack.

That tree is a pretty manageable size, I'd cut it into whatever length you can carry/fit in your car and haul it over to someone with a bandsaw. It shouldn't be more than a few hours work to mill it. Use anchorseal or paint to seal the end grain.

What you make with it depends on your access to equipment. You need relatively few tools to make spatulas and spoons, boxes are reasonably easy, and if you've got access to a lathe then make some bowls for salt, pocket change, etc. The wood from the crotch is likely to have really interesting figure - I'd use it to replace the handles on some knives.
posted by foodgeek at 3:47 PM on December 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Plum wood is supposed to be good for smoking meat.
posted by Night_owl at 7:12 AM on December 10, 2012

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