How useful is Cottonwood?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by rio002, Mar 14, 2004.

  1. rio002

    rio002 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    459
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2002
    Location:
    WA
    I was at a Home Show today and saw tons of furniture made out of......I'm guessing pine and I know some was oak. It got me thinking about making my own furniture for certain areas of the house, but the majority of wood I have is Cottonwood from the cotton trees I took out last year and have several more that could come out. Is it hard enough for building? If so, is there a special treatment for it for longevity? Any ideas?? :confused:
     
  2. mousecat33

    mousecat33 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    152
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    TX
    Sould be ok as long as you keep it out of the weather, if you're talkin' about cotton-wood trees.

    mc
     

  3. mousecat33

    mousecat33 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    152
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    TX
    If you happen to be starting out with woodcrafting, cottonwood ought to be a good choice. Its a soft wood right? If so, it ought to be easy to work with. Have fun and good luck.

    mc
     
  4. rio002

    rio002 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    459
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2002
    Location:
    WA
    Thanks mousecat, Apparently it is a soft wood, I checked it yesterday and by pressing hard with a thumbnail it with made an slight impression. I am just starting out with wood working (now that I've had 3 christmases of everyone just buying me tools :) ) so far all I have built before was outdoor structures--barn, chicken coop etc. and have wanted to get started on crafting indoor pieces as well. Thanks!!
     
  5. Alex

    Alex Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    833
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2003
    Location:
    Vancouver, and Moberly Lake, BC, Canada
    Is this Cottonwood you are talking about the same as Poplar? Popalr is classed as a "hardwood", even though it is very soft, as you describe. In Northern BC a lot of real pretty furniture is made from Poplar. Lots of fancy places with tongue and groove ceilings and walls are using Poplar, because it looks so smooth and pretty, like mellow-butter-yellow-cappuccino-almost-maple-almost-knotty-pine-sometimes.

    [​IMG]
    Wall Under the North Window, with Varnish.

    We are fortunate, we made our entire log cabin of this beautiful, and often maligned wood. The 12 to 22 inch diameter logs have lasted 34 years so far. With three or four coats of inside varinish, the above is what it looks like. The outside, can either be left to grey, or stained to color, or varnished (yearly up-keep is high) - we let it grey on the sides and varnished at the front entry under cover.

    Off the topic, oh well.

    Also, lots of "rustic" furniture is made from peeled, sanded, and varnished Poplar, and I think it looks real good.

    Alex
     
  6. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,260
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN

    It is in the same family, but cottonwood here in Minnesota has no shape, form, color, or grain. While a hardwood, it is very soft. It is almost difficult to work, like trying to turn cork or something. As light as it is, has no btu value for heating either. If it were used on an outside wall as you say your cabin is, it would rot down to dust in 5 years or so. A very different wood than poplar.

    Having said that, my unckle had 10 100' plus cottonwoods 42" across. He had one sawn 40-50 years ago, and used some of the wood for rafters on a steer shed. Somehow, it's still standing. 10 years ago, even he was shaking his head at that, how it's ever held up.

    --->Paul
     
  7. bare

    bare Head Muderator

    Messages:
    1,857
    Joined:
    May 9, 2002
    Yep, Cottonwood is really soft for a deciduous tree. It isn't much fun to work because the wood sorta pills up.

    It does put out a lot of BTU's as firewood. It burns hot and fast when dry. Problem is, there seems to be the same volume of ashes as the wood you originally put in the stove! It also has a rather unpleasant odor.

    Cottonwood lumber holds up well outside in the weather although as mentioned above, if the bark is left on the round, it will turn to dust in short order.

    Cottonwood is in demand for livestock trailer decking and loading chutes because it is soft enough for hooved critters to get a purchase on it and keep from slipping.
     
  8. rio002

    rio002 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    459
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2002
    Location:
    WA
    I had noticed the bark still on the cut ones from last year comes off real easy, which is good for me b/c if I use it for a furniture I'll want the bark off anyway. Originally I tried to figure out what to do with all the cotton "tails" and fluffs that come off the tree (of which we have several) and it wasn't til I went to cut a few trees down last fall ( with an ax--took several hours even for the smaller ones) that I thought they might be good for something other than decorative fencing--so I still have about 10 of them already cut ranging in size from 4-10 inches round and about 20-30 foot long. They do have a lovely smoothness to them under the bark, I can just see them now with a nice clear coat or maybe a stain to bring out that cappucino color, mightily crafted into the most beautiful lamp stands, picture frames, coat hookracks ever made ( I am one who practically salivates when I find shows like Yankee Workshop or This Old House on LOL)...now if I can get my hands to figure out how, it will be a miracle LOL :haha: Thanks for all the help, wood is a wonderful thing ain't it?
     
  9. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,844
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2002
    Location:
    central idaho republic
    In 1982 dad and i logged cottonwood for a fealla that sawed it into lumber for flooring for truck beds for Fruehaf <sp> We kinda thought he was crazy, and it turned out he was on the right track but it just wouldnt dry..... that fella tried to get me to buy a sawmill and a few years later i did, and i tried cutting a long log load of cottonwood into 2 inch lumber for another fella..... I learned in a hurry that dull teeth on a cottonwood can heat the blade up in less than 8 feet, I thought i had warped the then $750 blade for good, but it sprang back after about 15 minutes of idling it and it didnt even lose its tension. I did make a 4x10 out of that 2x10 if a person could call it that... thick and thin all over it was......

    Grandad made a double tree out of cottonwood one fall, a nieghbor told him it would never work very long so he threw it up in the loft and forgot it for a couple years til one spring he broke several double trees, and the only one left was the cottonwood one, he used that warped old piece of wood for several years and never broke it, and when they bought the first tractor it was still being used so after about 60 years of no use it still hangs in my uncles barn a testimny to the strength of a tree cut long ago.

    Cottonwood will warp like crazy when cut, as it has so much moisture and there is really no way to control the moisture as it leaves, but if your trees are small, and you have them up off the ground ad are using them after drying for awhile you may get away from the excessive warpage..... but dont count on it! when brought inside they will continue to dry out and will bend and warp as they please, and make a better conversation piece for it!!

    Have fun making your furniture!!! It will last a lifetime and then some!