Elm and Spalted Ash - SoBro, Indianapolis, IN
Milled July 17-18, 2018
E. Evanston Ave. and 47th St.
Like most of my urban lumber, I discovered these two logs on Craigslist. Craigslist is often rife with homeowners trying to get rid of dead, dying, or fallen trees…especially after a large thunderstorm rolls through town. I responded to this particular ad because it was listed to get rid of a rather large and unidentified tree that grew in the front yard of a vacant home. Upon visiting the site, I was surprised to find an EPIC, ~4 foot diameter, 60 foot tall hackberry. The online photos did not do this monster-tree justice at all, and it is one of the largest trees I have seen in Indianapolis to-date. I talked the homeowner into hiring professional help because the tree would have been wildly dangerous to manage without proper equipment and expertise. (Early January 2019, I drove by to see what the homeowner ultimately decided to do with the tree and it remained alive and standing).
Even after turning down the hackberry, the owner was still willing to let me save the two other trees on the lot. To my surprise, he had a very nice sized and already topped Siberian elm standing at 20 feet, and a white ash standing dead at about 15' feet. The elm was very mature, but it had been growing too close to the home and garage so unfortunately it needed to go. It was probably 50-60 years old with a base @ 30” in diameter. Pretty large for an elm! Most elms do not live to that age since dutch elm disease typically takes em’ out by then, but I read recently that Siberian elms are more resilient to the disease.
I happened to drop both trees for the owner, and something very strange, and rather heartbreaking, happened when I cut into the elm… After making the back-cut you could hear an audible hissing/sucking sound (as if a leak had sprung in a tire). It is my belief that this tree, in the dead of summer, was trying to suck water up into itself, but was instead drowning in air. It’s easy to feel macho when you drop a tree, but this one definitely changed my perspective moving forward. Never forget that trees are living and breathing organisms, and they should be respected for what they contribute here. So…just replace the trees that you cut down with new ones.
Not only are trees massive carbon stores for the planet, they sometimes store nails and chain in them too! This elm was my first log that contained a nail, believe it or not. And yes, I did hit that nail with my mill. It did quite a number on my saw chain. The tree also completely swallowed several wraps of heavy duty chain around the base. Basically the first 2-3 feet of this tree had metal in it - which is a common (and sometimes hidden) issue.
I ended up cutting this 17 foot log into an upper 5 foot crotch section and a lower 12 foot main section. Both were highly figured and yielded some amazing live edge slabs. The crotches will make some nice coffee tables, and the 12 foot section will make a couple 14 person conference/dining tables. This log should be ready to use by July 2020.
The ash tree, like almost every other other white ash in the last 15 years, did not make it through an untreated emerald ash borer infestation - which left it standing dead and bark-less for about two years. After dropping this tree, it yielded a nice 10 foot log with a 20” base diameter. The wood was almost dry to the touch as I slabbed it out, and is the driest wood that I have run through my sawmill. These slabs have some beautiful spalting on the top end, and the entire log is a gorgeous blonde color throughout - no colored heartwood at all in this one. I estimate that this log will be ready to use by summer 19’.
The owner turned out to be a nice guy that helped me carry the massive elm slabs to my trailer. Thanks, Chris!