Cutting Ambrosia Maple
This gallery shows the processing of a number of different ambrosia maple logs. By far my most favorite type of wood to cut, ambrosia maple contains varying amounts of color from "Mother Nature's Paintbrush". Every board is completely different and the grain patterns and color ranges, as you'll see below, can be astounding!!
The ambrosia character in the maple wood is caused by a beetle which bores through the living wood, carrying a fungus on it's legs/carapace that is deposited on the wood fibers. As the sap continues to flow through the tree, it causes the fungus to spread out through the wood from the small holes carved by the beetle. This ambrosia fungus, which gives the wood it's name, causes discoloration in the maple lumber ranging through various shades of brown, but sometimes including orange, pink, green, and light purple. When boards are flat-sawn from these logs, the ambrosia signature is accentuated and the wood achieves a highly unique appearance with a distinctly rustic nature. Although created by this combination of beetle and fungus activity, ambrosia maple is sometimes referred to as "wormy" maple.
(Click any photo below for a close-up view)
This ambrosia maple log was so large in diameter (~40") and so heavy (> 4000 pounds) that my I was unable to saw it in a normal fashion. After winching it off the trailer, it was cut in half and the ends were squared up (right). You can clearly see the ambrosia "signature" in the end grain of the log.
I have an accessory for my sawmill that allows very large logs to be cut into more manageable sections, each of which can then be sawn on the sawmill in normal fashion. Using a 36" long chainsaw bar, logs up to 6' in diameter can be processed. In the photo on the left, brackets have been bolted onto the ends of a log section and then a guide rail is attached. This rail "steers" the chainsaw through the log, making a vertical cut which extends about two-thirds of the way down into the log. Then, as shown in the right photo, the brackets/rail is repositioned to make a horizontal slice. In this case, the goal is to quarter this log section into four pieces that can each be resawn.
The second, horizontal slice through the log releases one of the four quartered sections, which is then rolled off the log and moved to the sawmill. If you look at the close-up views of these photos, you can see a much better indication of the ambrosia character in this wood.
The photo on the left shows the second quartered section removed from the log. The center and right hand photos show boards being cut on the sawmill from different parts of these quartered log segments. As stated earlier, each board has it's own unique character - this wood lends itself beautifully to being used in bookmatched pairs during furniture construction.
The photo on the left shows another section of the large ambrosia log being processed. In this case, the top end of the log contains a crotch section of the tree, which if sawn correctly will yield a feathery shimmer to the wood cut from that section. You can see the 36" chainsaw bar just barely managed to split this section in half. The photo on the right shows the ambrosia signature and the crotch section extending down into the wood.
Here you can see, in the left photo, one of the crotch halves being resawn on the sawmill. Splitting the log half with the sawmill is easy - lifting the top section off, which weighs more than 350 pounds, is not so easy!! The right photo shows the curly crotch grain exposed after this cut, in addition to the swirling browns and greens of the ambrosia effect. As you'll see below, this particular log is also starting to spalt, which creates even more colorful effects in the wood grain.
Finally, here are several more detailed shots of the crotch grain, ambrosia signature, and early stage spalting that are all contributing to the wild grain characteristics and coloring of this wood. A day spent cutting wood like this doesn't even seem like work!! Please check out the close-up photos to see the fine details.
The log shown in this set of photos arrived with almost no bark left on it. It must have been dead for some time, because in addition to the ambrosia signature in the wood, it had a very high degree of spalting which contributed to the wild grain patterns. In the photo on the right, you can see the opening cut made into this log and the flame-like pattern in the wood's color.
Here's another log section from the same tree being cut (left). As you can see in both photos, the spalting process continues the coloring process started by the ambrosia effect. In this case, very little is left of the natural, cream-colored heart wood typical in maple lumber. Personally, I'll take this lumber over plain maple any day!!
Cutting further down into the same log, you can see how the nature and character of the wood continues to change....
Finally, in another section of this log which had far less spalting, I was able to cut a sequence of ambrosia maple boards that had the most uniform, densely packed ambrosia signature I have yet to encounter. The board I'm holding in the photo on the right is about 20" wide, 2" thick, and is worth more than $400.
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