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Holly.......questions.

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Holly.......questions.

Postby Mike G » 04 Dec 2021, 09:08

I may be able to pick up a decent sized holly tree. There's a trick to seasoning it, isn't there, such that it stays white? Can anyone enlighten me, please.
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby Woodbloke » 04 Dec 2021, 09:24

Mike G wrote:I may be able to pick up a decent sized holly tree. There's a trick to seasoning it, isn't there, such that it stays white? Can anyone enlighten me, please.

Lovely timber but good luck in seasoning the stuff; it splits, warps, twists and moves like a break dancer on steroids - Rob
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby Doug » 04 Dec 2021, 09:34

The guy at the saw mill I buy mine from recommends quarter sawing it to help minimise the movement & splitting you invariably get he also strap bands the heap when in stick & then leaves to air dry under cover.
Other than that I don’t think he does anything different to most of the timber he processes, he did tell me he will spray with a fungicide occasionally but that conversation was about drying Sycamore & stopping streaking though I guess it wouldn’t hurt to spray the holly as it can go slightly grey.
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby Chris152 » 04 Dec 2021, 10:06

I found this elsewhere on the internet, written by a knowledgable chap named 'custard' (I hope it's ok to copy it here):

'Holly can be absolutely beautiful, very tight almost invisible grain, and one of the whitest timbers there is, no wonder it's prized for things like inlay, chess pieces, marquetry, etc.

The problem is getting this pristine timber is difficult to the point of impossibility. Freshly felled Holly is extremely susceptible to fungal infections that stains the timber muddy greens and blues. And this vulnerability persists until the moisture content is down to about 12-14%. In practical terms the only way of having even a fighting chance of getting really white boards is to fell the tree in the middle of a really hard frost when the sap is down and the fungal spores aren't present. It must be lifted from the ground immediately otherwise it'll pick up soil born contaminants. It then needs planking and accelerated drying, I know some people even disinfect the boards at this stage.

Even with all these precautions supplies of really white Holly have been very limited in recent years, there are lots of theories to explain this, ranging from global warming to particularly virulent strains of fungal spores, but I don't think anyone really knows. The bottom line however is that the professionals are struggling to convert Holly, so the odds of a domestic success aren't good.'

I cut a really small log (5"?!) and put it in stick, brought straight into the heated house in winter, and still got some discolouration (but no splits). It does want to move lots, so plenty of weight/ pressure to try to stop that. I still use bits of that occasionally for details, much of it is very white/ light cream when exposed to light.
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby droogs » 04 Dec 2021, 11:11

Custard is a member here and has been known to a large proportion of the members here from UKW for years, as most here at sometime have been/are members there. He is a very knowledgeable chap and was taught his trade old school and has been the source of both knowledge and help to many of us. He hasn't been active online recently and I do hope all is well and he is just busy
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby Mike G » 04 Dec 2021, 11:55

Thanks fellas, that's really useful. It doesn't look like there is anything to be lost in trying.
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby AndyT » 04 Dec 2021, 12:42

Go for it Mike, you've nothing to lose.

Decades ago, before there were online forums for advice, our neighbours cut down a holly tree. The trunk was about 8 inches in diameter.

I had most of the trunk and also bits of the bigger branches. Knowing nothing about seasoning, I just set it aside in our well ventilated basement for some years.

I still have some of it, iron-hard and not looking easy to convert. I also have a log, split in two by a friend with a chainsaw.

It has split a bit, has twisted, but is even in colour. Some time I shall do more with what's left.

But the point of this post is to say, Don't overlook the branches. They can dry in the round, like boxwood and are, as mentioned already, ideal for turning, should your friend ever let you have that lathe...

This is the best thing I have made from a piece of branch - still round, not split, with quite thin walls.

IMG_20211204_113316678_HDR.jpg
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IMG_20211204_113329689_HDR.jpg
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby Trevanion » 04 Dec 2021, 13:05

I was told the trick to keeping holly white was to steam the planks immediately after sawing.
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby Mike G » 04 Dec 2021, 14:46

Trevanion wrote:I was told the trick to keeping holly white was to steam the planks immediately after sawing.


That does make sense, given the previous stuff about mould attacking straight away. Steam would kill the spores.
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby Trevanion » 04 Dec 2021, 15:09

Mike G wrote:That does make sense, given the previous stuff about mould attacking straight away. Steam would kill the spores.


The guy that told me that was a proper old school cabinet maker that restored and reproduced historical furniture that had quite a lot of experience with a lot of different timbers, so I have no reason to say that it isn't true, but I haven't seen it done personally to say whether it works or not.
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby Phil Pascoe » 04 Dec 2021, 15:14

Years ago I knew a chap (also a turner) who had a small timber yard - he said he had never managed to keep a piece of holly white.
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby Doug » 04 Dec 2021, 15:40

I’ve just come in from the workshop I’ve only got an off cut of a plank in there but this is the kind of quality I tend to get

40FE3D6C-3B6A-4525-BBB4-383A78BFE881.jpeg
(157.68 KiB)


Don’t know how that compares to others, as you can see it tends to be a little darker towards the heart wood but still quite pale.
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby Malc2098 » 04 Dec 2021, 16:41

Wow! I think I could quite happily use some quarter sawn stock of that for the sides and back of aninstrument.
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Re: Holly.......questions.

Postby Woodbloke » 05 Dec 2021, 16:12

Doug wrote:
Don’t know how that compares to others, as you can see it tends to be a little darker towards the heart wood but still quite pale.

My experience of holly as well; a little greyer towards the middle, but that's a very good bit! - Rob
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