When I did some woodturning a few months ago, I turned a chisel handle from a sweet gum tree that still had the bark on it and everything. I thought, “Hmm, I wonder what kind of wood might be available to me where I live in Malaysia.” I don’t have a lathe, but still – that shouldn’t stop one from trying to make stuff out of long cylindrical pieces of tree. Right? I’m not really into making rustic furniture – I just want to take “rustic wood” and make finished pieces from it.

So I was at a Muslim ceremony the other week (commemorating the 100th day since the death of someone in their community) and saw this hugemongous fallen tree next to the cemetery. When I asked about it, the guy said it was teak, and that they had cut the tree down because they were worried it was going to fall down into the cemetery. It looked like the tree was about 5′ or so at its thickest and 3′ or so at its narrowest. I asked a few questions about it while trying not to act too excited, visions of a solid slab teak workbench top dancing around in my head. And you know what? The guy didn’t seem to care too much about it. At some point I just might ask him if I can cart off the wood, but here in Malaysia you can’t just do that right away, you have to take your time and build the relationship a bit first. More on that as it develops. Here are a couple pics of the wood.

And closer to home (in our neighborhood, actually), they felled several trees and for the past month or so, they’ve just been lying there doing nothing but acclimating to being dead. So I decided that before rainy season kicks in again, I’d better go over there and see what I can get. I don’t know what kind of tree it is, but if it’s like most trees here it’s a hardwood. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

I can see myself using this wood to make accessories for my bench: leg vise handle, bench dogs, planing stop. Stuff like that. Here’s a cross section of one piece:

Now I have a few questions for you who know your wood and know things about acclimating, moisture content, etc., because I don’t know squat:

1. That teak has been sitting out for several months at least. Is there a chance that the wood is not good any longer, or does it just mean it’d have to sit covered for a bit longer to get that extra moisture out?
2. What’s the best way to store wood that you’ve just cut down? Leave the bark on? Cut it to planks?
3. How long should it sit before I use it? (Note, I don’t really have wood movement issues here since it’s pretty much the same humidity level year-round.)
4. What caused the cracks in the middle of the tree? Does that mean I probably won’t be able to use the very center?

Thanks for any and all advice!