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How to cut oak for smoking chunks?

njlnjl Posts: 768
edited October 2012 in EggHead Forum
We have some big old oak trees in the back yard and one of them just dropped a sizable branch, the base of which was about 6" diameter.  I figured rather than chop it up and put it in the street for the yard waste people to pick up, I could cut up at least the larger diameter parts for smoking wood.  Trouble is, this is really hard wood.   I first went at it with a hand pruning saw, and it works, but it's slow and a lot of work.  Next, I tried a sawzall with 9" pruning blade.  That worked great on the 1-2" diameter branches coming off the main branch, but not real well on the 5-6" thick main branch.  I think the blade didn't get enough travel and it would bog down in the saw dust that failed to drop out.  A neighbor suggested a circular saw...that didn't work at all.

Ideally, I'd like to cut this thing into discs about 1-2" thick...probably around 100 of them.  Is a chain saw the only reasonable way?  Will a power pruning saw (basically a 10" bar chainsaw on a stick) be able to handle 6" thick branches?  They make such an attachment for my string trimmer/edger/blower...but I don't want to blow the $ on it if it's too little saw for the job.  Also, with a chain saw, is bar oil going to get on the wood...and if it does, is that an issue if I'm cooking directly over it?  I'm guessing not, since I know the tree service people sell the larger trees they slice up to local grills for cooking.

Comments

  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,341
    Chainsaw.  The oil will mostly end up in the shavings.  I have about 1000 pounds of live oak and it's insanely difficult to cut and split.  Chain saw it into 4" sections, then split those sections with an axe.  Do not try to use a band saw.  I trashed an expensive resaw blade trying to cut the logs down.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,341
    If you want to really play it safe, you can drain out the chain oil and put in vegetable oil.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • esddesdd Posts: 44
    Is this a green branch or dead wood? Just remember dead wood does not make for good smoke, and green wood needs to be seasoned.
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,341
    edited October 2012
    There are a few woods that don't make good smoke when they're green, but oak isn't one of them.   There was a guide (table) posted earlier today that listed them.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • GreenhawKGreenhawK Posts: 398
    Harbor Freight has an electric chainsaw for around $60 if you only need one for this purpose.  
    Large BGE

    Decatur, AL
  • tjvtjv Posts: 3,244
    I cut fireplace logs for smoking chunks on my miter saw.   A 10 inch blade is about as small as I would go, pictured.   Anything smaller won't make one pass cuts on most logs.  The good blade is key and, depending on your abilities, maybe something in the middle of the road for teeth.  Ask the saw expert at your local big box store for a blade recommendation.

    image

    Best to use split logs with two flat sides, so the log fits snuggly on the base and against the backrest.  Do not cut thru knots.  Best if wood is seasoned, so cutting is easier.  No rush on cutting, doesn't take long to get a pile of chunks.  You'll be surprise on few logs it takes to get a pile too.  Did I mention, don't cut thru knots.

    image

    I now alternate my fireplace log orders....oak, pecan, oak, pecan.....My preference is pecan.....smooth smoke.  I keep a hatchet with the chunks to bust the big pieces into smoking size pieces.

    Please note,  doing this is not for everyone.  You gotta be experienced handling a 10 inch miter saw and know how to cut the unusual on it.  It's not like cutting a 2x6 to size.

    t     

    www.ceramicgrillstore.com
    ACGP, Inc.
  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 5,780
    Sawzall will work if the blade has lots of set, maybe <6 teeth to the inch, a new really rough demo blade. Also give the wood a chance to dry a bit, green wood is tough due to the high moisture content, that's why the chips will not clear. 
    I use a chainsaw, slice the 6" stuff into 1-2" slices, lots of saw chips, but after all, the wood was free. The slices split really easily.
    @GreenHawk has a good idea, an electric chainsaw is cheap and maybe an ideal addition to your tool box. 
    Delta B.C. - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • njlnjl Posts: 768
    We had to have a couple of these oaks taken out professionally recently, and the tree service guys told me they sell the wood to a local bar & grill, and they use it as is.  The branch that fell was live (lots of green leaves), but unlike some trees I've cut, the wood seems fairly dry.  The first few discs I cut from the base of the fallen branch actually fell apart on the grain.

    IIRC, they said the fresh cut oak is a little harder to get lit, but burns hotter than dried wood.
  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 5,780
    If the wood split from the center of the round it is dry already. Slice it and split it and you are good to go. 

    If you have some smaller branches, under 1-1/2" to 2" and a good set of loppers, just cut them off at 2" pieces. Use them bark and all. 


    Delta B.C. - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • njlnjl Posts: 768
    I threw out the really small stuff, but made a bag and box of 2-3" limb pieces.  The thicker stuff is going to have to wait until I decide whether to buy a traditional chain saw or the Stihl Kombi pole saw attachment.
  • njlnjl Posts: 768
    BTW...this stuff seems to burn for a long time and gives off much stronger flavor than the hickory chunks I've been getting from Publix.  Not a bad flavor...but I probably used too much for the burgers I cooked the other night.
  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 5,780
    IMHO, oak is stronger than hickory. Usually red oak or scarlet oak, white oak is milder, but haven't seen any in some time. I have access to free apple, so it is my go to (read only) wood choice at the moment. 
    Delta B.C. - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • U_tardedU_tarded Posts: 1,191
    njl said:
    BTW...this stuff seems to burn for a long time and gives off much stronger flavor than the hickory chunks I've been getting from Publix.  Not a bad flavor...but I probably used too much for the burgers I cooked the other night.
    oak is my favorite on beef.  especially fatty cuts like ribeye, trex one and throw in a big chunk before you roast paired with an oaky cabernet it is to die for!
  • njlnjl Posts: 768
    GreenhawK said:
    Harbor Freight has an electric chainsaw for around $60 if you only need one for this purpose.  
    I bought it.  With coupon, it was more like $45.  It came with a little bottle of bar oil, which I pretty much entirely used up slicing most of the thicker parts of the fallen branch into smoking discs.  It was still a bit of work...but much faster than anything else I'd tried.

  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,341
    Harbor freight power tools suck.  Hope you have better luck than me.  If you don't use it often, it should be fine.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • Some harbor freight tools are a great bargain for the buck...it all depends n the tool...

    Just a couple weeks ago, I  used my  DeWalt chop saw with a 12" fairly toothy blade, to cut up 100lbs of apple tree branchs (2"-4" dia.) and as long as you can keep the round log up tight against the back rest it works most excellent.

    I filled up a 35 gallon trash barrel in about an hour.

     A fallen white oak tree along the driveway, is next...

     RicklessssssS in Oregon

  • + 1 on the Chop saw, I take mine out several times a year and cut smoking chunks
    LBGE
    Go Dawgs! - Marietta, GA
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,341
    I'll tell you what not to do - rip a giant log on a band saw.  I trashed a pretty pricey, almost brand new, resaw blade.  Took me about 20 minutes to extract the section of blade wedged into the log.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • batboybatboy Posts: 25
    Quick hijack - how do you go about seasoning fresh wood?  My parents just had a pear tree taken down and they saved a number of whole logs at my request.
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,341
    You just cut the logs into manageable sized chunks, stack it and wait 6 months.  You don't have to season it to smoke with it - it works fine green.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • Thought on bark, Do I need to remove bark from wood, I've heard it has a bitter smoke. Thoughts?
    LBGE
    Go Dawgs! - Marietta, GA
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,341
    If the bark has mold on it, I'd remove it otherwise it's fine.  Throw some bark on the fire - if the smoke smells bad, remove the bark.  I generally remove it because it always seems to be moldy (New Orleans humidity).
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • njlnjl Posts: 768
    I noticed a few of the pieces of my fresh cut oak were starting to grow mold :(  I went digging through the large milk-crate-like box I'd put all the bigger discs in, and many of them are molding. Is there a way to salvage this wood (direct sunlight, cook it in the egg up on the cooking grate at the end of a cook, bleach solution?) or am I going to have to trash the moldy ones?
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,341
    The mold may not contribute a bad flavor - you could burn some and see how it smells.  Pressure washer would remove it.  You want to stay away from bleach - chlorine fumes are pretty awful. Yeah, burning it off would work. Probably dump some salt on the wood to inhibit mold.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • njlnjl Posts: 768
    I just finished making ribs, and after giving the grid and V-rack some clean/burn time, the coals were down to almost nothing.  I added two of the biggest hunks of oak I'd cut (back when I thought I'd be splitting them), and once those got burning well, I put the plate setter back in, and stacked up a mound of oak pieces that had some mold on them.  Smoking them at 350F for a while, I just checked on them, and it's helping to separate the bark.  I just did some googling on this, and it seems like I should maybe go a little low & slower.  I suppose once this batch is done, not only should the mold be dead, but the wood should be dry such that it's not as likely to mold again.
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