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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm running into a problem I've had before and have not found a good solution to and would welcome any suggestions.

I felled 3 dead trees the other day and there are some very interesting sections of relatively thick (3-6" diameter) branches that I'd like to use in an aquarium. I could very easily saw the sections out of the middle of the branches, or hack them out with an axe even, but if I did so the ends would look completely unnatural.

It always pains me to see someone who has taken a really interesting piece of wood, say a root bulb from a tree, and cut all of the roots and/or branches off square. I'd normally snap them off so that they were jagged and somewhat irregular and the fresh looking ends tend to get discolored in much the same way as the rest of the wood when I boil it. It comes out well, but at this thickness it's not really possible.

You can break a branch of this thickness with a sledgehammer, but you can't control the break well enough to bother. It often winds up splitting the wood and ruining the interesting part. The best I've come up with is scoring the wood with a saw as deeply as I can then snapping it with a sledgehammer. I then distress the wood by chipping at the end with a chisel and hammer to rough it up. In the end it almost looks good but it's still unnatural enough that I usually wind up hiding and/or burying the end.

So, have any of you found a good way to make a saw cut look like a natural break? To remove a section from the middle of a thick piece with it still looking natural?

I've got a 3' long piece of wood with a gorgeous section near one end. It's screaming to be made into an overhang in my aquarium...
 

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Sand blasting. But I don't have one either.

A propane torch can be used to burn out softwood, summer growth rings, and hollow out butt end areas. The pressure washer at your local coin op car wash will clean up most of the burn residue. A wire wheel in a drill will help smooth things out and remove the burned areas.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
This wood is dead and cured, but not rotting. It's perfect firewood, basically, except for the awesome appearance. I guess I'll have a go at it with some violent woodworking...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I wound up using a jigsaw --> rasp --> rotary file --> coarse sandpaper --> fine sandpaper to shape the piece in question into something natural looking. I probably should have taken pictures as I went, but I didn't. If this works out maybe I'll do a How To. The shape is very nice now, at least it is what I want it to be, I don't know if it would be generally regarded as a thing of beauty.

My real concern at the moment is the coloration. The untouched wood is a dark reddish brown and the newly shaped wood is blond. It's coming together in color as I boil it, but the difference is substantial and I can't see it disappearing any time soon. If it remains obvious, I may dry the piece of wood then sand off the entire outside. The shape and grain patterns should still remain while the outer 1/8" or so will carry away most of the color. I might also just dry it out and throw it in the fireplace.
 

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Try Anvil type loppers. Don't make complete cuts. Cut a 1/3 cut, move forward or back & rotate the brach then take another 1/3, repeat then twist or break over for knee.

The trouble with a hammer is you get smashed sections and that don't look natural.

I've also used a 2" wood chisel.

Also make angle cuts. Look at in in the perspective the wind was blowing in this direction how would the branch break.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It's both ends of the wood and the shaping was extensive enough that it's just not practical to try and hide it. I might try to get moss to grow over the entire thing though. :)

The piece in question was too big for regular pruning tools and one end had already been chainsawed square before I saw that it had a nice section. I've done pretty much exactly what you suggested with other branches though, this one is just too chunky for easy breaking.
 

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Just want to second the torch and scrub method

-I've used that on other items before, and it really brings out the grain, and softens unnatural corners/edges.

depending on the piece, you may be able to drill out the end of the branch/root/stump, chip up the edges, and either leave it as a small cave, or stuff some anubius/bolbitis/java fern in there, so it's growing out.
 
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