About five years ago I asked Alan Baugher, owner
of Baugher’s Orchard and Restaurant (where they serve those marvelous
pies in Westminster, MD) if he had any fruit wood that I could have.
Orchards are continuously replacing old trees with new ones, and Baugher’s
is no exception. To my surprise, he told me to bring over my chain saw
and he’d let me harvest an old plum tree myself. The tree I settled
on was at least 25 years old and badly infected with borers. The six
inch base and a couple of the larger branches, however, still contained
some good wood.
Plum, like most fruitwoods, is very hard and fine-grained. Unlike most
others, however, plum wood is highly figured with streaks of pink, red,
and, well, plum-colored extractives. Beyond being hard to cut, plum
is also very difficult to season. It has a great tendency to check (crack)
during seasoning, and what doesn’t check, warps. So the yield
in usable wood from the bole of a plum tree is very low. But what you
get is well worth the effort, highly figured and finishes out to a smoothness
rivaled only by dogwood. The creamy sapwood ages to golden brown, the
figuring to rich tones of chocolate and maroon.