We are cutting down a large hardwood tree that we would like to use for table tops. Can we store the tree trunk before cutting it into pieces for drying and if so, how should it be stored? Or... do we need to go ahead and have it milled as soon as possible? Ideally...It might be a year before we would have the trunk milled. We have no experience in this area. Thanks
In general no, you can't store large pieces of downed hardwood trees for extended periods and expect to get usable lumber out of them down the road.
Although you can 'age' a section of log (even whole tree trunks) it's not something you can get reliable results from*. This applies particularly to hardwood species as the heartwood (which is dead wood even when the tree is living) tends to begin to rot. The rot can then spread to the sapwood, although in most cases it is the heartwood which is most desirable.
So it's a much better idea to get it sawn into slabs/planks as soon as possible and then dry it in that form, suitably stickered and under cover if necessary, depending on your climate and local weather.
*This is done on a very limited scale commercially possibly because it's difficult to control the outcome. It's so rare that many people working in wood at mill level don't even know of it.
What I have seen in some wood working videos is wrapping plastic around it. So get some plastic wrap and wrap all the way around the log. This would keep it safe and stuff but it will also trap in the moisture the wood would have. Which if you do not want then, well sorry but this is all I could offer as a answer. But wrapping it in plastic usually will not allow cracking and some other problems. If you do mill still wrap it up. That will prevent cracking and wrap for sure.
As long as the trunk is protected from moisture and insects, it will be preserved.
It is advisable to debark the trunk, because the bark might harbor insects or fungus. After debarking it, rough sand it just to make sure you have a nice clean surface.
Seal both ends of the trunk with polyurethane. This will prevent cracking and splitting, and will also prevent entry of excessive moisture.
Store the trunk in a dry place, like a de-humidified basement. If you have to store it outdoors, support it a good 16 inches from the ground and protect it from the rain with a plastic tarp. Use brick or cinder block to keep it off the ground. Make the supports every 30 inches or so, don't just support it at the ends or it will bow.
The tarp should be air-tight on all sides except the bottom. Even a small hole on the outside will allow rain and flying insects to come in. Flying insects will not normally enter through the bottom. Crawling insects should not be a problem as long as the supports are made of brick or cinder block. (do not make the supports out of wood) Nevertheless, periodically inspect the supports to make sure termites are not making a mud tunnel to the trunk.
Normally borer type insects will only plant their larva on a live tree. There are some insects that will attack dead trees, but they are not a concern, except for termites and carpenter ants. As long as the trunk is kept dry and inspected, they should not be a problem.
If desired, the trunk can be dried by making a charcoal bed 12-16 inches underneath it such that the bottom of the trunk is maintained around 180-degrees Farenheit and is rotated frequently to keep the heat even.