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Thread: Advice on getting a tree rough cut & dried

  1. #1

    Advice on getting a tree rough cut & dried

    I want to get a tree from the land that I grew up on to build some projects for the family. Several walnut trees look reasonable for this. Any advice on selecting the best tree? Local sawmill will rough cut however we want 20cents per board foot and have a kiln to dry for another 28cents a board foot. Any advice on cutting / drying approaches? I donít have any experience with this process so any advice is helpful. Thanks!

  2. #2
    20 cents to saw and 28 cents to kiln dry is a bargain. Surely that price is for logs brought to the mill so consider how you will handle felling, loading and hauling the log. As far as selecting the tree, look for a long straight trunk. Limbs are usually not worth bothering with for lumber (although they are fine for firewood, turning and carving stock).
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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis Ford View Post
    20 cents to saw and 28 cents to kiln dry is a bargain. Surely that price is for logs brought to the mill so consider how you will handle felling, loading and hauling the log. As far as selecting the tree, look for a long straight trunk. Limbs are usually not worth bothering with for lumber (although they are fine for firewood, turning and carving stock).
    Yeah, I thought it was pretty cheap to have it milled and it is only for the log once at the mill. It will probably be almost as much to have it cut and hauled to the mill. There are several walnut trees and a few look like good candidates. The mill only wanted 8, 10 or 12 foot lengths. This tree is about 24-30" in diameter and I'm estimating the main trunk is over 20' tall. I read somewhere that smaller branches (about 12" diameter) would be good candidates for turning if they were cut in about 12" sections. The recommendation was to wax both ends to slow the drying. I assume to prevent cracking? I attached a picture of a couple of the trees. The one on the left is one of the better options.

    Thanks for the inputs.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Good advice above.

    I like Anchorseal for the ends. I like to coat as soon as possible after felling to minimize checking. You will want to decide on how you want it cut as well- plain or quartersawn and thickness. Some slabs might be nice from a large walnut.

    My guy requires 8’ minimum lengths an 8” minimum diameter on the small end of the log to fit the mill.

  5. #5
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    It is not uncommon to limit log diameters to 8" or above, for efficiency purposes. An 8" diameter would yield a 5.5" square cant. For my mill, diameters below 10" are charged by the hour, rather than the board foot. Often, minimum diameters for walnut a larger because walnut contains a considerable amount of sapwood which has a high level of contrast, especially in residential trees(more nutrients). Most, but not all, clients consider the sapwood to be less desirable. I mill a lot of live-edge lumber so the contrast of walnut sapwood is a given but when someone is just looking for walnut lumber they are thinking "chocolate brown". An 8" walnut limb could easily have 4" of sapwood.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Hogard View Post
    It is not uncommon to limit log diameters to 8" or above, for efficiency purposes. An 8" diameter would yield a 5.5" square cant. For my mill, diameters below 10" are charged by the hour, rather than the board foot. Often, minimum diameters for walnut a larger because walnut contains a considerable amount of sapwood which has a high level of contrast, especially in residential trees(more nutrients). Most, but not all, clients consider the sapwood to be less desirable. I mill a lot of live-edge lumber so the contrast of walnut sapwood is a given but when someone is just looking for walnut lumber they are thinking "chocolate brown". An 8" walnut limb could easily have 4" of sapwood.
    This is on a farm and the area around the walnut trees has not been fertilized much if at all. The mill did have a minimum diameter but i would be above that. For walnut, what is the typical sawing approach? Quartersawn? I thought it would be nice to have a mix of 8/4 and 4/4. Maybe one log of each.

  7. #7
    Quartersawing will produce more stable lumber (less cupping and width shrinkage) than plain-sawn, but it requires a large log to make it worthwhile and the inner edge of the boards will show more defects compared to plain sawn boards from the outer part of the tree. It also takes more labor, so you will have to negotiate that with the sawyer. If you want all true quartersawn that requires a different approach than a mix of quartered and rift, so nail down exactly what you want and what the sawyer is willing to do and at what cost.

  8. #8
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    In my experience, the milling method for walnut is dependent on the intended use. If you have a need to maximize the structural/engineering properties, then quarter-sawing is appropriate. If the intent of using walnut is for the appearance, then grade sawing (best face) will give a better appearance . If milling for maximum widths, the widest lumber will normally be with the faces parallel to the diameter, so they will contain quarter-sawn grain (60-90 degrees to the face). If milling for live-edge, or flitches, then you'll get a mix of grain patterns. For cabinet-work, quarter-sawn grain may be used for rails and stiles, face grain for panels. Another consideration is whether you have your boards milled parallel to the bark (straighter grain) or parallel to the heart (cathedral grain).

  9. #9
    Thanks for everyone's inputs. I need to think through at least some of the projects that I might do with the wood in order to have it cut the best. I suspect most of the projects will be on the smaller side so structural concerns would be less important than the cosmetic aspects of the grain. Having said that, the tree is quite large and I could end up with quite a bit of wood from it...

  10. #10
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    That's a very nice tree. If it were mine I would want to quarter or rift saw the better log, and would insist on air drying, not kiln drying it - you'll typically get much better color and contrast that way.

    I'm not saying you should do this, but by far the most spectacular color I've gotten from walnut has all come from trees that were felled and then left uncut and uncared for until the sapwood started to go. Browns, purples, greens running through the later heartwood rings.

  11. #11
    When I had my walnut tree cut, I painted the cut ends with leftover metal roof paint but anchor seal is the best and left over latex is better than nothing. I would suggest flat sawing it. I donít think QS is worth the trouble with walnut. Iíd request some 4/4, 6/4, 8,4 and maybe even a 4Ēx4Ē post or four for some heavy table legs or something.

  12. #12
    I never intentionally quartersaw walnut. I have had very few customers ask for it. I go for the best, cleanest boards.

  13. #13
    Join Date
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    Try to find a friend with a metal detector. Being on a farm it's possible there's a nail or two in the tree. If so some mills will just reject any log that sets off their alarms. No point cutting down a nice tree and then finding out the best log can't be made into boards.

  14. #14
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    Is there some reason you want to cut those beautiful young trees down?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny Hamsley View Post
    I never intentionally quartersaw walnut. I have had very few customers ask for it. I go for the best, cleanest boards.
    I would say that pretty much describes how anyone who saws walnut for resale does it. I do quarter saw it, for my own use - not all the times or all logs, but probably at least half of what I saw. But then I'm also air drying it, not infrequently after letting it age in the log before sawing in a way similar to what one would do if deliberately trying to induce spalting in maple or sycamore. The reason is that the rift grain of walnut that is treated that way, in the youngest 6-10 years of heartwood, is among the most beautifully grained and colored wood one can find in North America, with a rich, albeit subtle, striping of browns, oranges, purples and greens. 3-4" of that is worth a foot and a half of flatsawn walnut, especially if the latter is kiln dried. I also use walnut for segmented bowls and other turning, and straight grain in two dimensions for that is valuable in minimizing end grain runout, and so permitting more stable thin shelled turnings, with more uniform color transitions between segments.
    Last edited by Steve Demuth; 07-19-2018 at 2:36 PM.

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