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Thread: Walnut Log help

  1. #1
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    Walnut Log help

    I was able to get a Black Walnut tree from a friend in town. Dropped it yesterday, limbed it, and had a local guy bring it to my house. I am going to have a WoodMizer guy come saw it into boards. He has been doing it for 20 years and people seem happy with him. The logs are 16’ and 8’, and will probably all be 8’ for ease of stacking it and moving. I plan on air drying it. The tree was about 28” at the base and was 24” diameter at 32’ up.

    Now the question -

    What size should I get it cut into? I Know this is sort of a dumb question, it depends on what I want to use it for...I am a hobbyist who occasionally takes commissions, and I may sell a little to recover some of the cost. I can see a one board coffee table or two, or a two board kitchen table. I have never made a chair but that is also on the list, maybe a countertop amongst a bunch of smaller projects etc. I’m just making my best guess at what it will become a few years from now.

    I had a bunch of cherry milled about 10 years ago. For the cherry I was sending it to a kiln so I made it all the same at 5/4. Plenty of my projects had too much waste at 5/4 but it was good for some others. This time around I can cut a variety because it won’t go into a kiln.

    I saw one video where they slabbed the middle 1/3 and quarter saw the other two 1/3’s? I will probably leave it all live edge If that is the way it comes out, but I don’t need it that way. Those slabs were cut at 10/4?

    Just wondering what people have found that worked for them?

    The unpainted end is at 32’ up the tree.

    25F5DE61-B654-461C-B45F-83BB9E843C71.jpg

    59C541FC-1F9B-4125-8119-03CF33DAF3DD.jpg

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    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
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    Sorry for pics, I struggle with posting them.....not sure how the above happened but you get the idea.

  3. #3
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    From your description of potential project uses it seems like 8 or 9/4 would be a good choice. It's just going to take a long time to air dry and then more time to come down to a usable MC after you bring it indoors. As long as you are good with that, have at it. If you can get the bark off though I would do so even if you have it sawn as live edge. Bark is just a place for bugs to start.

    There might be something around 170 - 200 bf of lumber in one of those 8' logs. Three logs like that is a nice score. How much is the sawyer charging to mill it?

    John

  4. #4
    Just wanted to share my .02 - I use a chainsaw mill to slab boards and air dry them on my property. Just cut about 85 bd.ft of cherry a few days ago. For me, I 8/4 everything, except sometimes the pith section I'll go 12/4. Sure it takes longer to dry - but I figure I can get a true 8/4 board, two 3/4" or 5/8" boards, and more and more when you go thinner. I use a lot of thin material - 1/8 - 3/8 , bigger things I choose 5/8 over 3/4. So I end up getting a lot of use out of 8/4, at the cost of tedious resawing of course. So I would consider what size boards you typically choose based on your typical projects. I should note that I cut 8/4 at about 2 1/8" - the chainsaw doesnt exactly leave a smooth surface. The lumber I've hired out to a mobile sawyer is much cleaner.

  5. #5
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    Dan, I used to use a chainsaw mill before I got my bandsaw mill. The chainsaw cut was nearly as smooth as from the bandsaw. Maybe you are using the wrong chain or your bar is worn. I had the best results with Oregon ripping chain ground at 10. Whenever things went bad it was because the chain wasn't sharp on one side or the other or the groove in the bar had keystoned and needed to be replaced.

    John

  6. #6
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    I have a woodmizer and mostly cut 8/4 and 10/4 for woodturning unless I need 4/4 for something, such as building siding. But probably not walnut.

    I usually shim up one end of a log so the pith is horizontal then either cut down the pith if it's straight or cut out an 8/4 section which I then cut to get two clear quarter sawn narrower pieces with no pith. Then I flip the 1/2 around with flat side down and cut boards or slabs as I feel like. Fortunately I don't have to worry about what will sell since I don't sell.

    If I cut down the pith it lets me see what the inside is like and decide from there. For wood turning use I often leave at part of the log in a 1/2 round and process in to turning squares (2x2 to 6x6) to dry or into large bowl blanks if someone wants some. I cut a 22" cherry log like this the other day for a friend - he tool half and made big bowl blanks and I cut the other half into to smaller turning squares and platter and shallow bowl blanks to dry.

    Deciding how to cut is part calculation and part art and a whole lot preference.

    JKJ

  7. #7
    I would slab it into 8/4 or 9/4. That will give you good options for table tops and chair or furniture legs. Even if you get some splitting, the qs pieces on the edges of the slab will probably be salvageable.

    You could always resaw it if necessary.

  8. #8
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    Thank you that all makes sense. Maybe I will just go a heavy 8/4 and split the difference.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    From your description of potential project uses it seems like 8 or 9/4 would be a good choice. It's just going to take a long time to air dry and then more time to come down to a usable MC after you bring it indoors. As long as you are good with that, have at it. If you can get the bark off though I would do so even if you have it sawn as live edge. Bark is just a place for bugs to start.

    There might be something around 170 - 200 bf of lumber in one of those 8' logs. Three logs like that is a nice score. How much is the sawyer charging to mill it?

    John
    There are actually (5) 8 foot logs at those dimensions (two 16’s and an 8). I think the smallest end of the last one is 22” inches or so to the crotch. Then there are (2) more 10 footers that start at 20 inch or so and both go into a crotch.

    The Sawyer is charging $95 an hour but he comes with two people and said I can help as well. I told him what I had and how I was thinking of cutting it and he said 3 hours. I expect it to be more. There are a few others around, but further away for them, and they seem to charge .40 a bd ft. measured from the log. I figure if I have 1,200 board foot or so that would be $480 so they all are similar. I liked the hourly guy because he was helpful on the phone about ways to cut it. The rest of the guys were good, but pretty much said “you tell us how to cut it, and we will cut it that way.” I’m sure they are all fine.

    This was the harder tree to get. There are two more 30” ones at the same property but probably only have two 8’ prime trunks on each to total 4. It was too much to deal with at once.

    I may end up doing a solar kiln at some point. Seems like as good a time as any.......
    Last edited by Jebediah Eckert; 05-16-2020 at 4:38 PM.

  10. #10
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    To me, charging by the board foot in the log doesn't seem fair. I don't saw for money, but it's a LOT less time and effort and wear on the blade to cut a log into fewer wide planks than a bunch of 4/4. To cut a log in half for woodturning use takes only one pass on the saw! Sure, thicker boards/slabs are heavier to handle but with several people it is no problem - I usually do it all myself.

    And when cutting boards I usually square up the sides which takes extra time and doesn't change the square footage. I suspect the board foot guys are charging for the worst case and enjoy the bonanza when a job doesn't take as much time.

    Be advised that many sawyers charge for replacing a blade if they hit something in the wood, $30 or so. You might ask. Embedded screws, nails, or porcelain fence insulators are likely with a forest tree than a yard tree but there are a lot of BIG trees deep in the woods with embedded barbed wire from long-ago farm land. I have some like that over 36" in diameter. If the guy is good he may bring a metal detector to check suspicious areas. (Steel in walnut can make dark stains both near and far from the steel.)

    BTW, another way you can sometimes get logs sawn is on "shares" with private mill owners. I don't saw for money but I will do shares - the guy brings the log and helps at the mill, we make two piles, he takes one, I keep one, and no money changes hands. The WoodMizer site is supposed to have a list of owners willing to saw, some commercially, some hobby. They offered to sign me up but I declined.

    sawmill_cedar_IMG_20171204_165233_909.jpg

    JKJ


    Quote Originally Posted by Jebediah Eckert View Post
    There are actually (5) 8 foot logs at those dimensions (two 16s and an 8). I think the smallest end of the last one is 22 inches or so to the crotch. Then there are (2) more 10 footers that start at 20 inch or so and both go into a crotch.

    The Sawyer is charging $95 an hour but he comes with two people and said I can help as well. I told him what I had and how I was thinking of cutting it and he said 3 hours. I expect it to be more. There are a few others around, but further away for them, and they seem to charge .40 a bd ft. measured from the log. I figure if I have 1,200 board foot or so that would be $480 so they all are similar. I liked the hourly guy because he was helpful on the phone about ways to cut it. The rest of the guys were good, but pretty much said you tell us how to cut it, and we will cut it that way. Im sure they are all fine.

    This was the harder tree to get. There are two more 30 ones at the same property but probably only have two 8 prime trunks on each to total 4. It was too much to deal with at once.

    I may end up doing a solar kiln at some point. Seems like as good a time as any.......

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    Dan, I used to use a chainsaw mill before I got my bandsaw mill. The chainsaw cut was nearly as smooth as from the bandsaw. Maybe you are using the wrong chain or your bar is worn. I had the best results with Oregon ripping chain ground at 10. Whenever things went bad it was because the chain wasn't sharp on one side or the other or the groove in the bar had keystoned and needed to be replaced.

    John
    Could be - It's a regular crosscut chain. I try to do a quick sharpen every 3 slabs or so, but I can't say I'm doing a good job sharpening. I'm close to ordering a 36" Oregon bar and ripping chain - I have some huge maple logs that I'll need a bigger bar for. Not really sure if my Stihl 046 can pull 36" chain, its not rated for it, but its a risk I will end up taking. I can't afford a new chainsaw, or bandsaw mill, or frankly a mobile sawyer. So I'll roll the dice.

  12. #12
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    Thanks John, great tips!

    I’m not sure on the blade, but I expect that. I did know that from when I did the cherry.

    I don’t do any real turning so I didn’t take that into account for the sizing.

    What mill is that you are using? None of the fancy hydraulic? Do you find that difficult to turn or maneuver the logs. I’m sure you load them with a tractor, but placing them and turning them when needed?
    Last edited by Jebediah Eckert; 05-16-2020 at 6:29 PM.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jebediah Eckert View Post
    What mill is that you are using? None of the fancy hydraulic? Do you find that difficult to turn or maneuver the logs. Im sure you load them with a tractor, but placing them and turning them when needed?
    Not sure which John you are addressing, but I'll answer: this John has a manual LT-15 WoodMizer mill with no hydraulics. Very large logs can be a chore. Once on the sawmill bed I turn logs and cants with 5' cant hooks, sometimes with help from a large pry bar, sometimes with help from a second person.

    I've loaded logs all sorts of ways, rolling up an incline, lifting with skidding tongs with short chains held in hooks in the tractor bucket, with forks on the tractor or skid steer. A few months ago I got the ultimate general purpose log handler. I can pick up logs weighing up to about 3000 lbs for moving, chainsawing, and for setting very gently on the mill.

    trackhoe_20190916_190256.jpg

    So far the biggest diameter I've handled has been about 30", a little too big for my sawmill. The mill will supposedly take 28" logs but logs less than 24" are a lot easier to handle. I can turn and saw them without assistance. I generally unload even heavy labs by sliding them onto forks on the tractor positioned close to the mill.


    People who have come to help have commented that it was a lot more work than they imagined. If sawing for money I'd get a larger mill with the hydraulics.

    JKJ

  14. #14
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    Thank you John Jordan. I’m impressed by the size mill and what you get out of it. Even a 24” log is seems tough to handle.

    I can see the hydraulics would make it faster and easier, but sawing for your own use looks like you have a great system.

    Thanks for the input.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jebediah Eckert View Post
    Thank you John Jordan. Im impressed by the size mill and what you get out of it. Even a 24 log is seems tough to handle.
    I can see the hydraulics would make it faster and easier, but sawing for your own use looks like you have a great system.
    Thanks for the input.
    IMO, absolutely worth having if your space and situation allow.

    I don't know the current price but I think I paid about $7000 years ago. Came by FedEx! I bought an extra bed section which will (with care) handle a 17' log. I use the mill to cut siding and dimensional lumber for farm buildings, occasional slabs, a beam or two for mantles for friends, and wood for woodturning. The clamps on that old logs are designed for "normal" logs at least 4' long. But I rig up a sacrificial support to allow cutting short pieces, popular with those who like to turn big bowls from green wood. And since our woodturning club has an annual wood auction to help support club activities and several charities, it gives me the opportunity to easily cut some large blanks.

    sawmill_blanks.jpg sawmill_blocks.jpg sawmill_gordon_jake_2_3_18.jpg

    Although I don't get much time to saw, it can be great fun! It's amazing sometimes to "open" a log and see the color and figure revealed. And to watch the changes as layer after layer of boards or slabs are removed is educational!

    A side benefit is to provide wood to those who use it for heating in the winter who have collected it by the truckload, and some pieces to friends and neighbors that make things. An elderly neighbor sits every day on a short bench he made from some 8/4 cedar. One friend asked for a piece for decorating and picked a small slab of eastern red cedar that due to voids shape was almost worthless for my use. She told me later they cleaned it up, smoothed and finished, and hung it on the wall over the bed - and got exclamations from some of their friends and relatives who saw it!

    Another benefit is educational - I often have kids from little to teens and adults visit. Some have not made the mental connection between trees and things made from wood. I sometimes (with them standing way back) cut a 4/4 board off a log and give them a small piece to take home. Some of the older visitors get to crank the mill and cut a board.

    JKJ

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