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Whether a pastime or a small enterprise, it’s a woodworker’s dream job.

As a craftsman, I’ve all the time loved constructing stuff. But the pivotal level that led me into woodworking occurred lengthy earlier than I stood at a desk noticed or picked up a hand airplane. And that time is clearly ingrained in my reminiscence. I used to be 12 years previous and my grandpa and I harvested a pecan tree from his yard. Instead of reducing the trunk into firewood, grandpa employed a sawmill to come back out and switch it into lumber.

1. Milling your individual lumber can open up a world of supplies that you could be not have entry to on the lumberyard, like this 24-inch vast cherry log.

It was at that time that I, at 12 years previous, had an earth-shattering realization that wooden actually grew from timber. I do know, I used to be a 12-year previous genius. It was that day that triggered my fascination with the fabric we use for our woodworking. And I’ve observed up to now few of years, the variety of individuals which are beginning to share this curiosity with me are rising. The variety of individuals turning into fascinated with harvesting and milling their very own lumber has elevated. And if it’s piqued your curiosity in any respect, the excellent news is that it’s not as difficult as you would possibly worry.

2. Don’t assume {that a} sawing log must be arrow-straight. Small, odd items comparable to this walnut crotch can yield some stunning, specialty items.

There are numerous explanation why I’d argue that somebody ought to contemplate milling their very own lumber as an alternative of hitting up a lumber yard.

First, and perhaps the obvious, is the fee. Milling your individual lumber can produce high quality materials for a fraction of the worth of a lumber supplier. In truth, if you are going to buy your individual mill, like I’ve, you possibly can truly make a revenue off of it by promoting lumber to different woodworkers and by providing to mill different individuals’s logs.

3. Pulling logs out of a burn pile might be an effective way to attain some beneficial logs. A handful of log chains, a truck, and a winch have served me effectively.

The second cause I take pleasure in milling my very own lumber, and you’ll as effectively, is that you’ve management of the fabric by all the course of. This means you choose the way you need the lumber reduce and are in management because it’s drying. In my expertise you’ll find yourself with inventory that’s a lot increased high quality than you possibly can readily purchase.

4. A log cant (or log peavy) is invaluable in safely transferring and rolling logs. Utilizing leverage, you possibly can transfer a a number of thousand pound log with minimal effort.

Finally, I take nice satisfaction in turning city timber into lumber that can be utilized for a mission as an alternative of going to the dump or fireplace pit. On this identical word, you’ll even have entry to some uncommon species which are virtually inconceivable to purchase commercially.

5. Fresh off the mill, you flood the lumber floor with water. This will wash away a majority of the sawdust, and likewise present you the grain of the wooden.

All of this isn’t to say that it’s a must to exit and purchase a sawmill to mill your individual lumber. A fast web search will often yield numerous native sawyers that can come out and mill your logs on website. However, if you happen to do take the dive into buying a sawmill, you’ll surprise why you waited this lengthy to purchase one. Now after all, this all begins by getting your arms on some logs.

Finding and Picking Logs

5. Fresh off the mill, you flood the lumber floor with water. This will wash away a majority of the sawdust, and likewise present you the grain of the wooden.

When it involves selecting up logs (or hoarding them, as my spouse says), I’ve discovered a couple of totally different sources that work effectively for me. As a rule of thumb, there are all the time free logs obtainable, and I don’t pay for them.

7. Trimming the tip of a log when it first arrives provides me a clear, check-free finish.

The first, is harvesting the timber myself. This works effectively if you happen to personal property or have entry to property with millable timber. Plus, you could have the flexibility to selectively harvest and handle the timber stand. This permits the timber to achieve their full potential earlier than harvesting.

8. Quickly after trimming, I seal the endgrain with a wooden sealer to assist the wooden dry extra evenly and restrict extra checking.

Probably my most constant supply of logs are a handful of arborists that I work with. If they get to a job website and have a pleasant log, they’ll often give me a name. The crews I work with take timber down year-round, and it’s typically much less work (due to this fact cheaper) for them to have me come take a log, somewhat than get rid of it.

9. My Norwood HD36 makes use of ramps and a winch to roll logs up onto the bunks.

Another supply free of charge logs comes from land clearing corporations. These guys are often spending per week at a website clearing land for giant industrial areas or residential developments. This methodology might be somewhat hectic, however fruitful. What I imply by that, is you’ll typically have numerous good sawing wood in a single spot, however there will probably be a slim window to get in, get the logs you need off of a log pile earlier than it will get dosed in diesel gas and burned.

Finally, don’t overlook on-line labeled adverts. Often instances a home-owner will listing a freshly felled (or fallen) tree free of charge if you wish to come and reduce a bit of it. (Stay away from the “free if you take it down” adverts). I all the time be certain that to ask if it’s okay if I take simply the trunk, and if there’s entry for me to get the mill as much as it. Even if the house owner is attempting to promote the log, I’ll contact base and go away them my contact information. Most of the time they don’t get a purchaser and so they get to a degree they simply need it out of the yard.

10. The toe boards are used to stage the go browsing the mill.

Now, whereas I by no means flip down free logs, there are some things I search for. First, I be certain that it matches on my mill. My Norwood HD36 has a 36-diameter capability. So, I’m specializing in logs within the 16-36 vary. As far as size goes, I shoot for the 4-13 vary. And don’t assume {that a} tree must be arrow straight both. While I keep away from limb wooden, trunks with crotches, splits, and different so-called “defects” could make some stunning lumber.

11. The first bark reduce provides you a reference floor for measuring out your cuts.

When it involves what species to search for, that basically will depend on the place you’re in. Here within the Midwest, I get primarily ash (quite a bit, due to the present ash-borer scenario), purple and white oak, hickory, elm, maple, walnut and the occasional cherry. But don’t low cost a wooden simply since you’ve by no means seen it in a big-box retailer. Some of my favorites to mill are sycamore, linden (basswood), and apple.

Once you’ve recognized some logs that you simply’re planning on milling, now comes the primary occasion trick—selecting them up. Now, I admit. I cheat. My mill is transportable, so I can reduce them on website and throw the boards in my truck. You can rent a conveyable mill to do that as effectively.

However, in case you are trying to choose up the logs I’d recommend renting a trailer and a skid loader and loading up a handful of logs in a day. Sometimes, arborists can have one on website, as will clearing corporations. A small handmade present is an effective strategy to thank them for loading the logs for you. Otherwise, you probably have a trailer you should use ramps and a winch to roll the logs over the aspect utilizing a course of referred to as parbuckling. For a extra devoted log loading rig, check out some log arch movies on YouTube (Matt Cremona has a great one on his channel).

Cost to mill

■ Chainsaw Price: $200 – $1500 This is important for reducing logs to size, trimming them on the mill, and many others.

I typically get requested “how much does getting a mill setup run?”. The largest expense, clearly, is the mill itself. Mills, relying on the dimensions, can price between $2,000 for a small mill, as much as $75,000 for a completely hydraulic mill. My Norwood HD36, begins at about $8,500 and may deal with a log as much as 36″. There’s a couple of different equipment that you simply’ll wish to have.

■ PALLET BANDING KIT Price: $100 Finally, with the intention to preserve boards flat as they dry, I recommend getting ahold of a pallet banding package. I bought a setup off Amazon and use poly strapping with wire buckles. You’ll want strapping, buckles and a tensioner.

Putting the tools prices apart, it’s pretty straightforward to breakdown the milling right into a cost-per-log. A brand new blade runs about $25, and lasts about Four hardwood logs (give or take, relying on the species, measurement and if there’s metallic in it).

■ CANT HOOK Price: $115 This merchandise is a useful software on the subject of transferring logs round. The metallic hook bites into logs and lets you simply roll a log utilizing leverage. I take advantage of a Logrite 60” that can grip logs as much as 36″-diameter.

Taking gas and blade lubrication under consideration, it prices about $Eight to mill a log. On common, to rent a conveyable mill to chop a log, it would run about $75 per hour.

Prepping Logs for Milling

12. After the primary reduce, board thickness might be set.

After getting your newly stashed logs again house, there’s most likely going to be somewhat bit of labor to do. Occasionally, logs will get dropped off at my place from an arborist. The very first thing I do is examine the logs and run by a psychological guidelines. Are there any nubby bits which are going get caught whereas I’m attempting to roll it? Are the ends clear, or are they chewed up from a sequence noticed (or already cracked from drying)? How is the log measurement? Is it too lengthy, or do any crotch sections want trimmed to suit on the mill?

If any of these items want addressed with a sequence noticed, I deal with it at this level earlier than sealing the entire finish grain (and belief me, it’s simpler to seal the tip of the log as an alternative of the person ends of boards). Sealing the tip grain reduces cracking because the lumber is drying. I take advantage of Anchor seal 2 as a sealer, nonetheless a couple of coats of previous glue or latex paint will work as effectively. If the ends have began to already crack (if the log’s been sitting in a trailer), I’ll trim the ends to take away the cracking previous to sealing.

13. After setting board thickness, you can also make cuts down till you’ve reached the pith (center) of the tree.

A transportable mill, like my Norwood, will include some type of log loading attachment. Some could also be hydraulic, others handbook. You can see my setup right here. It consists of a pair of ramps that connect to the aspect of the mill. Then, an connected winch is used to roll the log up the ramps. Remember earlier once I talked about parbuckling? This is actually a parbuckling setup. The winch cable goes over the log after which below it. The hook on the tip attaches again to the body of the mill. Now, it’s time to crank the log up. The factor a few setup like that is that even a number of the heaviest logs can simply be cranked up the ramps. I’ve loaded ash and oak logs which are over 4,000 lbs. with none fear.

14. With half to one-third the log left, I’ll flip the log over, decrease the toe boards, and permit the log to relaxation flat on the bunks.

As effectively because the loading ramps work, nonetheless, if I’m milling at house, I discover it somewhat simpler to make use of a tractor or skid loader to load logs. If you select this rout, nonetheless, watch out to not drop the logs down or bump the mill in any method, as that may trigger pointless stress on the mill.

Once the log is onto the mill deck, that is the place you’re going to begin making some choices that have an effect on what sort of lumber you’ll get out of the log.

15. The last cuts of the log will, hopefully, yield the pith of the tree in a single board. The pith of the tree will almost all the time crack (see the underside board, right here).

First, the log must be positioned in relation to the reducing head and mill bunks (mattress). Almost each log will taper, some greater than others. To get the perfect yield and grain sample out of a log, you’ll want to lift up the small finish of the log. This might be achieved with jacks, or toe boards, such as you see right here. The purpose is to lift the small finish of the log in order that the center of the tree (the pith) is stage with the bunks. This will go away the center in a single board while you’re achieved reducing.

The second determination to make is the orientation that the log goes to be reduce in. In my thoughts, the 2 important methods to noticed a log are for graded lumber or the perfect character. Because I don’t promote commercially, I not often noticed for grade. Part of the attraction of wooden to me is every tree’s uniqueness and story. So, I noticed for character in virtually all cases. This implies that ensuring any character marks (comparable to crotch sections) are horizontal so each board can have some type of character. Sawing for grade and the way the grading system works is a completely different article.

There are some cases the place I could rotate the log and forgo the “best” character reduce to keep away from some precise defects like cracks or rot, however these are excessive instances. Once the log is positioned the place you need it, it may be clamped down. The key right here is to verify the log is tight in opposition to the log rests and held tightly within the log clamps/canines. Even although a big hardwood log might be a number of thousand kilos, a twelve-foot band noticed blade exerts an incredible quantity of power. Vibration and the blade could cause logs to wish to roll, so be certain that it’s clamped down tight.

Making the Cuts

16-17. Having a helper obtainable to assist unload the sawmill will make the work go a lot quicker. Unload the slabs onto a staging space the place you possibly can place stickers between the layers.

The last determination to make earlier than you fireplace up the mill (or have the sawyer do it) is to determine what reduce of lumber you need out of your log. That is, what grain sample do you wish to see in your boards? The bar together with the web page exhibits the three widespread forms of grain patterns in a board: plain, rift, and quarter sawn. Depending on what you’re planning on doing with the lumber will make it easier to determine easy methods to reduce it.

When I’m sawing for my private lumber yard, I primarily “live saw”. This means I reduce the log into slices, leaving the bark on either side. Then, as I pull the lumber off the mill, I can “rebuild” the log in order that it might probably dry (extra on that later). There are three causes I like this sawing methodology. First, it’s quick. There’s no want to show the log right into a cant and alternate between sawing and flipping the cant. It’s a load it up and reduce course of (I do flip the log as soon as, typically).

Second, I hardly have a plan for a log once I reduce it. By dwell sawing a log, I’m left with inventory that’s (roughly) 1/Three quarter sawn, 1/Three rift sawn and 1/Three plain sawn. This implies that once I use the lumber down the street, I’ve totally different grain sample choices to select from. I eluded to the ultimate cause that I like this sample earlier—I discover it simpler to dry.

Making the cuts into the log is the place the entire onerous work (a minimum of, up till this level; there’s extra to come back!) pays off. The first reduce is to take away the highest cap of bark (referred to as the slab) from the log. With this reduce, I often intention to get into the sapwood of the tree (just under the bark) and get a minimum of 6-8 of flat, clear wooden. If you’re live-sawing and going to re-stack the log, save the bark cap. If not, it may be discarded. On my Norwood, I’ve a scale I can zero out based mostly on this primary reduce. Then, I can decrease the top (utilizing the size as a gauge) to make the following reduce. Here once more is the place I hedge my bets. Without having a plan for the lumber, I all the time reduce 8/4 (2-thick) boards. That method, if a mission requires thinner inventory, I can all the time resaw the fabric. It’s straightforward to make it thinner. Not really easy to make it thicker. Just word that the thicker boards will probably be heavier—it’s all the time helpful to have an additional set of arms obtainable to assist unload boards off the mill.

18. For last air drying, put together an space with good airflow and arrange a stage base (I take advantage of cinder blocks).

As you’re making cuts and flitches are coming off (a flitch is a board with dwell edge on two sides, sorry, it’s not referred to as a “slab”), be certain that to concentrate on how the log and the noticed are dealing with. A pointy blade must be virtually easy to push by a reduce. If you’re getting extra vibration, wavy cuts, or the engine is bogging down, then the chances are it’s time to place a brand new blade on.

In addition, take note of how the flitch or board is performing because it’s being reduce. Often, stresses within the tree will reveal themselves at this level. The board or flitch will begin curling up, and even left or proper. This is the stress being launched from the log. After noting a stress indicator like this, the perfect wager is to rotate the log and attempt to preserve the pith as centered as potential within the materials that’s left. This will assist “ease” the strain out of the log and distribute it throughout the boards.

As you make cuts down in the direction of the pith, I prefer to cease simply shy of that “middle” reduce. Then, I’ll flip the log 180° so the flat aspect is going through down (decrease the toe board) and end out the cuts. If you’ve achieved the whole lot accurately, and leveled the log, you’ll find yourself with one last board on the sawmill mattress that has the pith down the middle of it. The pith of the tree will all the time crack, so you possibly can both let it crack, or noticed it out. The materials on either side of the pith will probably be completely quarter sawn and make nice leg blanks.

Now We Wait

19. Make certain stickers are positioned in line every above the earlier layer, and ensure they’re the identical thickness.

Congratulations. You simply milled your first log. Now you could have the duty of not screwing it up. And I do know that looks as if an odd assertion, as a result of the onerous half is over, proper? Not fairly. There have been 1000’s of board toes of gorgeous lumber which were flat out ruined by improper drying.

Before I get into what I do to dry my lumber, let’s lay out some details. Fresh reduce lumber, even when it’s in a tree that was felled a 12 months in the past, will probably be moist. If it’s stacked with out airflow, it would mould. And lastly, totally different species of wooden dry in another way. Do your analysis on the species you’re reducing.

20. When stacking the boards, I’ll reassemble the log in the identical order it got here off the mill, into log kind.

The three keys to drying lumber efficiently are: good airflow, a stage base, and safety from the weather. Let’s begin from the bottom up.

When you’ve completed reducing your lumber, you want someplace to stack it. Imagine drying lumber as a low-temperature model of steam bending. The lumber will dry to the form of what it’s stacked on. That means it’s finest to have a flat and stage base. As you possibly can see within the images beneath, I prefer to construct a very good basis with cinder blocks. Then, I can run a stage or an extension ladder throughout the blocks to confirm they’re flat and coplanar. Some blocks will want shimmed or dug out to maintain the whole lot stage.

Next up is airflow. This is the simplest one in my view. The key right here is to stack the lumber the place it would obtain a very good breeze, and ideally be out of the solar. Good airflow truly begins on the mill. As I’m eradicating flitches off the mill, I scrape or brush off all extra sawdust that may maintain moisture. Then, once I go to stack them on the cinder blocks, I’ll be certain that that there’s a kiln-dried sticker (a 1×1 spacer) between every layer, immediately over the cinder blocks. This permits air to move by the stack. Some sawyers will noticed moist stickers from lumber as they’re milling. However, this has the potential to lure moisture between the moist sticker and the moist slab, inflicting mould stains. Best wager: use kiln dried wooden as stickers.

Finally, the third secret is to maintain the stack out of the weather (solar and rain). When dwell sawing a log and restacking it again into log kind, the bark that was left on the log (and bark cap) develop into the rain safety. This might be seen right here and known as the “European drying” methodology. The form of the log will shed water naturally. When sawing edged lumber, nonetheless, it’s finest to cowl the stack with a tarp, a sheet of plywood, or some corrugated metallic.

21. During drying, I band the bundles and label the boards with tags that listing the species and when it was milled. The story behind a log can typically be a strong promoting level.

As a aspect word, I do two different issues to my stacks of lumber as they’re drying. First, is I take advantage of a pallet bander to strap all the log, or stack of lumber, collectively. Not solely does this make it simpler to maneuver it with my tractor, nevertheless it additionally helps add some strain to carry the lumber flat. I additionally nail on (utilizing aluminum nails to keep away from iron stains) a small plastic tag with an ID quantity on the tip of every flitch. Then, I stock every of these numbers in a ramification sheet, so I do know the dimensions of every piece, together with the place the tree grew and once I harvested it. I’ve discovered many consumers love listening to the story and historical past of the tree and the way it got here to be in my, and in the end their, arms.

Are you prepared for the toughest half? You wait. Depending on the species of tree, you’ll wait some time. The rule of thumb is about 1 12 months per inch of thickness. However, after about 12-16 months of air drying, I’ll begin pulling these flitches into the basement to complete drying. Usually, in Iowa, we are able to depend on about 13% moisture content material for air dried inventory. You may get decrease if you happen to go right into a kiln, however personally, I’ll virtually all the time go for a air-dried inventory over kiln dried. It works higher by hand (in my view), and I’ve by no means bumped into an occasion the place (accurately) air dried inventory has brought about any points.

22. For edged lumber, I’ll stack winder bundles and ensure the bottom has loads of help to keep away from warping.

With all of this being mentioned, milling your individual lumber isn’t for everybody. It takes a bit of labor and a few area. If you’re severely contemplating a mill, you’ll additionally need a wholesome serving of “bring it on” perspective. However, I feel you’ll rapidly notice that there’s the chance to make somewhat more money, and most of the people ask themselves why they didn’t get one sooner. Plus, while you pull that first piece of lumber off the mill and acknowledge the infinite potentialities… effectively, that’s what we name “saw dust in the blood”. And upon getting sawdust in your blood, I don’t assume you’ll ever look again. 

Logan Wittmer is Woodsmith’s assistant editor and an aspiring sawyer.

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