Welcome to my backyard, and what may possibly be the last time using the sawmill on this property. If you don’t know, we moved last fall. We have been trying to move everything out of the house to get it ready to sell. I have been putting off moving the sawmill and all of the lumber until spring. I have a few logs still left from last fall, and I would prefer to move them as slabs and lumber and not as logs.
This is what’s left of the pile. I have some offcuts and small stuff.
And I have these two bigger red oak logs. I did a video about going out and salvaging that tree, which produced these two base logs here, and all of the smaller stuff.
This is a really, really nice looking, clearer section of the trunk, which I would like to do a quarter saw demonstration video about. So I’m not gonna cut that today for sure, but I want to get the main base chunk up on the sawmill and we can get it cut up. The smaller stuff I’m not as worried about cutting right away, but if I can get a few of those cut before moving, I’m all for it!
I’m gonna grab the skid-steer and start digging this stuff out.
All right, let’s see if we can break it free with something with a little more mass. This butt end was hung up in the dirt.
It’s about a week later, and I’ve traded the snow for a lot of mud and some ice. It’s crazy how fast the weather changes around here in the spring. So we’re going to get slicing up on this guy and we’ll see where that kind of leads us. So let’s take a look at this guy and see what we are dealing with.
Down on this end, we have the flare from the buttress root, but once you get past that, it’s fairly straight all the way through the trunk of the tree.
One fun thing on this log are these two tags. This tree was treated for oak wilt, I believe. These are the tags from the arborist letting you know when it was treated last. It’s kind of worn down, so I don’t see any information on there. We’ll pull those out and have a little memento from this log. These are aluminum, so it’s not a big deal if they happen to get cut through.
I want to spend a little bit of time chatting about this. You can see the pith is way over to the left in the picture above. This tree grew with a lean to it, so the material to the right of the pith would have been the downhill side, or the bottom of the lean, supporting all the weight. With hardwoods, you’re going to see compression when that occurs. The tree is going to grow with more material on the downhill side to strengthen and bolster that side, which is going to offset the pith to one side and create stress in the log. This is more common with limbs.
If you’re going to be cutting limb wood, the effect of this stress is something to consider. If you were to cut parallel to the compressed or “downhill” area, that will separate the two halves that are pulling against each other. You’re going to end up with a board that’s going to bow, because as the tree was growing, that part of the limb was trying to pull back together with the compressed area. So if you have to cut slabs from limb wood or trees that grew on an angle, cut perpendicular to the compressed area in order to preserve the stress in the tree by maintaining the compression and tension side in balance. That should help the board to dry flatter. Logs and limbs like this are generally not desirable for lumber because they don’t really stay flat because they have so much stress in them. If you can keep the balance of stress in there, however, it can help.
In terms of cutting this log, it will have some stress, but it’s okay. It’s just one of those things where you have to go in with realistic expectations. This log may produce slabs and lumber that does not want to stay flat, but it could be totally fine. As long as you keep in mind that it may not work out or might be destined for small stuff, it’s okay. I’ll just keep that in mind as I start cutting it.
That was a smooth first cut of the year. The last time I used the saw was in November, and now it’s March. Didn’t have to do anything besides walk outside, take the tarps off, and get to work. First slab as a cool bark inclusion, and I can see that the rot doesn’t go very far, which is a good thing.
As you probably already noticed, I don’t have all my stuff here today, including my PPE and tape measure. I’m going to use the lumber scale today and hopefully pay enough attention as the saw is moving to utilize it, because I have to remember the last position in order to move to the next position.
I’m going to pull the top slab off and make probably one more cut. And then we might repeat that again. The last cut is five inches off the bed, and it’s going to be the last cut for this log.
For efficiency’s sake, we’re going to look at two slabs at a time. Every time I cut red oak, I think that red oak doesn’t get the credit it deserves. So, the actual punky rot area in this log ends about a foot up the slab, and then there’s a little bit of rot staining, so it’s in the early stages of rot. This just changes the color of the wood; it doesn’t change the actual structure of the wood.
The grain is getting a little better as we get further into the log. We’re going to get into some quarter sawn material, so it’s very straight. Check out the nice straight grain area on the slab on the left. You can see how the pith in this tree is offset, because the center of the tree is shifted to the right, resulting in more material to the left of the pith compared to the right side. You can also see how much tighter the grain is on the right side compared to the left side.
The bottom slab is 38 inches across, but there is quite the flare at the bottom. In the main area of the slab, it measures at 31.5 inches between the bark, fairly consistent the whole way down. A pretty big piece of wood.
Next two slabs. There is some ray fleck here as we get into the truly quarter sawn slabs. The sawdust is a little frozen on the slabs right now, but you can still see more of that very straight grain pattern. You can see the pith running through here all the way down the slab.
We got some nice ray fleck here on this slab, with the medullary rays coming across, giving us some nice quarter sawn ray fleck.
On the next two slabs, we are getting away from the quarter sawn ray fleck into a more straight grain rift sawn. There are also some interesting cathedral grain patterns, with a nice variety of red-hued colors.
Last slab! That is pretty. Like I said, red oak is still good . I think it’s been given a bad rep by all the terrible staining jobs over the years. You don’t have to stain wood. This slab has a lot of nice color and some swirly grain. So that’s all the slabs for this log!
I have some pecan slabs which need to get out of here, so I’m going to throw those on the stack, and I can bundle these and take this all as one unit when it’s time to move.
Next up for the sawmill, I’ve got this piece of a workbench kit which I need to resaw. I’m a little short on front laminates for split top roubo benches with the Benchcrafted Tail Vise style installation type of thing. So I need those two pieces of A quarter, which will go on the front of the bench, for another kit. I’m gonna resaw those off that block. I’m short on base material anyway, so I’ll probably get two front laminates and a piece of base material out of this piece.
Next I have these two smaller logs up here. My neighbor wants a couple of 8×8 for a mantle, which I think we can pull from these logs.
This log has a pretty drastic bend, and it’s 10 feet long, which is longer than we actually need for this. So I’m going to give this a quick chop.
I’m going to try to create a boxed heart beam. Essentially, the pith is going to be in the middle of the eight by eight, and I am going to square it up all the way around. The advantage of doing this is it maintains a natural stress environment of the log, meaning that the beam should stay straighter in the long run. It’s obviously going to crack, which is fine, but keeping it nice and straight as it dries is ideal. These mantles tend to get installed before the wood is completely dried, with the idea that it can dry over the years as it’s hanging up there. To dry an eight by eight in red oak would probably take six years.
To create the boxed heart beam, I’m going to four side it, and then we’ll have some off-cut pieces that we could probably throw in a pile and cut some boards out of later. In the picture above, this has been leveled up. I got a block under here, and that wedge takes this face to square. So this is good to make the second cut now. I’ll just measure off the bed to get the height of the pith, and then add four inches to that, and make the cut.
Now this log was a limb, so you can see how much stress came out of this as we cut through it. It’s bowed about a half inch here in the middle. Not a huge deal, because we boxed that heart, but just kind of cool to see that.
To help clean things up a little bit, I’m going to make some four quarter with these off cuts. I’ll do three slices, so three boards, and whatever we get out of them, we get out of them.
Another beautiful afternoon! I have these little wedges from the workbench kit. I’m going to cut these into a couple of pieces of eight quarter real quick. Then I have two logs which I will slab out really quickly. So this is literally it, this is the last day doing sawmill stuff.
For these logs, I’m going to do nine quarter, because that’s what my lumber scale can do. I’m going to saw a flat on each log, roll them over, and then basically slice them right down to the bed, following the lumber scale all the way down.
Okay, here we go: This is going to be the very last cut this saw ever makes on this property. It’s kind of weird to be saying that. This saw hasn’t moved in four and a half years. I started building this sawmill right here, and it hasn’t moved, in the summer of 2016. There have been a lot of fun adventures along the way, and it’s been an absolute blast. The memories of everything I did here in this little tiny area will stay with me for the rest of my life.
The next step is to start moving things, so reinforcements are coming soon! We’re going to get the sawmill and the entire log yard out of here and off to the new property. Any questions or comments on the sawmill, anything about this place, or anything at the new place, please feel free to leave me a comment. As always, I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have. And until next time, happy woodworking.