When lumber is cut from logs, it is typically cut in one of three ways: quarter sawn, rift sawn or plain sawn. Watching customers thrill over seeing their logs milled into lumber brings back memories of my own excitement the first time I experienced it. Because of the different angles of filing for milling, you must ask yourself what kind of lumber do you want coming out of your sawmill. This prevents the log from rocking with each stroke of the up and down saw motion. This may take awhile, depending on how wide and thick your board is. If I have several fatty boards to cut, then I wear a glove on my sawing hand to prevent a blister. Too much in fact that I have a whole wall in the garage with wood stickered that I slabbed with my chainsaw.
They take too long to clamp down, and you just don’t get much lumber out of them. In order to minimize the risk of checking, it is best practice to coat lumber ends within minutes—not hours or days—after coming off the saw. The optimum configuration would be to have a chainsaw mill the same length as your chain saw bar. On the green chain outside the sawmill, lumber is pulled and sorted into stacks by grade and dimension. I don’t have enough wood to quarter saw it, I was planning to saw through and through.
That old D-8, a few inexpensive tools, and some patience turned a reasonably decent saw into something I call wicked sharp.” For example, when using this blade for normal ripping of 4 quarters cedar, a gentle nudge and the weight of the saw cuts about an inch per stroke. But right now, the whole idea is to dry this lumber without cracking, warping or splitting. Once you’re familiar with Will Malloff’s method of chainsaw lumbermaking, you’ll be simply and economically turning trees into lumber on your own!
But the same author cites reports of circular saw blades in use in Holland in the 1500’s. The mill could provide me with income and building materials even if I didn’t have any timber of my own. I am 60 years old, and no athlete, but, if I am patient, and keep the blade lubed to cut down on the sap binding, I can cut a 6-inch log through in less than a minute. The problem with a traditional rip handsaw (I think) is that the saw blade is tapered, so the back of your saw will get stuck in the kerf. Push sticks and shoes are the only safe way to guide a thin board past the spinning saw blade. But hand sawn kerf marks will be irreglular in the curvature and will not be neatly parallel to one another.
I air dry one inch oak, walnut, cherry, ash and eastern white pine boards outside for one year and then store them stickered in the rafters of my heated shop.While labor intensive, milling my own lumber gives me a much closer relationship to my materials and is part of my sustainable business model. Or if it’s cold enough the dust slides right past the gullet and down the body of the blade, baking on the sides of the saw and increasing the thickness of the blade. This is very bad for lumber because it wastes a couple of feet of the best wood in the tree!
When marking a board, extend the line across the stock, drop the blade to the wood to check your alignment, and adjust the board as needed before starting the saw. You will see that the saw kerf marks are all rounded or curved, and parallel to one another. Another important tip is to look at the power rating, in terms of torque, of the saw mill. I didn’t seal the ends of my lumber but I will definitely weigh the lumber down. Always follow the saw manufacturer’s instructions for use, maintenance and safety.
Most rough-cut lumber pieces are dried and then finished, or surfaced, by running them through a planer to smooth all four sides. Milling one’s own lumber really starts to pay dividends when the species is unusual for the locale (for example, a healthy American chestnut in Manhattan) or the cut is something other than plain sawn (a white oak log that can be cut to deliver mostly quartersawn boards). For smooth lumber at a decent rate of speed, you must use full house chain and modify the chain as I mentioned previously, you will be pleasantly surprised at how smooth the lumber comes of the mill.
For cabinet work, I saw up boards to a thickness of about an inch and an eighth to an inch and a quarter, as this does rails, stiles and cabinet sides after planing The other size which is really handy is 2 1/4″ square, as this is great for legs. The history of circular saws and thus our ability to date lumber from circular saw cut marks is an open argument among experts. Boards milled with a chainsaw lumber-maker are smooth and do not need to be planed. Lumber that was cut on smaller -diameter saw blades will, of course, show saw marks whose rounded radius is smaller as well. One might think that resawing a 10 inch wide board requires constantly sawing a 10 inch wide surface, just as a band saw does.
This is confusing and strange but everything I look up appears to agree, which is strange, a board considered ‘rift’ would never come out of a rift cut log. Below, in rough chronological order, we illustrate different types of saw and tool cut marks in wood: adze cuts, hand sawn pit saw marks, mechanically-operated pit saw marks, circular saw marks, and unmarked, planed modern dimensional lumber. If I have more logs than I can mill in a few weeks or so, I store them in my ponds.
Keep in mind that lumber is often pre-milled and then dried, so the board that started out 4/4 inches thick will be closer to 3/4” to 7/8”. Modern dimensional lumber in North America was cut at speeds and using equipment that no longer left vertical or rounded saw kerf marks on the wood. You’re going to stand the board on edge and push it against a 10″ section of the band saw’s blade, and that’s a lot of wood to cut through at once; a lot of tension, friction, and heat. For more detailed information, use Google and search for hardwood (or softwood) lumber grading rules.
One thing I think should be mentioned is that when using a bandsaw to resaw very thin planks or veneers, you are better off if you take your cut from the outside of the board (ie with the majority of the plank between the fence and the blade). After each pass, I lower the saw blade anywhere from an inch and a quarter to an inch and a half depending on how thick I want the boards. We include a table of modern dimensional lumber nominal and actual sizes for kiln dried and treated wood. And a wandering blade means the saw hogs off more wood leaves you with an even rougher surface.
The edgerman must have excellent lumber grading skills and a good understanding of the relative value of each lumber grade and dimension so he can consistently make the choices necessary to minimize waste and recover the maximum value from the flitches and cants. When I flatten and plane batches of 8/4 lumber milled at 2-1/8″ thick it isn’t uncommon for half of the lumber to finish at 1-5/8″ thick instead of 1-3/4″.
I know lumber quality seems to be lower these days, so I was hoping to mitigate that through some prevention, if possible. The calculator to the right will give you a very rough idea of how much lumber you can expect, considering the limitations I mentioned from a log. Our photo (left) illustrates a wood member cut on a machine-operated mechanical pit saw.