Milling a black walnut tree! Advise wanted

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Firewood20 posted 01-20-2011 04:21 AM 16979 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have recently come accross a black walnut tree that will be dropped in the next couple weeks. It is 19” diameter and 30ft tall. I have a big enough chainsaw and chainsaw mill jig attachment but this is the first time ever attempting milling “green” wood. Anyone have any thoughts or ideas of what to do with it after I have it cut down to rough cut lengths and thicknesses? Also what about drying it out if it needs it? or ? Will it affect any future projects ie: cabinetry, shelfing, frames, boxes, cutting block/butcher block?

-- Dustin, Central Coast California

8 comments so far

View rustfever's profile


801 posts in 4595 days

#1 posted 01-20-2011 04:54 AM

Remember, a walnut tree will have about 3” sap wood [x 2 = 6”] and will leave you wil abour 12” of black. That will end with only about 9” or 10” of black walnut core, after slab removal. Take out the pith and that will not leave much with which you will be able to work with.

However, all that being said…..............GO FER IT! It will take a year or two to be able to use as air drying takes time.

-- Rustfever, Central California

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 4522 days

#2 posted 01-20-2011 02:56 PM

The unique look of a mixture of light and dark wood will be ok for some projects. I’d live saw it into 4/4 boards with most of them showing the live edge and the sapwood, then cutting out the pith from the center (quartersawn) boards. You’ll have several good looking planks that will make good looking benches. Do you have a ripping chain for your chainsaw? I’d suggest looking in your area for a portable sawmill operator. The price around here is .25/bft plus a new saw blade for any metal hit. Lots of metal in yard trees, or any tree near a yard.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View sw_iowa_sawyer's profile


39 posts in 4662 days

#3 posted 01-20-2011 07:49 PM

Well I was gonna just pass this by but….

Roughly without seeing the tree in question Here is how it works more or less
Diameter of the log/logs measured at the small end inside the bark.
So a 19” diameter log 10’ long will run 141 bdft doyle
Sapwood varies but 3” on that size tree seems high, as well as sapwood is not considered a defect in walnut.
So let just say you have 3 logs 10’ long and straight as an arrow and 19” small end
that is roughly 141 bdft X 3 or roughly 420 bdft. The log board foot estimates already figure in the pith so that isn’t a factor. Crooked logs, crotches, big branches will effect that figure of course.
Air drying walnut is probably the easiest wood to dry (except for maybe red cedar) that time will vary depending on location, time of year, air flow thru the pile… You can figure how to do that if you don’t know by doing an internet search on that subject.
4/4 walnut in the midwest in the spring/summer 6 months max and it is as dry as it is going to get outside
You can seal the ends with anchorseal if you want. If you don’t it will check some on both ends but I have had it check using anchorseal.
Now this is using the rough estimate and cutting it on a mill. Using a chainsaw and slabbing your mileage may vary, but seems very doable and you will end up with wood you cut yourself. You can cut it any size you want that is the cool part about cutting your own lumber You are the BOSS!!!!
my .02 cents worth

View oluf's profile


260 posts in 4324 days

#4 posted 01-21-2011 04:36 AM

In my opinion you would be ill-advised to mill a valuable tree like that with a chainsaw mill. You will lose too much of the lumber as sawdust due to the wide kerfs of the chain. A thin surf band saw will pay for the cost of having it done by a professional sawyer. Your boards will be at a more uniform thickness and not require wasteful paining later on. Chainsaw mills are OK for lower valued lumber and rough framing applications. Look for a good saw mill. They can also cut you some good even thickness sticker boards to use for drying your lumber. By all means, get it cut as soon after it is cut down as you can.

-- Nils, So. Central MI. Wood is honest.Take the effort to understand what it has to tell you before you try to change it.

View Firewood20's profile


43 posts in 3973 days

#5 posted 01-21-2011 11:18 PM

Thanks so much for all of your advise. I have done my research in my local area and found that I can have this tree milled with a band saw for fairly cheap. The find… was not easy, as I am on the central coast of California and there isn’t many places. Now the only thing to do is to decide on the thicknesses. Any advise on milling it down to dimensional lumber? I am thinking of making a bed frame out of it if there is enough usable wood, but still not sure quite yet… It could be a fire place matel or bar top. But if I have it milled down does anyone know of how much it will shrink if I air dry it properly?


-- Dustin, Central Coast California

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12438 posts in 4714 days

#6 posted 01-22-2011 12:19 AM

Have it slabbed to 1”. You won’t lose much in drying.
The Mantle will have to be a box affair. Don’t think you have enough to slab it at 2” for a slab mantle. The bar top is doable if you use a core of plywood with walnut veneer, but, considering size of likely stock, a whole lot of work. I think the bed frame is your best use.
I’d use it for boxes, but then, I have a bed. :-)

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Firewood20's profile


43 posts in 3973 days

#7 posted 02-07-2011 05:59 AM

Good news… just finished having the tree cut down to 1” slabs, pretty amazing looking grain that between the actual dark black walnut pith and the sap wood that surrounded it. Don’t know how many BFT I got out of it but it was decent enough for the 20” inside bark diameter trunks that were cut down to 9ft, 7ft, and a smaller 5ft. The bigger branches don’t have much going on with the inside dark center but think I could get a few 1×2 or 1×4’s out of them, even if it is only sap wood. Now comes the wait of air drying them… I have them stickered and covered and weighted down.

-- Dustin, Central Coast California

View Gio's profile


29 posts in 4457 days

#8 posted 12-27-2011 12:12 AM

Well its been almost a year how has your walnut finished?

-- Gio,

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics