Milling Cherry

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Blog entry by James Lango posted 09-22-2008 07:33 AM 3539 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Does anyone know what is the MAX width of certain hardwoods? The most accomodating to resist warp and cup? An old guy once told me that he was able to mill Elm 14” wide boards because Elm is very stable and resists warp/cup. Should you stick around the 4-6” range for Cherry? Or can you go wider?
Different woods have certain characteristics and someone out there knows.. Any advice? thanks

-- [email protected]

8 comments so far

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4625 days

#1 posted 09-22-2008 07:36 AM

I think it also has something to do with how you mill it, flitch versus quarter sawn etc. . . Although the species is likely relevant as well.

I’m not a sawyer but I did stay at a holiday inn once.

-- Scott - Chico California

View cmaeda's profile


205 posts in 4364 days

#2 posted 09-22-2008 08:09 AM

Yes, how you mill it makes a huge difference in stability. Quarter sawn is the most stable, then rift sawn and then flat sawn. Because of the way its’ milled quarter sawn and rift sawn boards have a maximum width of less than half the diameter of the tree. Flat sawn boards can theoretically go up to almost the full diameter of the tree.

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4816 days

#3 posted 09-22-2008 09:03 AM

Theres always been ways to combat cupping. Like old table tops and doors with ridiculously wide boards that incorporated a batten system. Some stay trouble free for hundreds of years. So there really is no limit depending on application and ability to counteract. Which reminds me of a 30” wide jointer i saw once in a guys shop in New Orleans.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 4716 days

#4 posted 09-22-2008 01:31 PM

The wider the better IMO. Cupping while drying would be your only problem, should you have one. Worst case instead of that 20” board you milled you have 2- 10”s after you rip the board. Some species (like cherry since you asked) in larger logs will lay flat, smaller logs even narrow boards will want to cup. So mill them thicker and plan on planing the cup out.
I can mill 24” wide…do it every chance I get. 12”-18” is a common width for me.
Some species just move more than others (sweet gum, persimmon…) others lay flat for you like walnut. Like I said size of the tree too, even the way it grew a “leaner” will have more stress that a good straight up tree.
And was mentioned 1/4 sawing is more stable, but no guarantee by any means.

So to answer, it depends. I know that was not at all a definitive answer…but there is not one.

View Moron's profile


5048 posts in 4704 days

#5 posted 09-22-2008 02:31 PM

“flitch versus quarter sawn”..........not quite correct. “Flitch” is a word used on veneer being that each piece comes from the same log and is generally bookmatched and sequenced. There are three ways to saw a log, actually four. Flat sawn, rift sawn and quarter sawn. the rift and quarter sawn yields the least warpage and shrinkage (as a rule) and in cherry most often yields the best figure having ribbon etc.

I much prefer my boards as wide as possible because you can always rip them again but you cant make them bigger once sawn smaller.

Stack, sticker and clamp….......and then walk away for a few years because as a rule air dried lumber needs one year plus a year for every inch of thickness to dry.

Just an observation. Old tables with wide boards are “old growth” timber which is quite a bit different in its characteristics then “new growth” timber. Grain lines are so tight they are difficult to count, they are also flater ) pending where in the log it comes from)...............I digress but suffice to say that a board taken from an 18” dia log is quite dofferent then one taken from a 4’ diameter log.

Regardless, cherry doesnt get that old, the odd tree might be 100 years old but those are often hollow and rotten in the middle. Most cherry trees are cut at around 25 to 50 years old. .......mill them as wide as possible and remember that the pith is useless so when some boards are wide and look pretty when freshly sawn…..a year later the center is pulpy…..the pith. Also the sap wood, IMHO is white and I personally dont care for the colour. This is just one of many reasons the wood is prized beyond its beauty.


-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Steve's profile


7 posts in 4463 days

#6 posted 09-22-2008 03:18 PM

Roman is right. Anytime you can use rift/qtr-sawn material, you’ll have less stability problems. However, since rift and quarter sawing lumber is less efficient for sawmills, the per BF cost is higher than plain-sawn stock. When you consider the aggravation caused by warping and cupping, it’s usually well worth the premium.


View James Lango's profile

James Lango

186 posts in 4344 days

#7 posted 09-22-2008 04:26 PM

Thanks guys!! All the advice is appreciated. Usually I’m flat sawing because it’s the easiest for me.
Darren I’m going to check out those site you listed, thanks alot..

-- [email protected]

View bannerpond1's profile


397 posts in 2709 days

#8 posted 12-17-2013 08:35 PM

James, I cut a lot of timber from my place and beg or barter fallen trees to take to my nearby sawyer. I have everything quartersawn. If you flat saw your logs, not only do you get the boring cathedral grain patterns, but you’re going to lose a certain amount due to wood movement. Whatever I lose in quarter sawing is more than made up for with the gorgeous, stable wood.

Included is the plan I use for QS. I have taught it to two sawyers and never had a problem. In addition to all the QS boards, I get four 3×3’s (dimension depends on the log diameter) which are rift sawn. They make great table legs and can be used for face frames if you don’t use them fast enough.

Cut three boards out of the log first, the middle one of which straddles the pith. You will rip out the pith and have two perfectly QS boards. Put the three boards aside. You are done with them.

Now take the two “half moons” which were left from taking away the three inner boards. Place the half moons face to face and stand them up on the saw table. Cut three boards from their interiors, just like you did the full log. You will be left with four quarter-rounds. Two at a time, face to face, cut them into timbers.

With what is left, you can get some QS stock good for face frames. Save all the bark-edged waste for stickers when you stack the wood for drying. I have mine in a barn, out of the weather. Put some concrete blocks or other weight on top to discourage twisting or cupping. The rest makes good kindling or cutting boards.

I have had near perfect results with this method. Since I got QS cherry boards from my trees, I don’t flat saw cherry any more unless it’s a small log. BTW, QS sycamore looks great, a lot like lacewood.

Good luck.

-- --Dale Page

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