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I'm in the throws of purchasing a 7.5 acre lot. It is heavily wooded. Some time in the past couple of years a strong wind came through and knocked over several tall trees…which knocked over their neighbors.

So if the purchase goes through, I've got a rather large cleanup project ahead of me. Rather than think of it all as firewood, I'm thinking I would like to turn several of the larger, longer, straighter ones into beams. I know absolutely nothing about this process.

If it happens, I would not try to use the beams for the house I'm building, but rather just for large trellises and covered garden areas etc. I realize trying to get the County to allow me to actually build part of the house (the way nature intended) with these large logs would be an unrewarding traipse through red-tape hell.

So can somebody give me the newbie low-down on the process for readying a log for use as a rustic building material? Also, any recommended sites on the Web for an in depth explanation of the finer points of this process would be welcome.

thanks much!
 

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There are several ways to do what you want. You could learn to hand new, which is cool, old school and lots of exercise, you could haul the logs to a mill, you could find someone who has a portable mill, you could get yourself an Alaskan mill.

All reasonable options.

You didn't mention how big "big" was. That would make a difference.
 

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Be careful. Trees that are damaged in wind storms and that are standing or partially standing are "wind shaken." Meaning they'll have vertical splits up the trunk. If they're on the ground, no problem. If they are partially broken and leaning over, watch out. My buddy had a tornado light up on a 5 acre part of his timber. He was clearing some damaged trees and had a big ash tree leaning over, but standing. It was leaning at a 45 degrees and he started to cut through the tree and hit one of the vertical splits and half of a 80ft. tree shot back at him, almost killing him. He was knocked unconscious and layed there for half a day until his Dad went out looking for him. It shattered his elbow, arm and shoulder, with massive bruising on his left side.
 

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Your choices are basically to get someone to mill them square for you (or almost square if you want it to look a bit rustic); do it yourself with a chainsaw or Alaskan mill or hand hew them. The way to do it by hand is quite well explained in a classic US Forestry video, An Axe to grind. You use a regular ax to cut notches and then pop out the material in between the notches. I've never done it and I wouldn't try it with hardwood or trees that are no longer green.
Even if you don't do it, the US Forestry video is awesome, especially the old-timer who stars in it:
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
There is a wide variety of trees. It is a mix of evergreens and deciduous. The evergreens are a mix of cedar and some type of straight-ish pine. The deciduous are all over the map. I identified white oak and pin oak and hawthorne and poplar and sweet gum. Probably a bunch of others.

If a reasonably healthy guy had a skid steer with a grapple to move the trees around, is it possible for him to rent a small portable mill and run it by himself? I would limit the lengths to something relatively sane, like maybe 30 feet. I've never even seen one of those mills in person…just seen little short videos that only show the easy part. Does this operation require a crew, or can one guy do it on his own?

As for the hand-hewn approach, I think that is something I would rather watch somebody else do! ;)

As for having somebody else do the milling…I'm as nostalgic as the next guy and would of course like to be able to honestly say…"and all those beams came right out of the woods here…". That said, if such beams wind up costing twice as much just buying them from a mill…maybe I would just say "See those big old beams there? There were several downed trees in the woods here and, well…" then I would allow people to jump to the obvious conclusion, none the wiser that I had told the truth but not the whole truth. ;)
 

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a bandsaw mill can e run by yourself, here is a look at mine, https://timetestedtools.wordpress.com/my-saw-mill/

I've never seen anyone renting a mill, but that doesn't mean there are not any. You will find guys that will come to your place and mill your lumber. It will be much cheaper than going to the lumber yard.

An Alaskan mill is another option. http://lumberjocks.com/donwilwol/blog/23436

I'm not sure what this means" "I would limit the lengths to something relatively sane, like maybe 30 feet."

Typically you won't mill over 16'. You can, but a 8" x 8' x 30' oak is going to be heavy. There are calculators on the web. Look it up.

Take a look at this as well. http://lumberjocks.com/topics/43445

One more note, if you've never run a chainsaw before, it may be wise to have someone around for the first few days who has. Its a dangerous piece of equipment if you don't know how to use it.
 

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Check the cost of having them milled to what the cost of a portable mill will be and factor all the little things in like loading (via skid or hydraulic lifts or tractor), mistakes made learning to cut with the mill, and the big one, time.

I've been debating getting an Alaskan mill like Don had until I can afford a small mill but even then I'd still keep the Alaskan just because you can bring it anywhere and cut.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks much.
I don't think I have any downed trees that would produce a 30 foot long straight beam from hardwoods. I was thinking Pine for that max length.

Any hardwoods that I come up with I would want to make much smaller for furniture use rather than as beams.

Haven't done any real inventory yet…just wandering around and looking.

Thanks!

a bandsaw mill can e run by yourself, here is a look at mine, https://timetestedtools.wordpress.com/my-saw-mill/

I ve never seen anyone renting a mill, but that doesn t mean there are not any. You will find guys that will come to your place and mill your lumber. It will be much cheaper than going to the lumber yard.

An Alaskan mill is another option. http://lumberjocks.com/donwilwol/blog/23436

I m not sure what this means" "I would limit the lengths to something relatively sane, like maybe 30 feet."

Typically you won t mill over 16 . You can, but a 8" x 8 x 30 oak is going to be heavy. There are calculators on the web. Look it up.

Take a look at this as well. http://lumberjocks.com/topics/43445

One more note, if you ve never run a chainsaw before, it may be wise to have someone around for the first few days who has. Its a dangerous piece of equipment if you don t know how to use it.

- Don W
 

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Build a post-and-beam house, which will showcase all that pine and cedar. Maybe something like this.
If the trees fell a year or more ago, you better get cutting as soon as the land is yours. Pine (it seems) goes bad the fastest, if not cut and covered.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks Splatman-this actually brings up a good followup question. So many project competing for my time in the next few years…good chance this one would get to the "get the fallen trees out of the way" stage pretty quickly, but not to the "use them for something" stage for quite awhile.

With that in mind, just what does one need to do with maybe a few dozen logs to keep them viable?

Is the answer the same for hardwoods vs non?

Build a post-and-beam house, which will showcase all that pine and cedar. Maybe something like this.
If the trees fell a year or more ago, you better get cutting as soon as the land is yours. Pine (it seems) goes bad the fastest, if not cut and covered.

- splatman
 

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If you seal the ends and keep them off the ground they will last a while, depending on specie. Keeping them dry will help. Keep in mind however green timber mills a lot easier then dry.

Most logs could be kept in a pond if you have one, but research to see if this works for all types.

The type of tree would have an effect. For instance milling a 2 year old dry pine wouldn't be a problem. Milling a 2 year old dry locust would require some really sharp tools.
 

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What about oak and walnut? Appears on casual inspection that most of the furniture-worthy wood to be had there is of these two kinds. Just make "furniture length" logs out of them, seal the ends, and stack the logs with stringers between? Anything else needed to keep them viable for "a few years"?

BTW, seal the ends with what?

If you seal the ends and keep them off the ground they will last a while, depending on specie. Keeping them dry will help. Keep in mind however green timber mills a lot easier then dry.

Most logs could be kept in a pond if you have one, but research to see if this works for all types.

The type of tree would have an effect. For instance milling a 2 year old dry pine wouldn t be a problem. Milling a 2 year old dry locust would require some really sharp tools.

- Don W
 

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http://lumberjocks.com/topics/40840

I just use paint, but that's because I get it free, most of my logs are free, and I don't mind a little waste. If I was buying something I'd get the anchorseal. If I had walnut logs I'd probably get the anchor seal as well.

If the logs still have the bark, they won't need to be stickered.

These sat for a year and I didn't have any issues.

Another option may be to sell the logs if you don't think you can get to them. In some parts of the country walnut logs are quit valuable. I'd love to have some walnut logs sitting next to my mill!!
 

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Call a mill and ask them to come give you an estiment for cutting and moving the wood and ask if they can do the milling right there. Take the time to talk to the guy and see what opps you have. Get several estiments.. doesnt cost to just talk to the guys that really do this work. I am sure there are several in the area that would be willing to help..
 

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You should peel the logs off their bark. The best way to do this is to peel two strips on opposite sides and allow the trees to dry for a season or two. As the log shrink, the bark will come off easier. This does not apply to oak. Also, it is best to cut the trees in late fall when the sap has traveled into the root and debark them in early Spring. If you are going to cut them into furniture size (6') then consider stacking them vertically.
 
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