LumberJocks Woodworking Forum banner

What would you do with trees at sawmill?

4122 Views 12 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Halfbubblepastplumb
I'm fairly new to woodworking and know little about timber cutting and sawmill operations. Hoping that some more experienced lumberjocks can offer quick advice and ideas:

An electric utility company recently bought one of my close relative's land to be strip-mined for lignite coal. He brought in loggers from a local timber company to harvest any commercially viable trees but told me I can pick some trees for myself and instruct the sawmill what I want them to do with the wood. But I have to do this very fast, or it will be too late.

I mostly want to get a nice stash of hardwood lumber for building furniture, but also interested in larger timbers/lumber that I can use to build a cabin and outbuilding/shop on my adjacent property.

The area where timber is available has a few nice pines and some large red cedars (25+" diameter) but mostly mixed hardwoods-Oak, Hickory, Sweetgum. I haven't ID'd the oaks yet but probably most are Post Oak and some variety of red oaks. I'm going to the property ASAP to look for specific trees … don't know if I can find any true White Oak trees or Southern Red Oak, as these seem rare in the area. I think I spotted one big 70-80' Laurel Oak.

My first thought was to pick 1 nice red oak for conventional saw and 1 white oak or post oak to be quarter sawn, and then as many big cedars as I can and asking the sawmill to cut as many posts/beams as possible, with remainder cut for smaller boards or pieces that can be finished as shakes/shingles. I don't know if it's a good idea to use cedar for timber framing or for structural posts and beams-I'm sure they would need to be thicker or shorter spans than oak, but trees seem big enough to accommodate. I also thought I could probably resaw for siding and furniture if I decided not to use for frame construction.

I would appreciate any ideas. What would you do? Any guidance on how to work with a sawmill and get the most out of trees?
See less See more
1 - 13 of 13 Posts
leave the post oaks alone. Hickory is ok, very hard and no color. get as much red oak and white oak as possible. Sweetgum is also interesting, if you can get it to dry without twisting too much. Sweetgum is also know as redgum. It comes in all colors from brown to pink to red to green. the best way to describe it is walnut on acid. Alot figure and interest, the drawback is it like to twist cup and warp while drying. It's beautiful but finicky. If you can find any cherry, definately get it. Oak, hickory, ash, and poplar wholesale for between $2-$4 a board foot. Cherry is $5+.
The pine is typically good for dimensional cuts…2×4, 2×6…or custom depending on whether you will want larger timbers for ceiling, etc. Cedar is similar (but can have a bit more resistence to bugs and weathering)...although the heartwood, being redder, harder and aromatic…is very good for paneling or siding applications….shingles and dimensional (posts, etc.) from the outer rings of the tree would be ok…but have them use heartwood for something better. You have the right idea for the hardwoods… might want to instruct them now on a default thickness….i.e 4/4 6/4 8/4….Remember though that these woods will need to season or to be kiln dried….depending. Your weather zone will affect which drying method you will need to consider.
Thanks, guys …

Since I don't know how much control I'll have over drying process, maybe Hickory would be more predictable than Sweetgum? (I guess I can get both.)

For posts and timbers, I was thinking of 10"x10" sawmill cuts. Maybe 6/4 would be okay for default thickness to accommodate some shrinkage and planing to get to 3/4-1" final. But not sure about widths … maybe 10-12" ... I don't want to give instructions that result in a lot of unnecessary waste.

I haven't figured out yet how I'll dry the wood after it's cut. Need to find out if kiln drying is available and practical; otherwise, I might use some green wood to build an open cover on my property and let my "prime" wood air-dry.
The sawmill would know about kilns, if they don't have one. Kiln drying will get you the wood faster and isn't particulary expensive.

AND talk to the sawmill. They know what they're doing. Ask their advise about how to get the mostest and bestest out of your trees. It's their job.
Sweetgum is a booger to dry, since you asked. Your best advice is going to come from your local sawyer on all the questions you have raised here. I just say grab as many logs as you can and seal the ends and get them up off the ground. If you are running out of room pick the other species over the sweetgum. You don't have to kiln dry the cedar BTW.
I think its a great idea to ask questions here….that way you will know the type of questions to ask the local sawyer….typically though, a good sawyer should be ready to feed you the information you need just by giving them an idea of the area and the types of wood or purposes of the wood that you are interested in…..Still, I think everyone should take an interest in whats going on so that they are making the wisest and best informed decision they can…that way everyone gets what they expect..
I wouldn't try messing with the sweetgum because it moves to much, and the prettier red gum part is the smallish heartwood. I would have all the oak you pick quartersawn since plainsawn is easy to find and QS is expensive and harder to find, especially white oak. It will dry straighter also, oak likes to move around when drying. The cedar will dry quickly without a kiln, but any big timbers will take a while and will form cracks. Keep that in mind if you think you will resaw. I would saw a good chunk of that cedar 4/4 and 5/4 for inside use, too. Look around for any large oddball species trees. You may find out you have some nice wood that can't be found in stores.
If the cedar are as large as you stated I am sure that there will be some very nice lumber in them. It would be a shame to use them for beams or such. It sure would make some very nice furinture pieces, blanket chest or keepsake boxes. Good large boards of good cedar is kind of hard to get, at least around my part of the country.
Just a thought.
For 3/4-1" finished thickness 6/4 sounds like overkill on starting thickness. On real wide pieces that you plan on using as real wide pieces it may be necessary to have this extra thickness to remove any cupping that happens during the drying process. Like Daren said, the guy doing your cutting will be the most helpful with all this. Good luck with your venture, and enjoy the journey!
Thanks to everyone … I appreciate all the good ideas!
Stanley, you make a good point about using cedar for lumber. Maybe I'll focus on cutting boards for furniture first and cut posts and beams as quantity permits.

As for size, I was in a hurry to scout for White Oaks (and wishing for a stray Black Walnut), so I only took time to measure a few of the large cedars … Circumference of those trees ranged from 82" to 100" at about 4 feet. Most of the big trunks split into 2-3 lesser, but still substantial, trunks at heights of around 8' to 12'. I'm not good at estimating height but these are old cedars are widespread and most looked to be 40-50' tall.
Trees at the sawmill are like lottery tickets. You dream, you wish. Then, you have a stack of lumber that takes up a whole lot of room in your garage, and you WISH you could get around to stickering the whole thing, since you just heaved in there to begin with. Eventually, the pile becomes sort of like a favorite old relative at the dinner party. You move 'er around a little from time to time, spend a minute or two a year talking to 'er, and explaining, in a quiet moment, your hopes for the future. But, like the old person, the pile of sticks doesn't have much of a future unless you commit yourself to spending some time.
In reality, I'm seething with envy at the list of logs and types. I have a stack of maple and ash, and I love NOT going to the store every time I need a stick. So much good advice above, I have little to add. Good luck with your projects.
See less See more
1 - 13 of 13 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.