I have opportunity to take down a black walnut tree, but don't know what I'm doing.

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Forum topic by Dan Wolfgang posted 08-08-2016 12:27 AM 2278 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Dan Wolfgang

176 posts in 1724 days

08-08-2016 12:27 AM

Topic tags/keywords: walnut milling

My wife has a friend with two walnut trees in their yard that they want gone. We heat part of the house with wood, so my wife spoke up to say we’d take it. Great! Free firewood! We mostly burn (and cut and split) oak and some maple, so coming in to some walnut is sort of special. A year or more ago, I would have taken the wood to burn and not given any more thought to it. But, as a fairly new woodworker, I now wonder if I can do something better with it… Given my skill level, I see the price of walnut at the hardwood store and simply can’t justify it, and the cost of it also makes me feel like we’re throwing money away by simply using it as firewood. Hmm…

I’ve never tried—or even given thought to—processing a tree into lumber. For two trees I can’t imagine hiring a portable mill is remotely worthwhile. I don’t have a bandsaw right now, but was thinking about getting one this winter (yes, something large enough to use for resawing). I’m guessing the logs should be cut into lumber then allowed to dry? (As opposed to just leaving the logs then milling?) Or do the logs need to dry to x% before they are milled. I have no idea. Lots to learn, obviously.

What are your thoughts and direction, oh wise sages of Lumberjocks? Are there other pitfalls to be aware of? Would walnut be a particularly bad wood to try this with, or is there some disease that I need to be aware of, or anything like that?

16 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


9109 posts in 3067 days

#1 posted 08-08-2016 12:28 AM

How large are the trees? Walnut has a lot of sapwood in it, so if they aren’t at least 24” in diameter or so, it’s probably not worth the effort.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View Dan Wolfgang's profile

Dan Wolfgang

176 posts in 1724 days

#2 posted 08-08-2016 12:34 AM

I haven’t seen the trees yet, but it sounds like they are 14” and 18” diameter near the trunk.

View firefighterontheside's profile


21278 posts in 2773 days

#3 posted 08-08-2016 01:22 AM

It’s definitely worth it. I have had smaller walnut trees milled and got great lumber out of them. I love projects that have the heartwood and sapwood together. Processing yourself will be difficult and you will only be able to do short boards. Look for a local mill and take the logs to it. Look on craigslist. You can really mill it anytime. when you take the trees down, seal the ends with something like anchor seal to prevent the ends from drying and cracking. Latex paint is better than nothing. Then you will need somewhere to stack, sticker and either weigh them down or strap down to keep them flat while they dry. In Connecticut it will probably approach a year to air dry 4/4 green wood.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View dalepage's profile


387 posts in 1757 days

#4 posted 08-08-2016 01:41 AM

In most locations it WILL be profitable for you to hire a portable bandsaw. Walnut goes for about $7 and up around here. Find out what the saw owner charges per BF to saw, and you’ll see how much you’ll save. For my part, I’m always out of walnut.

I’ve taken down a giant cherry tree and some maples on my property. The cherry’s first branch was 20 feet above the ground and the lowest log was over 32 inches in diameter. No way I’m cutting up that caliber of wood for burning. I haul my logs to a local logger and have them quarter sawn. I did not make up this method, but I’ve used it three or four times with two sawyers. It’s easy if you have the diagram and you get lots of QS material, plus four perfectly rift sawn timbers for table legs or bed posts. Don’t consider it a waste of wood. You’ll have some firewood from the waste and maybe a few flat sawn boards. It’s great to work with QS wood which doesn’t move around. I dry mine for two years in a barn. Here’s the diagram:

Cut three boards from the middle of the log, the center one exactly through the pith. Expect to rip out the pith and have two perfectly QS boards.

Now take the two “half moons” left and put them face to face and stand them up so that you can saw the number 2 cuts.

From the small quarters left, put two of them face to face and place the other two faces down on the carriage. Cut the timbers from this.

When most of your wood is QS, your face frames will be so much easier to match. Save what good cathedral arch grain you get from flat sawing smaller logs and use them for panels.

By the way, I have most of the log sawn to 5/4. I can always resaw to 5/8 panels if I want, or plane out the saw marks and have true one inch boards. It looks so much better than 3/4 for table tops.

If the trees are 14 and 18 inches diameter, I’d flat saw the smaller one and QS the larger. Then I’d smile all the way to the barn, where I’d sticker them like firefighter said.

-- Dale

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1665 days

#5 posted 08-08-2016 02:17 AM

I’m not lucky enough to have walnut logs, but I have had a few Oak trees (white and red) and some cedar trees milled. Hopefully you can find someone with a small bandsaw type mill. The friend I had to do this has passed away, so I don’t presently have access to a saw, but I did pick up some knowledge about using the mill. You want to be sure the mill has a sharp new bandsaw blade. A dull blade tends to wander, and a lot of wood will get wasted when you finally start milling it for your use. With a tree the size you’ve mentioned, minimize waste.

Once it’s milled, put it on stickers (indoors preferably) and let it dry a year to the inch of thickness.

View Aj2's profile


3499 posts in 2715 days

#6 posted 08-08-2016 03:03 AM

Don’t get your hopes up yard trees can have issues.The first that come to mind is metal.It could have nails,hooks and who knows what inside.
I don’t get tomharvest tree in my area too often.When I do I use my farm boss chainsaw and Alaskan mill attachment.
It work good but a ton of work.


-- Aj

View Robert's profile


4152 posts in 2397 days

#7 posted 08-08-2016 12:18 PM

Unless they’re in the middle of a one acre field, “I don’t know what I’m doing” means you pay someone who does!!

If its a yard tree, most sawyers won’t saw them due to metal object risk, even if you offer to pay for the blades, they don’t want to risk, especially on a bandsaw.

You could tell the sawyer they came out of the woods and you will pay for any damage/replace blades. (Warning: that can be expensive) but I’m betting he will still say no.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Woodbum's profile


942 posts in 3982 days

#8 posted 08-08-2016 12:47 PM

Hire a professional. Trying to drop a tree in a yard with no experience is a recipe for disaster; either human or property.

-- "Now I'm just another old guy wearing funny clothes"

View Dan Wolfgang's profile

Dan Wolfgang

176 posts in 1724 days

#9 posted 08-08-2016 12:56 PM

To be clear, dropping the tree, and limbing and bucking for firewood are within my wheelhouse. The question is how to turn the wood into lumber instead of firewood.

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 3429 days

#10 posted 08-08-2016 01:56 PM

Dan, seek out a local lumber mill in your area, keeping the logs 6’ and longer load them up on a trailer and a lumber mill will mill them into boards for you at a given fee.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View jmartel's profile


9109 posts in 3067 days

#11 posted 08-08-2016 02:22 PM

I haven t seen the trees yet, but it sounds like they are 14” and 18” diameter near the trunk.

- Dan Wolfgang

That wouldn’t be worth it for me. That 14” trunk will probably result in about 5-6” wide heartwood at the widest section of boards. Especially when you factor in paying for the sawyers time and blades.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View the_other_ken's profile


38 posts in 3892 days

#12 posted 08-08-2016 03:03 PM

Sounds like a good excuse to buy a lathe. Might be a few bowls in that tree.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1837 days

#13 posted 08-08-2016 03:06 PM

Dan Wolfgang,

It seems that the first step is to determine the cost of hiring a portable band mill to slice the logs. I would think an experienced band mill operator would also be able to estimate the amount of lumber that each log could yield. From that info, a calculation could reveal whether the savings that result from milling the logs makes it worthwhile.

Trying to slab the logs yourself would be hard on the new bandsaw and on you. Even a 12” diameter log is going to be quite heavy and therefore very difficult to send through a bandsaw. Yielding slabs of a consistent thickness would also be difficult.

One major advantage to milling the logs is that you can have them milled in whatever way you would like. My preference, assuming you can find a band mill operator, is to harvest the lumber as a flitch. I suspect that it would save some milling money since there is no cant rotation required by the mill operator; the job would be faster and easier. A flitch, if the slabs are persevered in their natural order, could produce some really nice looking projects. Additionally, since the live edges would remain, that bandsaw is needed when project time arrives; to saw off those live edges.

An additional consideration is storing and air drying the slabs. It would be best to sticker and store out of the weather for at least a year, maybe longer.

View Jon Hobbs's profile

Jon Hobbs

147 posts in 1621 days

#14 posted 08-08-2016 06:27 PM

Here’s another vote for the portable/mobile sawyer.

Most of the major portable mill manufactures have referral services. Here’s one for Wood Mizer:

I’ve never pulled the trigger, but I’ve researched a couple mobile sawyers, and the rate is around $1-2 per bf. Some charge for travel, some don’t within a specific radius. The sawyer’s tolerance for urban lumber will vary. Most have a blade replacement fee to cover their loss.

As long as you’re not in a hurry for kiln-dried S4S boards, it can be cost-effective.

-- Jon -- Just a Minnesota kid hanging out in Kansas

View Dan Wolfgang's profile

Dan Wolfgang

176 posts in 1724 days

#15 posted 08-10-2016 12:44 AM

Thanks for all of the feedback and direction, all. I still haven’t managed to get out to see the trees yet, but hope to this week still.

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