Cutting Down 30yr old Birch Tree - Worth Saving for Lumber

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Forum topic by psycokitty posted 03-15-2018 08:48 PM 2944 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 1049 days

03-15-2018 08:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: birch tree removal milling question

Hello everyone!

This is my first post on this forum. We just bought our first home 9 months ago and I started buying tools and learning woodworking out of sheer necessity shortly there after. We were without some critical furniture and it was too expensive / hard to find exactly what I wanted so my wife asked – can’t you just build it?!

Challenge excepted :) I built an 8ft farmhouse table and a 4ft entry way bench and have done some wall decorations thus far and I’m really enjoying it. I have so much to learn but I’m starting to feel more confident in my abilities. Which brings me to my question…

For a few reasons we have decided to remove our large 30 year old, approx 18” in diameter, approx 40ft tall birch tree in front yard (see attached photo). Due to the location of burried utility lines and the fact that the tree is so close to ours and neighbors house we are going to hire a tree removal company to remove the tree, grind the stump and haul away the debris.

Question: Is it worth trying to save/salvage any of the wood?

It’s not very thick, pretty scraggly and appears to be starting to die in certain parts. If not worth saving and milling down I guess I could always use it as firewood. I’m fairly condescend the tree is a paper birch.

Anyways – just wanted to see y’alls thoughts on the matter! Thank you in advance.

20 replies so far

View TungOil's profile


1383 posts in 1471 days

#1 posted 03-15-2018 09:49 PM

From My experience having lumber off my property milled, it’s not worth the effort for just one tree unless it’s really spectacular. By the time you pay the guy to come out and set up the sawmill it will be the most expensive Birch lumber ever. Cut it up for firewood

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View eflanders's profile


332 posts in 2827 days

#2 posted 03-15-2018 09:53 PM

I am fortunate to have a lot of these trees around from an aesthetic point of view. But they are messy in that they can be a bit of a danger to cut down where you want them to land. They often break as they are cut down where you least expect or want. They have a bad reputation for rotting from the inside out so what you can see is usually the tip of the iceberg. Because of the rot issue, it is hard to get decent long stock from them for lumber projects. Cost to hire a mill is also a lot and not worth it for birch. They are sought out for crafts though and make for a nice aromatic fire. They burn pretty fast though so best to burn them in an open fireplace or outdoor pit. That’s my experience anyway…

View Walker's profile


443 posts in 1449 days

#3 posted 03-16-2018 02:02 AM

Sounds like it might not be the best way to get birch lumber, but maybe grab a few smaller logs or branches for some crafty decorative type projects. Go to, type in “Birch” and you’ll find all sorts of kitschy junk from candle holders, to coat hooks, to wedding arches. Some crafty etsy-ers even list birch branches by themselves to sell to other folks to make their own kitschy junk. It’s almost as trendy as “reclaimed barnwood”.

I’m being a little tongue in cheek, but in all seriousness you might think of a project or two first then save a few choice pieces with that in mind. Then let them haul away the rest.

-- ~Walker

View firefighterontheside's profile


21332 posts in 2833 days

#4 posted 03-16-2018 02:33 AM

I don’t see anything in that tree worth paying someone to mill. Now, if you had your own millthat would be different.

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

View avsmusic1's profile


680 posts in 1661 days

#5 posted 03-16-2018 12:46 PM

are you a turner?

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3273 days

#6 posted 03-16-2018 12:55 PM

Was gonna say you could save some for the lathe.

They can just cut the stump down below the mulch level. No need to grind it out and chance hitting a buried line.

View Steve's profile


2377 posts in 1559 days

#7 posted 03-16-2018 12:59 PM

You could save some pieces to slice up for boxes or other small knickknacks.

I’d be tempted to keep anything 4” in diameter or larger. but then again, i’m a pack rat and wouldn’t be able to help myself. lol

View Tony1212's profile


491 posts in 2711 days

#8 posted 03-16-2018 01:34 PM

I would say that it depends on what tools you have available to you and what you like to make.

Do you have a bandsaw? If so, maybe you’d want to keep some logs a few feet long that are narrow enough to fit your saw. Slice off boards that you could use to build small, decorative boxes.

Do you have a lathe? I see a lot of crotches on that tree. Maybe turn some bowls or something. Or use thinner limbs to turn handles for various tools.

There are a lot of options – only limited by your imagination and space to store/dry it all.

Just a couple weeks ago, I cut down a tree in my yard. I’m planning on trying to mill it up in the future. But it was dead and most of the bark had already fallen off. My plan is to get a wedge into some checks that are on the surface and split it using wedges until I can get some pieces small enough for my bandsaw.

-- Tony, SW Chicago Suburbs

View tomsteve's profile


1132 posts in 2196 days

#9 posted 03-16-2018 01:53 PM

myself, the only piece i would try and salvage to make some lumber from is from the butt up to where the branches all come out- looks like about 6-8 feet up? dont think id take it to a mill, but id break out my chainsaw and mill it up some, seal the ends, sticker and stack somewhere and see what happens.

View FloridaCracker's profile


23 posts in 1401 days

#10 posted 03-16-2018 04:53 PM

I started doing live edge mill my own chainsaw mill and planner. If under 8 inch I can pass it thru my band saw. Its a lot of work but going to make a family dinner table out of Florida pine. Way easier than the water oak. From my experience I cut them thick to let them dry – they will warp as they dry

-- FloridaCracker

View TheFridge's profile


10861 posts in 2462 days

#11 posted 03-16-2018 04:56 PM

If the lumber is to be used as firewood. Yes.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View psycokitty's profile


3 posts in 1049 days

#12 posted 03-16-2018 04:59 PM

Thank you everyone for the replies! I do not have a bandsaw or lathe YET. Hoping to get both when an opportunity presents itself.. which is looking like now :)

At this time I think I’ll just save a few pieces for decorative pieces and maybe that 6-8ft log from the base up for when/if I’m ready to make something neat out of it.

Thank you all for the advice, it’s much appreciated.

View Jeremymcon's profile


419 posts in 1656 days

#13 posted 03-16-2018 06:00 PM

Looks like it wouldn’t be worth having milled. Only use I’d see would be for spoons – lots of nice looking crooks in that tree, if you’re into spoon carving! You could eventually saw some boards on a bandsaw, but they’d be small and not good for much. Crafts. It’s always nice to know the origin of the wood you used in a project though.

View runswithscissors's profile


3128 posts in 3001 days

#14 posted 03-17-2018 04:01 AM

I had a big beech taken down, and milled the base (about 21” diameter and 5 feet tall) with a chain saw mill. What a huge bunch of labor and mass of sawdust. And I was using a brand new so-called ripping chain, which required frequent sharpening. No metal in the wood, though, which was a plus.

After at least 2 years stickered and with ends painted, I made a pair of good sized book shelves out of it, and a coffee table with the leftovers.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Jon Hobbs's profile

Jon Hobbs

147 posts in 1681 days

#15 posted 03-19-2018 04:57 PM

In spite of it looking rather sparse, it may not hurt to have a sawyer take a look at it and give you a quote. You also might consider taking the logs to the sawyer, if you have the means to do so. Then you save the travel and set-up fees that a mobile mill operator will charge you.

Based on your photo, it does look like it won’t yield enough lumber to make it worth the cost to mill. But every market is different. There may be a sawyer in your area that will do it for a reasonable cost.

Also, given that this is your first home, the sentimental value of making furnishings or decor from lumber that was harvested from your yard may make the cost worth it, to you.

Even if you don’t have it professionally milled, I’d also vote for keeping a few modest sized logs that you can process on a band saw when you get one.

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

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