Although you don't need
to know exactly how to mill a log into usable lumber,
certainly will help you choose you lumber wisely.
The process of taking a whole log and sawing it into
usable lumber is quite simple. After a tree is fell
it must be cut or bucked into usable lengths depending
on the capacity of the mill. Usually 8 - 12 feet is a
standard length of log. The log is put onto the mill
and boards are cut.
There are a couple of ways of milling lumber: plains
sawn vs. quarter sawn
There are some variations in the way lumber is milled.
The first and most common method is plain sawn. This
is how most commercial lumber is milled. Boards are
milled from the log until about 1/3 of the diameter
has been sawn. The log is then turned 90 degrees and
the process is repeated.
This method yields boards with and arched pattern
on the face of the board, and the end grain of each board
will show a series of concentric arches. Boards milled
from the outer edge of the log will be more stable then
those closer to the middle.
Another method to mill a log is to quarter saw it.
This method yields high quality boards that are more
stable and less likely to expand then plain sawn lumber
With quarter sawn lumber a log is first milled in
half and then into quarters. The quartered logs are
sawn into boards. Since the grain on quarter sawn lumber
runs vertical through the lumber it is less likely
to cup or bow then lumber using the plain sawn method.
makes it ideal for large glue-ups like table tops
or shelves. Quarter sawn lumber takes more effort to
and there is more waste, this result in higher cost.
Once a log has been milled into lumber it is stacked
with a spacer strip between each layer. This promotes
air movement which helps the lumber dry (season). In
most cases this is all that is needed to be done for
the lumber to dry. In an ideal situation you could
leave a stack of freshly milled lumber in a covered
structure with open sides for 4 - 6 weeks (during the
summer). The air movement will be enough to dry the
lumber to about 15% moisture content. In the long term
a piece of wood will find a balance with the natural
Alternatively when you want to have production milling
a kiln will be used to speed up the drying process.
A kiln will simply bake the moisture out of the lumber.
After the lumber has reached its desired moisture content
(6% - 8%). It can be stacked and covered and left outdoors
for the short term but for long term storage, lumber
should be stacked indoors.
It is important that lumber remains in neat stacks
that have wood strips dividing each row of lumber.
This will ensure that the lumber remains straight. If
the humidity where the lumber is being stored is too
high it will need to be reduced. Obviously if your lumber
is stacked outdoors you will need to move it inside
but if your wood is indoors a de-humidifier will be
needed to reduce and maintain a lower humidity level.
I believe it is important to know the basics of how
lumber gets to the lumber yard. This allows you to
make wise choices about which stock to choose and when
a lessor grade of material will be sufficient.
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