That Poor Oak

We have a large (22″ diameter, 90′ tall) red oak that looms over the house. I’ve decided it’s time to take it down. It’s a nice tree, but I really don’t want to wake up one morning to the nice red oak in Jack’s bedroom.

The question now is, of course, how should I have the nice straight 16′ trunk milled out?

5 Replies to “That Poor Oak”

    1. The tree’s not down yet, but I could get a few picks of it up.

      There’s a fairly gentle bend to it as it reaches over the house. First branches are probably 20 ~ 25′ up.

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      1. Well, here is my first suggestion: Unless you have some specific use for 16′ boards, I would avoid milling it in that length. There are many reasons why lengths longer than necessary are undesirable: they are heavier and more unwieldy that shorter boards; you will lose more material during milling due to the greater difference between the small end and large end diameters; you will have to make a larger platform upon which to stack the lumber for drying (and the drying platform must be straight and level, or else your lumber will conform to any bend or twist imparted by the platform as it dries). It’s also desirable to have all of your lumber the same length, or you will face additional difficulties when stacking to dry. My preferred bucking length is 8’4″, but if you have, say, a clear 23′ section, it would make sense to buck three logs at 7’8″ unless you have some specific need for the longer wood.

        Second suggestion, and this is just based on personal preference, I really like the look of quartersawn red oak. The ray fleck isn’t quite as strong as QSWO, but in my opinion it looks much classier than the 1980s-kitchen-cabinet look of flatsawn red oak. But if you decide to go quartersawn, make sure your sawyer knows what he’s doing. Some of them don’t have much (or any) experience with quartersawing, and they can make a real mess of things.

        Finally, my default is always to mill as wide as possible. You can always cut a board narrower if need be. Much more work involved in gluing them back together. Thickness depends on what you envision making from the lumber. I used to mill almost everything in 4/4, and just a few 8/4 boards. I always ended up with way more 4/4 than I could use, never enough of the thick stuff. Now I make sure to include plenty of 8/4 and even 12/4 or 16/4 (if the logs are big enough) in the cutlist. Sounds like your tree will be big enough to yield some of the thick stuff, if you’ll use it. (Last note: 4/4 and 8/4 means different things to different people. I shoot for 1-1/16″ for 4/4 and 2-1/8″ for 8/4. A sixteenth of variation in either direction in the final product is normal).

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      2. Whoa, thanks! I was thinking 8′ boards in a mix of sizes and hopefully quartered to rift. I don’t much care for flat sawn red oak either. The last guy who looked at it was convinced it’s actually a black oak, but I don’t know if that’ll make any difference.

        Good call on the mix of sizes.

        How would you recommend to go about quartering with a woodmizer type mill? What would tell me the mill operator knew what they were doing?

        Any desire to mill a log north of Albany, NY? 😀

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  1. Sorry for the delay. I should have clicked “Notify me of new comments” but didn’t. Black oak tends to have more defect than northern red oak, but once it’s sawed into lumber, you won’t know the difference. They’re both species of red oak. A high-quality black oak will produce high-quality lumber, a low-quality northern red oak will produce low-quality lumber. So, you can generalize about species, but if the tree looks good, the lumber probably will be too. Heart rot can be hard to detect until you cut into the tree, so that’s a crapshoot.

    I can send you a PDF of my preferred quartersawing method if you like. Can’t seem to find your email on your blog. Mine is tysonforestry@gmail.com. Feel free to shoot me an email if you want the PDF. You can probably judge your sawyer’s competence pretty well by his reaction when you tell him that you want your log quartersawn. If he recoils and tries to talk you out of it, he probably doesn’t have a clue. If he’s enthusiastic about it (I would be) then you’ve probably got a keeper. It’s really not difficult to do, though, so if you have a sawyer who’s willing to try something different and listen to the customer, it’s still worth a shot even if he’s inexperienced with quartersawing. I’ve worked with some guys who did not meet those qualifications.

    Sorry, but NY is a bit of a long haul for me. But if you can bring it to Georgia, we’ve got a deal 🙂

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