Quartersawing a Red Oak Log

Before there were kilns to dry lumber, quartersawing was important to produce the most stable wood possible. With good kilns, few mills now take the extra time to quartersaw logs into lumber.

Some species show a different grain pattern when quartersawn. Maple and Beech have a fine figure, but the oaks have the spectacular large rays that show off their unique form when quartersawn.

I love to quartersaw, and all straight oak logs now get this treatment. Here is a recent example.

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This butt log has some flare near the roots and quite a bit of taper. As usual, this tree was killed last summer by the oak wilt fungus.

 

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My first cut is to take off a thin slab of mostly bark, but also the extra flare at the stump end. This log has some dark stain in the wood. Commercially, this log would be about worthless due to the stain, but is is added character for our floors - a bonus!

 

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The log is rotated 90 degrees.

 

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Again, I take off a thin slab of mostly bark, but mainly the large flare at the far end. Removing these slabs gets rid of dirt in the bark, and some of the more reactive sapwood.

 

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The log is rolled again and the third slab removed. While I'm taking off the flare at the roots, the taper of the log is still mostly intact. The best lumber is near the outside of the log, so we don't want to waste the wood by taking too heavy of a slab.

 

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Next, I split the log right down the center. I try to split the center split of the log if possible. To make this cut, you level the pith (first growth ring) with the bed of the sawmill. You hope the log lays straight and doesn't bend as you cut. Stress in the log will cause trouble on upcoming cuts.

 

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Then another 90 degree roll, and the fourth slab is taken off. I now have a tapered four sided cant that is split down the middle.

 

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Again, I level the pith with the bed of the sawmill by measuring up from the bed. I want my quartering cuts to be right down the center of the log.

 

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Ideally, you would split the log right down the center, then process each of the four cants individually. An automated grade resaw is the perfect machine for doing that. I do have a manual resaw, but these cants would be too heavy for me to handle. Here is my compromise:

From the center of the log, I move the blade up 2 or 3 boards, then make the cut. This produces two cants that are small enough for me to handle.

 

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Here I remove the second cant by rolling it off the mill. I can either complete the sawing on the resaw (best method) or set the cants aside and saw them into lumber on the Woodmizer a little later. If the cants stay straight, the sawmill will do just fine, but if they bend, the resaw will do a better job.

 

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Now, I cut the best and widest quarter sawn boards - two at a time. Nearly half of the weight of the log is taken off as boards - easy to handle!

 

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These boards will have some taper, some bark and often some of the center split. This can be trimmed by the edger saw, but we normally kiln dry the wood first, then rip out the flooring blanks. The taper of the log is eliminated at this time.

 

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Quartersawn oak is totally awesome! The stain in this log just adds to the uniqueness of the character.

 

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Photos by Susie D. Young

Sawmilling is an adventure. I'm never in a hurry and go for quality, not quantity of board feet. There is always a new lesson to learn about trees by watching the story unveiled in the log's grain patterns.

Here is another feature on quartersawing with some graphics... http://timbergreenforestry.com/page87.html

And one on Live Sawing Logs

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