I’ve recently begun cutting boards from trees as I collect firewood. I’ve rapidly discovered it is not as intuitive a process as I first believed. I was horrified by my efforts and the resulting mutilation of several nice black walnut trunks. Is there an “Idiot’s Guide to..” that you could recommend? Signed, ‘Dangerous with a chainsaw’” – Tom Wolf
Joanna Werch Takes: Tom, one resource you may find helpful, given the phrasing of your question, is the Fox Chapel publication, The Homeowner’s Complete Guide to the Chainsawby Brian J. Ruth and Jen Ruth (ISBN 1565233565).
Tim Inman: This is a two-part question. First, if the mutilation is the result of faulty equipment or technique, then I would go with Joanna’s reference. Using a chainsaw is another cutting skill just like any other. It takes practice. I’m guided by these words which I found in my chainsaw’s operator manual: “Always remember, there is no such thing as a minor chainsaw accident.”
The second part of the question goes to whether the mutilation is the result of not getting the nice pretty boards you thought you would get. A sawyer is a skilled craftsperson. A sawyer cutting furniture lumber is a highly skilled and specialized craftsperson! The good ones have a “sixth sense” and can almost “see” the inside of the log before they cut it. They know not only how to maximize the total board feet of lumber from a given log, they also know how to cut to get the best grain patterns. For this, you need to practice, and study furniture grade lumber cutting technique. It doesn’t come by accident.
Chris Marshall: It might be worth your effort, safety and reduced “cutting carnage” to see if there are any portable sawmill owners in your area. One of those experienced users could help you get your logs turned into boards. You might have to offer up some of the cut lumber in trade or pay the sawyer’s fee, but at least you’d improve your yield in the end. After all, that’s what you want—good lumber you can dry and eventually use. Well, that, and all of your appendages still in working order! Maybe there’s a dealer of Wood-Mizer Sawmills in your state, for instance. There might be an owners’ database or a user’s group a dealer could recommend.