Archive for the ‘Wood’ Category

Tips for Using a Portable Sawmill

July 4th, 2013 by
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Editor’s Note: Sandor Nagyszalanczy is the author of the article “Portable Sawmills: Lumber from Local Trees” in the July/August 2013 issue of Woodworker’s Journal. Find out more about that article, plus lots more great content, here.

Salvaging a dead or dying tree, or logs that a power company or homeowner have cut, and milling them into useful lumber is a very satisfying experience (see the video of a portable band saw mill in action on the More on the Web page for the July/August issue). If this idea is in your wheelhouse, there are two ways to proceed: One is to find and hire a good sawyer that has the right experience to do the job for you. Many portable sawmill manufacturers have their own forums and links pages where you can find a reputable sawyer in your area. Some sawyers have their own web pages or are listed in your local phone directory. The other method is to buy or borrow the equipment and do the job yourself. Whether you buy/borrow a sawmill or hire a sawyer, the proper preparation will save you time and money, as well as potentially help produce more useable lumber. Here are some tips I gleaned from veteran sawyer David Boyt, publisher of Sawmill and Woodlot Management magazine, to help you prepare for the job:

  • • Make sure that you can get the mill to the worksite. You might have to trim some trees or bushes to be able to drive your pickup truck or tow vehicle to the site. Plus, if the mill is on a trailer, you’ll need plenty of room to negotiate corners and turn the trailer around. Once there, you’ll need a large, level worksite on which to set up the mill. Ultimately the size of the site depends on the length of the logs you’ll be milling, but a flat spot that’s 30 feet square is a good place to start. You’ll also need a level spot fairly close to the worksite where you can stack the freshly milled boards.
  • • Setting a sawmill’s track rails directly on the ground makes it easier to load logs, but then you’ll have to bend over to pick up every slab, board or edging you cut. Some operators opt to raise the sawmill up (8-14 inches is typical) by setting it on top of either rail ties or beam cutoffs. This can also make it easier to level the sawmill — necessary for proper operation. Make sure and secure the mill’s adjustable feet with lag screws to prevent the bed from shifting during use.
  • • Figure out how you’ll get the logs to the mill from where they’ve been cut or stacked. Ideally, you should transport the logs on a wagon, trailer or, if you have access to it, a front-end loader. One handy device is the LogRite® Buck Arch, a wheeled sulky that can be towed by an ATV or 4-wheel drive vehicle (there’s also a small hand-pulled model). Dragging the logs can be a problem for two reasons: 1. Dirt and grit end up embedded in the log’s bark and will take their toll on the band saw blade (if you’ve hired a sawyer, they may charge you for extra blades). You can clean light dirt off logs with a long-handled barbeque grill brush. 2. Dragged logs tend to leave deep ruts in soft ground, which can make walking around the worksite hazardous.
  • • To save board-handling time, stack your logs so that the longest, best quality stock is cut first. As you work your way down to the smaller, poorer quality logs, you’ll reach a point where it’s too much work for too little lumber (an exception is cutting some of your lower quality logs into blocking and stickers; you’ll need lots of these to properly stack the freshly cut lumber and keep it off the ground). If you’ve hired a sawyer, it’s usually not economical to have them cut any logs shorter than 8 feet and/or less than about 8 inches in diameter (plus some lumber mills have trouble clamping down shorter/smaller logs). The lumber yield just doesn’t add up to the amount of time it takes to cut such logs.
  • Have a cut list—or at least a good idea of what lumber dimensions you want—before you begin, especially if you’ve hired a sawyer. For example, if you ask for 2-in thick lumber, that’s what you get. But if you ask the sawyer for lumber for a 2” thick tabletop, he’ll probably recommend cutting the boards 2-3/8” thick so that after they are dried, you’ll have enough thickness to plane the boards down to 2 inch final thickness. When cutting boards that’ll be used for furniture, a good sawyer will take the time to look for interesting grain patterns and be extra careful to cut clean, flat boards. But if your goal is to produce flooring for a trailer or siding for a shed, it’s more economical for the sawyer to speed through the job. If you plan on using the milled lumber along with commercially purchased lumber, let the sawyer know so that they’ll produce the same dimensions for the sawn boards (e.g. a store bought 2×4 is actually slightly less than 1-1/2” by 3-1/2”).

 

Veneer on Video

February 12th, 2013 by
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Have you ever wondered how hardwood veneer is made? Yeah, me, too!

One of my woodworking friends sent this link to me — and it does a really great job of showing the process. Even though I’ve been around the industry for a long time, and have even seen veneer being made firsthand, I thought this video was great. Check it out!

Rob Johnstone, Woodworker’s Journal

From Oak Trees … to Lumber … to Projects

October 8th, 2012 by
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A couple of weeks ago, in Woodworker’s Journal eZine Issue 310, Woodworker’s Journal editor in chief Rob Johnstone wrote in his introductory editorial about a friend who’d questioned him on the viability of cutting his own lumber for a project. Rob asked eZine readers if any of them had ever chopped a tree down, turned it into lumber and built a project. Many of them had — including Herb Brodie, who shares his story here.

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Bullets and Black Walnut

September 26th, 2012 by
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Walnut With BulletsLast winter I was visiting a friend in Mississippi near Vicksburg. The farm at which I was staying is located on a road that leads directly to that city’s famous battlefield. In fact, the Confederate army marched down that very road to get to the fight. While I was talking to my host about the battle of Vicksburg and the national park that is located at the battlefield, he mentioned a tree. Apparently, this tree had the unlucky fate of being located directly between significant numbers of soldiers of the two opposing armies. When the bullets started to fly, and then continued flying for a long, long time — the tree was one of the early casualties of the battle. According to my host, so many bullets hit the tree that it eventually fell over from the weight of the lead embedded in its wood fibers.

Not so long ago, I was reminded of that story as I built a table that would be featured in the print magazine. (Woodworker’s Journal, October, 2012 … Walnut Game Table) As I was preparing the stock for the table, I noticed a couple of voids in the wood. Walnut Game TableThinking it was insect damage, I continued to plane the stock to thickness. Then I noticed that the bug holes were shiny.

Turning off the machine, I took a close look and found that the wood was full of bullet holes … and bullets. There were too many slugs to be found in these chunks of wood to be a random shot … my guess is that someone had hung a target up on a black walnut tree. (Unless, perhaps, it was in some less well-known battle!) Now, I’ve found bullets in boards before. It is not too uncommon and, if you surface a lot of wood, you’ll run into some sooner or later. But I have never before found so many bullets in such a small stash of wood. It was an odd but enjoyable event in my shop … and one that I thought you might get a kick out of.

Rob Johnstone

Editor in Chief

 

Kiwi Window Trim…It Really is a Small World

August 6th, 2012 by
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This spring I moved into a new shop, and I’m finally getting around to doing the finish carpentry to wrap up the interior work. I decided to save some money and run the base molding, door and window trim myself. Every now and again, I really like this sort of trim work, and the contractor’s budget is long since spent.

To keep things moving forward on a Saturday afternoon, I decided to purchase my window and door trim from the local home center. It’s simply off-the-shelf 1x radiata pine — nice, clean and straight material that I could pretty much sand, cut and install. Now I wouldn’t think of pine as a home center species that would come from great distances — especially another hemisphere for gosh sakes — but this batch sure did. The SKU tag says it’s from, of all places, New Zealand.

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Historic Collection of Woodworking Projects Now Available

June 25th, 2012 by
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Today's Woodworker  Complete Collection CD

Here at Woodworker’s Journal, we’ve been digging deep in our archives to put together our largest collection to date of almost-forgotten projects, articles, tips, techniques and wood science. But the archives where we’ve been digging aren’t exactly Woodworker’s Journal archives — at least, not really. Confused?

Longtime readers may remember when two different magazines — Woodworker’s Journal and Today’s Woodworker — combined into the publication you know today as Woodworker’s Journal. Once that happened, Today’s Woodworker ceased publication.

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A Popular Hardwood for Interior Parts

February 28th, 2012 by
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I mentioned yellow poplar last month in my post about the Southern yellow pines, so I thought it would be appropriate to follow up on that.  Yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipfera), or tulip poplar for most of us Southerners, is one of two trees in the genus Liriodendron.  The other is a native of China.  Neither are true poplars. True poplars are in the willow family of trees, which also contain the genus Populus (cottonwoods), and which is Latin for “people” and was also the Latin name for “tree.”  (I could get confused, too, if I didn’t write all this stuff down.)

Deep breath; I’m almost through.

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The Cheap, Good Wood

February 6th, 2012 by
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Longleaf Pine Forest

USDA Forest Service Archive, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

I know. The words cheap and good usually aren’t used together when the subject is wood for woodworking. But in the case of the Southern yellow pines, this wording is well-suited.

Southern yellow pine is a catchall phrase for all of the Southern pines. They include loblolly, shortleaf, slash, longleaf and Virginia, as well as some other minor species. They are commonly known as “softwoods” and are mostly sold as dimensional lumber for construction.

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Christmas Wood and the “Poor Man’s Ebony”

December 23rd, 2011 by
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The title of this blog post may be a little confusing, but it is not meant to be. (Well, maybe it is — but we’ll clear things up in a minute.)

American holly (Illex opaca) is native only to the United States but, since it closely resembled English holly to the Pilgrims, it quickly became the Americans’ symbol of Christmas. It was, and still is, found along the coast of Massachusetts and all the way down through the southeast to East Texas. It grows in the same geographic areas as the Southern yellow pines, but since it can’t tolerate fire, it is rarely found in those pine forests that are regularly burned. So, most large trees are more commonly associated with old hardwood forests. American holly is a slow grower, taking 100 to 150 years to grow large enough for lumber, but it can grow to 70 feet tall and two feet or greater in diameter.

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The Sound of a Tree

December 16th, 2011 by
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All my friends know that I’ve been a “ukulele nut” for most of my life. A girlfriend in college gave me my first real uke, a mahogany Martin Style 0 that she bought at a thrift store for the whopping sum of one dollar. For years, I carried that uke everywhere, strumming it on backpacking trips in the Sierras, at parties (much to the chagrin of revelers that found the sound only a little less pleasant than an accordion/banjo duet), and when my friends sang on the streets of downtown Santa Cruz for spare change.

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