Not every tree will make good timber, but all trees will make some timber. Whole books have been written on this and what wood is used for what purpose. I am able to give advice in this area and can help guide your requirements. Even unsuitable woods, if kept dry, avoiding soil contact and painted with creosote or other good preservative, can have a long and durable life.
Even treated fence posts will decay after a period of time. This can be amazingly and disappointingly short when less than adequate pressure treatment has occurred. So a landowner could effectively use the cost savings of home milling to simply replace the timber more frequently as an option.
A strong recommendation for outdoor timber is to make use of oak, sweet chestnut, larch, douglas fir or cypress trees when available. These have a natural resilience to weathering, decay and certain wood attacking insects. Other woods will have a reduced life span if not protected.
It goes without saying that the straightest timber comes from the straightest trees – which is the whole principle of forest growing.
Bent or heavily branched trees are not ideal. Saws only cut in straight lines! A bent tree will only produce straight timber up to the bend, so you still get lengths of timber but not necessarily the full length of the tree.
Likewise, side branches on a tree produce knots and weaknesses within the tree. These can be less critical in large dimensions of cutting but completely impractical in light laths for example.
Trimming the branches flush to the log is great for me but it has not got rid of the weakness within!
The maximum length I can cope with is 20 feet, though it is rare to get a farmland tree to grow straight enough to produce this length of timber. 12, 14 and 16 feet are commonly used building timber sizes. Lengths of less than 8 feet can be difficult to hold on the milling bearers.
The diameter of sawlogs capable of being worked ranges from 8 inches up 5 feet. Again the lighter sizes can be difficult and time / productivity consuming to restrain.
For safety, practicality and value to the client, I would generally recommend a minimum diameter of 8 to 10 inches.
The maximum dimension I can produce is 10 inches by 10 inches, in simple cutting. Double cutting will go up to 20 by 10 inches, though this is a much more complex and slower operation so isn’t the cut of choice – for special applications.
To estimate the potential yield of any single log always look at the smaller end. Draw a square whose corners just touch the bark of the tree. – This is the productive volume of the tree. Within this square you could now draw in the various sizes you need, to guage how many will be produced.
My real job for the client, is to get the most possible from each log by changing cutting layouts and using the outer areas to increase yield
It is always really helpful if the customer has a very clear idea of what finished dimensions of timber are required. This reduces the need to “over-saw” the log and as a by-product, yields more useable offcuts for the fire.
I do have the capability to remove the circular saw blade and replace it with a 5 foot chain-sawing attachment to produce fine quality specialist slabs of timber when appropriate or when ordered. These require very careful drying and handling conditions which again I can give advice on.
This is the all important question for both you and I. As the saying goes “How long is a piece of string?” There are so many variables when cutting trees!
Hardwoods and trees felled years ago can be very tough and hence slow to cut (though larch with its knotty timber can also be very hard cutting). Softwoods tend to be much faster to process. Trees grown over rock are frequently much denser and so harder in texture than ones grown in good soil.
Large diameter logs mean that I am spending more time cutting and less time changing from log to log. Conversely very small diameter logs can be exceptionally slow to work with, due to constantly having to set the next log, whilst having produced only a few pieces of sawn timber.
Large beams produce a large stack of timber very quickly as they only require 2 cuts to make, whilst a similar stack of planks or boards will take a longer time to form due to the increase in cutting time required (which also produces more wastage in the form of saw dust).
The one result I have found is that on a good, well ordered and presented site, I am able convert 2 to 3 times the builders provider retail purchase price of timber for my day rate, which makes it a cost effective operation.
This is largely influenced by how ready you are for my arrival. The following tips will really help me give you a top class service:-
- Cutting and cleaning of all side branches and stubs – if I am cleaning down the sawlog I am not cutting your timber!
- Having all the trees felled and cut ready to go!
- Provision of labour to remove and stack boards as they are cut. This keeps the saw mill, and me, working constantly rather than stop-starting all the time.
- Provision of a loader of some sort on-site obviously speeds up the handling process.
- Placing all the logs to be cut on 2 bearers so that logs can be rolled easily into the mill where a loader is not available.
- Gathering all the logs to be cut in one place, parallel with each other, reduces time taken to set the next log into the mill. – Each time I have to move the mill to a new site 1/2 to 3/4 an hour of cutting time is lost. The more time I spend actually sawing, the greater value the customer gets.