1965 – 2003
I’ve been a casual, beginner-level woodworker since learning some basics in high school shop class, but now I find myself living on a farm with a small orchard of about 3 dozen walnut trees. A tree expert (easy to find those here in Oregon) told me they’re English walnut grafted onto Black walnut rootstock and were probably planted in the 1930’s.
So, Lumberjock buddies, can any of you tell me whether the trunks of these trees are Black walnut or English walnut—i.e, is the graft at the bottom or top of the trunk? Cause I don’t really know!—[But now I do, thanks to Mike. He says the graft is at the bottom of the trunk, so except for the roots, any lumber sawn would be English walnut.]
I made a few calls to try to find someone local who could mill a tree or two, since the trees were old and some were starting to fall down, but it was always impractical to have them come out for such a small job. The walnut trees remained a haunting presence, and seemed to be serving their highest purpose as home to a tremendous flock of crows.
But now, as I approach retirement, my interest in woodworking has been renewed, and I’ve been building a small shop and collecting tools. Lo and behold, in the Bandsaw Book they explained some techniques for milling and resawing small logs with a home shop bandsaw. So I upgraded to an 18” saw with 12” resaw capacity, and now as these trees come down, I’m going to take on the challenge of salvaging and working with their wood.
Finally, my chance! The roots of one tree had loosened in the ground so much, it fell over in a strong windstorm. Tried again to find a local portable sawmill – too spendy still. Not owning a chain saw, I got a helper to cut up the trunk into pieces just short enough—about 40”—to fit in the bucket of my small tractor’s front-end loader. So, the adventure begins.
Oops – tore up some of the grass while lifting them, but it’ll grow back.
Besides cutting the trunk into sections, I had my helper cut up a bunch of the crotches. I heard those had interesting grain. I coated the ends and stacked them in an open shed, hoping they would dry some but not crack and check too badly.
Then I figured, why not try to use the branches as well. Some of them were pretty thick. Ran out of the proper wax sealant, so used leftover latex paint. Got an even bigger stack from these branch sections.
Spent the last few months getting my milling / resawing setup ready, while the logs hopefully came down in weight (no way I could heft the larger pieces up myself, and the tractor/loader doesn’t fit in the shop). I built this bandsaw sled, copying the best features of some designs on the web and at Lumberjocks:
Then I improvised some infeed and outfeed support. For infeed, I added a waxed, melamine platform to bring a rolling Craftsman tool cart to the right height. For outfeed, I screwed some Rockler rolley-balls onto MDF strips that are held down to the router table top using the same t-bolts/knobs used for the fence. Finally – hard to see in the photo – I added a grooved oak strip to the left side of the bandsaw table to guide a mitre strip on the sled bottom. Why didn’t I just use the mitre slot already in the table? Because I found this Steel City bandsaw’s tilt mechanism couldn’t support heavy weight to the right of the blade, and would just drop into a tilt position. So I wanted to feed the heavy logs to the left of the blade, where the weight is supported by a solid tilt stop. (By the way, other than this minor issue, I’m really pleased with this Steel City saw.)
More to come – starting to saw this weekend! Will it work?
July 8, 2008
Well, before I could start milling the larger log sections, I had to get at least one dimension down to under 12”—actually 11-1/4” because of the thickness of the sled. That would allow them to fit under the bandsaw’s resaw height limit. I picked up a cheap $30 “Beam Machine” chainsaw guide, and my helper with a chainsaw did his best using that guide to remove a flitch or two from the largest logs. Even his 18” chainsaw couldn’t make it through these in a single cut, so we had to do some recutting from the opposite side. As a result, the cuts are pretty rough, but I figure every surface will be resawed by the time I’m through. You can see the rough cuts in this stack of some the trimmed logs:
Now let’s haul one into the shop – dang, this is heavy!—and get it up on my ripping sled. For my first cut, I’ll try to clean up that rough-sawn side by shaving off just enough to get an even surface. Drive a screw or two into each end to secure it on the sled, and we are ready to rip:
Several folks have pointed out the importance of the blade. I wasn’t ready to pop for a carbide blade—at $1.70/inch, that would have been over $200 for my 136” blade. I did buy a Woodslicer 3/4” variable pitch (3 – 4 tpi) blade. It’s amazingly thin at 0.025. It seemed to tension up fine on the Steel City BS but the proof will be in the cutting. Also I’ve heard that lubrication helps – so I give a quick spray of Pam on each side of the running blade before I feed the wood, and…
...wow, that was easy. Very little pressure needed, and nothing bad happened. The thin slice falls away, leaving a delightfully smooth surface of richly figured walnut. I’m a happy camper at the moment.
Gaining some confidence now, here’s the result of a morning’s work. I have some 4/4 boards, but also some thicker slabs (natural on one side) that may want to be seats for outdoor benches.
I’ll spend the next hour cleaning up the mess—I’ve got dirt and bark all over, and plenty of sawdust. In the future, I should plan to do this when I can spend a whole day. The set up and clean up take a lot of time.