Working mature wood, and maturing the woodworker

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Blog entry by Mark posted 07-06-2008 09:14 AM 2264 reads 2 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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.

Panoramic view of walnut orchard

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.

The mysterious walnut tree


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.

December 2007

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.

Retrieving log sections with the Kubota BX24 front end loader

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.

Crotch and branch sections of walnut tree

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.

Branch sections from walnut tree

July 2008

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:

Bandaw ripping sled

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.)

Infeed and outfeed support for the bandsaw

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:

Trimmed logs ready for sawing

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:

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…, 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.

First cut - looks great!

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.

One morning's work

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.

-- Mark

10 comments so far

View steveosshop's profile


230 posts in 3653 days

#1 posted 07-06-2008 09:28 AM

Thats a really neat story. Good luck on resawing those walnut logs into usable lumber. I bet they will look good when they get sawn out.

-- Steve-o

View Quebecnewf's profile


100 posts in 3904 days

#2 posted 07-06-2008 12:14 PM

It will work but you must be aware that the main thing in this is your bandsaw blade. You must have the right blade and it must be a good blade . There are lots of crap blades out there.
I have a bandmill and in over 15 years of sawing I hve come to realize what an old guy told me before I bought the mill is very true.



View bathrick's profile


4 posts in 3837 days

#3 posted 07-06-2008 12:55 PM

You asked “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!” – the graft is at or near the bottom of the trunk.


View BroDave's profile


107 posts in 3841 days

#4 posted 07-06-2008 01:29 PM


We have been doing this for a while now and still don’t know how, but, if you are interested I have a couple of tips that should help.

The first thing is get the right blade. We use a 1 inch Timber Wolf blade that has 3TPI with a 5 tooth set pattern and a 6.5 degree rake. It cuts very smooth.

The next thing is make sure your sled bottom is VERY stiff.
If the sled bows when you are pushing the log it will cause uneven cuts, bind the saw and make it almost impossible to push through, learned that one the hard way.

Next, take your time. You shouldn’t expect that you can run a log though the saw as quickly or smoothly as a piece of stock. The thicker you make the board the more you will load the saw.

Finally, while you are getting the hang of it, cut your boards thicker than you need. This will give you a usable piece if your blade wanders on you. You may get less wood but you can use it.
As an example; If you want to end up with 3/4” stock for your project then cut it to 5/4”
Once you have the operation down pat you can cut things closer to your desired thickness.

Hope that helps.

-- .

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 4104 days

#5 posted 07-06-2008 01:34 PM

Interesting post. I will be following.

-- BLOG -

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3849 days

#6 posted 07-06-2008 02:18 PM


This is a nice post and I enjoyed the story behind it. I have thought about doing something like this so let us know how well your set up works.

Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View RAH's profile


414 posts in 3904 days

#7 posted 07-06-2008 02:59 PM

Interesting, I purchased about five acres and will retire soon, however I have about 60 Almond trees that are old and the prior owner had horses that ate all the lower branches. These trees are grafted to peach roots so they can handle the sandy soil. As they come down I use it for firewood, I should try building something out of them. I am interested in your progress.

What I noticed was your tractor. I turned 50 after moving here and told my wife I was having a midlife crisis, I didn’t want a girlfriend or fancy sports car. I wanted a shinny bright orange Kabuta BX23 tractor with all of the attachments, I couldn’t manage this place with out it.

-- Ron Central, CA

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3794 days

#8 posted 07-06-2008 03:08 PM

Great story. Thank you for sharing.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Harold's profile


310 posts in 3874 days

#9 posted 07-06-2008 05:52 PM

Although this is a pricey blade the Lennox tri-master is an incredible blade and will out live any others I have tried by 10 times. For re-sawing I am convinced it really is the best for conventional woodworking bandsaws. I received a lot of input on my forum question some time ago here’s the link as well as the blade link

-- If knowledge is not shared, it is forgotten.

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3901 days

#10 posted 07-06-2008 06:29 PM

I’ve done some of my own small log resawing on my bandsaw. Maybe you’ve already figured this out, but it is a lot of work! Protect yourself really well from the dust, your bandsaw will make a lot of it. I love all the photos, keep them coming. I’d love to see how this turns out.

-- Happy woodworking!

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