All Replies on Why Is Rough Sawn Lumber Cut In Such Long Lengths?

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View knotscott's profile

Why Is Rough Sawn Lumber Cut In Such Long Lengths?

by knotscott
posted 09-08-2012 07:47 PM

22 replies so far

View hhhopks's profile


651 posts in 2376 days

#1 posted 09-08-2012 07:50 PM

Once you cut it short, there is no going back.

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

View Tomj's profile


204 posts in 2381 days

#2 posted 09-08-2012 07:53 PM

It’s also sometimes easier to match grain if you have longer pieces to start out with. I guess it all depends on what your building but I’m sure there is a better answer.

View HerbC's profile


1756 posts in 2858 days

#3 posted 09-08-2012 07:54 PM

Lot of logs are Loooooooooonggggggg! < BIG GRIN >

It’s more efficient and productive to cut longer logs. Many mills don’t have the capability of easily clamping smaller (ie shorter) logs.


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Kookaburra's profile


748 posts in 2223 days

#4 posted 09-08-2012 07:56 PM

because if you have to cut 48” off a 55” length, you leave an (almost worthless) small piece left. But If you cut it off a 120” length, you have 72” left – just enough for that table top you are planning to make next.

In other words, the lumber store does not want to risk cutting it too short for the sale, so they leave it as long as possible and cut it at the time of the sale if necessary.

I almost always select longer lengths and then have the shop cut off a piece in a length I need for my project For example, I have them cut 36” off a 108” piece, when I need three 36” lengths. If every piece was 60” or less, I would have to waste a lot of length for those three 35” pieces. (108” will not fit in my car – my max length is 75”). I know my wood matches then too.

TL:DNR: less wasted wood if the pieces are left as long as possible

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2996 days

#5 posted 09-08-2012 09:02 PM

Rough lumber has checks and cracks at the ends.
10ft. is an economical length when setting up mills.(Dropping the blade 5/4 is a pain if you only move the head 4 feet.)

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2247 days

#6 posted 09-08-2012 09:46 PM

I actually asked at the hardwood dealer I go to. The lumber mill I frequent actually cuts to 6-8’ lengths. He charges .25/bf more for lengths over 8’ because apparently they are as big of a PITA to him as to you and I.

The hardwood dealer’s explanation was good. When you by lumber you buy by the board foot. It doesn’t matter how long or wide the board is. Since most people laminate table tops and wide pieces anyway, it’s realistic that you can get an entire project out of the same 14’ board (and I have)

He will cut to my specified length at no extra charge. I generally have the 14’ers cut in half. Like you I generally deal in 48” lengths max, mostly 36” or less, so that leaves me enough room to chop off the checked ends/planer snipe and still have enough material to work with.


View TheOldTimer's profile


226 posts in 3085 days

#7 posted 09-08-2012 10:04 PM

That is usually the way it comes from the mill

-- TheOldTimer,Chandler Arizona

View knotscott's profile


8014 posts in 3374 days

#8 posted 09-08-2012 10:17 PM

Thanks for the explanations and replies. I suspected that efficiency from the mills may have something to do with it.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View AandCstyle's profile


3052 posts in 2256 days

#9 posted 09-09-2012 12:46 AM

“I suspected that efficiency from the mills may have something to do with it.”

I think you need to back up on the process. Trees are cut at a certain size (length), then the logs are loaded on trucks that are a certain length by loaders that have a finite weight capacity. I don’t know the answer to the question, but I suspect that the sweet economic spot is someplace between 12’ and 16’ in length. Furthermore, while this may or may not be the case today, it may have been true when the industry was developing and established businesses are reluctant to retool to today’s possibilities.

-- Art

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3687 days

#10 posted 09-09-2012 01:41 AM

Can you imagine the waste factor if all wood was cut to 6 feet ? How would we make doors , for instance ? : )
I would much rather have wood from the same tree to complete a project with , versus trying to match up grain and color from different boards , especially in the rough : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View PocketsFullOfSawdust's profile


8 posts in 2094 days

#11 posted 09-09-2012 01:46 AM

It has to do with grading the lumber. Boards that are less than 8’ do not qualify for FAS (Firsts and Seconds the highest grade). We’ve sold some beautiful cherry that was only 6’. We got a fantastic deal on it because it couldn’t be graded.

-- "I think that if I did not work with wood, my life would be a hollow emptiness." Jonas Wainwright

View WDHLT15's profile


1743 posts in 2475 days

#12 posted 09-09-2012 12:15 PM

It is because of efficiency and handling. If you are sawing, then time is money. Sticker Stacking a 10’ board is twice as fast as sticker stacking two 5’ boards. Also, if you are sawing a 10’ log versus a 8’ log, once the log is on the mill, it takes a little more time to cut the boards off the 10’ cant versus the 8’ cant, but you get 25% more BF produced. It takes 5% more time to saw and you get a 25% boost in BF production, so you get a net 20% boost.

The big mills really focus on efficiency as the wholesale lumber business is a dog-eat-dog commodity business. Even us little guys try to be efficient. I like 10’ because that gives the user a lot of flexibility. 8’ is easier to handle. Also, the longer the log, the lower the yield because of taper in the log.

Good question. There is a whole Science around this question.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View Alexandre's profile


1417 posts in 2190 days

#13 posted 09-09-2012 12:21 PM

WDHLT15, I was wondering about that.
Here, They have 4/4 Maple in 16ft lengths…. If I ever go there, I’ll ask them to crosscut it for me…

-- My terrible signature...

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2109 days

#14 posted 09-09-2012 12:54 PM

Pockets Full is dead on…

Here is one example of grading standards.

Note that minimum widths and lengths for specific grades vary by species… Top grades include minimum “clear cuttings” of stated lengths and widths. To include the proper clear areas for grade, the board often needs to be larger than the minimum overall size.

As far as sized to typical uses, remember that a good amount of hardwood ends up as trim and molding, not furniture, so 12-16’ lengths are necessary. You can always shorten a board.

View Gshepherd's profile


1727 posts in 2200 days

#15 posted 09-09-2012 01:49 PM

Loading up flat bed trailers, 3 bunks of 16’ on a typicial 48’ flat bed and now there are the 53’ and if special order you can get 18 footers. Very seldom do I ever get a full 16’ due to end checks.

-- What we do in life will Echo through Eternity........

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3760 days

#16 posted 09-09-2012 01:50 PM

Whenever one of our trees fall I call my buddy with his Wood Mizer. I cut the logs to 104 inches because there is always cracks on the ends as the wood dries.

This length lends itself well to stacking with “stickers” between the boards.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View knotscott's profile


8014 posts in 3374 days

#17 posted 09-09-2012 02:34 PM

It’s always interesting to hear the reasoning and different perspective on things. Thanks. It sounds like I should ask my lumber guy for a deal on shorts < 8’, since that’s what I can store and tend to use the most.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3672 days

#18 posted 09-10-2012 03:02 AM

I guess its the way the tree grows.

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2109 days

#19 posted 09-10-2012 03:28 PM

Scott, if you’re paying for FAS, I would certainly expect FAS minimum sizing and clear portions for the species, or I’d expect to pay for a lower grade. Along these lines, my supplier will not sell a board that does not leave a cutoff of minimum size to maintain grade. The customer must leave a large enough cutoff behind, or they have to buy the entire board.

Be aware that there are multiple organizations that generate grade standards, and some suppliers stock certain species in mixed FAS / 1C (1c & better). Also, some species are sold as FAS 1 Face.

The grading standard used and the grade you’re paying for are fair questions for a supplier.

Here is my favorite supplier's price list. Note that the standards body he follows, as well as the grade of each price point within a species is clearly stated.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18715 posts in 2566 days

#20 posted 09-10-2012 04:32 PM

I’ve got one of the smallest sawmills they make. Try to cut a 4’ log even with mine and you’ll completley understand.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Post_Oakie's profile


84 posts in 2152 days

#21 posted 09-28-2012 10:54 PM

On the other hand, it makes opportunities for those of us little guys with a portable band saw mill. I love coming in behind a logging crew and finding a 6’ long 30” diameter walnut log left behind because it was too short for the sawmill. Check the Resources section of the Forestry Forum’s resource section for owners of small sawmills. In many cases, we are salvaging logs from urban areas or taking on jobs that the big mills won’t tackle. In return, you’ll find lumber that just isn’t available from lumber dealers, including live edges and bookmatched pieces, cut to the exact dimensions requested.

Walnut crotch 01, Walnut crotch bookmatched

Walnut root 03, Walnut root in the shop

-- Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7757 posts in 2913 days

#22 posted 09-28-2012 11:12 PM

Knotscott: ”...Most of my projects for the house don’t use lumber that’s even 5’, so why are so many of the boards cut to 10 to 12 foot lengths?...”

Truly believe that lumber is cut in 10-12ft length because:
  • it is easier to transport
  • you stand a greater chance of getting an 8ft board, free of defects, out of a 12ft board than you would with a shorter cut
  • you may be an anomaly in in the greater WW-ing environment (globally)

FWIW, I get frustrated with all the 12ft lumber I have purchased lately, however, I am finding out that it is better to have a 4ft “left-over” than a 2ft “left-over” piece of scrap. Your mileage may vary. Then again, one can always build a bigger shop. ;-)

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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