Question on Lumber Buying

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Forum topic by iozl posted 09-27-2009 01:54 AM 1478 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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51 posts in 3823 days

09-27-2009 01:54 AM

Topic tags/keywords: lumber limb walnut

I have a question on buying lumber – I’m very supportive of purchasing from local sawyers; there are so many great local varieties to choose from and I enjoy supporting local small businesses. I had an opportunity to purchase some walnut today, and while going through the pile I noticed a lot of the 4/4 available was pretty narrow (it was all live edge stuff, flat sawn). I mentioned something about it and the seller said that this was the limb wood. I purchased some because I couldn’t pass up the price ($1/bdft).

So my question is: I thought I read on a forum here or on another site that one shouldn’t use limb wood because of the different stresses limb wood endures versus that from the trunk. Is this true? When I go to the local lumber yard, I assume there’s not limb wood present, but then again I don’t really know. Is it just that larger commercial outlets don’t want the hassle of milling the smaller size logs from the limb? Should the seller have not milled up the limb portions for lumber intended for furniture making?

Thanks for your feedback!

7 replies so far

View bandman's profile


79 posts in 3413 days

#1 posted 09-27-2009 04:50 AM

I’ve sawn quite a few black walnut logs in the past few years, I use everything I can over about 10”
in diameter and about 4 to 6’ long. In walnut and maple, some of the nicer curl or figure can come
from limb sections that contain quite a bit of compression wood (underside of a branch). The price
for the walnut seems fairly reasonable, as always look through the quality of the board section for
moisture content, straightness, cupp etc. On the smaller limbs I typically will mill 8/4 as 12/4 sections
for turners. as well. Was the material green or kiln dried?

p.s. Thanks for supporting local sawmills…...

-- Phil

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3293 days

#2 posted 09-27-2009 05:06 AM

Actually in the hardwoods, limbs can be pretty stable, even though the wood fibres are not necessarily as strong as the main bough..but as you can see…they are not as wide typically. The price is right though….and sometimes you can’t match the beautiful grains seen on limb wood….

The biggest down side on limb wood is the tendency to warp and crack from the quicker evaporation due to the thinner size and higher stresses…you can avoid this if it is treated right (cut right away and dried correctly)...or, the exposed cuts are treated immediately in order to keep the piece stabile until it is sawn, then the wood should dry fairly stable…..

I use alot of limb wood for turning…and it is excellent for that purpose…but when green it requires the correct processing right after is it cut from the tree…otherwise…you get major checks as stated above. If it is dried intact…be careful of cracking internally…especially when cut…as you need to dry it evenly…or it will warp and crack.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 3928 days

#3 posted 09-27-2009 02:17 PM

On your end (buyer) if the wood dried flat then yes limb wood is just fine. We sawyers sometimes don’t want to mill and dry limb wood because of the internal stress. Limbs just grown differently. Most often the trunk is concentric growth rings that make for more stable lumber in the drying stacks. Where as limbs the heart/pith is usually not centered for one. The lumber is often more knotty which is a defect in hardwood. And the smaller diameter makes the wood more prone to stress. Having said all that this is something I made from walnut limb wood I milled and kiln dried.

View iozl's profile


51 posts in 3823 days

#4 posted 09-27-2009 06:04 PM

Hey, thanks folks! Yes, it was kiln dried… Reading your feedback makes me feel a lot more comfortable in using this for a future project, and I hope it looks half as good as that coffee table.

View jimp's profile


208 posts in 3784 days

#5 posted 09-30-2009 09:03 AM

iozl -

If you don’t mind me asking, would you let another Portland area woodworker know where you bought the lumber?


-- - Jim, Carroll, OH

View iozl's profile


51 posts in 3823 days

#6 posted 09-30-2009 05:48 PM

Sure Jim – it was at:

A bit of a drive, but if you’re in Vancouver it would be closer to you than it is for me in NE PDX…

View jimp's profile


208 posts in 3784 days

#7 posted 09-30-2009 06:28 PM

iozl – thanks for the information!

-- - Jim, Carroll, OH

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