Need advice/input (and possibly a local sawyer) regarding Silky Oak Trees

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Forum topic by Tdazzo posted 11-08-2011 11:16 PM 4357 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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56 posts in 3027 days

11-08-2011 11:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: sawyer silky oak silk oak silver oak question

This is a two part post; apologies ahead of time if this is the wrong forum for either of these topics.

First, my Brother-in-law has two “Silky Oak” trees in his yard that he’d like to cut down. The larger one is ~3’ in diameter at the base and roughly 2.5’ at about 30’ when the first branches start. We’re guessing the tree was planted around the time the house was built which would be about 40 years ago. The second tree is a bit smaller at a little over 2’ diameter at the base and probably ~1.5’ about 20’ high at the first branch.

I’d like to have a sawyer come out and turn this into lumber when he cuts them down. My concern though is if it will provide enough usable lumber to make it worth it. I haven’t been able to find much info on these trees and if they yield a good amount of lumber or not. Also, I’m not real sure what the lumber would look like. I’ve read that Sliky Oak (also called Silver Oak?) is, or looks like Lacewood. Does anyone know for sure?

Second, I’m having a difficult time finding a decent selection of sawyers in my area: Concord, CA (San Francisco Bay Area). I know they’re out there, just not real sure how to find them. I’ve seen some resources posted in various places here on LJ’s but I guess I’m looking to fond some folks that aren’t listed(?).

To summarize, I’d appreciate any input/advice on the following:

1. What “Silky Oak” lumber looks like
2. Based on the sizes of the trees above, how much lumber should i realistically expect?
3. What’s the best way to have them sawn (i.e. should I quarter saw this stuff)?
4. Any sawyers in the SF Bay Area? And what should I expect the cost to be?

Thanks in advance for any input.


-- "If you can't do something smart, do something right." -- Sheppard Book

14 replies so far

View superstretch's profile


1531 posts in 2871 days

#1 posted 11-09-2011 05:18 PM

I get frustrated when I see a series of good questions go unanswered for so long :\

Let me attempt to answer.

1) Google brought up:


3) Qtr sawn seems to be the best way to go, but there’s much more waste. You might want to look into doing one log quarter sawn and the other flat sawn

4) might be a good place to start for local sawmills.

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

View Grandpa's profile


3261 posts in 2853 days

#2 posted 11-09-2011 10:03 PM

I get frustrated when someone answers with; I don’t have one of those or I don’t live there. Well, I have never heard of a Silky Oak Tree and I have never been to San Francisco. Sorry. Now I have frustrated you…LOL Good luck with your endeavor. It appears there are not many Lumber Jocks in SF. I was born in Sanger, Ca, down by Fresno. Does that help any?

View YBNORMAL's profile


47 posts in 2608 days

#3 posted 11-09-2011 11:28 PM

Silky oak is fine to saw. However both of the trees you describe are pretty small, probally too small to quartersaw. the boards you get quartersawing a tree that small are are 4 to 5 inches wide at best.

Sawing these are not an economical decision. You would be much better off taking them to a saywer’s location rather than ask him to come to you. Most have a minumum amount for setting up at a customer’s location. I know I do. When a customer brings small logs to my location i give them a much better deal.

To answer your other question, a 24’’ log 15 ft long will generally produce about 375 bf of lumber. You can extroplate from there.


View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 3136 days

#4 posted 11-10-2011 06:39 PM

My thoughts bend toward the fact that there are many wonderful projects in the world that have been made from less-than-typical woods, so why not consider the opportunity of slicing up a nice tree and taking the chance? The pic Stretch sent looks nice in this here screen. I cut wood up, and figure a tree that big to be valuable at the least. I would recommend slicing some slabs from opposing sides until you are an even distance from the center on each side, about 6” total depending on the size of boards you would want to then slice from the remaining two sides; this gives you nice, smallish table tops (small enough to make a big top by book-matching), and wood to work with for legs and stretchers and the like. Cut 2-3” slabs, and 1-2” boards then get them to a KNOWLEGEABLE kiln operator to get them dried correctly. You will want to find that kiln operator before you slice the wood, because it needs to be done right away. You may need to consider stalling on taking the tree down to make sure the kiln is available. The big question is value, I guess, and that will be determined only on whether or not you will use the wood or know someone who will buy it.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View Grandpa's profile


3261 posts in 2853 days

#5 posted 11-10-2011 06:51 PM

Good responses guys. Some good information and valuable information. I will say that I salvaged a walnut log several years ago. This log was about 3 ft in dia and 35 feet long. I was never able to find someone in my area that would mill it for me. a days work and a nice log went to waste.

View Greg's profile


332 posts in 3051 days

#6 posted 11-10-2011 07:09 PM

Please let me add that I know a number of woodworkers who have had adverse allergic reactions to silk oak. My understanding is that it is a common problem. Proceed with caution.

-- You don't have a custom made heirloom fly fishing Net?

View Tdazzo's profile


56 posts in 3027 days

#7 posted 11-12-2011 11:49 PM

Thanks for the input everyone. I certainly have a lot to consider.

SuperStretch: Thanks for the links, especially the BoardFoot calculator. Very Handy.

YBNORMAL: I’m curious what the general price difference might be to saw onsite vs. having the log taken to you. My concern would be in getting the logs ANYWHERE, let alone to the sawyer. Even if they were cut into 8’ logs I can’t imagine how much they would weigh. I’d probably have to hire someone to transport them for me which I would guess would negate any savings on my part. Or is that possibly a service the tree cutters could provide at a lower cost?

Grandpa: Sorry to hear about your Walnut log going to waste. I just hate to think of such valuable lumber going to waste. Partly why I want to get these trees milled if I can. :/

Greg: I’d be interested to hear more about the potential allergens with this species. The wiki page in Stretch’s post mentions the fruit and flowers containing allergens so I wouldn’t doubt that would extend to the wood itself. Just curious to what degree though.

Thanks again all!

-- "If you can't do something smart, do something right." -- Sheppard Book

View cathyb's profile


828 posts in 3422 days

#8 posted 11-13-2011 01:50 AM

Silky oak is one of my favorite woods for drama. It has beautiful grain. No matter how small a piece you get from the tree, it will definitely be worth having. Silky oak looks fantastic as an accent for mahogany, sapele, walnut, or any other wood with a red tone. I’ve used it in my bathroom to frame out the windows and cabinet, because it looks lovely with the earthy travertine tiles. I’ve used it in lamps, cabinets, table tops, benches and chests… you get where I’m going with this?
As for the allegens, I’ve heard that some people have a problem with it, but I don’t. Since I have so much trouble with sensitivity to rosewoods, I expected problems with silky oak, but that was not the case. Use some and see if you have any kind of sensitivity issues-otherwise enjoy working with this wood. Good luck…........

-- cathyb, Hawaii,

View Tdazzo's profile


56 posts in 3027 days

#9 posted 11-15-2011 05:32 AM

Thanks Cathy. You’ve certainly renewed my desire to use this wood! I took a look at your projects and you make some absolutely beautiful stuff so your opinion is highly valued when it comes to this topic. I’d love to see pics of some projects where you’ve used silky oak if you have any.

-- "If you can't do something smart, do something right." -- Sheppard Book

View watermark's profile


483 posts in 2121 days

#10 posted 07-08-2013 02:25 AM

I found this topic trying to get more info on Silky Oak because I milled some small logs up this weekend and was trying to find out more about the wood. I thought I would share these pics so anyone else looking for info could see. As far as the reaction I didn’t have any skin irritation but did notice it messing with my asthma a little.

-- "He who has no dog, hunts with a cat" Portuguese proverb

View richardwootton's profile


1701 posts in 2133 days

#11 posted 07-08-2013 03:35 AM

I want some silky oak now! It looks beautiful! Did these trees ever get milled?

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View Tdazzo's profile


56 posts in 3027 days

#12 posted 07-08-2013 05:02 AM

Thanks for posting Watermark; that’s pretty much what mine looks like.

richard: I did eventually find a local place to get my lumber milled. Worked out really well in the end. I ended up getting 3 good logs between the 2 trees, each almost 13’ long. The guy that milled them for me was quite familiar with this species and was able to give me a good amount of info going in and he did a great job too.

We had one of the logs, the largest and straightest, quatersawn. That gave me about 180-200 bf of what looks a lot like what you see above in the images by superstretch and watermark. All the QS stuff was 4/4 though. The rest was all flatsawn or plainsawn and so varies in appearance. The slabs in the middle of the log will look a lot like what watermark posted above with the rey fleck pattern. Really pretty stuff.

I ended up with a slab out of the very middle of one of the logs thats just a bit proud of 3 1/4” thick, 13’ long and 21” at it’s narrowest point (pics hardly do it justice). My brother-in-law eventually wants to put a bar in his house so I figured that would make a good bar top (they were his trees after all).

All in all I ended up with ~800 bf of lumber that’s been stickered and nicely stacked along side of the house for about 18 months now awaiting the next phase of its life. The bummer part though is that I’ve had to have a couple surgeries on my back, including a fusion of my lower spine since and it’s been a slow and bumpy recovery. So, even though much of the lumber is now dry and ready to be worked I haven’t been able to do a thing with it so far. As soon as I do though I’ll be sure to post some updates and pics of my projects.

Oh, and on the skin irritant part: what I’ve learned since is that this tree is actually part of the Sumac family (poison sumac, poison oak, poison ivy and such). That had me a bit worried since I’m a bit more alergic to poison oak than your average bear. But, like poison oak, it really only irritates you when it’s wet (when the ‘oils’ can get into or onto your skin). It’s MUCH more mild than poison oak though, or so I’m told.

The guy who milled it for me is apparently immune but his assistant isn’t and rashed up quite a bit after all was said and done. I myself got a mild rash on my arms after carrying all the boards to the backyard for stacking but nothing too bad. I’ve handled a couple of the boards since though and now that they’re dry it’s done no harm. All in all I’d say it’s something to be aware of if you find yourself working with this stuff but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I’ll definitely wear my respirator when cutting and milling it though just to be safe.

-- "If you can't do something smart, do something right." -- Sheppard Book

View richardwootton's profile


1701 posts in 2133 days

#13 posted 07-08-2013 05:19 AM

Mercy, that is beautiful! Feel free to let me know if you want to get rid of any of it, especially the quarter sawn pieces! Really a surprisingly pretty wood.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View Joseph Jossem's profile

Joseph Jossem

492 posts in 2446 days

#14 posted 07-08-2013 06:37 AM

beautiful wood the quarted grain will only show that scale look

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