Minimum Log Size for Usable Lumber

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Forum topic by Ripthorn posted 04-04-2012 12:27 PM 3402 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1458 posts in 3160 days

04-04-2012 12:27 PM

I have a couple trees on my property that we want gone and I can’t help but look at them and think there is probably some good usable lumber in them. I believe they are all ash, perhaps one or two small maples. The main trunks are straight with very few limbs up to about 15’. The only issue is that the two smaller ones are probably only about 10” in diameter. Is this enough to get some usable lumber out of? There is one larger one that is probably 15 to 18” across, so I should be able to get a decent amount there. In general, what is the smallest diameter one could get usable hardwood out of? Thanks.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

5 replies so far

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2662 days

#1 posted 04-04-2012 12:49 PM


I’ve gotten lumber from 4” limbs before with the caveat that you have to look for straight pieces that haven’t had much bending stress on them.

I try to stick with logs 6” or larger for making lumber on my band saw however I’m sure most sawyers would want larger.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 3412 days

#2 posted 04-04-2012 01:24 PM

Most sawmills like 12” or larger on the small end of a log. The reason is the smaller the log, the more work per board to get any reasonable amount of lumber from them. However, a 6” log will have at least one 6” board inside. A lot of boards that include the center pith will split while drying. Some tree species are worse than others about splitting and other defects when the center is included in a board.

Here’s a website with several lumber calculators. One of them will calculate the amount of lumber in a log. You put in the length and width at both ends and you’ll see an estimate. There are 3 log scales to pick. The Doyle scale reports less lumber in a small log so the International scale might be the one you want to use to calculate your yield. Sawmills around here use the Doyle scale to buy logs…

-- Hal, Tennessee

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1786 posts in 2651 days

#3 posted 04-05-2012 12:29 AM

I agree with Hal. I try not to saw anything less than 10” in diameter on the small end, but 12” is better. Smaller than that, it is all bone and no meat.

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

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 2439 days

#4 posted 04-05-2012 03:44 PM

Whether it’s enough usable lumber is up for you to decide. It really depend on what you make. If you’re a pen turner, then that’s a lot of wood. If you’re a table maker, probably enough for 1 table or so.

Whether you can get it processed or not is going to vary from mill to mill if that’s your route, but one of my local mills is 12” small end minimum and 12’ length minimum (void of limbs or bends). If you bring that in, you have to have an entire truckload before they’ll do it.

If you’re cutting it yourself, you can be the judge on what’s usable. Remember that it’s going to take around a year for that stuff to air dry if you cut it to 3/4” stock. These should be small enough to bring to a kiln though.

Do you plan on cutting this yourself and, if so, what are you cutting it with?

I cut my own lumber, but I have small 30” diameter logs and larger 50”+ diameter logs. Anything smaller than that is usually not worth my time (my chainsaw mill turns a lot of the smaller sizes into wasted sawdust). It is a major effort to cut, transport, and finish each piece.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View DrDirt's profile


4492 posts in 3917 days

#5 posted 04-05-2012 05:27 PM

Obviously bigger is better, but 8-10 inches would be the cutoff.

Also look at how it has grown. If it has strong lean to it etc, you are going to have a lot of reaction wood, that once you go to work it up will warp and twist and generally drive you to drink.

I would also consider the value of the wood itself – - things like Ash that are reallyl cheap per board foot kiln dried and stable….are you willing to sticker and wait for a year, and is Air dried lumber what you want – because while it will work really nice with hand tools, air dried will move seasonally more than kiln dried lumber does.

You will find that the wet log is really heavy and unwieldy to handle, so you may need someone to come in with a woodmizer unless you are looking for 4 foot pieces

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

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