huge red oak coming down

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Forum topic by Mark Shultz posted 06-09-2012 05:46 PM 2623 views 0 times favorited 35 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Mark Shultz

93 posts in 2299 days

06-09-2012 05:46 PM

my neighbor has a 70’ dead red oak being taken down this tuesday (3 days from now). its base is about 4’ in diameter. They are just going to have it taken away by the landscaping company, and i’m not really in a position mill it myself. Any suggestions on what a good middle ground would be?

Given my limited ability to mill and dry it like i know some of you would, I’m thinking just taking a few ‘higher value’ pieces like a big slab or flitch. I assume the landscapers just use chain saws. Is a nice slab possible with a chain saw? How thick should i ask them to make it? i suppose i could store a large piece or three in my garage for a few years to dry it out, and maybe by that time i would be experienced enough to work it into a table or bench of some sort?

Any advice would be welcome. And if you live in westchester NY and wanted to take some of it, i’m sure that would be fine also.

35 replies so far

View HerbC's profile


1721 posts in 2768 days

#1 posted 06-09-2012 10:59 PM


You will find that the tree service people will not have what it takes to “slab” out a large log.

You might be able to get someone who owns a portable sawmill to mill the log up for you on site if the owner and tree service agree. Some tree services will not give up the log because they deal in firewood as a byproduct of their primary business.

Good Luck and

Be Careful!


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

View thedude50's profile


3602 posts in 2386 days

#2 posted 06-09-2012 11:29 PM

look for a sawyer in your area thay are not that pricy also the landscapers will not be used to dropping a hole tree the way you are going to want them to so put the breaks on and see if the sawyer can educate them on the right way to down the tree do this quick dont let the prize wood go to waste where is the tree also post a request on the web for a sawyer you will never regret the wood you saveed from the firewood pile

-- Please check out my new stores and

View Mark Shultz's profile

Mark Shultz

93 posts in 2299 days

#3 posted 06-20-2012 08:26 PM

So my neighbor is all good with this. I spoke with the company he contracted and they were Luke warm on the idea. The excuse I was given was that the chains in their saws were designed for cross cutting logs not rippin them. I don’t know about chain saws but would expect any cross cut chain would do a rip cut fine enough though maybe not as clean. Anyone have experience here? Tume to cut was also an excuse Would it take them that much longer with the cross cut chain vs a rippin chain?

Many thanks.

View RRBOU's profile


169 posts in 2201 days

#4 posted 06-20-2012 08:30 PM

Would it take them that much longer with the cross cut chain vs a rippin chain?

With a log that big YES!!

-- If guns cause crime all of mine are defective Randy

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 2977 days

#5 posted 06-20-2012 09:08 PM

Is there even such a thing as a “ripping chain” for a chain saw? I’ve used chainsaws for over 40 years and don’t think that I’ve ever seen, or heard of, a “ripping chain”.

I suspect that the landscaping company is reluctant to log it out because they seldom do that. They just whack it down into manageable chunks and haul it away.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View RRBOU's profile


169 posts in 2201 days

#6 posted 06-20-2012 11:48 PM

Yes there are ripping chains, Just like saw blades with different pitch and larger gullets.

From Carlton Chains

Ripping chain is specifically designed to cut efficiently with the grain of the wood, unlike standard saw chain. It is most commonly used to slab logs, burls and stumps. Most people use it with chainsaw powered sawmills such as the Alaskan Sawmill or Beam Machine. Ripping chain gives you a smooth, consistent surface when cutting parallel to the grain of a log. On the contrary, standard saw chain is designed to sever wood across the grain, and when you saw parallel to the grain, your cutting speed falls dramatically, and your sawn surface becomes very rough.

-- If guns cause crime all of mine are defective Randy

View lumberjoe's profile


2894 posts in 2157 days

#7 posted 06-22-2012 01:02 PM

Also, unlike table saw blades, ripping with a chainsaw equipped with a cross cut blade is inefficienct AND can be very dangerous.


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Mark Shultz

93 posts in 2299 days

#8 posted 06-22-2012 02:00 PM

Sounds like a tip to grease the wheels is in order.

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 3146 days

#9 posted 06-27-2012 01:29 PM

It’s oak, so why rip it, just split it. I sawed up a big red oak that wouldn’t fit on my sawmill. (not very many people own a portable sawmill that will saw a 48” log) To saw it, I split it down the center with a maple splitting wedge. I spent the better part of a day banging in 8” wedges that opened an existing crack just a tiny amount. So, back to the shop and I cut a maple wedge 8” wide at the thick end and 3’ long. I sledge hammered that wedge in and I was able to open the crack enough to put in a car jack that finished splitting the log. Here’s a blog post I made about splitting a 48” diameter red oak log.

I ended up with a lot of quartersawn red oak that will be ready to make into furniture soon. One issue is rolling a 1/2 or 1/4 section of log. They only roll on the round side. You can’t roll one with a cant hook.

-- Hal, Tennessee

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Mainiac Matt

7675 posts in 2237 days

#10 posted 06-27-2012 01:44 PM

Not many operations have the equipment to process a tree like that… certainly not the landscapers… They very likely will not even be able to lift a section of the trunk of any length, do to it’s weight… leaving them no choice but to cut it up into stove length with a large chainsaw on site.

Attempting to process a large log without the right equipment will be very arduous as well as potentially dangerous.

When I built my timber frame, I had a 4WD tractor with a bucket to lift and skid the logs I cut on site, and had a guy with a top end Woodmizer… the 20’ model that had all the hydraulics for loading and leveling the logs. So even with that equipment, it was very arduous work to move 36” dia. pine logs and get them onto the mill. They exceeded the lift capacity of the tractor and had to be skidded with chains, debarked by hand with a spud and rolled onto the mills hyd. lift by two men and with peavies. After that experience, I’d say there’s no way we could have processed a 4’ dia. Oak.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

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Mainiac Matt

7675 posts in 2237 days

#11 posted 06-27-2012 02:03 PM

I think the landscapers know their business and their limitations….

in my many years of harvesting firewood off of my own property, I can definately say that ripping with a normal chainsaw blade saw takes forever…. easilly 3X the time to make the same size cut… and these are cuts that they would never make, since cross cutting to stove length and splitting is the norm.

Don’t expect the landscaper to have a chain saw mill, or to special order ripping blades….. not unless there’s some $$ in it for him.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 2173 days

#12 posted 06-28-2012 08:20 PM

As a guy who cuts 50” wide slabs from red oak, I’m going to go ahead and say that most landscape/tree cutters aren’t going to want to do that. For one, they can’t. A 4’ diameter cut is going to require they have a huge saw (like my Stihl MS880 and a huge bar (I have a 66” bar)... neither of these are what anyone would call “cheap” or “affordable” and definitely not “practical”). They are also not common for even log companies to have. They are specialty saws, bars, and chains. Most people have, at the most, of the “smaller” big saws MS660 or MS440, but even they are few and far between. Second, most guys are going to say milling is saw abuse… and it definitely can be if they’re not set up properly. You’re running a saw wide open for long periods of time. Most guys only do that for a couple of minutes to cut down a tree. To mill a log, that can be a half hour or longer.

On chains, I run ripping chains and they actually cut slower than a chisel or house chain, but much smoother. Normally, I’ll switch to a chisel chain if my ripping chain dulls. Another thing, asking them to buy ripping chain is probably not an option. Most stores don’t carry it and it’s expensive. Also, be prepared to pay for new chain when they end up hitting a piece of metal. City trees have lots of it normally.

To cut a 40”+ wide log about 10’ long, it’ll take a mill jig (like an Alaskan-type) to make a reasonably flat, level slab and 30-45 minutes of time per cut. Slabs = 2 cuts to start, then 1 cut for each additional slab. Do the math.

You also need to know how to cut a log. You can just flat saw it, but good luck on the top and bottom pieces drying flat. Quarter sawing on site probably isn’t going to be possible.

These slabs are going to be heavy. I cut mine from 1.5-5” thick depending on what I’m using it for. At 2” thick and 6’ long x 40” wide, I can lift and load a slab by myself (I’m 6’ tall x 200 lbs and still somewhat of an athlete). Any bigger and they start getting cumbersome and heavy. Any larger and you’re going to need some extra hands or power equipment.

Air drying can take years. Keep that in mind.

Just dropping some information in for you. Feel free to ask me any questions you want.

For a scale reference, the ones that are “above” me are 51-54” in diameter.

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

View Mark Shultz's profile

Mark Shultz

93 posts in 2299 days

#13 posted 06-28-2012 09:09 PM

doss, thanks for the advice. that will come in very handy.
i have been preparing the wife for life with a few slabs in the garage for a while but we shall keep the mulit-year requirement to ourselves for a while.

Regarding equipment and getting the landscaper to do it. turns out the landscaping company is actually a full fledged tree removal company. i know that’s not a sawyer but better than guys with a lawnmower and chainsaw in their truck. Their boss has told me he will leave the decision to the crew boss, to which i assume a good amount of harassment, a few beers, and a few dollars will be meaningful persuasion. I did find a place to rent a ripping blade equipped saw nearby – $60/day – so i am prepared with their excuses on that front. the same bribes should help get the beefy slabs into the garage across the street.

re cutting techniques, i’m guessing they have no jigs available. I was thinking that once they cut the upper portion and all the trunk down to the last 10’ or so, then they could vertically cut down the middle a few time then cross cut the bottom edges. sort of like pealing a banana standing on its end. ie the slab would be standing vertically alone on the base prior to the last cut. i just figured it would be easier that way, but i see in your photo that you did it horizontally. any thoughts on this??

re drying, and not warping.. my plan was put the slab(s) on 2×4s in the garage. if i can get two, then sticker them. any advice would be appreciated. i am guessing it to be very rough/uneven. to flatten, i was going to make one of the router jigs that i’ve seen on LJ to level a slab. and do this in somewhat near term so that it dries afterwards. being realistic with myself it will take me a month or so to get prepared to do that with all the other things i have going on. hopefully it wont warp before then. i assume its critical to do both sides concurrently?

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 2173 days

#14 posted 06-28-2012 09:44 PM

To my knowledge, it would not be recommended to rip a log in a vertical orientation. You cannot control one of these 3-8000 lbs logs very easily (even if it’s still rooted, it can still contain very high levels of energy due to stress in twists) and a slab you’re peeling off may still weigh several hundred pounds. Never underestimate what a seemingly harmless tree can do when you relieve the stresses it’s under. I would definitely not want to be running the saw for this amount of time while standing on a ladder either. That does not seem safe.

Keeping a straight cut is not easy. There is a reason why we use even simple mill kits to keep a saw going straight. It’s also a pain to flatten a slab a lot after it’s cut. You want it pretty close to done (it’ll have plenty of teeth marks in it) when it’s cut.

$60 a day for a saw capable of ripping? I’d find out what saw that is and what it comes with. There is no way I’d let someone use my saw for $60 a day knowing how easy it is to abuse or destroy it. Now, $150 a day and I’d be willing to part with it to the right person. Find out what you’re responsible for as well. If that’s what they want and the set up is good, I’d jump on it.

On drying, it probably won’t move much the first month or so unless it’s subjected to heat and moisture in high amounts. You’ll want to flatten it as soon as you could. It helps to dry it and is way easier when it’s still “wet.”

Store it out of the sun where it gets good air flow (but not a constant heavy breeze) and make sure it’s covered (has a roof over it… not a tarp on top of it). Once you sticker/stack it (about 12-20” off the ground), put some heavy weights on it above the stickers and cross your fingers.

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

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Mark Shultz

93 posts in 2299 days

#15 posted 07-03-2012 01:56 PM

took the day off the drink bloody mary’s and watch the tree come down w/ my neighbor. The crane came late so they didn’t have time to get it all down. hence i’m not their today to pester live and in person to get the oak flitch. Luckily however there was a second tree coming down in the neighborhood, this one a 3 1/2 foot diameter maple. the crew taking the logs away said they would happily cut me a slab or two. crossing my fingers on this…

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