Why Is Rough Sawn Lumber Cut In Such Long Lengths?

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Forum topic by knotscott posted 713 days ago 1447 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5418 posts in 2002 days

713 days ago

The title pretty much states my question. I have a small shop and limited storage space…most of my wood storage is less than 8 feet wide, so most of the time that I buy rough sawn lumber I end up cutting it into pieces that’ll fit my rack. In my 11 years of woodworking I’ve only once needed a piece of lumber that even approached 8’, and that was for an office conference table. 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?

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

22 replies so far

View hhhopks's profile


564 posts in 1004 days

#1 posted 713 days ago

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 1008 days

#2 posted 713 days ago

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


1161 posts in 1486 days

#3 posted 713 days ago

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


746 posts in 851 days

#4 posted 713 days ago

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


1831 posts in 1623 days

#5 posted 713 days ago

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


2829 posts in 875 days

#6 posted 713 days ago

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


222 posts in 1712 days

#7 posted 713 days ago

That is usually the way it comes from the mill

-- TheOldTimer,Chandler Arizona

View knotscott's profile


5418 posts in 2002 days

#8 posted 713 days ago

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 (online now)


1286 posts in 883 days

#9 posted 712 days ago

“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


11644 posts in 2314 days

#10 posted 712 days ago

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 721 days

#11 posted 712 days ago

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


1093 posts in 1102 days

#12 posted 712 days ago

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 LT15 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln

View Alexandre's profile


1417 posts in 817 days

#13 posted 712 days ago

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 CessnaPilotBarry's profile


886 posts in 737 days

#14 posted 712 days ago

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.

-- It's all good, if it's wood...

View Gshepherd's profile


1465 posts in 828 days

#15 posted 712 days ago

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........

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