milling dilema

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Forum topic by kevinruiz posted 01-30-2013 07:26 PM 1556 views 1 time favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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66 posts in 2149 days

01-30-2013 07:26 PM

Topic tags/keywords: walnut question milling

I have 5 good size black walnut trees on my property that I would like to mill. The largest is 4ft in diam. and 6ft tothe crotch. I have been calling around trying to find a sawyer to come out and mill the trees for me and have found two. The first is a chainsaw mill who offered to mill the lumber in exchange for half the wood. The second is a bandsaw mill who charges $75 an hr.
The bansaw would produce more lumber but the money could get too expensive. I could probly sell the wood but I am not very familiar with that industry and would not even know where to start. Any suggestions or referals would be appreciated. By the way I live in Modesto Calif.

19 replies so far

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 3159 days

#1 posted 01-30-2013 09:54 PM

The bandsaw will generate more lumber if the blade doesn’t wander, and that’s easier said than done with black walnut that big. If you do a lot of woodworking, then it may still be the best choice; if you do just some, then maybe the 50% deal is better. Get a better idea from the guy with the bandsaw as to how long it will take him to mill it, there are many variables to contend with that he can talk with you about. 5 trees of that size will produce a whole bunch of wood. Best of luck.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View shampeon's profile (online now)


1885 posts in 2384 days

#2 posted 01-30-2013 10:16 PM

There’s an LJ member, TreeBones, who operates a sawing service. He’s in Twain Harte, but says he’ll travel if the job’s worth his time.

Man, I’m super jealous of all the people able to get their trees milled. It’s so cool.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Grandpa's profile


3261 posts in 2876 days

#3 posted 01-30-2013 10:19 PM

take the offer to do it for half the wood. It will be the cheapest way out in the end unless you get it cut into 6/4 or 8/4 then it will take less time to make the boards but you will need to resaw them later.

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3242 days

#4 posted 01-30-2013 10:24 PM

You could always just have the Bandsawyer only work for a limited Time, Say $1000 bucks worth, I Hate Losing half my stuff, You might figure how much half is worth…

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View douglbe's profile


369 posts in 4162 days

#5 posted 01-31-2013 01:42 AM

Here is a formula for figuring out how much in board feet you can expect from a log: (((avg diameter X Avg diameter) / 2) X (length in inches / 144). This is surprisingly accurate, I used it on 26 logs and my calculations were 2400 bd ft and I ended up with 2200 bd ft. You may want to get and idea of what you have in bd ft and figure what you would might be paying per/bd ft.

Take your 48” dia. by 6 ft trunk and that is approx. 576 bd ft (but, not likely it is 48” the entire length). If the avg dia. is just 40”, that is 400 bd ft. If the log took an hour to cut that is only $.13 and $.19/bd ft at $75 an hour. That is not bad at all, my lumber ended up $.21 a bd ft. I don’t know how long it would take to cut a Walnut log that large. It all boils down to how much is the wood worth to you. Lets use the 400 bd ft example, if you sold half the rough sawn lumber at $2.50 bd ft that’s $500. $2.50 would be a great price for the other guy for Black Walnut.

Nomad62 has a good idea, get the sawyer’s opinion on length of time to cut and if you want to you can figure the possible bd ft yield and you can determine your possible cost per bd ft.

I think you could easily sell some to cover your costs and it wouldn’t be near half of the lumber. Keep an eye on Craigslist “materials” in different parts of California and see if you can find some listings for rough sawn lumber to get an idea of Walnut prices or call some lumber yards that deal with rough sawn lumber and see what it sells for, this will probably be kiln dried. Ones I have seen in Michigan charge $.30 to $.45 a bd ft to dry lumber.

Hope this is helpful and good luck. Let us know how things turn out and some pics of your gold mine would be great. Some of those wide boards are going to look fantastic.

-- Doug, Reed City, Michigan

View Randy_ATX's profile


880 posts in 2643 days

#6 posted 01-31-2013 02:06 AM

Why do all five trees at once? Just do one or two, pay the $75hr. You don’t lose half your lumber.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

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Don W

19010 posts in 2769 days

#7 posted 01-31-2013 02:38 AM

I’d ask the bandsaw guy how long he thinks it would take and only do as many tree’s as you can afford. A bandsaw should be able to saw a lot of lumber in a couple of days if the logs are piled up waiting for him. You should be able to get 4-5000 ft per day, maybe more

Take a look at the calculator at

I bought a small mill . I had a pile of logs and I got a quote for the pile of about $1200. I paid $2400 for the mill, I’ve had a bunch of fun, and its paid for itself. I cut this in a couple of days myself.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View WDHLT15's profile


1792 posts in 2677 days

#8 posted 01-31-2013 03:27 AM

The going rate around here for a portable bandsaw mill is about $.35/BF. At $75/hr, and at 200 BF production, that is $.375/BF. Given the value of walnut, that is not much in the big scheme of things. However, it can turn out to be a good bit of money if there are lots and lots of BF.

Most bandsaw mills will not handle a log that is 4’ in diameter. It might have to be slabbed with a chainsaw mill. I have a manual bandsaw mill. It cuts great, but is slower than one of the bigger horsepower mills with hydraulics to turn logs. If the bandsaw miller that you spoke to has one of the larger hydraulic mills, he should be able to get the production to make the $75/hour cost very reasonable on a BF basis. Find out what kind of mill he has and if it is a hydraulic mill.

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

View Post_Oakie's profile


84 posts in 2354 days

#9 posted 02-01-2013 03:16 PM

I had a cutting job like that a while ago—a 44” walnut. The owner had me mill four 2.5” thick slabs out of the center of the log with a chain saw mill, then put the remaining pieces on my portable band mill. My price was one of the big slabs. When I sold it, it paid for the chain saw mill, and then some. As Randy_ATX says, there is no need to saw it all at once. The heartwood of black walnut stays solid for years, but the sapwood rots pretty quickly. Get end sealer on the ends of the logs as soon as possible to avoid end checking. I use a product called Anchorseal, but even latex paint helps. Get the milled lumber stickered for drying as soon as possible. Then comes the hard part—watching it dry for a couple of years… Good luck.

-- Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.

View kevinruiz's profile


66 posts in 2149 days

#10 posted 02-01-2013 04:26 PM

I will post a pic. The band sawyer said he would have to use two different saws. One for larger slabs that takes aprox. 20 min per cut and the hydraulic woodmizer for the smaller logs. Thank you for all of your posts, they made me take into consideration a couple things I had not thought about.

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66 posts in 2149 days

#11 posted 02-01-2013 05:47 PM

View Straightbowed's profile


717 posts in 2499 days

#12 posted 02-01-2013 08:01 PM

if your gonna cut the trees just saw a couple up and leave the others in the log put them off the ground and drive the mighty s into the ends and seal them then cut them up in a year or so all you have to do before you saw the logs is wet them a week or so I think I could be wrong though

-- Stevo, work in tha city woodshop in the country

View Straightbowed's profile


717 posts in 2499 days

#13 posted 02-01-2013 08:04 PM

I had logs that sit for 5 years and they turned out fine I raised the logs 8in off the ground then just sawed them up myself with chainsaw when I needed table legs and slabs and wood for boxes

-- Stevo, work in tha city woodshop in the country

View kevinruiz's profile


66 posts in 2149 days

#14 posted 02-09-2013 09:19 PM

First I would like to thank Ira for his advise and time. He helped me mill my first walnut tree. Here is a picture of some of the log pieces. My next question is, a guy wants to buy the root ball uncut. It is 56” in dia. It also has signs of a lot of burl (spikes on outside). How much do I sell it for? I dont have any idea as I am not in the industry.

View douglbe's profile


369 posts in 4162 days

#15 posted 02-10-2013 04:31 AM

Beautiful lumber! Glad you shared the photos. I have no clue either on the root ball, but it looks like there may be some amazing grain patterns inside that thing.

-- Doug, Reed City, Michigan

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