Full log width board?

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Forum topic by 12strings posted 05-04-2013 02:03 AM 934 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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434 posts in 2352 days

05-04-2013 02:03 AM

When going from fresh-cut log to lumber…

If I’m wanting to make a board from the full width of a tree trunk…is that center section going to be a weak spot?

It seems most of even the large boards I see are half the tree width.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

4 replies so far

View bobasaurus's profile


3407 posts in 3152 days

#1 posted 05-04-2013 02:12 AM

The center (pith) of a tree is very unstable if it is included in lumber. It causes bad warping and cracking/checking/splitting if left in the board, especially the center of the board.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View WDHLT15's profile


1732 posts in 2444 days

#2 posted 05-06-2013 12:54 PM

The pith behaves worse in some species than in others. In oak and cherry, it will certainly split if left in the center of the board. With walnut and most all softwoods like pine,spruce, and fir, it behaves much more nicely. The pith wood is formed at the growing tip of the tree, has thinner cell walls, and is called juvenile wood. As the tree grows and puts on more annual rings, the type of cell that is produced by the cambium is called mature wood and has thicker cell walls and is much more stable.

When sawing boards from a tree, especially those with piths that like to misbehave, you have to take the pith into account. When sawing the widest boards from the center of the tree, I expect the pith to crack and split, and after the board dries, I just split it down the pith and trim the bad wood away. This yields the widest quartersawn boards that you can get from the tree, and quartersawn lumber is desired in many species.

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

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2352 days

#3 posted 05-06-2013 03:19 PM

This is a hybrid American/Chinese Chestnut tree…about 18” accross. It seems live very dense, heavy wood…drying now.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

View Tim's profile


3785 posts in 1930 days

#4 posted 05-06-2013 05:10 PM

If you cut slices all the way through the tree, the center one (or two) will have the pith, the next two on the sides won’t depending on the thickness of the cuts and will be nearly the full width of the tree. The problem is they will be prone to cupping, possibly a lot. If it’s really important to you to get full width, make those pieces quite a bit thicker than you need to account for the cupping and then after they have dried properly, plane them to remove the cupping and get the thickness you need. That’s basically why most boards are half width and why wider boards are rare. It ends up wasting a lot of wood to try to get full width boards.

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