sawing live edge flitches and slabs

  • Advertise with us

« back to Wood & Lumber forum

Forum topic by deadoakcarvings posted 12-09-2013 03:16 PM 9973 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View deadoakcarvings's profile


15 posts in 1601 days

12-09-2013 03:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: sawmill live edge slab flitch drying curing

Hi all, I am brand new to this site, and I was hoping I could draw on the experience of everyone here to help me get past some challenges.
I have been carvings names, sports team logos, game animals, and whatever else people can think of into logs for about 4 years. Everything I do has been by commission, and now I’ve had so many requests for live edge benches, tables, shelves, and mantles that I have decided to delve into this world. (plus I think it’s cool). I have a large supply of Walnut, with some cherry oak and hedge, but before I started processing that, I decided to do a test run on a medium sized Maple. I ran the tree through my homemade sawmill, stickered and stacked it, and now several months later I am noticing a problem. I am having way more curl than I anticipated.

I would like your advice as to whether it is my placement of cut, method of storage, or what. I have seen one photo of a guy that ‘banded’ his log after it was cut stickered and stacked. I am guessing this was to prevent warp and curl, but I don’t really know. I have attached a picture.

Thanks for all your help.


13 replies so far

View bigblockyeti's profile


5096 posts in 1688 days

#1 posted 12-09-2013 03:26 PM

After I cut my wood, I leave it outside, off the ground and tightly tarped to slow the drying process and reduce cupping and checking. I still get some, but far less than if left uncovered.

View bondogaposis's profile


4687 posts in 2319 days

#2 posted 12-09-2013 03:40 PM

The key to air drying lumber is to slow the process down and keeping it dry and out of the elements, that means sun as well as rain and off the ground. The boards you show are checking from the ends, if you seal the ends w/ paint or wax or whatever that will help that and slow the drying down. With plane sawn lumber there will be some cupping, you could mill that out later if your boards are thick enough for what you want to make. Also if the boards are wide enough you could cut them down the middle and that will reduce cupping, but will also make your boards half as wide and you lose one live edge, but the cupping will be greatly reduced. Air drying is a slow process, the rule of thumb is one year for every inch of thickness, but that will vary greatly depending upon your local climate and weather patterns. Here in dry Montana one summer will do it for 4/4 lumber but in more humid climates it will not go as fast and you may have to bring it inside to “finish” it.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View HerbC's profile


1744 posts in 2827 days

#3 posted 12-09-2013 05:44 PM

First, just a bit of terminology confusion:

Curl refers to a grain pattern in the lumber. For example, this LJ Forum article has a photo that shows curly maple. The curly grain appearance is generally considered desirable, though it tends to make the lumber more prone to tearout during the process of milling the wood smooth.

What you are experiencing is where the sawn lumber “moves” or warps during the drying process. The distortions can include bow, cup, crook and twist.

Restraining the sawn filches using banding straps may reduce the amount of movement you see during the drying process.

Sealing the ends of the boards with a good end-seal such as Anchorseal can reduce the amount of damage due to “checking” but needs to be done as soon as possible once the tree is cut down and cut into “logs”. Sealing the ends while they are logs is easier that sealing the individual board ends once the log has been sawn.

Be careful covering the drying stack with tarps or plastic sheeting. This can frequently lead to the formation of mold, rot and undesired stains on the wood. Generally it is better in MOST climates to build the stack outside but place a cover such as old roofing tin or plywood over the top of the stack to protect it from direct rain.

Drying time varies greatly depending on many variables. The one year per inch figure is rarely accurate. You could use a moisture meter to check the drying progress.

If you’ve cut the boards thicker than the required final size, much of the distortion you have can be worked out by milling the lumber flat, straight and square using either hand planes or power jointer and plane or even a router sled.

Good Luck!

Be Careful!


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

View Post_Oakie's profile


84 posts in 2121 days

#4 posted 12-09-2013 09:10 PM

DeadOak, your picture is a classic example of what happens to wood as it dries. The old timers explain it that the growth rings try to straighten a the wood dries. The wood within 6 growth rings of the pith is juvenile wood (put on when the tree was young), and shrinks at a different rate than the other wood. A lot depends on species. Walnut, for example, is more forgiving than elm. Straps will help some, Anchoseal on the ends definitely slow end checking IF applied before the checking shows up. Your customers wanted live edges because it looks rustic, so tell ‘em that for a few extra bucks, you can make the sign extra rustic by including a little warp in it. I’d buy it! Other than that, consider a cutting pattern that puts as much of the pith wood in a single piece (like in the center of a 4×4 block). I use a pattern like this on my sawmill, though it does require some extra handling:

Then strap it down, and tighten the straps once a week.

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

View Tennessee's profile


2862 posts in 2482 days

#5 posted 12-09-2013 09:20 PM

I must say, I’ve never strapped a rack in my life, but I guess I can see where it would help.
Herb is right on the Anchorseal, but there is something to be said for when the tree was cut.

Years ago I bought a load of cherry that was cut in the middle of a cold Pennsylvania February, racked outside in a field with a simple tarp left over, not on the pile, and I bought it almost a year later in December. Overall, I lost maybe 5% of that lumber. I finished air drying it in a storage locker for a summer in SW Pennsylvania, with it tightly stacked against the walls of the locker. It came out like coming out of an oven, maybe 5-7%, but the real reason I got away with that was the tree was dormant when it was cut down, and much less moisture was in the tree in the first place.

A local down here in SE Tennessee, he starts cutting like gangbusters in the late fall with the oak and maple he cuts. Not so much in the spring and summer.

Everyone above is right, but also cut your trees when there are no leaves to feed water to on them.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

28961 posts in 2306 days

#6 posted 12-09-2013 09:55 PM

Varies greatly through different types of wood. Strapping will help. Cutting thicker slabs that you can resaw later helps. Sometimes it will twist no matter what you do.

Be very careful. This is extremely addictive and you could wind up like me with a few thousand board feet of slabs stacked around your place.

Welcome to Lumberjocks!

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View quvia's profile


103 posts in 1635 days

#7 posted 12-10-2013 12:41 AM

I’ve cut and stacked wood for quite a while and have success stacking outside in shade with old roofing over the top. Lots of weight on top of roofing. Cement blocks work fine and old wasted slab wood. Usually keep out doors for a few years depending on wood and I usually cut 5/4 to finish later. I never cover the ends with very little waste on ends. I always cut board extra long for this reason. P{lan ahead when cutting for a project, Bed, Bench etc. Just my 2 cents worth. Works for me.

-- Ted ,Conesus,N.Y.

View alohafromberkeley's profile


257 posts in 2372 days

#8 posted 12-10-2013 12:51 AM

Hi Dave, don’t have anything for you on topic. Just wanted to say Welcome to LJ!......Wes

-- "After a year of doing general farmwork, it was quite clear to me that chickens and I were not compatible"-George Nakashima

View Woodendeavor's profile


276 posts in 2574 days

#9 posted 12-10-2013 01:47 AM

I do not have exact number on this but I was told the rule of thumb to keep from twisting and cupping was adding 100 lbs of dead weight per square foot to the top of the pile. Most commercial mills use large concrete blocks they set on top of the pile

View deadoakcarvings's profile


15 posts in 1601 days

#10 posted 12-10-2013 02:17 AM

WOW! guys, I cannot say enough about how helpful this was. I have very limited time to work on this hobby / business, so when I get a few hours or a day, it’s best not to waste time trying to figure out what to do. post_oakie, that diagram is hugely helpful, thank you. I had read that the center section was more prone to bow, cup, crook and twist (thanks herbc!), but now that I have specific guidance I can move forward with more certainty. Unfortunately it is too late for the anchorseal on anything I have on the farm. I received about 6 trailer loads of Walnut, Cherry, Oak, and Hedge when a logging company chucked them in what they called their ‘firewood pile’. I feel like I was blessed to receive this, and I don’t want to waste the opportunity. All the landowner asked in return was two log carvings and a bench! He was very generous, partly because he knows I donate a large portion to wounded warrior project and ST Judes. attached is a photo of the rustic bench I made him; it was my first and needed a lot of bowtie dutchmens, or whatever you call them. I had never done them before either, but it seemed to turn out ok.

Thanks everyone for all your wisdom, I will not waste it!

View jumbojack's profile


1674 posts in 2592 days

#11 posted 12-10-2013 02:30 AM

As luck would have it one of our down under LJs just ran a video on this very subject:

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View mbs's profile


1652 posts in 2908 days

#12 posted 12-10-2013 03:14 AM

stickering is important too. For 8/4 wood it’s recommended to sticker every two feet and make sure the stickers are centered over each other.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

View WDHLT15's profile


1732 posts in 2444 days

#13 posted 12-10-2013 03:15 AM


Some trees have stress in them that is released when the slabs are sawn. It is just how the tree grew. That was the case with your maple. Some trees are worse for stress than others. Walnut generally has less stress, where in pecan and hickory, there can be a lot of stress. Each log will be a little different. When the end of the slab begins to raise up off the end of the cant (log) as you make your cut, that indicates stress. Look for that as you are sawing the log. To minimize it, flip the cant (log), 180 degrees after each cut. This tends to even out the stress. Cutting down through the log without turning it 180 degrees will maximize the effect of the stress.

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

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics