End of the line for Sugar (Hard) Maple tree, need milling suggestions

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Forum topic by EightOhMike posted 04-23-2014 07:58 PM 1563 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View EightOhMike's profile


5 posts in 915 days

04-23-2014 07:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: maple milling sawmill portable question

Hi Folks—

A few minutes searching didn’t yield specific results, so I thought I’d ask for suggestions. I have an old maple tree in a front yard in Richmond, VA, that must come down. The term the arborist used is “declining”. I thought and he confirmed that it’s a sugar maple, and claims that his company just grinds the stuff up after felling. For a couple of reasons, I can’t bear the thought of that and would rather turn it into lumber for my own projects and to sell to recoup some of the cost of its removal.

The main trunk diameter is about 48”, maybe a bit less, and exceeds the maximum of 30” that a guy with a portable sawmill in the area can handle. The main branches that extend from the trunk are within that, though, and I figure I can have them plain-sawn to about 5/4 and get some useful stuff, if in fact the wood is in useful shape. I might have a few slabs cut thicker for potential butcher block/countertop use.

My questions for you folks are are:
1. Does anybody have experience with old maples such as this? Is my plan plausible, or are there gotchas that await me? By the way, I’ve never put nails in the tree, but have only owned the property (lived in it partly) for eleven years.
2. Is there a way to tell by looking at it in its current state to tell if the trunk is spalted?
3. Does anybody care to venture a guess as to the yield that the tree might provide?
4. I know that with oaks that quarter-sawing is a useful effort. What about with maple? Should I go to the additional trouble?

I have no plans for turning legs or any other thick work that I’m aware of, but instead would just use the wood for cabinetry-like projects.

Thanks for any input, guys.

14 replies so far

View vetwoodworker's profile


101 posts in 1128 days

#1 posted 04-23-2014 08:14 PM

1 – No idea, but previous porperty owner may have put nails or worse into trunk.
2 – Usually no way of knowing spalt until it is cut open, same as curl or quilt
3 – without knowing the height there is no way to know useable b/f. See Ohio State quideline
4 – maple is great flat sawn. not much change with quartersawn that I’ve ever heard of.

I definitely recommend milling it in place of firewood or grinder.

Good Luck!

View Ocelot's profile


1459 posts in 2059 days

#2 posted 04-23-2014 08:54 PM

If it’s “declining”, might it also be hollow?

View RRBOU's profile


136 posts in 1713 days

#3 posted 04-23-2014 09:20 PM

Call Christian at Maple ridge hardwoods in Powhatan VA at 804 837-0601. Christian is a local hardwood dealer and he would know of someone that could mill it for you.

Also check craigslist there are several local portable mills in the area.

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

View EightOhMike's profile


5 posts in 915 days

#4 posted 04-23-2014 10:51 PM

Thanks, guys, for the replies.

It might indeed be hollow, though that might work in my favor, since it might mean that the main body of the trunk can be more easily split into a mill-able size for someone with a portable mill. And I’ll call the fellow in Powhatan for his input and leads.

Also, I think I’ll go with Vet’s advise, and my initial inclination to just plain-saw the stuff that’s usable.


View FellingStudio's profile


93 posts in 1103 days

#5 posted 04-24-2014 12:51 AM

My $.02 for ya …

Keep looking around for a sawyer that can handle the tree without chunking it up. The local hardwood dealer and craigslist are both good places to start. Also, local cabinet shops or furniture makers will frequently buy lumber directly from the local mills, so checking with both of those sources for a sawyer recommendation might be a good idea.

Talk to your sawyer about the best way to saw the log. Being a furniture maker, I would personally be very interested in cutting at least a few slab sized flitches that could be turned into Nakashima style tables. They will take a long time to dry, but after 3 or 4 years of air drying, you will have thousands of dollars worth of lumber. (I just purchased a similar slab here in OR that ran $800.)

You may not find any spalting in the tree if the lumber is sound, but it can be introduced after it is cut.

-- Jesse Felling -

View EightOhMike's profile


5 posts in 915 days

#6 posted 11-06-2014 02:19 AM

Well, folks, thanks again for your replies back in April. The maple came down today, and I got several logs over to a sawyer to try to get some useful lumber from what otherwise would have been destroyed or turned into firewood.

Now I have another dilemma: the bulk of the trunk still lies in my front yard, either to be sawed into about three-foot lengths and destroyed, or to be turned into slabs as Jesse Felling suggested immediately above. Several who saw the pictures felt that the tree was likely hollow, but it appears to be solid. And BIG.

I’ll attach pictures. At the lower end, the trunk is about 48” at the widest point, and about 38” on the shorter dimension. I’d estimate it to be about fourteen feet long, and again apparently solid throughout. It’s too big for my sawyer to work with, so I thought I’d see if any of you knew of anyone around central Virginia or nearby who might be interested in cutting it and sharing the wood.

I am of course open to other suggestions that you all might have.

—Mike Jernigan, Greensboro NC (though the tree is in Richmond, VA)

View EightOhMike's profile


5 posts in 915 days

#7 posted 11-06-2014 02:21 AM

View firefighterontheside's profile


13076 posts in 1277 days

#8 posted 11-06-2014 02:25 AM

You can cut some of those crotches where the limbs used to be and make some turning blanks for you or someone else. Then with a chainsaw slab off three sides and make it fit into the mill.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View firefighterontheside's profile


13076 posts in 1277 days

#9 posted 11-06-2014 02:26 AM

Or perhaps carve it into a couch with the chainsaw.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View EightOhMike's profile


5 posts in 915 days

#10 posted 11-06-2014 02:51 AM

Re: the couch:

At first I thought you were joking. Now I’m not so sure… but that would still be one BIG couch, with a bunch of waste. But I’ll bet it could be done. The pics auto-cropped, so it doesn’t seem to show just how big the thing is.

I have some smaller logs that I think I’ll keep as turning blanks, thanks to a suggestion from a guy at Woodcraft today. Have to figure out what shape I should make them, and how long they’d have to dry (different thread stuff, I presume).

View bigblockyeti's profile


3573 posts in 1142 days

#11 posted 11-06-2014 03:28 AM

I’ve cut a quasi wingback chair from a big chunk of an ash tree trunk, a couch from maple seems like a perfect idea. Sure there would be a lot of waste, but the chunk removed would be big enough itself to be milled. The other consideration is it could weigh over 2000lbs. after it was finished.

View Greg In Maryland's profile

Greg In Maryland

550 posts in 2419 days

#12 posted 11-06-2014 03:45 AM

hey Mike,

Before too long goes by, seal the ends of the log and all cuts with anchor seal. This will slowdown the checking and cracking from the ends.

you might try the Woodmizer site for possible sawyers. Also a simple google search for “Sawmills richmond va” came up with a number of possibilities: link

Regarding timing, of you, your wife and your neighbors do not mind, you can leave it in your front yard for several months while you get a sawyer nailed down. My only suggestion is to get it off the grown by putting some sort of cribbing under the log. I think that this will reduce any rotting and infestation.

My guess is that you most likely don’t have the equipment to move that beast so it may not be possible. Perhaps an engine hoist could lift up end high enough so you could get some 4×4s under the log. Then move to the other end and repeat.

Are you air drying the lumber or is the sawyer going to dry it for you? Here is a link a recent post of mine where I described what I went through to set my recently cut log up for air drying. Perhaps this will help you.

Good luck and enjoy your lumber.


View firefighterontheside's profile


13076 posts in 1277 days

#13 posted 11-06-2014 03:49 AM

Wasn’t kidding. This is the one I was thinking of.

Some of my turning friends like to turn green stuff and then set it aside to dry and see what happens.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View WDHLT15's profile


1562 posts in 1897 days

#14 posted 11-07-2014 01:49 AM

That tree would make some nice slabs. However, no woodmizer sawmill can saw one that big. You need a swing mill with a slabber, like a Lucas mill.

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

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