Advantages of Taper Sawing

      Sawing parallel to the bark produces higher-quality boards. Here's an explanation, with some how-to tips. October 29, 2008

Question
I just recently tried to saw full taper (parallel to the bark), and I have been really impressed with the quality of the lumber. There seems to be less waste involved if you choose to not edge out the taper and less pronounced cathedral figure in the boards. What are your impressions of sawing in this manner?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor P:
Some would use the phrase "grade sawing" for what you are calling "full taper sawing." The idea of sawing for grade is simple: If you saw parallel to the bark, you get the most of the highest grade portion of a log, namely the outer layers - the jacket - of the log. For structural wood you also get less sloped grain and, therefore, higher strength. For bendable woods, this cutting technique would yield better results in bending applications, due to less slope in the grain.

As you have already seen on your own by now, this technique is a little more tedious than just sawing away. Not as difficult as quarter sawing, but still it involves some attention to detail. There is also a little waste when you correct the taper on the cant to finish up, but that waste is part of the lesser quality wood. (Even if you are going to sell the heart portion as a pallet cant, you probably will have to do a shim cut somewhere to make that cant into some sort of rectangle, rather than a tapered cant.)



From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
In my book "Sawing, Edging, and Trimming Hardwood Lumber," full taper sawing on good quality faces is suggested as the best method. Data from mill studies support your observations.


From the original questioner:
I actually own a copy of your book and this is what turned me on to trying this out.


From contributor V:
When I saw for grade, I frequently turn the log using the best face from all 4 faces. When taper sawing do you only use the 2 best faces or do you cut from all 4 faces and then edge the tapered pieces to produce parallel edges on the tapered pieces?


From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Taper saw all good faces (sometimes 4); take the wedge out of lower grade material.


From contributor S:
NHLA rules allow for tapered lumber. The width is measured 1/3 from the small end. In a tight lumber market like we have now, it's not a good idea to irritate a good wholesale customer. A few tapered boards probably won't be an issue in a whole truckload, but if you make a pile of them, they might be noticed. Retail customers probably won't like the tapered boards.


From contributor A:
Now the down side of taper sawing. If you do not leave your toe roller at the same sitting you will get a thick/thin board. Or you have to take 4 or more cuts from one face to keep level boards, then flip to another face, which on large logs may become a problem due to width of cut. On most butt cuts you will still get some cathedral grain in the end of the board due to swell. But it does produce some fine wood of better grade.


From the original questioner:
I can see some disadvantages to full taper with turning and tapered boards. The first log I tried this on was one hell of a clean white oak with a large, even taper. I saw mainly for myself right now, as I am learning how to saw properly, and I also have my first load of lumber in the kiln that I have built. So far I can say that I have sawn way better lumber than what I have seen in the lumber store at times; I also like the fact that I have more access to lower grade, more character laden boards.


From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
With full taper sawing, you do not get tapered boards, assuming you take the log taper out in the log section of the log. In other words, saw two opposite faces parallel to the bark, which leaves you with a wedge shaped 2-sided cant. Then take out the wedge on one face. (With a high taper log, you can even get some shorted lumber; just remember to cut the lumber to length before the piece is too thin.) Or instead of taking out the taper, you can saw the other two faces without taking out the taper and have tapered lumber that you edge to remove the taper. Tapered lumber is not a good idea in today's market as mentioned. Sawing full taper will increase lumber value for the log by about 20% on the average.


From contributor S:
Sorry to be so dense, but we mostly cut softwood and only occasionally saw hardwood. Are you sawing with square edges, or flitch, or both ways?


From contributor U:
The taper has to come out of the log somewhere. You either take it out of the edges or take it out from the center, or a combination of those two. If you cut parallel to the bark, generally higher grade boards result, and the ability to cut wider boards of high grade, i.e. clears. Having cut to the bark, the resulting cant will be tapered. That needs to be straightened to get even boards so you make cuts that will flatten or square the cant. If you "step" into it (take the taper in the first 4 feet, say) you can start getting short boards 4 feet long that have an even thickness and then taper (thin) toward the off end. I'd take half the taper off one side and then turn the cant 180 degrees and take the other half. If you do that on two opposite sides only, then resulting boards would be tapered in width. Scaling the board is done from the small end. I'd then rotate 90 degrees and again start taking the taper out. The resulting short boards are not generally a problem for a home user and they are free because you do not pay for the taper when buying the log and they stand a better chance of being higher grade because they were closer to ground level where there are fewer knots. You also have the option of not sawing a bad face and just leaving it for the scrap/firewood pile. Grade sawing does cost you time.


From contributor S:
Thanks for the explanation. I was at a farm show and very a popular brand sawmill company was there. They were flitching the logs top to bottom and I thought that was a little curious. I take it that commonly the live edge remains, but you remove the taper near the center. Or did I get it wrong that the taper is created from all four sides, just not two?


From contributor U:
To make boards you need to edge off the bark almost like commodity lumber, except hardwood is random width and grade allows a little bark. Leave the bark on for specialty wood such as mantles, etc.

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