Boxing the heart, 101

      Basic guidelines for sawing a maple log. June 20, 2000

I just got a maple log, 29 inches in diameter and 9 feet long. It has a gray center 8 inches in diameter. The rest is all white wood. I am still a rookie sawyer, and need your suggestions on how best to saw it.

Dan, there are sure lots of variables in this, but, for starters, pick the best-looking face, get it on top (if you are using a bandsaw) level it, make a cut, and see if there are any unwanted surprises. If it's all solid and a good grain, cut all the good boards you can get.

Then, turn it to the next best face and do the same thing. Then, start slabbing off the other faces and resaw them for the best you can get. Then get into that gray center, squaring it and cutting it to thicknesses you can use or market. You might just be surprised. It might be waste, but then again it might be something that somebody wants for "artistic" wood.

I've sawn some logs that my Dad would certainly have burned, and they turned out to be really "artistic," and somebody thought the boards were really rare and made beautiful things.

The method just described is called "grade sawing" and "boxing the heart." It is a good method to use, and I thought it was the industry standard until I read Gene's article on a newer, at least to me, way to "box the heart."

Start by sawing parallel to the bark on your best face, just like the method just described. Cut until the first sign of degrade. Then turn the log 180 degrees to the opposite face and repeat. Saw the other two sides and do what you can with the heart. The heart will be tapered at first, if you kept cutting parellel to the bark the whole time, so now you can square it up and do what you can.

I would hope Gene will correct any mistakes in my account of this method; it's always better to get it from the horse's mouth.

I get a few of these every year when the verticillium wilt kills a town tree.

I quarter them, then alternately saw the quarter faces. The first few boards have the heart on one edge, but it's easily trimmed. Sometimes, it even looks good, and I leave it. Eventually, you're down to a 4 x 4 rift piece, which is also good. The drawback is the time investment.

The technique I described and you have repeated was actually published by the U.S. Forest Products Lab in 1956!
Gene Wengert, forum moderator

Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?

Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?
  • KnowledgeBase: Primary Processing: Sawmilling

  • KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base

    Would you like to add information to this article? ... Click Here

    If you have a question regarding a Knowledge Base article, your best chance at uncovering an answer is to search the entire Knowledge Base for related articles or to post your question at the appropriate WOODWEB Forum. Before posting your message, be sure to
    review our Forum Guidelines.

    Questions entered in the Knowledge Base Article comment form will not generate responses! A list of WOODWEB Forums can be found at WOODWEB's Site Map.

    When you post your question at the Forum, be sure to include references to the Knowledge Base article that inspired your question. The more information you provide with your question, the better your chances are of receiving responses.

    Return to beginning of article.

    Refer a Friend || Read This Important Information || Site Map || Privacy Policy || Site User Agreement

    Letters, questions or comments? E-Mail us and let us know what you think. Be sure to review our Frequently Asked Questions page.

    Contact us to discuss advertising or to report problems with this site.

    To report a problem, send an e-mail to our Webmaster

    Copyright © 1996-2019 - WOODWEB ® Inc.
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without permission of the Editor.
    Review WOODWEB's Copyright Policy.

    The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices. What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk.

    WOODWEB, Inc.
    335 Bedell Road
    Montrose, PA 18801

    Contact WOODWEB

  • WOODWEB - the leading resource for professional woodworkers

      Home » Knowledge Base » Knowledge Base Article