Opening Cuts

      Advice on figuring out where to take your first cut on a log. July 3, 2008

How have most of you learned what are the best opening cuts on logs. I have read a few things here and there about how to deal with crooked logs and keeping defects on the margins if possible. Is there much information published on this subject or is it all trial and error? Another thing that I am curious about is what are the pros and cons of sawing parallel to the bark vs. the heart?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor B:
Logs have “four faces”. If you’ve read the documentation that’s out there dealing with identifying the “best face” then you know about as much as the rest of us. Once the best face is identified, the other three have to be 90 degrees from that face and the opposite side.

Most documentation makes a big deal about opening the best face first. On nice to better sawlogs, that’s just fine. I tend to get a lot of rough logs and often it’s better to clean up the worst (and roughest) face first and get it out of the way. This makes it easier to handled and turn the log. I may then go to the best face and open it up to target width and start taking boards. If I have to make an adjustment cut, I’ll do it on the worse face.

As far as full taper verses parallel to the center, I’ll saw more set parallel (given a straight log) than try to taper saw. I saw mostly walnut and they really have little taper in the butt cuts until the last foot or so from the bottom end. Then that part kind of bugles out so it may look like you’re losing a lot of wood by not taper sawing but really you’re not.

There are occasions where the quality of the log and the taper is consistent that makes it worth the extra effort. Another time is when you have a nice butt cut log with a hole in the center of the butt end. You’ll get more and more valuable lumber from taper sawing.
Every log is a work of Mother Nature and each has its own character. Just by continuing to open them up and critiquing your own work and you’ll gain confidence in your judgment. Nobody’s perfect.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
There is an excellent text (Sawing, Edging and Trimming Hardwood Lumber) available from the Forest Products Society ( It agrees with the above post and gives reasons why to saw parallel to the pith or bark, size of face, when to turn, etc. This way, you can make decisions about each log with some knowledge.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the advice guys. I have a few logs on the ground that I have been trying to decide the best way to open up on. The only reason I am considering sawing parallel to the bark is that I have a white oak 30" diameter with a gradual taper and a lopsidedness from the butt. One half is looking clear with the other having several knots from such a big log parallel to the bark just appears to give up some nice wide boards on one half and posts on the other.

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