Optimal width when milling lumber

      Milling lumber to the ideal width, and stacking for drying without warpage. December 6, 2000

I have several large, choice grade walnut logs that are 34" in diameter or larger that I am preparing to mill into boards, mostly 4/4 size.

What is the ideal width of board to aim for, keeping in mind the effects of warpage and distortion during drying? With logs this size, is it better to go with the widest board you can get (12"-15"), or is it better to go with 6"-8" widths to avoid the problems encountered during the drying process?

In the past, I've noticed excessive cupping in the 12" boards, whereas the narrower boards show less effect. I know wider boards are a premium, so I just want to know the best way to use the log.

Forum Responses
Wide boards do bring more money, so if you can, cut the widest board possible, keeping the rings of the tree as centered as possible, and rip out the pith on any boards that contain it. You should get by OK. Your customers may be the best ones to ask this question--let them tell you what they want and it will be easier to sell. Make sure you weight the pile down heavy to keep the cupping problem to a minimum.

What do you consider heavy when it comes to weighing down a stack of lumber? I have heard this suggestion many times but never a weight range. Are we talking tens or hundreds of pounds?

When I milled up some cypress I didn't weigh them down at all and they came out great, but I think I got lucky.

You might want to mill the logs using the 180 degree method that Gene has suggested before. You start on the best face and cut down until you lose grade in the wood, then you turn it over 180 degrees and do the same thing. Then you turn the remaining cant 90 degrees and cut down boxing the pith. This gives you the centered growth rings and the widest grade boards as I mentioned before.

Iím almost sure that I read on this forum that the suggested max weight is something like 140 lbs per sq/ft. That sounds like a lot to me and you better have 2 or 3 inch wide stickers to avoid crushing. But this tells me youíre probably going to get tired of stacking stuff on the pile before you can have too much weight.

I dry my hardwood under many layers of lower grade softwood, so the boards that twist are those less valuable.

Cupping of wide pieces is hard to control just by good stacking or drying, as the wood has a strong natural tendency to cup when sawn close to the center of the tree. Very heavy weights do help, plus keeping the valuable stuff on the bottom. Also, avoid rewetting the lumber--at all costs. Faster drying is flatter, too.

In the old days, the mills had a "busting saw" that ripped wide boards first. We also had larger trees then, which means less cupping.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

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: Air Drying Lumber

  • KnowledgeBase: Primary Processing: Kiln Operation

  • 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