Quartersawing Sycamore for Fleck

      Making the most out of a sycamore log. May 11, 2005

I have a customer who wants quartersawn sycamore. Does every board have to be true quartered for the figure to show, or will the traditional methods of quartersawing produce good results? As I understand sycamore, unless quartersawn, it will warp excessively. Do I have to saw every piece into a wedge shape like the picture, then resaw every board flat?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor B:
To get the wild ray action in sycamore, you do need to be real close to quartersawn, closer than getting a pattern in oak. If you're worried about stability only, it sounds as if you're afraid anything less than true quartersawn will go to absolute garbage. That's not the case. I know plenty of people who use flat sawn stock. It is a little more unstable than some woods, but certainly not useless. If you do wish to get more quartersawn, once you have removed the truly quartersawn from each quarter and are down to rift sawn pie wedges, clamp these wedges at a 45 degree angle and saw through them. I built a jig to hold them during the first cut. This is slower and decreases yield, but gives more quartersawn instead of rift sawn.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
With respect to quartersawn sycamore, the pattern you showed, which is a slight variation of a commonly used pattern, is fine. Let me suggest a variation, however. Saw the logs into quarters. Then saw once piece of the fresh face and then a second piece off of the other fresh face. Go back and forth from face to face. You will have essentially 100% quartersawn, although the width decreases with each piece cut. Hence, it is suggested that you not quartersaw this way except for logs over 20" in diameter. Another technique is shown in the archives here, but you will not find it to work so well with sycamore and a picky customer.

Quartersawing link

From contributor V:
Is this possible with a portable sawmill? If so, how?

From contributor B:
I center the heart and take a very small slab off the top, rotate the log 90 degrees, recenter the heart, thin slab, rotate allowing the flat to rest on the bunks (the heart is now centered), thin slab, rotate and repeat so all sides have a very small flat on them. Align your blade with the heart for reference, then raise up 2 to 2 1/2 boards, depending on whether your rings are still close to 90 degrees. Saw out the boards from the center. Set the top half in your cradle, remove the cut boards and stand the bottom up at 90 degrees. Using the same method, remove boards from the center.

You now have two pieces shaped like a baseball infield. Set one in the cradle and work with the other. If you're good with your clamping, you can balance the piece, but to start with you may want to make a jig to hold it at 45 degrees. Saw as much as you can before you hit your clamps or the jig, then turn it over and finish sawing through and through.

Hope this made sense. It takes time but isn't really too hard. This requires a log at least 20" in diameter to be worthwhile. Smaller or low quality logs can be done by actually squaring the cant, removing boards from the center, then turning the two remaining sections upright and sawing through and through.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
This is the technique I suggest for larger logs. This drawing is taken from an old book on sawing, so it is a very old technique. Note that it does not produce perfectly quartersawn, but it is close. This image is also the image that is supposed to be shown on the link given earlier, but as someone pointed out, the link images are not fully correct... they were apparently redrawn and the artist missed a few items.

Another technique for quartersawing... saw the logs into quarters. Then saw one piece off the fresh face and then saw a second piece off of the other fresh face. Go back and forth from face to face. You will have essentially 100% quartersawn, although the width decreases with each piece cut. Hence, it is suggested that you not quartersaw this way except for logs over 20" in diameter. Although there is high handling, it will work for all sawmills.

From contributor A:
Yep, you can quartersaw with a portable mill. If you do the quarter/flip flop method like Doc Gene first stated, it works well with band mills. However, I have had sickymore bend a lot doing it and you may loose a board or two. If you fell the tree in the winter and let lay for a few months, it will lay still better when sawing.

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