Quartersawn lumber

      Techniques and reasons for quarter sawing lumber. November 21, 2000

When I cut lumber with my Alaskan mill, I start at the top and go all the way through the log. I guess this would be called plain sawn. My question is, how do I cut quarter sawn lumber with this mill? What is the actual procedure? How much better is the quarter sawn than the plain sawn?

Forum Responses
It might be best to split the log into quarters, then eighths, etc. depending on how big the diameter is. Split out the pith and if possible the sapwood. Then run one side over a jointer to get it flat. Then cut off the other side with a regular band saw or your Alaskan mill if it is a big log.

Quarter sawn is best for mitre joints because the wood moves less in that direction than it does along the tangent (about 1/2 as much).

Quarter sawing oak and some other woods reveals a special effect that fetches more money, but for all the work is only worth it if you have a special use for it.

The method of sawing you describe is referred to as "live sawing". As you saw down through the log you are developing q-sawn as you get toward the heart. As far as most folks are concerned, the point in the log when the boards begin to show 45 degree or more perpendicularity of the annual rings to the wide face is considered q-sawn. Technically, this isn't right. 0-30 degrees is flat-sawn; 60-90 degrees is q-sawn; 30-60 degrees is bastard sawn.

The way you are sawing is probably best for q-sawing if you don't have really big logs (24" or larger, little end). Quartering the log is usually too time-consuming to be worthwhile when sawing smaller logs, as they won't yield very many pieces of q-sawn material. With your method you can take the middle boards of the log and rip them to remove the defects in the heart. Usually--with decent grade logs--you only will need to rip out a narrow strip 2-4 inches wide to yield two nice q-sawn boards.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the interesting info. I get some decent lumber but I was unsure if I was cutting it wrong. Do most people take one cut and then turn the log and cut the remainder? I have done it both ways, and it works well.

This is a web site you can look at that will give you an excellent method of quarter sawing lumber.
It is Parks Mill

This is a good site. You can convert their style of cutting to match that of a band saw. I have some beautiful 1/4 sawn cherry and walnut, and right now we are doing some red oak. You also end up with less waste, because you can saw your cant and you can get good 1/4 sawn lumber out of smaller logs.

I've done a lot of this with the Alaskan mill I have. I top slice for a flat surface, then halve the log, then quarter. I might slab the sides if it's over 30 inches in diameter since my mill blade will only cut that far across. Then I mill boards off each quarter face, rotating the quarter after each cut. I try to set all four quarters up with some notched timbers so that I can keep the mill going for four boards. It usually needs fueling by then anyway. The cost, of course, is the time spent rotating. The benefits, including more stable and sometimes figured wood, also includes faster cutting, as the smaller width cuts clear sawdust more efficiently. When you get down to a 6 inch board, cut the remaining corner into a 3x4 or whatever.

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