Why We Saw the Pith out of Hardwoods

      Pith in hardwood logs introduces defects into boards, so it is usually sawn out of the lumber. December 6, 2012

I saw mostly oak and hickory for my own use with a WoodMizer LT15. When I quarter saw or rift saw I usually rip boards from the center out. In other words, an 18" diameter tree will provide 9" wide boards or smaller. I have read that the center of the log is oldest and might have defects so that's why it becomes an edge. But I also notice if I see fence posts, deck boards, or larger landscape timbers at the home center they are frequently from the center part of the tree. When do I use the center and when do I not?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor Y:
Boxing the heart of SYP or other softwoods when producing pressure treated lumber is very different than trying to saw for grade in hardwoods. I used to include the pith in hardwood boards when I first started sawing and the defects that occurred during and after drying we impressive, to say the least. You might try it and see for yourself. I have seen large boards rip themselves apart.

From contributor X:
The only occasion where I keep hardwood pith is in some turning blanks, but then I only do it for large bowl blanks or cookies. Cookies obviously have to have them and aren't a problem once turned and dried, and for the large bowl blanks I keep the pith at the bottom and oriented perpendicular to the rotation of the blank.

I don't sell blanks with pith running parallel with the blank that will be in the finished item. I allow pith on the corners of large pepper mill blanks where they will be turned out. For boards I treat hardwood pith the same as Contributor Y, I saw it out of all my boards. There's no reason to have it and you just invite defects by keeping it.

From contributor B:
I use boards containing the pith center to make pallets for stacking lumber on - just put them aside as you cut them.

From contributor O:
I don't have a market for pallet material, so usually I saw my hardwood for best grade then saw the hearts 4/4 as well. I am not a big operation. I will cull out any obvious junk at this time. Will keep short pieces and sticker them in with the other lumber.

I should mention that my son makes cabinets and other furniture, so short or narrower is not a problem. After kilning , and when he goes to use it any bad bits go in his furnace.

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: Knowledge Base

  • KnowledgeBase: Primary Processing

  • KnowledgeBase: Primary Processing: Sawmilling

    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