Cutting and drying beveled siding

Producing beveled siding from green lumber, with special attention to the drying process. June 24, 2001

I am purchasing a bandsaw mill and planned to get a lap sider/shingle attachment for it to cut some beveled siding (from cants). How do I sticker the bevel siding for drying? Since it won't be flat, do I double up two pieces together?

Forum Responses
That's interesting. I have never heard of anyone making the siding before drying. Everyone I deal with dries to 10-12% then mills the siding. Does anyone out there do well doing it green?

Just about all of the cedar siding we get in Ohio is fresh cut. It is always wet.

I had the same question and got few good answers. One was to put newspaper between two pieces (orientated to make a square board again) and sticker between them. I think not. I would forgo the paper on cedar, without a problem with staining, in my opinion. If you're careful how you nail, you could put it up green and let it dry on the wall, then nail off after it stops moving.

I gave up on the shingle-lap attachment and thought better of the re-saw attach. Then I could mill 1x12 boards and run the best ones through the re-saw after they dry. It's pricey, though. Wood movement and staining is directly linked to the type of wood you're going to use. Why not use full boards instead of going through the trouble? I realize this would double the amount of wood you would need to cover the same area, but it doubles any insulating effect of the siding and it looks really good when finished.

When I saw lap siding I saw 1/2" thick by 6" or 8" without any taper. I've cut a lot of siding like this and haven't had any complaints. I'm using white pine 1/2 x 6" on my own house and it seems to be okay. If you cut 1/2 thick, you can sticker the wood without any problems and it will dry faster since it is thinner.

From the original questioner:
I'm on the West Coast and will be using redwood. I would like to match the siding I have on a structure already. Would there be a problem with putting two beveled pieces together to make a 'flat' piece(s) for stacking? I will have to think about using flat pieces and putting them on a wall lapped over each other. I had planned to cut a notch in the bottom/fat side so that each piece would sit flat against the wall. That is what my current siding is like and it looks and works great.

The problem with cutting 1/2" thick is that it may be more prone to breaking when the inevitable baseball or basketball is bounced off it. Redwood is very brittle. Also, any time you have boards less than 1 inch air drying, you have a high potential for warp and twist or waves between stickers.

I saw boards 5/4, dry them and run them through the Wood Mizer re-saw to get the taper. When I bought my original Wood Mizer back in '85, the lap siding attachment was all they had. Is this attachment for a Wood Mizer? Before buying the lap siding attachment, check into the re-saw; it is much more useful. My flat siding, usually SYP or cypress, is 5/8".

Can you give a review on the resaw, power reliability, uses, maintenance? Would you buy it again?

From the original questioner:
The lap sider attachment I was looking at is for a Timberking, but I imagine it is similar to the Mizer. The re-saw does seem like a better idea, but is more expensive. And it seems that the lap sider might be quicker because you keep sawing off the same cant? Not sure if the Timberking has a re-saw attachment or if the Mizer re-saw attachment would work on the Timberking. I need to get my thinking straight on this because a key reason for purchasing a mill is to make this type of siding for my structures.

I have had the best luck with re-sawing 1 1/2" boards and thinner. Unless the boards are good and flat. The re-saw runs off your saw's power source. The feed speed is the same as for sawing. I have been happy with the re-saw, however I sell much more flat siding than tapered. When it was purchased we had a specific task in mind. It is only worth the trouble of installing if you have a fairly large order, as it requires two people to lift (I work alone). My re-saw was bought right after they came out with them, so there have probably been some modifications. I have found that the rubber feed rollers tend to slip if there is much sawdust on the boards.

When milling beveled siding, only cut quartersawn material!

Stack and sticker individually, one at a time, just like regular lumber.

Flat sawn beveled siding will have a higher likelihood of cupping, which is why the best siding is vertical grain.

Very interesting procedure. How do you accomplish this? What is your indexing device and how do you clamp the log through the whole process? Is this something you have fabricated or is it a factory set-up? Seems like the boards may be prone to snapping when nailed, any problem there?

I'm hoping to use a Peterson swing blade mill and then build a wood frame that sets at each end of the log.

Using a lag bolt or some other device, I will center the log, and support it on each end. On one end will be an indexing wheel made to rotate the log 3/4" at a time, or I will rotate it enough to cut a full 1" quartersawn board each time.

I'm still working on the design, but you can do "vertical grain" beveled siding on a band mill by first cutting cants that are as close to true quartersawn as possible. Then lay them quartered face up in the siding jig, and just go right down through the cant, making vertical grain siding.

To surface this material, you will also need to build a beveled jig for your planer, but that is not a big deal either. Making a high quality product involves a lot of steps. The proof of value added will be 100 years from now, when the siding is as flat as the day it was installed.

As far as nailing... I have split or cracked more flat sawn material over the years. If you use the right nails and the correct nailing patterns, all should go well.

I'm becoming obsessed with quartersawn lumber due to its stability and interesting grain. Big slabs, if called for and processed properly, are great, but there is nothing more wasteful than a 24" log totally flitch or plain sawn turn into a pile of 1" boards that will cup and have to be ripped just to plane the wood and get the cup out.

Why not make a stack of 6" - 10" wide lumber, most of which is "quartered", and have clean, stable material which can be used right away?

Also, I'm not 16 anymore and planks that weigh in at 100+ pounds are not as easy to move about as they once were. Sometimes I forget that and cut 4" stuff that needs 4 men to stack, but most of the time it is just me.

Do not buy a siding/shingle attachment like Wood Mizer sells, unless you are planning to make shingles. It does a good job of that, but as a siding attachment, it is junk. You have to saw cants, take them off the mill, put the attachment on the mill, then reload the cants to do the sawing. I just saw the cant, cock the outside up a little with a peavy, stick two pieces of 1/2" plywood shims between the cant and bed rails, saw a tapered piece of siding, uncock it for the next piece and so on.

I sticker the siding just as you would any 1 by and air dry it. I've cut a bunch of white pine and poplar this way and it makes great siding!

That process will work for any siding width or thickness. You may have to play with it the first few cuts to make certain you have the right size wedge or chock.

It may be a good idea to make a few different thickness pieces in the shop and keep a good supply in your truck so that you are good to go at any time.

If you stack the siding right off the mill, do you ever have indentations from stickers on the bottom courses from too much weight on top? Do you stack it short to avoid this?

Never had a problem with that. I usually saw 8" wide siding that is about 3/4" thick on the bottom edge and 1/4" on the top. Just use a good base, like 4x8s on 12" centers, stick it every 12" over the top of the 4x8s and you should have no problems.

I've made siding using the wedge-under-the-outside-of-the-cant method. But first I sawed the cant in two so each side would produce quartersawn lumber, to some degree. After sawing the cant and cutting the end square, I drew the outline of the siding on the end and then leaned it over till it matched the blade, using a wedge to hold it up. Once matched, I marked the wedge (for how far to push it in each time). After cutting the first piece of siding, I removed the wedge and lowered the cant so it was flat on the rails. I lowered the blade against the cant and noted the blade height, then lowered to the specified thickness of the butt of the siding, whether it was 1/8" or more, and cut to make the second piece. Then unclamped and inserted wedge and continued. This was white pine and only 5" wide to match old siding. It was dried stacked flat, as mentioned, with close stickers. Thinner lumber dries quickly. I call my siding wedge a $1200 piece of wood.

Did I hear you say "poplar siding"? I always felt this wood deteriorated too fast outdoors, even with proper coats of varathane/varnish. Have you had success with poplar? What did you use to finish coat?

I have tulip poplar, basswood and white pine 1/2 x 6 beveled siding on my 130 year old house. They last just fine, even without paint.

Paint protects the wood from wind blown abrasives, not so much water, as long as you have normal weather where there are at least as many clear days as there are rain.

The next time you get a chance to look closely at an old weathered house without paint on it, you will notice the most decay is at the nail holes and the joints. The surface may get washboarded, but that is from the effects of "sandblasting" wind and dust.

The perfect solution for extreme conditions is always vertical grain, and I would rate woods as follows:

Western red cedar
White pine
Tuilip poplar
Basswood and other poplars

There is always white oak, but it is hard and more valuable elsewhere.

The folks here, when they mention poplar, mean yellow-poplar (this is the official lumber name, but sometimes called tulip poplar, which is the tree name to some people because of the tulip shaped leaf). You were probably thinking of aspen poplar, sometimes just called poplar up north, and that species is certainly not a good choice for siding. Aspen poplar is not related to yellow-poplar; both can be called poplar.

Most exterior paint does indeed provide some water repellency. The vapor resistance of some paints is poor, but others have fairly good vapor resistance, too.

Further, the washboard appearance of an old, unfinished wood surface is due to the destruction of the wood by UV and water, and then washing the particles away with water (rain). Sandblasting is a minor effect.

The US Forest Service has rated the suitability of various species of wood for siding. Important properties are natural decay resistance, good paintability, and low to moderate shrinkage. However, even Southern yellow pine has been used as siding (2x6 cut diagonally) but the wood was CCA treated. As stated, if the wood is vertical grain, the risk of cupping as the MC changes is very small.

The key to longevity of wood is keeping it dry. There is no such thing as dry rot. So if someone uses aspen poplar siding and has success, it means that they are keeping it dry. Aspen decays so quickly when wet. Aspen has been used in AZ and CO where rainfall amounts are very low.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

As Gene said, we may not be talking about the same "poplar". I sided my mill shed with it, green, right off the saw, and never put anything on it and it's been up for 12 years now. I've seen 100 year old houses with poplar siding. The damage comes near the bottom where it gets the most water. Under the eaves, it's as good as the day it was installed.

I use mostly white pine. The poplar I've cut is for other people, so I can't say how it's holding up. I use a mix of 1/2 Lowes brand blue/gray oil stain with 1/2 diesel fuel on my sidings and don't plan to touch them again.

Not having the money to buy a re-saw attachment, I thought of building a "cradle" out of plywood to hold a 5/4" board at the correct angle to allow the bandsaw to slice through at the correct height, thus turning a 5/4" plank into 2 pieces of siding. The only difference between an above-mentioned method and mine would be me powering the head instead of a conveyer belt.

I am favoring this idea since it cuts down on two things: repetitive motions - put the wedge in, set the saw, cut the board, take the wedge out, re-dog, set the saw, cut the board, put the wedge in... and thought - constantly having to remember exactly how far down to lower the head each time. With the re-saw method, the head stays static and there are few if any repeated motions: put the board on - clamp in place, saw, remove the boards, repeat. The only disadvantage I see is the multiple handling of boards, but mind you, at a few pounds each, it is much less of a problem than a 400 lb cant.

As for ensuring long life of the siding, I prefer the method Larry Haun (contributing writer to Fine Homebuilding) uses with wood siding. He builds a site-built dunk tank out of plywood, 2X's and 4 mil plastic sheeting. He fills the tank with good quality (the key is always the quality of the finish) stain and dunks the pre-cut boards in. After dunking they are placed on a rack above the tank to drip-dry, then straight onto the building. This creates a virtual seal on the board, increasing the stain penetration, as well as reducing the finishing time (I think we all have spent too much time up a ladder).

A few years back I bought siding and had it delivered to a place that did pre-staining. The shipping and staining cost a little more than the material (stain) that I had estimated. Considering this is a messy job and takes some room, I thought it was a super bargain. They dunked and dried and repacked the siding with my choice of product.

The idea of dipping into stain is good, but the key for longevity is to include a water repellent in the mix. There are commercial formulations available.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
I have devised a way to get around the work of re-clamping the cant when making beveled siding. I mortised 3 hinges into a 2x6 just like you would a door, and screwed the other half of the butt hinge to the cant. I then flip the whole thing over and clamp the 2x6 on the mill. I then tip the cant, insert the proper size wedge, and make the first cut. When I take out the wedge, the angle is perfect for the next cut. I made a scale on magnetic tape when I figured out how much I had to drop each time.

Comment from contributor B:
I love the hinge idea. I'm getting ready to saw a couple thousand lf of 8" siding and was trying to come up with the easiest way to alternate bevels. Iím not sure why everyone is having trouble over the saw adjustment. After you cut the first piece, the blade will be at the top of the next wide edge. However thick your siding will be, plus the kerf, is how much you drop the head. The key is to make sure the first piece is the taper you want (5/8 down to 1/4, etc).

I'm in Alaska, and all we have is birch, spruce, poplar, and cottonwood. Spruce makes the best rot resistant siding by far, as long as the knots are small and tight. Cottonwood logs are usually free, so lots of people use it for siding on cabins and sheds, and it seems to hold up well.