Dealing with Shake in Hemlock Saw Logs

Shake in a Hemlock log is a sign of bacterial damage, so sawing the log is probably a waste of time. November 14, 2009

Being new to the game and only sawing for a couple of years, a customer dropped off some 30 inch diameter hemlock logs. They had been on the ground about 2 years and didn't seem rotted. Now seeing the log I see the shake rings but am committed to the job. I'll have to explain to the customer - hopefully won't be too hard, as he's a dairy farmer. Do you have any suggestions on how to saw these to maximize output and minimize frustration of these boards falling apart? The shake goes most all 8 feet of the butt sections. He wants about 50 2x4's and the rest will be boards.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor L:
You might be able to get some useful wood out of the log, but the severity of the shake might limit the quantity of sound wood you can produce. In my experience it is often better to skip a log with obvious shake defects - the result, a limited amount of good wood - is not worth the effort.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Shake is a 100% indicator of bacterial infection. This means weak wood, long drying, and after drying, the wood will be useless. Shake gets worse in drying with hemlock, although the bacteria were in the tree and are no longer active. Read the archives here about bacteria and also wetwood.

From contributor S:
In this situation, you should saw by the hour, not the bd/ft. Any logs brought to you for sawing should not be your problem. So explain the defects to the customer, tell him he's being charged by the hour, and then if he still wants to waste his money sawing those logs up, go for it. Any other arrangement will waste your time and money.

One more thing, if you saw any 2x4's that have shake problems, put them in a separate pile and tell your customer why. If the customer decides to use junk lumber up on his roof or somewhere else where there could be someone's safety involved, you want to be sure you have at least told him about the defects and the possible problems with the wood. My feeling is, skip any logs with severe shake and find some better logs to saw.

From the original questioner:
Thank you all for your help. My customer was very understanding and said do anything I feel is easier. I'm going to skip the bad logs per your advice... Had already tried one and yup, it was almost a total waste.