Edging boards

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The most efficient methods. December 17, 2002

I do my edging on the mill after I'm done sawing all the logs. When I was at the Paul Bunyan Festival, the guy running the TK mill would square the log up, unclamp the one side of the cant and put the boards that needed edge against the cant. Is this a faster way to edge or is it just so they're done when the logs are gone?

Forum Responses
From contributor L:
I'm not sure if it would be faster or not. I like to edge several times a day and keep them out of the way, but every log seems too often.

I probably waste more than others, but I don't flip and move edge boards much to edge them. I've seen some guys spend 30 minutes edging 25 feet of lumber. Making a cut, then stopping and flipping boards. Not me - I take the widest first and stack until the mill is loaded and just start making boards. My first cut on the top might only straight edge two or three boards. I'll make 4 inch boards out of these and usually straight edge two or three more with the same cut. By this time, most boards are straight on at least one edge and you can make 6 inch or whatever you're making. If you try that sometime, you will learn there's not as much waste as it sounds like and it's much faster and easier, to boot.

If you edge like I used to, flipping and moving and trying to figure if you should take a 6 inch now or flip and get 2 four inches and a six inch and this and that, it isn't worth it - very time consuming. If you try just making boards and comparing, I think you'll only edge one way.

PS If I was cutting FAS oak or any valuable wood, I'm sure I would do things a little different.

Placing the boards against the cant stabilizes the boards much better than clamping them against the bolsters. Edging after every log sounds slow to me. When we were edging on the mill, I kept a small cant (4X4) handy to edge against.

From contributor P:
Before I got an edger, I used to sort the flitches into sizes (ones that would make a 6 inch, 4 inch, etc.) and lengths. I would stack these sorted flitches centered on top of each other to about 12 inches thick. Then, with a couple of big C clamps at each end of these piles, me and the grunt would lift the whole pile on the mill and two cuts later, we had a bunch of boards (careful not to cut the c-clamp tightener thing). This only works for softwood/dimensional lumber, etc - not high-class hardwoods.

It might be surprising to know that typical hardwood edging recovers about 66% of the volume in the un-edged cants - over-edging is common. Further, the dollar loss is about 20%. Further, most pieces needing edging, if you rotate 180 degrees, are the upper grade pieces, so poor edging is expensive.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

I am cutting Doug fir on a large job right now. I have about half a day's logs set up before I start. I am cutting two logs, then edging. I put the narrowest against the side supports and bigger as I go out, then I turn them as I edge. If you edge after every log, you don't optimize the number of flitches you should. I seldom edge with my cant, as the edge lumber is a different size than I would get while I am cutting the cant.

From contributor A:
When I edged on the mill, I did it depending on log size. With larger logs 24" +, I would leave the forks halfway up and leave all of the flitches on till I got to a tie or 6x6 cant, then dump the flitches onto the deck with the forks. (Less handling and there may be eight or nine of them.) Clamp and edge them, then take it all off the saw and start on the next log. If there are just 2 or 3 from the log, I would set them off and wait till I had several. Edging hardwoods will pay if you take your time and follow the rules for wane and size.

From contributor L:
I cut about two logs and edge in softwoods. In oak, I edge every log. Slabs go across a frame that holds them off the ground. The un-edged boards are laid on the ramp that the logs roll up on. When the logs are sawed and finished, the boards are put on the mill so I don't have a whole stack of one thing. I have to segregate into two or three different sizes with two or three in a size. Once every last board is edged and stacked (with sticks), I crank up the chainsaw and slice up the slabs into free wood to fuel my kiln. Throw it out of the way and grab the cant hook.

I do things this way so I can move the cut without walking. Placing the boards on the ramp prevents me from having to bend over to get boards off the ground. Not until it's done do I have to walk to stack it. Of course, before I can roll another log up, things have to be finished. For me, that's kind of a good thing, because I dread edging and put it off otherwise.

Just trying to throw the oak edgings across the mill and far enough to burn justifies stacking them and making firewood. It's easier and more productive. Working alone, I have to adapt a system that balances need/production with common sense and feasibility.

Maybe some can take a mill and just edge away without waste. I find it very hard to do several boards at once and not waste a strip of board here and there. It became feasible to just start at the top, accepting any waste and getting on with my life as opposed to flipping boards that are getting heavier as the day goes by. And I'm not so sure it's more wasteful - I like it and I squeeze the bugs out of my sawdust to prevent waste.

You boys with HD would look at edging in a different light without it. Them oak boards get heavy.

Wood-Mizer Twin Blade Edger. That's all I've got to say about that.

From the original questioner:
I guess there's no real easy or fast way to edge with out an edger. I do keep the boards separate and that helps a lot.

I have most of the things I need to put hydraulics on my mill, except time.

Incidentally, in many cases, a properly edged hardwood piece of lumber will have about 1/2 the length in wane (not any more than 1/2) and 1/2 of solid wood. Additional edging may be required at times, but usually not. This rule is to meet the NHLA grading rules requirement and also to meet market expectations. (It is more complicated than this, but this is a start.)

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

My $1500 Miner Edger paid for itself in six months.

From contributor P:
Since I got my edger, lumber cutting has changed dramatically. Especially making 2X6's out of small pine. I kind of like them small logs now - used to hate 'em.

With my system, the length thing is a bit of a pain, but this system is fast if you have the room to sort out all the piles. When I worked by myself, I made the piles smaller.

Edgers rule, though. Even working by yourself, production goes way up with very little effort (just lots of cash).

Gene, it is nice to see you include market expectations in your edging statements. As I have said, my shorts will sell at much higher value if they appear clean and ready to use. You and I both know that my customers will still rip them, but they just don't buy the ones with wane according to rules. Granted I will never make a dent in the wholesale lumber market, but given the number of people who are trying what I do, there is some validity.

Sometimes when I am breaking down larger logs into framing lumber and I am on the 3rd and 4th sides (when turning 90degrees), I will flip the flitch up against the cant (it will only have one bark edge, of course) and trim it off to a divisible width to the targeted dimension. It lightens them up a little and when I set these together, they will be ready to be busted down rapidly.

From contributor A:
Yes, if you are going to try to do this full time, HD is the only way to go. Manual mills are for piddling (sorry, guys) or getting your markets set up cheaply so that you can make the jump to more mill.

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

Comment from contributor R:
I saw mostly southern yellow pine and do all my edging by dogging the un-edged boards to a squared up cant. This keeps the boards at a perfect 90 degree angle and works real well.