Have the Logs Been Down Too Long?

Very large logs may yield valuable lumber even after lying on the ground for years. July 26, 2010

I have access to three large logs, what I think are the trunks of large white or red oak trees about 36" - 42" in diameter. The logs were cut about 8-9 years ago by a logging company and they were never picked up. The outer 2 inches are pretty rotten but the rest of the wood seems to be solid and in good shape. The logs are nice and straight. I sliced a small piece off one of the ends and the wood seems to have a really nice darker color and even some nice figure.

Can logs lay too long on the ground before they are sawn into slabs? Are there any potential problems with some rotted material around the outside of the logs? My goal is to have these flitch sawn at a local mill and end up with 2" slabs for table tops. Thanks for any input, as I am a professional woodworker but have no experience sawing lumber from logs.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor T:
I have sawn white oak that was down 10 years and the interior of it was just fine and had a somewhat golden appearance. I also had a large 27" punky red oak log (2" of punk) that was originally a veneer candidate that had beautiful boards, but it had one sixteenth to three thirty-seconds holes in the boards. Those boards don't sell to just anyone, but most of them have sold after 3 years time.

From contributor P:
Logs are like a box of chocolates. The outer sapwood is gone after a couple of years, usually, but the rest may be okay. Try them out. If your sawyer agrees, and the middles aren't any good, pay him only for his trouble. Who knows - there could be some real nice wood in there. Probably dry, too.

From the original questioner:
Thanks guys, good info. I feel like there is a lot of nice material inside the logs based on the chunk I removed from the end. This will be my first time working directly with a sawyer. Is there anything I should keep in mind when talking with him about the job?

From contributor N:
The wood should be fine. Those are big logs - make sure the mill can handle them. A lot of bandsaws can only cut 34 to 36 in logs with 24" between the guides. Swing mills can handle big logs but can't make wide slabs.

From contributor P:
Get a quote. If a customer asks, I can give them a ballpark figure. A good sawyer can get pretty close. If they say "I don't know,'' get someone else. However, you must know the dimension that you want sawed from them. This has a direct affect on how some charge. Here in NE OK, I charge $.30 bd.ft, or on odd stuff $40/hr. I know some that charge $75/hr with a 2 hour min and blade fee and setup fee.

From contributor C:
A sawyer can give a close quote if he is looking at the logs, but if you are asking them over the phone, logs unseen, then it will be tough for him to give a close price. Remember these logs have been down for a long time - there is no way for him to know what is inside.