Making the Most of Walnut Logs

Thick and thin, high grade and low grade, sawyers and woodworkers discuss how to squeeze the best value from walnut trees. July 28, 2006

I have 100 or more walnut logs to saw for a customer. He wants me to saw every useable branch. He has no particular use in mind; he's clearing a large site and doesn't want the logs wasted. I suggested 4/4 lumber sawn for grade on the good and larger logs, but don't really know what to do with the smaller and shorter stuff. Any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor D:
Since the grading rules for walnut allow you more cuttings on 8' and longer and you defect grade on the 6' and 7' stuff, I wouldn't hesitate to cut up the small stuff, too. In walnut, a board may look like a 2com, but if you take the time to cut it out, you would be surprised!

From contributor M:
Lots of labor for the small stuff and not much bf per hour. Try charging by the bf for the big stuff and by the hour for small diameter stuff or by the hour for the job, starting with the big stuff. He will get to a point that he will tell you to stop when he sees how little lumber he is getting per hour as the diameters drop.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I agree with contributor D, as the grading rules for walnut are different. Also, much walnut can be sold without the NHLA rules to hobbyists and the like.

From contributor R:
Please, from a woodworker's point of view, you need to also cut 5/4, 6/4, 8/4 and 12/4! I prefer to keep much of my walnut thick for larger turning stock, etc. without having to do glue-ups for them. In fine furniture, glued-up table legs, bed posts, etc. don't look as good as whole piece ones do. Please do yourself a favor and use some of the best and biggest logs for the thick lumber. It can always be resawn later if needed. Most woodworkers are equipped to do this, but once done, it's too late!

From contributor B:
We like to box the heart of smaller pieces of BW and use them for table legs and posts for mantels and such.

From contributor D:
If you're going to cut thick stock, be careful as to how thick and how many you take off of one log. It takes a pretty big log to even drop a nice FAS/1F 8/4. You may think you know where the pith is, but as like cherry, the pith in walnut can surprise you sometimes. Also another thing to take into consideration is the sapwood. A lot of hobbyists, etc. don't want it and they don't want it steamed, either. I recently put together an order for 5/4 and 8/4 FAS walnut. No sapwood... unsteamed. Even after cutting 100,000 feet, I still struggled to get 600bf of the 5/4 and 200bf of the 8/4.

From contributor T:
I am noticing that most hobbyist woodworkers around here aren't looking for FAS material. If you tell them it is log run, they won't usually have a problem with it. I agree with cutting some thick lumber, as well.