Maximizing Lumber from a Log

Can quartersawing produce as much usable lumber as one company claims? January 29, 2004

I read on the website of a company that specializes in quartersawn lumber that they actually get more usable lumber from the log, and also a higher percentage of higher grade lumber. This is contrary to what I have read elsewhere. What do you think?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor R:
They must be buying Veneer Grade Logs, high yield but expensive. Just a guess.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I am highly dubious that they can do what you stated. Please let us read their web site info.

From the original questioner:
This is the company:

From contributor S:
It seems that all they're saying is that they use the whole log for lumber. In a way, it makes sense since if you were sawing for grade (sawing around the log), you would stop pulling boards once you got down to the #2 common stuff in the center.

On the other hand, if you quartersaw, you may or may not get clear lumber - it might be full of knots, there's really no good way of telling beforehand. Altogether, I think their claims are dubious.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I have visited this company and worked with them. They are very yield conscious. They do an excellent job of getting high yields from the logs that they saw, but they do not get the yields that a good flat-sawing mill would get.

From contributor D:
Appears that they would get near 100% (all) of the log sawn into 1/4 sawn pieces doing the "inside out" way that they saw. High recovery would have to include the secondary manufacture of the sawn boards into glued-up panels as some of the pieces would have spike knots and be narrow (too narrow for grade lumber). So measuring their recovery against a flat-sawn product might be comparing apples and oranges. They appear to have a solid method of sawing. Can't tell for sure if they use a band mill to do it, but would think it would be difficult any other way. Their inside out method sure recovers more product than some of the conventional 1/4 sawing methods talked about.

From contributor A:
I have read the web site and find issue with several statements.
1. "Additionally, the quarter-sawing process uses less energy." I find this hard to believe. If you saw a log into quarters and then cut a board and flip and saw a board and flip, etc. till done, how would that use less energy then just plain sawing? Would take longer and make more, smaller boards.

2. "Finally, a greater percentage of high-grade lumber is produced from each quarter-sawn log, allowing use of lower-grade logs." Crap is crap and junk in, junk out. When qsawing you cut from the very best wood (outside) to the very worst wood (inside) and it is all in one board. A knot is in all of the face of the board even if it is small. Lower grade logs will produce lower grade lumber. Just because you change the angle in which the blade passes through does not improve the grade of the boards if they are full of knots and defects.

3. "There is only one true way to quarter saw a log. First, we cut a log into quarters. Each quarter is then processed by cutting a single board off of one face." As long as the growth rings fall in the pre-described angles to the face of the board then the board is qsawn no matter how you got it out. Seems to me that when the log is cut into quarters that they will bow more and there will be more waste due to more straight line ripping.

All in all it was a nice web site and to them with less knowledge it sounds good. They are really not wrong with what they are saying but I just have a few issues with it.

From the original questioner:
By the way, contributor A's method of qsawing (cutting three boards through the center, before quartering), seems to save a couple cuts on the saw. Might have to make a couple extra cuts later on an edger or rip saw.

Contributor D, as I understand it, they use a vertical band headsaw to quarter, with a secondary vertical bandsaw and a carousel to break down the quarters.

From contributor D:
Probably they get most to all of the high quality outside wood just under the bark into their product, rather than in their slabs (as happens in flat sawing). Regardless, if they are happy with the process and are making money at it, I could care less if they think it is better than other sawing methods. Sounds like a good idea they have.

Contributor A is right, they can't get more quality out of the log than it has originally, but getting close to all it has is probably the best one can expect.

And as I said, including the secondary manufacturing either in the process or selling direct (bypassing NHLA graded lumber) to the user is likely a payoff for the timber grower (more money). If they really do make more money (profit), then they can afford to pay more for logs. That changes the competition a bit for logs. As long as 1/4 sawn lumber brings more money (?), then there will be those who try to get more 1/4 sawn. It shouldn't be worth any more because of the method of sawing.

From contributor B:
Speaking of methods on quratersawing, this is how I do it. Am I all wrong? I quarter the log, then I place one wide side down and the other against the uprights and trim a bit of the bark edge off and flip the 1/4 and trim the other side, making a sort of cant (but it still has some bark on part of the opposite quadrant from the pith). I then take a board off one of the wide sides, which makes the cant uneven. I flip the cant and take one from the other side, which makes the cant even again. Since it is even I take a second board off this same side, which makes it uneven. I then flip the cant and take 2 boards, etc. Each time after the first I take 2 boards before flipping and most of the boards are edged on both sides. Flipping after each cut seems unnecessary.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Two and flip is okay, but if you want the most quartersawn possible, then flip after every cut. Actually, it is not what you want as much as it is what your customers want.

From contributor T:

I don't think anyone can tell the difference between a "true Q=sawn" board and one that just happens to have vertical grain. Is the term "true Q=sawn" just a marketing tool?

From contributor M:
Just a means of getting vertical grain. You can get the same thing by riving it with a froe and planing or scraping the surface. I'd just hate to have to do a thousand feet.

From contributor G:
I just quartered a 22 inch red oak. To get the best quartersawn lumber in wide boards, it is a lot of additional work, but the results are worth it. I got a very high yield of beautiful grade lumber. When the stuff came out of the kiln, it was so flat it looked as if it had already been planed. There are several different techniques - you just have to use the one that suits you best. It takes longer to saw, but the milling time is less, at least for me. It does take a little longer in the kiln to dry than plainsawn, but I feel it's worth it. I had very little waste - mainly just the pith.

From contributor P:
However you saw a log, you won't find all the planks to be quartersawn. You will get some of the bastard sawn planks, too. Therefore, from my viewpoint, there is no true 1/4 sawing.

From contributor R:
Their method of sawing produces both vertical grain planks and rift sawn planks, not exclusively quartersawn planks. It is not the only true way to quarter saw a log, contrary to what is stated on the website. And I still don't get the "ecological benefit" thing, because a log will yield only what's inside, whatever the cutting method.

To get quartersawn planks all the time, the pie-shaped piece (one quarter of the log) from which one plank has been sawn on each side has to be resawn in two pieces again in the center to produce two new pie-shaped pieces, etc. and planks will be cut from each side (interior) of the new pie-shaped pieces. Lots of handling and time consuming. I think that, even with rift cut material, one can do a very good job on matching planks for pane gluing and stuff.