Milling Your Own Flooring

Sawmill operator asks about the wisdom of milling up some mesquite flooring, and gets opinions both ways — along with some practical tips. October 4, 2005

Making mesquite flooring Brian B. Cooper 3/23
I am looking for some advice on milling up my own hardwood flooring. I own a sawmill and cut mostly mesquite, and I want to install mesquite flooring in my living room. I am looking for some advice on the best way to process my rough cut lumber into tongue and groove flooring with my personal wood working tools (table saw, planer, shaper, drum sander, etc.). For instance, what would be the best bits to use for cutting the tongue and grooves?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor F:
I know someone who had a sawmill and was given a large black walnut tree. He made all the flooring for his kitchen and dining room in a rather large custom home that he built himself. I don’t remember a single complaint or regret from him about it. You seem plenty tooled up to do the job.

First, get the lumber as dry as you can in your climate (I am thinking with mesquite, you must be in a hot region) My friend made his floor with air dried stock near Santa Cruz, California. Then, saw to your finished width plus about .25" over size across the grain.

If you have a jointer, face joint the stock to flatten and straighten it (if you’re a fussy type). If not, go directly to the planer with it. Just remember, boards tend to go hollow length wise on the face that material is removed from. You can use this knowledge to your advantage in keeping the boards straight as you plane them to finish size.

When planed to finish thickness, either use a jointer to straighten the concave (hollow) edge, or make a table saw straightening device/jig to do that. Now, rip the stock to finish width using of course the straightened edge against the saw fence. You can leave them .03125" wider than net size and gang-plane the edges smooth, or use a groove setup that cuts the groove and at the same time machines the edges of the board on either side of the groove.

After looking at your machinery list I would suggest that you buy tongue and groove cutters for your shaper and run your prepared stock on through. A power feed would be nice, but hold downs and feather boards will get you through one floor. Running your pieces once should work fine with the right cutters set up properly.

From contributor L:

If you have a power-feeder for your shaper then I would suggest that you pick up some tongue and groove cutters or a 30-40 mm head with tongue and groove knives and use your shaper. Use an outboard fence and every piece will be close to the same size. With the right head, and running your stock face down you should only have to change the knives for the two setups.