Should I Wait Before Milling Walnut?

Walnut logs gain nothing from lying on the ground, and sometimes suffer from it. December 15, 2005

How long should I wait before milling fairly large (18") walnut logs? Someone told me I should wait about a year. Is there any validity to this?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor A:
Not that I know of.

From contributor B:
I'd mill it as soon as it hits the ground. No need to wait.

From contributor C:
The sooner, the better. The longer you wait, the harder it gets.

From contributor F:
I've heard that keeping walnut wet for an extended period will darken the sapwood, but have never found any proof of it. I have sawn walnut right off the stump and had it black as the ace of spades. Some say air drying the lumber is better for color also. I usually air dry for 6 to 12 months and then finish in the kiln. Walnut will actually lighten with exposure to sunlight, but again I've had boards with light colored edges that were black after milling in the shop. Cut them now, and save it or sell for as much as you can get.

From contributor D:
If the logs sit around, the sapwood will change color but the cambium miners will be at work on it also, so any color change is mute and will not be that good anyway. I would not be afraid of buying walnut logs that have been sitting a couple of years but if I can, I mill them as soon as possible. I like the contrast between the sapwood and heartwood. I have not noticed much difference in color between air dried and kiln dried but there is a huge difference between either of them and steamed.

From contributor A:
There are many disadvantages to not sawing up walnut logs as soon as possible. Spring and summer cut logs tend to crack open soon after cutting, sometimes within hours and definitely after a couple of hot days. These are cracks you can insert your hand into.

Also in the spring and summer, the bark tends to slip or fall off and expose the sapwood, causing drying that leads to deep drying cracks in the side of the log. Some of these cracks can be 3/8 wide and inches deep into the log. The ends of the log will start drying first as will any other exposed areas - like trimmed knots. The wood in these areas will be harder and harder to saw. The hardness not only adds to sawing time but also makes it more difficult to saw accurately as the blade passes through wood of different sawing characteristics from hard, dry, wood to softer, damp wood, and back to hard again.

Id recommend coating the ends of the logs and any exposed areas with a sealer like Anchorseal as soon as the log is cut especially in the spring and summer. Keep logs covered with a tarp or at least store in the shade. Get them milled as soon as possible and on sticks and stacked under roof out of the sun. If you intend to air dry, then a second coat of sealer could be applied to the ends of the boards. Winter cut logs are a lot more forgiving. Depending on how cold and damp the environment is where they are stored, they can last until the weather heats up without too much degrade.

I understand most commercial walnut is steamed to even out and darken the color even the sapwood. Walnut that is not steamed tends to have a more rose blush lighter color and the sapwood will be white or off white, when the logs have laid for a long time but have not started to decay.

From contributor E:
Maybe the one year time period is air drying time after you saw the logs? Generally, you should saw logs as soon as possible and then get them stacked up to dry properly.