Peter McBride        Antique and Old Tools 

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Milling 3 logs of English Oak recovered from suburban yards.

Modified:   11 February, 2007

First made this page in 2004, now that the oak is dry I've started to use it to make furniture...click here...and scroll down to the cot and change table.

click on the images for a larger picture

My brother Mike let me know he was cutting down two English Oak (Quercus robur) trees that  looked good enough to keep. The larger one was a huge tree more than 120 years old, in a school ground, condemned because of rot in the upper branches. The other was 60 years old, and had to be removed because it was on a fence line and appeared dead. I've had problems getting logs milled in the past, so this time phoned a "new guy" who was very accommodating and eager to help. Andrew has his mill set up in a yard only 10 minutes from my home. The following 2 Saturdays were good for him, and for me also, to give him a hand and decide on the cutting as it was progressing.

The larger, older tree looked good, but had a star crack through the centre, and one of the larger limbs was solid for about 1.0m. That gave me one smaller piece 1.0m long x 0.6m diam. [ 3' 3" long x 2' diam.] and another 1.6m long x 1.2m diam. [5' 3" x 4' diam.] The younger tree looked straight and solid, it was 2.4m long x 0.6m.diam.[ 8' long x 2' diam.]

oakw.jpg (41239 bytes) This is the first log we milled, the short one, and the easiest to move. Alignment of the log in the mill is critical. Although the heart wasn't central in the log, it must be aligned horizontally and parallel to the track. Andrew called it "cutting to the heart" and is done to lessen the risk of warps, twists and bow in the boards.
oak1w.jpg (29523 bytes) To cut this log into quartersawn boards, the first boards are cut vertically. Then three pairs were  cut horizontally each side of the heart cracks. Here you can see the heart cracks.
oak2w.jpg (29833 bytes) The boards came off the saw with no bow or warp, and were showing fantastic ray patterns in the grain.
oak4w.jpg (92282 bytes) This log was a little more difficult to set up in the mill, there were two hearts at the left (the upper end of the tree as it split into two branches), and one at the right. Andrew aligned the two hearts on the left horizontally, drew a chalk line between them and aligned the centre of that line with the single heart at the other end. 
oak3w.jpg (33361 bytes) This looks a little wasteful, largish wedges of oak were being cut away. ( Andrew shouted...do you know any wood turners wanting small blanks?) Andrew assured me I would thank him in a few years when I had a scrub plane in my hands! 

It had taken the whole day to get this much done. We spent a few hours getting this log from the back yard to the front, and onto Andrew's truck.

oak6w.jpg (22154 bytes) I spent the next day setting up the stack. I laid it out on 4"x4" bearers, levelling it all and sealing the ends of the boards. I calculated the volume before I put it on the stack, there is 0.5 cubic meters. That is about 17 1/2 cubic feet, or 210 board feet, and we still had the huge log to cut.

Based on the theory that you don't know if the next log is rubbish, I got some things I wanted most out of the first logs.

oak8w.jpg (41417 bytes) Nice grain....
oak9w.jpg (56877 bytes) I drove into the yard as the guys were loading the big log onto the bed, note the counter weight. I watched Andrew and the other bloke standing there bouncing up and down, and the guy steering when the wheels hit the ground. They were cutting and splitting firewood there...as they drove away laughing one of them shouted back..."we still haven't had a log we couldn't move."
oak10w.jpg (63480 bytes) The alignment for this log was more of a problem, with three hearts this end, and two at the other. Also the one on the bottom left had some rot going in fairly deep. I was hoping to get some slabs with nice grain for cabinet door panels using the chainsaw. We set it up and cut into it taking boards out, quartersawn as best as possible until a good surface presented itself for a slab.
oak11w.jpg (46469 bytes) And it certainly did...

Andrew turned the saw off, threw a bucket of water onto it and went to get his camera. We threw a few ideas back and forth about what to do next. He asked..."do I want a shallow 3' bowl with that grain inside? 

oak15w.jpg (37684 bytes) Woodturning is not high on my list, but Andrew said it might be in 3 or 4 years time...that was it, we cut a 3" slab.
oak12w.jpg (57911 bytes) We kept cutting slabs, and they split into two pieces each side of the heart. 4 more cuts gave me 8 pieces, 2 sets of 4 book matched planks. Then once again back to cutting boards the best the log could give.
oak13w.jpg (60254 bytes) All loaded into my trailer. The trailer is 1.1cubic meters, 38.85 cubic feet.

There looks to be another 460 board feet there, making a total of 1.5 cubic M, or 670 board feetl.

oak14w.jpg (37318 bytes) This is the Oak stack, looks a little untidy. I will need to clear away some space and take the top layers off, restack it and cover it better for when the real rainy season starts.

Copyright Peter McBride 2004