Lumber from Tree Branches

Branch wood is stressed and unstable, but in some odd situations there may be value in it. October 19, 2013

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
Iíve seen plenty of articles that state that the branches of a tree are normally turned into firewood. If you can make good lumber out of small tree trunks, is there any reason why one couldnít make good lumber out of larger tree branches? If you cut the branches into shorter, straight lengths, and used a scragg mill and resaw to cut up into boards, would this make sense? Or is there a problem with the wood that would cause too much warp?

I know that there are really two different questions here. Can it technically be done, and can it be profitably done? Iím just wondering about the technical side of the question right now.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Most branches have a huge amount of internal stress, so the lumber produced will not be flat after sawing and after drying.

From Contributor A:
Branch wood can be used for certain things where appropriate. Carvings and sculptures, boats and ships (live oak limbs were highly prized for ribs on wooden ships), and other things where you want the natural shape to provide strength or form. Not much good for flat stuff due to built-in stresses that work against you, and it is usually dangerous cutting it on a table saw for you or someone you might sell it to who is unaware of the problems with it.

From Contributor B:
Years ago there was a place in Pennsylvania that made small crosses to wear on necklaces and set on desktops. They were made from walnut. My father bought walnut trees for the veneer but we would take the tops and branches and saw them up. The company would accept most anything over 1' long and 4-6" wide, minimum. The tops of the walnut trees more than paid for the cost and labor, making the veneer logs free.

If you can find a market for small pieces of walnut, cherry, etc. money can be made from the branches, for example, pen blanks, boxes of small pieces for eBay, etc. For small pieces 12" or less in length after drying to 8%, stress is fairly insignificant. The hard part is finding or making the market for it.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the information. I was wondering why everyone turned branches into firewood.