Maple processing basics

The fundamentals of milling and drying maple. August 10, 2000

I've been looking for info on best way to cut Manitoba maple, but have come up almost blank. So far I've been told to cut in 8/4-by-10 slabs. Any opinions?

I'm new to drying, too, and was planning to dry in an unheated garage to a mousture content (MC) of 8 to 9 percent.

You should get some of the old issues of SAWMILL AND WOODLOT magazine, where these items have been discussed.

Gene Wengert, forum moderator

I have cut, sawed, dried, and used soft maple (sugar) for many projects. I used an unheated barn (Wisconsin) and generally air dry it for two years, then store it in my house for six months. I saw it at 1-1/16 inches thick. It likes to warp, twist and wane and the extra thickness allows extra material to joint it straight before surfacing to thickness.

A winter cutting produces better lumber than a spring or summer harvest; north side trees tend to be difficult to saw, and produce a more difficult lumber to work with. I have several pieces that are 6-by-6, 4-by-12, 8-by-8, and 2-by-12 that I used for making detailed models and toys. They still want to be trees, but I convince them to be part of the finished product by proper use of a good jointer.

Start small, work accurately, be patient, and allow what is in the wood to be revealed.

Hope this helps.

A lot depends on what you want to get from a log. Gene has talked about a method he calls the 180-degree method.

You start on the best face of a log, open it to about a 4- to 6-inch board, and saw down until you have a loss of grade. Then you turn the log 180 degrees and continue. When that runs out, you cut boards from the remaining cant. All cuts are made parallel to the bark, then you true up the last low-grade portion of the log.

This is a variation of a method called "boxing the pith" where you follow the same procedure, except you only turn the log 90 degrees after starting on the best face. These methods give you slightly different boards in terms of edging and size, but both take advantage of the best wood in the log.