Quarter-Sawing with a Swing Blade Mill

How to saw for vertical grain and figure using a swing-blade mill. May 27, 2014

How does a Lucas mill do for quarter sawing?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Contributor S:
By switching from making vertical boards to horizontal boards a swing mill can make VG boards or flats sawn boards if that is the need. It has been my experience that given a choice a swing style mill will more effectively produce boards vertically, if the log size is not an issue.

So back to your question, when my customer's asked for VG material I would start with vertical boards for about the first 1/3 of the log, switch to horizontal boards till I reached the last 1/3 of the log and switched back to horizontal boards. The yield loss with this method does not seem to be much different than the loss with the band saw technique of 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 (I assume you are aware of this method). I just didn't need to pull the top 1/3 from the mill as is done in the band saw method.

From contributor G:
Essentially you can cut the whole log as quarter sawn depending on your definition quarter saw and never roll the log. That's given a reasonably sized log. Quarter sawn equals growth ring slope not greater than 45 Degrees. Pass equals layer of boards as seen by the Lucas based on depth of cut. Indeterminate boards (rift sawn) are going to be generated at the opening/closing points at 45 degrees on the log (1:30pm; 4:30 pm; 7:30 pm, etc.). The beauty of the Lucas is it can change from horizontal cutting in the middle of the pass.

Open the log based on the outer edge for best slope of grain. Example: Say your just above mid-point of a 30" log starting a pass. Cut a horizontal 2x6, lower the saw 2" and cut another, repeat. Raise the saw 4"s slide over 6" and repeat above. The saw is now down 6" plus the kerf and over 12 3/8". Shift to vertical sawing and cut 2x6's until the grain reaches 45 degrees then shift back to horizontal. Adjust board width to fit the log. Itís easier with hardwoods because they are random width and not locked in to construction size wood. Take any taper out at mid-point in the log. This method takes more time than just regular sawing but if you're quarter sawing you should get more value from the sawn wood.

From the original questioner:

Let's say I have a 24" log with an 8" Lucas swing blade. Cut off an 8x8 pie section, re-saw this section on the band saw mill alternating cuts. Cut the upper middle section with the Lucas. Cut an 8x8 pie section off the other side and cut the same way as the first pie section on the bandsaw mill. Do I have to turn the Lucas carriage around to cut the second pie section?

From contributor G:
That will work. I've just never had the luxury of having two saws. The downside is handling 8x8 cants. But let's take that idea one or two steps further. Basically what you would be doing is using the Lucas as a breakdown or cant saw and the band mill as a resaw. No reason to double cut/turn the saw head. Open the log with the Lucas giving you a clean flatten top, and reduces the log size by an inch? Drop down 8" to 8 1/4" (max) and clean and flatten that edge, then cut over the 8"s to make the cant.

Now cut the center section, 6" to 8", as a cant and re-saw it on the band mill. Exit cut on that pass the same as the opening cut giving you a third cant to re-saw. With at least three flattened sides I'd think that squaring the cant on the band mill would be a lot faster and easier. And a clean surface reduces the wear and tear on the band blade. On the bottom 8" piece just straighten the outside edge with the Lucas and move the slab to the band mill. That's a big piece but it's less than 24"s. If you can handle 8x8's it shouldn't be a problem. And you don't wind up with a bottom slab you can't cut. Lots of variation can be done with just the Lucas and throwing in a band mill adds more.

From contributor O:
Regarding what constitutes quarter sawn: I've been a maker of Arts and Crafts furniture for 20 years and have literally gone through tons of quarter sawn. The best is sawn exactly perpendicular to the growth rings - period. You get the potential for huge flake that way. As soon as you move away from 90 degrees to the growth rings, you begin to lose figure fast.

From contributor G:
It really all depends on the customer and species of wood what can constitute quarter sawn. Crafts people looking for fleck have a very strict definition. Makers of flooring are not so strict. The grade book for the commodity market sets a standard but sometimes that's not what the customer wants. In custom sawing I always try to cut for the customer. He gets to vote with his money.

From contributor O:
Yep, you are absolutely right about that. From a custom furniture standpoint, it doesn't make sense to spend time using anything but the best in figure. I think we have an interesting exchange here between a sawyer and furniture maker. A lot of what is technically quarter sawn is just plain boring if there is not an abundance of fleck. At least with flatsawn you have an interesting arch pattern. Quarter sawn without fleck is just a bunch of straight lines. I think this can cause a little bit of tension between sawyer and customer. The sawyer says, "hey it's quarter sawn!" While this may be technically true, it doesn't matter. If it's devoid of character it's worthless to someone like me.