Sawing Live Oak

Hard as a rock, full of sticky gum, and it dries twisty ... what's not to love? April 21, 2008

I have 10 acres that is mostly live oaks. I was wondering if anyone has tried to use them for framing lumber for a house. Most of the tree trunks are 12 to 18 inches. What would be the best way to dry the lumber? I was thinking about air drying with maybe some fans. I have a large metal building that I could store the lumber in until I am ready to build.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor N:
I know of no way to dry this lumber such that it would resemble anything reasonably straight. The wood is absolutely beautiful, but it just will not dry straight. Perhaps if you cut it drastically oversized and then machined to proper dimension after drying it would work for you. Also, I am not sure how well live oak would accept a nail. It is the most dense wood in North America and around the 3rd or 4th in the world.

From contributor R:
I myself wouldn't saw any quantity of live oak, for several reasons. One, the pitch buildup on the blade is tremendous, no matter what blade lube you use, and a lot of lube to keep the pitch down is too much. Two, the cutting is slow going because of the density of the wood. It is extreme. Three, I don't want to carry the boards off the mill all day long. I bet the wood, dried, still weighs over 5lbs a bf.

From contributor B:
I'm quarter sawing a 40" diameter backyard tree that died in Altadena, California. The figure is wonderful but the pitch is a mess and it's bending much worse than normal oak. Now that I see others with the same problems, I'll finish up with big cants and see if they can resaw square in a few years.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
The cants will likely check so badly that all you will have left is firewood. Also, wet wood saws easier than dry. The secret is to avoid heat.

Incidentally, hardwood trees have gum and not pitch. The heat softens the gum and then it is deposited on the blade. That is why lubes will help... to minimize friction and also cool the blade (if the lube is cool). Many times, people will use cold water for a lube.

From contributor B:
Dr. Gene, thanks for your comments! I stopped water cooling on the live oak because I thought it was gumming the chain even worse (I'm on a Logosol mill). Saws pretty well on a clean chain for 3 or 4 boards. Yes, resawing dry will be much harder. What to do? I guess next idea is rip it into (custom) flooring - that would show off that great grain and the thin (twisted) boards will be less to correct on the jointer. You'll realize I'm a hobbyist - clearly this much work makes no sense. Thanks for your work in raising the level of what we do.