Sawing Short Walnut Logs

Advice on getting good lumber yield from a batch of 5-foot and 6-foot logs cut from a nice, fat Walnut tree. February 12, 2007

A local tree service recently cut down a black walnut 30 inches in diameter, 40 to 45 feet merchantable height, into 5-6 foot lengths. This tree seems free from defect. What would be the best method for cutting these logs into lumber, using a portable band saw service? Are there any problems with sawing and drying short lengths (i.e. decreased yield)? I plan on using this in my cabinet shop or trading with local craftsmen.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor T:
I would saw these as if they were 8 or 10 ft logs. No different. You will get some added loss because the ends are probably dried now, and will crack more than normal, since each ten feet of logs has 4 ends instead of two. But still very much worth sawing and kiln-drying. I would also add a little extra for sawing, as I would be handling more logs.

From contributor K:
I do not know anything about walnut. I do know about cracks in the end of the logs... end checks. They start quickly and they allow the air in and the crack gets worse as the drying goes on. Lots of discussion about end coating and types of sealers on this and other forums. If you do not have gallons of sealer in your shed, you do have plastic and duct tape. The idea is that you have exposed the end grain to drying when the bark and structure of the grain is protecting the rest of the log. Protect that end grain with visqueen/plastic held in place with duct tape - it will look funny but you'll protect and recover a significant percentage of your quality lumber. Think of a granny with a shower cap and smile while you enjoy your walnut treasure!

From contributor J:
It could be me, but I have sawn countless walnut logs that have been down for years with no end sealer and have not seen a lot of problem with end checking. In my experience, walnut is pretty forgiving. If you can seal them, go for it. It sure can't hurt!

From contributor E:
An awful lot of furniture is made from stock shorter than that. You may not get top dollar for it, but it probably will still be worth the effort. There are a lot of people doing turning these days, and under the branches of these large trees produces a lot of curly figured wood that they will gladly shell out some money for if you can find and show them what you have got.

From contributor K:
Thanks to contributor J. As I said, I know nothing about walnut. My county is larger than some states and I'll bet there are under a hundred walnut trees. They are all in someone's yard. Sure is pretty wood.

From contributor S:
Waste not, want not. And if it is free, it's me. Get the logs and get them sawed! Some may consider them a bastard size, but I would bet that just about anyone with a bandsaw would saw them for a share or for the cash. If the mill will allow it, put them end to end to help cut down on some of the handling. I don't see it as that big of a deal (the shorts, that is).

From contributor V:
I don't know where you are located. My mill is set up permanently on my site in New Jersey. When custom sawing, I hire a local guy with a tractor trailer sized log truck to come and pick up the logs and bring them to my mill. From there I can deliver the lumber to you, or you can pick it up yourself. I can also air dry it in my space, and you can get it a year later. I would recommend air drying walnut so it doesn't lose its color, and after a year putting it in a kiln for a week or so to bring it down to about 8% moisture content, so it is stable and workable. As far as end sealer goes, I wouldn't recommend duct tape. Paraffin wax is the best, but is dangerous to melt before brushing. Latex paint works fine on walnut because it doesn't check too much unless the tree has tension in it. A tree will have tension in it if it grew in a considerable leaning stance, or was in a very windy area (you would see wind shake on the end grain).

The logs can be cut anyway you like, and you can even be there and participate. I charge by the board foot, so have it your way - flitched (natural edge slabs), plainsawn, quartersawn, flatsawn, or gradesawn. The short length is no problem.

Also, a 30" diameter walnut log can produce very rare and highly valued wide boards, possibly worth in the $20.00 range once dry. If the tree service left the crotch intact, you could have even better lumber yet. As a woodworker, I'm sure you know! If flitched, you will get 30" wide boards; on my mill setup, if the logs are straight, and the boards are edged square, you could get boards over 20" wide.