Sawing an Oversize Log

Tips on getting the most out of a log that's just a little too big for your mill. August 14, 2007

A new customer has approached me to saw a very large old aromatic cedar tree (dead standing now). My mill handles a 24" cant or 32" in the round. This trunk is 36" at its mid section, not to mention the butt flare and overall length is about 9.5' to the first limb. The only way I see I can saw it is halve the log in the best plane and then mount it on the mill. Customer thinks squaring it to 24" would save more wider boards. That's a lot of hand chainsaw ripping on his part, in my opinion. I need some opinions on this one, fellow sawyers.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor M:
Saw it in half or even quarters if need be. The highest grade lumber will in the outside slabs, which you would waste by squaring. A side benefit of sawing in half would be getting a look at the center of the log, eliminating the little rot surprise common with cedar.

From contributor D:
The customer is always right, but right comes with a price. If the customer really wants 24" wide boards from a square cant, and is willing to pay more for them and put up with a loss in yield, well, it is his tree! I ran into a similar situation with a 42" diameter walnut log.

A good compromise would be to get a chain saw mill so you can make straight cuts, then split the log. Keep track of the boards so that they can be jointed and edge glued back together. This will also cut down on planer loss due to cupping.

By the way, that one job paid for the chain saw milling attachment, plus I got to keep the center 3" thick flitch. Sweet deal! I have used the chain saw mill on several jobs since then, and would never go back to freehand cutting.

From contributor A:

Load the log on the mill with the butt to the front. Roll it to the back stops with the worst face down. Mark where the log hits the bed rails, then roll the log back so that you can cut out so the log will drop down. This will allow you the extra height that you need to saw this log. By having the butt to the front, you will not have sawn into the log before it hangs up on something. With a little trimming you should be able to saw this log on your mill. Often it looks more like an octagon before it takes on the shape of a cant. My mill is rated for 36 inches but I have sawn logs over 43 by notching them out and letting them drop down.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the good tips. Now I have a more workable direction to try out on this trunk.