Obtaining the best figured wood. September 2, 2002
After a number of back walnut trees were given to me to use in my furniture, I have expanded my business to include the sawing and kilning of my own lumber. I know how to quartersaw the logs, but would like to know the best way to saw the crotches to obtain the highest degree of figure.
I find that there is more figured wood obtained by sawing the crotch on its side, as if it were a pair of pants.
Saw through the crotch with the y lying parallel to the blade, that is, flat on a band mill.
Flat saw walnut - quarter sawing does not improve the appearance of the final product, and might reduce the amount of visible figure.
If it's just a crotch, I align the piece so all three piths are the same height off the deck. This allows me to "box" the heart out in one board.
Now the part the others forgot to tell you about why you box the piths. That is where the cracks start. The part with the pith will bust and you should try to get it into one slab. The "V" inside the piths is good turning stock and most of the time I take it in a 3" slice. Seal the ends and edges with anchor seal to help control checking. If there is any doubt about the head clearing the piece, start in from the wide end. If you have room, most saw smoother from the bottom of the "Y". Some will have ingrown bark and water damage from a long ago crack but when you get a good one you will know it.