Stacking and Stickering Random Length Boards

Advice on stacking and (keeping track of) boards sawn from logs of different lengths at various times. November 16, 2011

I know most of you guys are large operations, but perhaps you can give me some advise. I have a small manual band saw mill, and a homemade DH kiln. Iím cutting wood on my property and want to get some use from it. Now that I am converting logs to rough boards, I need to stack and sticker them for air drying. I have an 8x12 covered platform to put them, but I am having some challenge with stacking efficiently. The problem is that the logs arrive in different lengths, and I cannot figure out how to stack the boards well with good support.

I may mill a couple nine foot logs, then a few six foot logs, then another nine foot, then some six, some shorts, etc. I cannot figure out how to stack so I can add longer boards on top of shorter boards and still support the ends. I don't want to un-stack the shorter boards to add longer boards underneath. Maybe I should start a collection of assorted "short boards" (2-3 ft) to fill out the shorter ones to match the longer lengths? What is the best approach?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
We put the longer pieces on the outside edges (which means you may have to save a few of them for a future layer when you see that a few 6' logs are coming). Then the shorter pieces are staggered within the pile, end to end. Because you have both odd and even lengths, you need to have a sticker at every foot to make sure that the ends are supported. If you want to be a bit more efficient, then organize the logs by length for a particular species or day and do the longer ones first (bottom of the stack).

From contributor A:
The Doc answered your question but if you are not careful you will be like me and have piles like this spread over 30 acres. One piece of advice I will give you is to take a good permanent marker or lumber crayon and write the date you sawed the wood and type on the boards of the runs as you stack them. Later it will make it easier to know how long they have been air drying and what you are looking at.

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From contributor X:

I've never cared for mixing shorts with longs. I dry my shorts vertically in lean-to sheds I have built just for that purpose and keep long boards with long. I only use basic rules when it comes to stickering (with some exceptions).

Rule 1. Always start with the most valuable lumber on the bottom and work up with lesser value as the stack is built.

Rule 2. No two board ends will meet anywhere within the stack. Full length boards only. If you don't like to dry vertically (I've never had a problem by not flipping them) then just build stacks of shorts. But whatever ends up working for you is what is best. I'm sure some have mixed stacks for years with success but I just never did like it.

From contributor G:
One problem with mixing is that unless you have a very detailed inventory, you can't look at the lumber stack and tell what is in it. You may be counting on having longs, and instead, have shorts.

From contributor T:
How do you sack to dry vertically and not end up with warped pretzels?

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Species prone to warping and also lumber cut from near the center of the log is not stacked vertically (sometimes called end racking or A-frame stacking), as warp control with the weight of the layers of lumber in conventional stacking is not possible.

From contributor X:
95% of the shorts I mill are (acer negundo) and also ERC (juniper). Both of these species are quite stable. The acer negundo is finicky but as well as I know the species I have the right to call it stable because I know how to handle it. I don't even cut pecan or hickory shorts unless I intend them for the wood stove. Doc answered the question accurately as usual but I wanted to throw in the part about why I have so much success with short verticals. Like he said you just have to know what to avoid.