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Timber harvesting, milling, and storage

 
Chris Lumpkin
Posts: 49
Location: Richmond, VA (zone 7a)
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I have some building projects in mind, and I have been very excited after reading Ben Law's books (The Woodland Way and Roundwood Timber Framing) to do some roundwood framing. I really, really need a workshop, and I think a cruck-framed building would work nicely.

We are fortunate to have quite a bit of tulip poplar, aka yellow poplar, on the property. I have seen this wood used quite a bit in construction, and it should be great for dry above-ground uses. In fact, we are preparing to put up a fence, and I need to take down 10-12 tulip poplar trees ASAP. I can't imagine taking these beautiful tall, straight trees down without saving some for beams. However, I am under the impression that I would need to mill the lumber fairly soon after felling, maybe even immediately. I am concerned that my project will take longer than I would like if I have to mill each tree as I drop it. I work M-F 9-5, and I really want to get this fence up before my neighbor starts spring planting, because my chickens love his garden.

I have some experience with a chainsaw, and I am looking to purchase an Alaskan sawmill attachment and rip chains for my Stihl MS311. I am fairly certain the milling/ripping will get very difficult if the wood dries, but how much time do I have? What is the best way to go about storing this lumber until I need it, if I can't have the ideal drop-mill-build scenario?
 
C. Letellier
Posts: 213
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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Climate- wind, humidity, precip and temperature all play into this.

Here being the middle of the winter I would have months to process them if I harvested now. Being harvested dormanant and staying frozen for a couple months has advantages. There given your season I will guess you will still have several weeks to a month with virtually no risk. But talk to someone in your area that logs. But it is important that you get them down before the sap rises which I am guessing is probably starting there. Winter harvested wood from dormant trees is drier for initial moisture and you will have less trouble with cracking later. Do you have someone with a saw mill near you? It probably would be worth it if you do to rent a loader big enough to load the logs out so you could haul them to someone with a mill. Here in a 25 mile radius I know 5 people with mills set up so I am guessing if you ask around someone close to you has a mill set up and running. My reason for thinking this way is to be able to harvest and process the trees while still in dormant mode. Given your location you are nearly out of time for this plus added to your work schedule really doesn't leave time for you to get the equipment ordered and the trees processed. There might even be someone with a true trailer mill who could come to you. Be aware there is a bunch of set up time on trailer mills to turn out decent work as they have to be completely and accurately leveled. If you had been asking the same question in Nov. my answer would be to go your route but now probably you should be looking for other routes.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
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I have some experience with a chainsaw, and I am looking to purchase an Alaskan sawmill attachment and rip chains for my Stihl MS311.


You can chain saw mill, but this is much harder than it sounds and is very slow! Get a local Sawyer if you can, as few that try "chain saw milling" without an extensive background in "green woodworking," and other intensive wood based skill sets can achieve good or sustainable results.

I am fairly certain the milling/ripping will get very difficult if the wood dries, but how much time do I have?


Depends on the species, but full logs do not dry out that fast in general and much slower when "end sealed," which you should do any way as that is proper wood management. Get the bark off as soon as possible as this is a major contributor to insect infestation. If it does start to warm up on you, you may have some sap stain issues. The logs should also be at least 150mm off the ground (300mm is better.) Store in shade if possible, under water is best, and again...end seal.

What is the best way to go about storing this lumber until I need it, if I can't have the ideal drop-mill-build scenario?


Do a web search for proper "stickering" of lumber, then if you have more questions come back.

But it is important that you get them down before the sap rises which I am guessing is probably starting there. Winter harvested wood from dormant trees is drier for initial moisture and you will have less trouble with cracking later.


Sorry this is an "old wives tale." There is the same amount of sap, summer and winter. The sap does not fall. Many forests are cut winter and summer. There are different precautions for each and weather can have affects as much as anything else, depending on goal for the finished wood. Winter is often easier on loggers, and the ground they tread upon. "Sap Rot" or "Sap Staining" is mitigated in winter months.

Good luck,

j
 
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