Making Lumber

You know how some times you are torn between liking something and having reservations about it. I am that way about cutting down trees. Here in North Carolina clearcutting is a major trend and I hate it. Oh sure, they call it "harvesting the timber" like our forests are some garden or something. So the idea of clearing a half acre of our beautiful woods to create a building site was not an easy thing to do but unfortunately it had to be done. So one thing I was adamant about was making sure that all the trees that were cut down we reused in some way.

I had the guy who cleared the land put the logs into two piles: one pile for logs that would be made into firewood and one pile that would contain logs that would be made into lumber. This is a picture of the firewood pile; it is mostly sweetgum, hickory, and logs that would not be good for making into lumber for one reason or another. Once I get the pole barn built I will cut and split this wood. As you can see we should be set for a long time.

I cut up a bit of it this winter.

Unfortunately we had too many logs for many portable sawmill operators to saw for us but not enough logs to make it worthwhile to have them trucked to a local sawmill. After a lot of phone calls I was finally able to locate a local man who had a portable mill who agreed to do the job. Walter is 81 years young and I can truly say that I hope I am in his shape when I am that age. Here he is at the controls.

We had first made contact a couple months back. All we needed was a couple free days and some decent weather. It seemed like every time we both had the time the weather was crappy, that is until today. Walter called last night and we agreed to meet at the site at 8:00 AM. I had set my alarm clock for 6:45 but was wide awake at 4:30. My mind was wild with anticipation of the big day. I had worked a little at the sawmill in Nova Scotia but this time it was on my site with my logs. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I got there early and moved things around and got ready for the arrival of Walter and his sawmill and his son to assist.

His mill is a Woodmizer LT40 Super. It will cut a 20' log up to 36" in diameter. I measured mine and the biggest were 32". The site next to the log pile was not as flat as we would have liked and it took a while to get everything level but within maybe a 1/2 hour we were making sawdust and lots of it.

We were able to roll the small and medium size logs over to where the hydraulic log lifter could lift them onto the machine but some of the bigger logs were too heavy for two of us to even roll. The one in the picture above is about as big as we could move without some help from my skid loader. I had acquired it a few weeks back and had kind of wondered how much I would really use it in the long run but today we could absolutely not have done our work without it. For one thing we were making some 16' long oak 6x6s. These puppies must weigh about 500 pounds or more. It would be impossible to move them around without heavy equipment.

We spent about 7 hours sawing lumber. We cut red oak, a couple of cedar logs, but mostly yellow poplar. 81 year old Walter worked my butt into the ground. As I write this I have a heating pad on my back. The board pile where the boards will be drying over the next year or so contains about 1000 board feet of 1" boards and 5 - 16' oak 6x6s.

The beams will be used to build a pole barn to hold firewood and equipment. The poplar will adorn the cathedral ceilings in our house. We will schedule another day for Walter and his son to come back next week since we only completed about half the work.

Wow, what a day!