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Discussion Starter #1
A question sawyers. Living here in south central Alaska there are lots of birch, cottonwood and spruce. The cottonwoods grow to pretty good size but the spruce and birch don't get that large. Most birch, which where my question lies, are around 12 inches or less, some to 15 inches and only the very rare one to 18 inches. What size is the breaking point for making it worthwhile to saw into 4/4 and 8/4 lumber? I can get almost all the 8, 10 and 12 inch trees I want but are they worth cutting for lumber? What are your thoughts? Thanks.

Mart
 

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What size is the breaking point for making it worthwhile to saw into 4/4 and 8/4 lumber? I can get almost all the 8, 10 and 12 inch trees I want but are they worth cutting for lumber? What are your thoughts?
This is a big subject really I will hit the high points and may add more as I think of them if someone else does not first. I have to say part of this is personal preference as a sawyer, a sawyer blessed with big logs to saw. I don't like small logs for many reasons. From my end there is too much log wrestling and not enough lumber making, get a little log on the mill flip it 4 times to saw a cant then maybe get to pull 6 boards. Then repeat with the next little one. The waste pile from smaller logs is equal to the finished lumber by the time you remove the bark and sapwood and the pith which is usually undesirable is too large a % of what is left to saw. Small logs have more stress in the lumber because of the way the growth rings are oriented in the boards (more cupped, larger logs the rings are flatter)

But if small ones are all you have, watcha' gonna do ? If a timber stand is overrun with small ones it is often good to remove some of them and give the rest room to grow big if they will.

A 10" log. Keep in mind we measure the little end, not the big end. Will leave you with a 7"x7" square to mill lumber off of grade sawing (which I prefer)...That is if it is dead straight, a little crooked and that number goes out the window. If a guy just wants a small log flat sawn through and through then trim the waste off the edges (or leave live edges) he will get some wider boards from the middle of the log...unless the pith is bad then the center board will have to have that cut out.

I have to run out for awhile. Probably some of what I said may be aided with drawings and definitions of some terms (pith,cant,grade sawing...)

Just because I don't like sawing small logs myself doesn't mean they should not/can not be milled into lumber. I do it for others when I have to.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Daren,

Thanks for the reply. Small logs are it for me. Nice, big logs are pretty rare here. I do have a small wood lot and will do some thinning this year and with a contractor for a buddy I often get called to clear lots or parts of lots and he always keeps me in mind especially if there are good size trees.

Most of what I cut helping him ends up as firewood but I am able to take the lower 8-10 feet sometimes for saw logs. Most of the birch here is dead straight, once in a while with a large burl. I may have the loan/rental of a mill this winter so will want to take advantage of the mill while it is here.

Thanks again.

Mart
 

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Hey Mart,

I'll add a little more. Like Daren said, stick with the straightest ones since they are small. A little crook even in a good size log wipes out alot of BF in a hurry, but in a small log it's exponentially worse.

This idea is not an option for most of us, but if you had the market and capital and access to timber, a scragg mill can turn an otherwise impossible venture into a highly profitable proposition. Your log sizes are perfect for a scragg mill. What comes to mind first is the hardwood flooring, interior and exterior siding markets. You can also sell to other markets. I don't know the market in Alaska, but I guess there are alot of log cabins built there. Hardwood flooring and interior siding is right popular for log homes. The species you list are perfect candidates for interior siding, you would need to find something else for flooring, although softwoods such as pine and spruce are not uncommon at all, especially for those who want a distressed floor installed.

This is a longshot but I thought i would mention it in case it's something that might work for you.
 

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Common Guys - for years, I've been telling the wife size doesn't matter. I just hope she doesn't see this thread.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Texas Timbers,

I wasn't planning on cutting anything for resale, only for my own use in furniture. If I get next to enough cottonwood I will cut some for the walls in my family room. My biggest interest is in keeping myself supplied with lumber for my projects and the few furniture jobs I take on. I may have a Woodmizer for the winter with the possibility of buying it at a later date. Most of the birch here is very straight and I just got a line on some very large, 18" +, birch trees near a river bottom that a guy needs removed. I may be into som bigger logs.

Mart
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I won't be ignoring you if anyone responds to this thread. I am leaving tonight for a week long moose hunting trip. I will catch up with you guys on this subject next week.

Mart
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Mike,

To answer your question, no. Sarah's a little busy to be hunting with anybody right now. I just got back from my float down Mooseless River, formerly known as Moose River. None to be found. I'll hunt around home the next couple days and then it's back to work and the season will be over before my next week off. I will get a look at those big birches next week and see what kind of a deal I can strike with my friend with the sawmill.

Mart
 

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Mart,
I used to live in Anchorage and while up there they opened Fort Rich for firewood a few times and some of the birch there easily went 18+ inches. I dont know if they still offer that on base anymore but when they did it was open to the general public. We routinly took logs home to cut into firewood. (before my milling days)

Another thing to check on is the personal use rules for Alaska Forest. I know in the southeast your entitled to 10,000 BF of timber, per year, for personal use. They are your trees!

You should be able to check with the state forestry office in Anchorage to get the details. I know its not available in some areas.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Kirk,

I will check into that. I haven't heard about any Ft. Rich firewood but have several friends in the military who might know. Thanks.

I will also check the DNR for personal use. I missed out on the big trees I thought i was going to get. Seems the guy was too anxious to wait a week and paid someone to remove them. I would have done it for free.

Mart
 
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