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Pine butt log - sawing technique??

Started by alecs, September 12, 2022, 09:56:05 AM

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In the collection of surprise logs that were dropped off in my driveway recently, one is a 14' butt log from a white pine.  It flares out in the last couple of feet as you might expect.  Ideally I would like to get 14' lumber out if this, but it's kind of pushing the limits of my sawing capacity.  (manual Woodland Mills HM130Max, just me with the cant hook for rotating)

So my options are:

  • Saw it down to 12' length and split the remaining 2' for firepit wood
  • Bibby it before loading it on the mill
  • Load it on the mill as is and perhaps struggle with it

I've been reading about compression wood on other threads here.  Is the bottom of this log likely to be less usable than the rest?  in which case is it a waste of time to try to get the full 14' out of it?  Or is it worth the effort to try to capture the full length lumber?

Thanks for any insights.


If it was tamarack I'd say cut off the 2' of the flare, because the boards will curl up in the shape of it as you saw them. White pine however is one of the most well behaved woods and shouldn't be a problem. I'd just trim the flares with a chainsaw so they don't fight you on the mill.
Too many irons in the fire


Your highest quality lumber is recovered from butt logs, that being said in yard trees butt logs are just the right height to drive nails, lag bolts, re-bar, fence wire, ceramic insulators, and horseshoes into.  
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Don P

For lumber, watch the slope of grain with flared logs. The "best" procedure is to saw parallel to the bark but... it sounds like you got too big a butt. #2 is 1 in 8.


Both barbender and Southside replies above are spot on input.
I've done this with a 3' pine butt log, get it on the mill and cut notches to clear the guides. Oh yeah, and I ran into a healthy dose of 20 D nails in that log...
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Well, I got my big butt on the mill today after chain sawing some of the flare off of it yesterday.  I have a rough cant now, 14"x16", 14' long.  It is almost entirely clear, although closer to the center there may some relics of early branches I expect.  A little bit of rot at the very base.  

Maneuvering a big log like that - maybe 22" dia at the skinny end, 14'3" long - by myself with a manual mill, manual log clamps, and a cant hook for turning- well, I'll say that's about the limit of my strength and equipment capacity.  Even my FEL was at its limits lifting the log off the ground.  So now we know what that upper limit looks like!  

The toeboard on the WM mill slides back and forth on little wheels, which allowed me to slide the log back and forth on the tracks.  Otherwise it was too heavy to slide on the bunks.  By moving the toeboard from one end of the mill, raising the log, sliding the log, and then moving the toeboard back to the other end to repeat, I could shimmy the log.  This was necessary because I couldn't make the second cut perpendicular to the first due to the log being too heavy to get it rotated into place and properly clamped.  So I took off some rough passes that were at an angle and trued them up later once the cant-to-be was a little bit more cooperative.

Here is the cant ready to cut down to 12x16" and then rotate to make 12" lumber.  Little stripe of rot at front towards right side.  Oh, BTW, I used my metal detector and there were no 20d nails to be found!  Thanks for the reminder to check for hardware!



Nice job.  Hate to bring it up but be careful with your back !  There used to be guys on here that no longer can mill due to back injury's. Big logs are nice but hard on everything including you. Stay safe don't want to spoil your fun.
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 Nice work. We've talked about it before on here: oversize logs can be milled but they do increase time and work significantly. Not always worth the effort.
I say this as i'm headed out this morning to pick up a load of logs one of which is 36" on the butt. If I was smart i'd leave that one there...
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CAT 416 Backhoe W/ Self Built Hydraulic Thumb and Forks
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Orlan Wood Gasification Boiler -Slab Disposer

Don P

Yup, we're 2 days and 400 bf in on a oversized walnut log, but its pretty. Today is slabbing the 5' wide crotch. We're rolling in something  :D.

Just the grading I see on the pine cant, if the grain aligns with the figure I see at this end, the slope of grain is #1, I see what looks like massed pitch on the right, a sign of damage, from what. Stress is carried on the outside surfaces, do not saw till the knots appear, you want the clean straps of fiber. Wane is over the limit so one more knot revealing pass to get it below 1/4 width for no more than 1/4 length and from the parts I see this would be a #1 if it were to be a beam. So I'm not at all sure that amount of big butt was an issue strengthwise. The difference in figure and true slope of grain is critical, you'll know the true slope of grain when you see the slope of checking.


alecs, nice job on that big pine. Looks like you'll get some good boards from it.
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