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Author Topic: How wide to cut boards  (Read 919 times)

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Offline ethanbrush

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How wide to cut boards
« on: September 22, 2019, 10:43:58 PM »
I struggle with this a lot.   Say you are just cutting 4/4 boards for the heck of it with no specific use, or the use doesn't have a specific width requirement.  For example I am rebuilding a post and beam barn and it needs new roof boards.  I am cutting these from hemlock.  For this discussion, just consider plain sawing.  Could be either hard or soft wood. Here are some of my thoughts and questions:

1.  Its nice to have two sizes for sawing flexibility.  I don't usually cut three sizes as it makes inventory and installing more of a hassle.
2.  If you have two sizes, is making the smaller half the width of the larger of value?
3.  What is the best compromise of max width for installation speed and looks vs cupping and wood movement?
4.  The width of the stack is important to consider.  I use 48" wide, so cutting 12" is not good.  11" would be good.
5.  8-10" seems like a good size (and maybe a second at half this) as you get decent wide boards, but can cut in half if badly cupped (or need) 4" which seems like a good size for molding and trim

Any other considerations?  What sizes do you like? What would you do for these hemlock roof boards?
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Offline donbj

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Re: How wide to cut boards
« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2019, 10:49:02 PM »
Hemlock? I wouldn't go much wider than 8" for 1".
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Offline Brad_bb

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Re: How wide to cut boards
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2019, 11:07:33 PM »
I saw Ash and Walnut the most.  A lot of jacket boards from sawing beams.  I do not cut the a specific width.  I edge as wide as I can to still get a good board.  I'll tell you why in a minute.  So when I cut the boards, I stack and sticker them on pallets.  I have 8 foot pallets, 6 foot, and 4 foot, for boards of those respective lengths.  Often when cutting jacket boards, you need to trim them to get rid of too much wane, or defects etc and you end up with 6 and 4 footers.  Actually I cut them to those lengths plus a couple inches so they can be trimmed later after drying.  Stacking on the pallets in layers, the widths don't matter much as I can stack them on and get the same width on each layer by adjusting the little bit of spacing between the boards on the layer.  I then stack weight or other stacks on  the pallet to air dry.  Later on they'll get kiln dried, and then they will get edged again. The boards will move and may crown a little while drying, so this is why I leave them as wide as possible so that when you go to edge them you'll end up with the widest boards possible.  When you do the final edging, you can edge them to a standard size or a set of standard sizes for convenience.  Keep in mind you have to consider sapwood.  I like to leave sapwood on Walnut.  Sapwood is hard to see in Ash but due to ash being so dry to start with, doesn't matter as much.  Cherry on the other hand, you need remove the sapwood right at the first edging or it will have a tendency to warp that board.  To me, wider boards are worth more.  You can always cut down a wider board.  You also have to take into account warping risks the wider you go, but that doesn't bother me much as long as you take precautions like I mentioned. Hope this helps.  Not saying I'm right, just what I'm doing.
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Offline longtime lurker

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Re: How wide to cut boards
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2019, 04:47:27 AM »
There are three ways to cut a log:
The way that will give the highest value.
The way that will give the highest recovery.
The way that will give the best cashflow, because these are the sizes on order.

Every cut pattern is a mix of these, and you prioritize based on your needs.
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Offline ethanbrush

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Re: How wide to cut boards
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2019, 07:09:59 PM »
I saw Ash and Walnut the most.  A lot of jacket boards from sawing beams.  I do not cut the a specific width.  I edge as wide as I can to still get a good board.  I'll tell you why in a minute.  So when I cut the boards, I stack and sticker them on pallets.  I have 8 foot pallets, 6 foot, and 4 foot, for boards of those respective lengths.  Often when cutting jacket boards, you need to trim them to get rid of too much wane, or defects etc and you end up with 6 and 4 footers.  Actually I cut them to those lengths plus a couple inches so they can be trimmed later after drying.  Stacking on the pallets in layers, the widths don't matter much as I can stack them on and get the same width on each layer by adjusting the little bit of spacing between the boards on the layer.  I then stack weight or other stacks on  the pallet to air dry.  Later on they'll get kiln dried, and then they will get edged again. The boards will move and may crown a little while drying, so this is why I leave them as wide as possible so that when you go to edge them you'll end up with the widest boards possible.  When you do the final edging, you can edge them to a standard size or a set of standard sizes for convenience.  Keep in mind you have to consider sapwood.  I like to leave sapwood on Walnut.  Sapwood is hard to see in Ash but due to ash being so dry to start with, doesn't matter as much.  Cherry on the other hand, you need remove the sapwood right at the first edging or it will have a tendency to warp that board.  To me, wider boards are worth more.  You can always cut down a wider board.  You also have to take into account warping risks the wider you go, but that doesn't bother me much as long as you take precautions like I mentioned. Hope this helps.  Not saying I'm right, just what I'm doing.
Interesting.  Definitely many ways to go about it.  What are you doing with these boards, selling them or for your own use?  
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Offline Brad_bb

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Re: How wide to cut boards
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2019, 12:00:31 AM »
My own use for now. Wider boards are nicer, it saves you the extra work of a glue up, and you don't have to worry about grain continuity.  I have about a dozen stickered pallets at the moment.
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Online Don P

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Re: How wide to cut boards
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2019, 07:17:39 AM »
For roof sheathing I typically target 6&8", I don't like walking on 4's, there isn't much reserve there if there is a knot at midspan. In white pine 12" disappears faster than anything and dries well. In hardwood I saw random width, wider is better but pay attention. If it is going to cup heavily or wants to split I go ahead and break it down into 2 narrower boards, accepting crook but controlling the split, many uses are shorter than full length. When I later edge, the edgings are turned into stickers or kindling.
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Offline ethanbrush

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Re: How wide to cut boards
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2019, 10:24:00 AM »
Yeah good point about the strength of 4's.  Also, just gets to be a lot of work when you have 2200 sq feet of roof and are using 4" boards
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Offline btulloh

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Re: How wide to cut boards
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2019, 10:26:04 AM »
Four inch boards make a good trampoline though.  :D
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Offline petefrom bearswamp

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Re: How wide to cut boards
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2019, 06:28:42 AM »
I stack my 12" at 48" with no problem.
in the old days piles were a lot wider due to the hand stacking methods used then so the wider piles required a space between the boards to air dry properly.
According to Dr Gene this is not necessary with only 48" piles.
My biggest sellers are 10 and 12" wide.
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