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Author Topic: Questions on milling flooring  (Read 1101 times)

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Offline wayback40

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Questions on milling flooring
« on: June 25, 2020, 10:50:23 PM »
I am thinking about milling some flooring.  Two questions that come to my mind right away are:
1. What thickness to mill it?
2. Is it better to mill the boards as wide as possible and rip them down to size after it is dried or to mill it and rip it down prior to drying?

Any other thoughts on milling flooring, good or bad, are welcome also.
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Offline scsmith42

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2020, 11:25:20 PM »
We mill a lot of flooring.  If the logs are good and the flooring is to be 4 or wider and 12 or longer, I prefer to mill flooring blanks approximately 2 wider than my targeted plank width.  So, for a 4 surface area, we mill at 6.  They will shrink slightly as they dry, and then we can net long lengths after straight line ripping to width.

If youre ok with shorter pieces, then your blanks can be narrower.

We usually mill blanks at 1-1/8 for a 3/4 finished thickness.

In some instances we will rip wider planks down.  A lot of times it depends upon the log.  

A two blade edger is a great tool for preparing your blanks for mounding after drying.  I prefer it over the straight line rip because its faster.
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Offline wayback40

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2020, 09:05:59 AM »
Thanks.  I'm getting nice 12 to 14" wide boards that are 12' long.  I thought I might save wood if I dried it before ripping.  I'm planning on 4 to 6" wide boards in the end.  I wasn't sure if it would eliminate cupping if I ripped it before drying.  Is that the reason you rip it before drying or are there other reasons too?
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Offline taylorsmissbeehaven

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2020, 09:48:20 AM »
I am thinking about making some flooring as well. Id love to hear your experience good or bad. Scott, do you put any kind of relief joint/kerf in the back of the planks? I have some nice white oak but have been hesitant to cut it. Dont want it to end up firewood!! ::)
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Offline flyingparks

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2020, 09:59:45 AM »
Assuming this flooring is going on top of a structural floor. Most oak flooring it 5/8" when it's ready for installation.

Offline kelLOGg

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2020, 12:59:55 PM »
I cut hickory for flooring more than 10 years ago. Air-dried it, kiln dried it and planed it to my desired final thickness of 3/4" then took it to a millworks shop for T&Ging. They told me their T&G process required planing
so I ended up with 9/16" flooring under which I had to put 3/16" backerboard to match the height of adjacent flooring. All turned out well in the end but I had no idea about planing and T&Ging being part of the same process. It's good to ask.
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Offline esteadle

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2020, 04:16:50 PM »
The NHLA (national hardwood lumber association) has rules for lumber grading which are largely the result of flooring and furniture manufacturing requirements in the downstream lumber market. Following those guidelines would put you in the "lane" for good results. 

If I were cutting flooring for myself, I'd cut it 4/4 with 1/8" over. This is a typical input spec for flooring that will be planed, and molded into tongue and groove. That gets finished down to about 13/16, when it's all done, which leaves room for post-installation sanding and finish preparation, and a couple of re-sands down the line after it wears for a couple decades. 

As for whether to cut to width, or rip down later, I'd cut to width as best as I could and avoid re-handling the lumber. 

When I have re-sawed, I liked to have 2" over to make sure I could clear any side-bend issues with the dried lumber. You can lose a lot of good boards if you don't have enough width after shrinkage. 

Best of luck! 

Offline ladylake

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2020, 04:29:11 PM »

 I cut flooring at just over 1" less than 1 1/16 thick . If cut a at  full 1 1/8 your losing 1 board for every 8 to 10 boards.  My flooring guy says maybe 1 out of a hundred don't clean up at 1 " .  Keep in mind these flooring company like the extra wood shavings they get from a full 1 1/8 .  Steve
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Offline alan gage

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2020, 04:42:47 PM »
I've done a couple rooms in my house and will do the rest this winter. The house did not originally have hardwood floors, it was carpet and linoluem. There was already two layers of sheathing on the floor and it seemed plenty strong so I decided to cut my flooring at around 5/8" thick off the mill and planed it down to 7/16". I didn't get carried away with width, I think 3 1/2" was the widest. It's all face nailed with no tongue and groove. It's worked well so far.

A lot of the pieces were 10+" wide coming off the sawmill and after they dried I straight lined everything on the mill before running it through the Woodmaster with rip blades installed for final widths. This didn't work quite as well as I'd hoped since the wide pieces had some stress relieved when being cut into narrower boards and some of them ended up with some pretty good crook. I'd planned on using long pieces but many of them got cut down to 3-4' to get straight pieces. This was ash.

Next time I'll try to keep the pieces closer to final width right off the saw.

Alan

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Offline customsawyer

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2020, 07:31:47 AM »
I've run over 15,000 SF of flooring and paneling in the last two days. I do mostly pine and cypress. The pine I cut at 1" and the cypress I cut at 1 1/8". Any oak I've done was cut at 1 1/8".  I would advise against trying to skim a extra board every now and then. There is a reason it is the industry standard.
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Offline ladylake

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2020, 09:11:31 AM »

 A lot of that 1 1/8 came from old mills cutting inconsistent lumber , any where from 1" to 1/14 when shooting  for 1 1/8. plus most mill like shavings.  I cut accurate just over 1" and have never had a complaint from a flooring company.  That extra board every 8 or 9 cuts will way more than make up the 1 in a hundred that doesn't clean up good.  Steve
Timberking B20 15000 hours +  Case75xt grapple + forks+8" snow bucket + dirt bucket   770 Oliver   Lots(too many) of chainsaws, Like the Echo saws and the Stihl and Husky     W5  Case loader   1  trailers  Wright sharpener     Suffolk  setter Volvo MCT125c skid loader

Offline scsmith42

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2020, 12:31:50 AM »
Thanks.  I'm getting nice 12 to 14" wide boards that are 12' long.  I thought I might save wood if I dried it before ripping.  I'm planning on 4 to 6" wide boards in the end.  I wasn't sure if it would eliminate cupping if I ripped it before drying.  Is that the reason you rip it before drying or are there other reasons too?
I am thinking about making some flooring as well. Id love to hear your experience good or bad. Scott, do you put any kind of relief joint/kerf in the back of the planks? I have some nice white oak but have been hesitant to cut it. Dont want it to end up firewood!! ::)
We've been making flooring for ten years, and have made 1/2", 3/4", 1" and 1-1/2" finished plank thicknesses.  Widths have ranged from 2-1/2" all the way up to 18" wide planks.

Moulding methods have included a 4 head moulder, our current Wadkin 6 head moulder, and a shaper.  Up until a couple of years ago all blanks were sized with a Mattison Straight Line Rip Saw, but now we use a Woodmizer 2 blade edger to size most blanks because it is faster.

The 4 head moulder required us to pre-size the blanks from a thickness standpoint, because it lacked the power to hog much more than 1/16" per side.  I really detested that machine for making high flooring volumes because we had to fight it so much.  

In contrast, the Wadkin is a joy to use, but takes a lot of time to set up properly.

Our flooring niche is not making generic flooring and selling it.  The market is too competitive and our equipment not production enough orientated to be financially profitable in this arena.  

Instead our niche is in two areas.  First, we work with customers who are building their own house on their own land and have to clear some forest for the home site.  They will have their grading contractor bring us the logs (typically in dump trucks) and we will mill, dry and then post-process their logs into flooring, cabinet wood, ceiling boards, external siding, etc.  In this area we are competitive and since they had to pay to have the land cleared anyway they are able to absorb part of the cost in their grading budget.

Using lumber from trees that grew on their own land is a great story for the customer, and we've been very successful in this area and the customer usually doesn't mind spending a little extra.

The other niche is providing a product that is not a commodity.  When we make flooring, we're trying to avoid making a lot of 2' - 5' long flooring boards.  Instead, we want to be able to provide planks that are 16' - 24' long.  There is a tremendous difference in the presentation of a floor that is made from long planks (in some instances spanning the entire room with a single board) versus the inexpensive short plank flooring that is so common today.

So, lumber quality is a big issue for us.

When we're milling logs for flooring, we will start by understanding the best balance between yield and plank width.  For most customers, this means a random width floor with 3 different plank widths, but this is dependant upon the customer's log diameters and log quality.

We will always assume a 35% yield loss when turning green lumber into net 3/4" finished flooring.  Thus, if a customer wants 650 sq ft of finished flooring, we will make sure that there is at least 1000 board feet of raw lumber.  The drying and processing related losses are typically between 20 - 30% if we're milling, and we've seen losses of up to 50% when provided with low quality blanks from other millers.  Thick/thin, defects, etc all affect net yield.  Blanks from some millers who are really quality orientated are a joy to work with.  But we've seen our share of blanks from a milling operation that was more concerned with yield than lumber quality, and who did not understand proper stickering for best quality, and these can be very frustrating to work with.  

Once we know the targeted blank widths we will mill a combination of boards from the log that are either pre-sized, or will be correctly sized after they have dried (ripped into two blanks).

Individual board quality drives our decision making process when sizing the blanks off the sawmill.  Boards from the outsides of the logs are milled directly into the proper sized blanks.  Boards immediately below them that have sapwood on the outer edges will be dried full width, and then ripped into a pair of blanks after drying.  Same goes for boards from the center of the log that have pith wood in them.

What we've discovered over the years is that green blanks that have sapwood running down one edge will frequently crook while drying, rendering them useless for long plank floor boards.  We can trim them down into 3-4' lengths and salvage them, but at a cost of the overall floor quality.  

The reason that they crook is that, although sapwood dries the same percentage as heart wood, because it dries faster the edges of the board start to shrink faster then the heart - causing the blank to crook to one side.

By the same token, boards that have pith wood present along one edge also tend to crook towards that edge, and thus are better off left wide for drying and then edged into narrower flooring blanks after drying.

Sometimes boards that appear perfectly fine have stresses in them, and they will crook to one side when we edge two blanks from a wider board after drying.  I'll say this though - we have seen less waste from edging after drying as opposed to making narrower blanks off the sawmill.  All things being equal, if the blanks are less than 6" wide I prefer to mill 12" wide blanks and resaw.  For blanks 6" and wider, in most instance I prefer to mill at 6 so that we have less work later.

We've made flooring with, and without the relief grooves, and I have not had any complaints either way.  Typically we are milling in the relief grooves.

Regarding thickness, what we prefer varies depending upon the width of the blank.  Years back we made some 18" wide heart pine flooring that was installed in my mother in laws house.  The blanks were milled at 1-3/16" green in order to ensure that they would be thick enough to clean up on the show side - full length - after drying.  Usually with wide blanks they tend to cup somewhat, and also to distort in spots where knots are present, and having the slight extra thickness allows us to still yield a full width and length floorboard.

For narrower floors - such as a 3" wide plank, then milling at 1-1/16" thick is fine.

We've made 1/2" thick flooring by milling 5/4 blanks  and resawing them into two (dry measure), and we've also made it by milling at 13/16", stickering on 12" centers to minimize distortion, drying and then moulding from there.  Both methods have proven successful.

Keep in mind that the methods mentioned above are for producing a long flooring product from oak logs.  There are other, very experienced members here that have different methods and recommendations regarding sizing flooring blanks, and I do not mean to devalue their advice.

Lots of flooring is made from short, narrower boards that can be milled at 1" or so green.  But since narrow, short planks are a commodity product my own preference is to focus on areas where the profit margin is higher because we offer something that is uncommon.  Plus it's just cool to be able to make something that looks great and is not easily found in the marketplace!



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Smith - Gallagher dedicated slabber
Tom's 3638D Baker band mill
and a mix of log handling heavy equipment.

Offline customsawyer

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2020, 07:46:51 AM »
Very well said Scott.
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Offline tacks Y

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2020, 08:44:12 AM »
Yes, Thanks Scott and all others for the information.

Offline wayback40

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2020, 11:21:43 AM »
Thank you all for the input. 

Scott, the details will definitely help get me on track.
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Offline OutlawB52

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #15 on: July 05, 2020, 02:44:37 PM »
Scott , thanks for explaining your business model . How are you able to flatten an 18 inch board with cupping ? Thanks , Rod

Offline scsmith42

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Re: Questions on milling flooring
« Reply #16 on: July 05, 2020, 07:10:12 PM »
Scott , thanks for explaining your business model . How are you able to flatten an 18 inch board with cupping ? Thanks , Rod
Rod, I have an Oliver 25" jointer/planer.  In the instance of those uber-wide planks, they were sawn with minimal slope of grain, the cathedral grain was centered from side to side in the board, they were stickered at the bottom of the stacks for maximum weight on top, and sawn thicker than normal to provide a bit more flexibility to flatten.
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Smith - Gallagher dedicated slabber
Tom's 3638D Baker band mill
and a mix of log handling heavy equipment.


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