Mill your own lumber (US) or saw up your own trees (UK)

My son Matt, doing what he does best!

Even if you haven’t got a Wood Mizer style bandsaw, you can still mill, air dry and use your own lumber. What you will need however is a decent chainsaw, access to a reasonably powerful surface planer and a small to medium sized bandsaw. The following method minimises wastage and is much more productive than slab milling a tree with a chainsaw mill, or by eye. However, an ‘Alaskan’ style chainsaw mill could be really useful for the first stage, shown here being carried out by using a bit of nifty hand-eye coordination.

Firstly, I like to saw every log into quarters with a chainsaw and it pays to be really careful to cut a very straight line. I wonít labor the safety aspects of a chainsaw but itís worth saying this: Donít do this unless you are experienced and really know what you are doing. This works great for oak, as you can get practically every board out of the log with a lovely Ďquarter sawní figure to it.

After the chainsaw, rough it to a reasonably flat surface with a coarse set scrub plane. The scrub plane will take really heavy shavings, thick in the centre and tapering out to nothing at the edges, thanks to the curved profile of the iron. It also has a huge mouth to accommodate shavings up to 1/8Ē thick! Thankfully, I only had 5 minutes of roughing the surface to a reasonably flat finish. If you try to do this stage with a big electric planer, you can end up wasting a lot of time and wood as the humps may kick the log over, preventing you from choosing the ideal surface to work from.

Using a chalk line is a quick way to mark up your quartered log.

†Iíve used a chalk line here to mark out a couple of bulges I need to remove, to get the log down to less than 12Ē wide, which is the width of my planer cutters.


Itís on to the saw horses next to check that the width of you log is going to match the width of your planer.†This is a really coarse Disston rip saw. There are 4 teeth per inch and it makes short work of taking the humps and bumps off. Make sure the log canít roll or tip by wedging it securely. I sat on it to saw it as the extra weight kept it good and steady.


Surface preparation is really important before you try to bandsaw boards. If you miss this step out, you are going to risk snapping the blade as the log tips and twists on a the rough and bumpy surface. What Iím aiming for here is a flat planed surface to ride along and then an adjacent flat face at 90 degrees to this surface. This is a fairly hefty Wadkin planer and using the 90 degree fence, Iím able to get that nice corner on every log before I use the bandsaw. Depending on your set up, you may have to disconnect the dust extraction for this job as the shavings will be so chunky that they may clog up the works otherwise, and besides, the wood is green and you wonít make a lot of dust at this stage.

I have a Jet 16″ machine which will happily cut boards up to 8″ wide. You need a good pair of roller stands to take the weight of the log each side of the table. Iíd also recommend you enlist in some help at this stage as itís quite a job to keep pushing the log at a slow and steady pace whilst keeping it tight against the fenceÖand supporting it adequately at both infeed and outfeed stages.

For cabinet work, I saw up boards to a thickness of about an inch and an eighth to an inch and a quarter, as this does rails, stiles and cabinet sides after planing The other size which is really handy is 2 1/4″ square, as this is great for legs. If you have some nice wood for panels, cut this at 5/8″ thick as and mark them as consecutive boards. You can then use them for book matching any nice figure or spalting patterns.

The best advice I can give you is this: Cut the wood to the size you are going to need (plus an allowance for planing up both sides) BEFORE you air dry the lumber. If you donít plan the cuts now, you will be very lucky to deep rip a thick board after itís dried without getting some serious cupping and twisting, which is a complete waste of time.

I stack up sawn wood above my workshop ceiling joists.


Stack the wood somewhere dry, with skinny sticks or battens between the boards to keep them separate and flat. If the air circulation is inadequate, you risk getting a lot of mold growth and discoloration, and in the worst case, it will just rot!

Allow 1 year per 1Ē of drying time, and then 1 for luck if itís over 3 inches! When it comes to using the wood, a really useful method to prevent movement is to plane exactly the same thickness off each side, whether it needs it or not. By this I mean you may have a really nice smooth side and a really rough side – Treat both faces equally and youíll minimize the chances of the board moving.

Iíll stack all this new wood up in the rafters and just forget about it for a year or so. However, I do have some nice wood thatís about dry now, it was sawn up over 2 years ago now, so I think Iíll take it down and see what Iíve got, but thatís for another day! Hope this was useful, Back soon!