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How do I go about getting a tree milled.

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How do I go about getting a tree milled.

Postby Mark Judd » Mon Sep 14, 2015 10:51 am

Last Thursday evening, we had a nasty storm roll through the area (I live in Central Kansas). One of my employees who lives on a farm had a Walnut tree blow over. They were going to cut up the wood for firewood, but they happened to ask if I knew of anyone who was interested in buying some Walnut. My thoughts immediately went to using it for back and sides sets for making guitars.

My understanding is that the tree is about 3 feet in diameter, but I have not seen the tree. It has not been cut into in any way at this point, so I have no idea what quality of wood we might find once we cut into it.

My questions are:

1. How does one go about having wood properly milled for use in guitar building? I'm not aware of any mills in the area (Central Kansas is not known for having a lot of trees), so I'm guessing it might have to be shipped out to be properly prepared.

2. Are there any luthiers on this board who has the ability to mill this wood properly and would be willing to do so in exchange for keeping a portion of the wood?

3. Assuming the wood is appropriate for using in guitar construction, what is the best way to market it to a Luthier?

4. If I could get several sets of bookmatched backs and sides out of the wood, would anyone have any interest in exchanging some sets of backs and sides for having a guitar built out of one of the sets? (I don't necessarily care if you are a full time builder or not, as long as you can produce a nice looking and sounding instrument.)


I don't follow this forum on a regular basis, so I apologize if this post isn't in the correct category.
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Re: How do I go about getting a tree milled.

Postby Mark Fogleman » Mon Sep 14, 2015 12:34 pm

First: Tell the owner to use the limbs as firewood except for any burl (looks like a big tumor growing on the surface) and invest in 4 boxes of Gulfwax (canning/freezing section of your grocery/hardware store ~$3/box) and a gallon of mineral spirits/paint thinner. Use a box kitchen grater to shred the wax and slowly add the MS and mix until you have a thin pancake batter consistency. Paint this liberally on each cut end of the trunk.

Second: Take some photos with a tape measure showing the measurements of the butt and top ends of the trunk along with the visible outside of the trunk showing any healed limb knobs.

Third: Find out if there are any Woodmizer portable mill owners in the area through their website and make contact. Also ask at your local woodworker's supply store. They will know about others. The sawyers may want the log delivered to them or charge a heafty set-up fee if they come to the site. Talk to them about realistic yields from that size trunk. Compare yields as luthier (quartersawn) vs woodworker (mostly facesawn/riftsawn) lumber. It may be worth more as ww'ing lumber. I'm seeing kiln dried firsts and seconds Walnut going for ~$4/board foot for <1000bf. They may not be interested in the job if the tree was in a yard or close to a barn or near a fenceline d/t foreign objects hiding inside...even if you offer to replace any broken blades. (Old soda bottles don't show up on a metal detector)

As far as marketing the wood you would need to wait. It needs to dry and stabilize.
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Re: How do I go about getting a tree milled.

Postby Bob Gramann » Mon Sep 14, 2015 12:58 pm

When I was in south central Kansas last year, I asked about local mills (I was looking for Osage Orange). There were two within 20 miles of the little town I was in. There are probably more mills in your neighborhood than you know about.
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Re: How do I go about getting a tree milled.

Postby Mark Judd » Mon Sep 14, 2015 1:20 pm

Thank you for the replies.

Bob, you are correct. After doing a couple of Google Searches, I have been able to find some sawmills in the area. (Of course, the closest one is still about 130 miles away, but that's better than 500-600 miles away.) There are about a half-dozen or so saw mills in Eastern and South Central Kansas. A couple of them look like fairly large commercial operations. My guess is that they wouldn't be interested in the special treatment of one tree. (Anyone know if that's an accurate assumption?) However, there are also four or five operations that appear to be small operations, including one near St. Joseph Missouri (on the Kansas side of the river) that specializes in local Walnut.

I'll send out a few emails and see what I can learn and proceed from there.

Any additional advice on treatment of this resource is also appreciated.

Thanks again for the replies.
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Re: How do I go about getting a tree milled.

Postby Daryl Kosinski » Mon Sep 14, 2015 2:22 pm

http://www.woodweb.com/cgi-bin/director ... N=1&PAGE=5

This site lists 3 in KS.

Don't make the mistake of sawing green wood thin. It will dry like a potato chip. Go thick and resaw when fully dry.

Someone with a swing blade saw can set up right over the log where it lays and can get the most quarter sawn out of a log as any other method. http://petersonsawmills.com/products/ju ... -mill-jpm/

Milling your own lumber is worth the effort. I milled, with the help of my brother and his mill, enough lumber before I retired to last me the rest of my life.
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Re: How do I go about getting a tree milled.

Postby Charlie Schultz » Mon Sep 14, 2015 3:28 pm

WoodMizer (for one) makes portable saw mills and has a "find a local sawyer" on their website. These might be the same 3 as Daryl found: http://woodmizer.com/us/Services/Find-a-Local-Sawyer

Maybe other mill makers have similar?
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Re: How do I go about getting a tree milled.

Postby Barry Daniels » Mon Sep 14, 2015 10:24 pm

You want to find a sawyer that will take the extra time to saw the wood in wide and quarter-grained planks in the appropriate sizes.
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Re: How do I go about getting a tree milled.

Postby David Boehnker » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:14 pm

Regarding what Darryl said about not sawing the wood thin - I remember the old Luthier Mercantile web site discussing their claro walnut (trying to explain high cost)- they had to cut it into 2" slabs and let it dry, then resaw it, otherwise they had potato chips. On the other hand I resawed a green osage orange log into 3/16" slices. Stickered and air dried indoors and got no movement at all, so I guess it's at least somewhat wood dependent. The down side to using a wood mizer to resaw that thin is that the actual thickness varied, and I had more drum sanding than I liked when building with it.
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Re: How do I go about getting a tree milled.

Postby Michael Lewis » Sun Sep 20, 2015 2:24 am

there should be a lengthy discussion on harvesting tone wood in the Library. The main point is to be prepared for storing safely away BEFORE you cut the wood. It needs air circulation and to be protected from rain or sunshine.

Regarding making your own sealer with paraffin wax; if you melt the wax you can pour the mineral spirits into it to mix it up. Do this away from any flame. Much easier than grating the wax to small shreds, and it mixes very quickly.
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Re: How do I go about getting a tree milled.

Postby Mark Fogleman » Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:07 am

If you're going to heat up paraffin use a double boiler...ie:place the wax in a metal container and place that in boiling water. You'll need to wait for it to cool before application, otherwise it will run off the log face. This needs to be glopped on for it to work, Keep the MS room temp before mixing it up and it will dissolve very quickly without extra heat. The coarse side of a box grater makes quick work of it. My Industrial Arts teacher in Junior High showed us how to mix this up and use it on some donated green timber back in the 60s before Anchorseal. I've used it since on any green lumber I've stacked/stickered.

BTW...I also use this mix thinned to a water consistency (~3/4 block Gulf Wax in 16oz of MS) in a spray bottle on all the cast iron tops in my shop ~every month. Soak it down at night and let it dry until the morning. Buff with a terry towel. No rust for the past 45 years in an unheated shop.
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Re: How do I go about getting a tree milled.

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Sun Sep 27, 2015 4:36 pm

If you find it is difficult to get a sawyer to mill the tree, you can chainsaw it into 26inch(backs) and 36inch(sides) lengths , split them like firewood, and resaw sets from the split face, much as is done for milling spruce soundboards.
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