From Logs to Lumber

several planed wood slabs

We live on a wooded acreage here at Roy Creek Ranch, and I’ve always imagined using some of that wood to produce furniture. Consisting mainly of Texas Live Oak and Ashe Juniper (“cedar”), some of the trees are substantial, and might produce some usable lumber. I prune the live oaks regularly, and have worn out several chain saws trimming back the “cedar”, so a ready stock of wood is always available.

Turning irregularly-shaped trunks and limbs into flat, straight lumber has always stumped me, however. Once or twice, I tried taking a small cedar branch and squaring it up on a table saw, but without a proper jig it seemed too hard and produced marginal results. I couldn’t afford a proper sawmill, and that was a shame. There were several large dead-stand, cedar and oak trunks I had cut down around the place. I even thought about using a chainsaw to rip the logs, but how would you guide it to make straight plank?

Finally having some time to investigate last summer, I asked the Intenet, and this rabbit hole revealed a couple of low-cost solutions. Both were additions to a chainsaw, but had slightly different strategies for guiding the saw. The first one I found was the Haddon “LumberMaker”. Available from Amazon for about $130, it works by attaching an existing piece of dimensional lumber to the log, and using that lumber to guide the saw. The tool itself attaches to the chainsaw bar with a set screw, and the attached, pivoting shoe rides along the 2 by 4 or 2 by 6 guide. In this way, it is possible to square off or turn irregular, round logs into dimensional lumber. I decided to buy one.

Arriving a couple of days later (I love Amazon Prime!), it was attached to the chainsaw in no time. I notched a couple of short logs to make a stand, attached a two by four to the top of an oak log, and began cutting. Very cool. The thickness is adjusted by the placement of the guide board. It’s worth taking some time with the setup, but the result is good, if not exactly fast.

I tried the cedar next. This is a little softer than the oak, and cut much faster. It worked well too, and I soon had several cedar boards. After running the boards through a planer, they were ready for a small project. A more detailed description is available here on Roy Creek Ranch.com. By the way, both live oak and cedar are quite beautiful when cut. When the edge is left “natural” and the flat cuts are finished, they make attractive accents for a home. I have seen natural-edge cedar plank used to trim window openings with good effect.

Cedar Planks - Glue Up
Using biscuits to glue two cedar panels together

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