Sawing Thick Walnut for Leg Stock

August 26, 2019

Slicing up a short walnut log for future projects where thicker leg stock would be needed.  Thick stock takes years to dry so we need to think pretty far ahead when producing it.

The walnut logs that I picked up.  The crotch area had already been separated from the trunk.  Interestingly, this is characteristic of traditional saw log processing.  The crotch area is removed leaving only the main trunk of the tree.  That section would be the saw log and the rest of the tree would be waste, especially the crotch.  This tree wasn’t specifically cut for that purpose, just to make it easier to remove from the yard but I found this to be an interesting example.

As I was talking with the homeowners, they asked me if there was any value in the logs.  I responded with not really based on their size and where the tree was growing (their yard).  I let them know that most sawyers wouldn’t even consider sawing a yard tree because they typically have embedded metal in them.  They seemed a bit surprised by this fact and ironically, I pulled two nails before getting the logs into the saw.

The main trunk will be sawn for leg blanks.  I’m aiming to get the cuts to maximize the rift sawn areas in two of the slabs.  Before I get to that, I need to trim the log down a bit.  I’ll pull a couple of 4/4 slabs off first.

Next the log can be rolled.  If I was making edged lumber, I’d stop here and make another cut but since I want to maintain the live edge to give me more possibilities in the future, I’ll keep going and roll the log 180 degrees.

With the log rolled over, I can repeat the process and trim this side down as well.

Next I can start laying out the cuts starting with a center line through the pith.  What I’m looking for is one 16/4 slab on either side of the pith with a quality section which will produce a rift sawn leg blank.  A rift sawn leg blank has the growth rings running from corner to corner when looking at the end grain.  This orientation will produce straight grain on all 4 sides of the leg.

An alternative you can do with thicker stock is rotate the leg blank within the thickness.  This reduces the size of the leg you can get (more waste) but will give you the results you’re after.  In this example a 3×3 leg can be oriented like a diamond in a 4″ slab to get a rift sawn blank.

With the cuts laid out, the log can be sliced up into the individual slabs.

The center slab contains the pith which has a high probability of originating a crack.   Ideally, this area would be cut out of the slab but I decided to leave it as it.  It looks like the cracks that are currently forming are going straight up to the surface.  The biggest risk we want to avoid is a crack going to the surface at a diagonal which would put a crack through our leg stock.

A little water to see how the grain is going to look.  There’s a few spots of figure, but plenty of clear straight grain for leg stock.

Now it’s onto the crotch.  I agonized about which orientation I would cut this in.  With a triple limb crotch there are 3 orientations and it’s just an educated guess as to which will produce the best figure and to a lesser exent, shape.  I sliced one of the limbs off to create a flat section that could then be placed onto the bed.

With the wide cut on the mill, the two halves can be placed side by side and sliced up.

A look at the main crotch figure slabs.  These are the ones that I was going for.

The slabs from the top section of the log.  They still have some interesting figure and shape but lack that iconic crotch feather figure.

Products Used

Log Tongs: https://amzn.to/2KXxJZR
Cant Hook: http://amzn.to/2n7XNWD
Peavey: http://amzn.to/2m3Wple
Hearing Protection: https://amzn.to/2xysd8q
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  • Hey Matt,

    Pretty slick. Good information. You’ve come a long way, and it will be interesting to see where your journey takes you. Looks like your doing more Matt Cremona designing than reproduction work.

    • Thanks Tom!