Rescue mission: Walnut lumber from logs


A friend bulldozed down some large black walnut trees, and I talked him into letting me rescue them from the burn pile. How do I turn these trees into useful lumber?
—Dave Emmerling, Douglas, Texas


For large trees, it’s time to call in the experts, Dave. Wood-mizer (800-553-0182, or Timberking (800-942-4406, can provide you with names of sawyers in your area who operate portable sawmills.

Make sure the sawyer cuts the timber extra thick to allow for wood shrinkage and planing—about 1" thick slabs for 34 " finished stock. Also, consider asking for lumber in larger thicknesses, such as 8/4, which can be difficult to find and expensive. You can always resaw or plane the lumber thinner.

As soon as possible after cutting, seal the ends with an end grain sealer, as shown above, or several coats of paint. Green wood begins to shrink immediately due to moisture loss. The end grain is especially susceptible and could split if left untreated. Then sticker and stack the wood to dry. You can use a moisture meter to check the wood’s progress, but a good rule of thumb to follow is one year of drying time for every 1" of wood thickness.

Because your friend knocked down these trees with a bulldozer, you might be able to get at the tangle of roots at the base of the tree. It’s hard work, but worth the effort as this is often where the most highly-figured wood, such as burl, hides. Dig it out as best as you can and blast the wood clean with a power washer before cutting.

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