Urban Lumber Could Hold Hidden Surprises

Q:

The old maple tree that fell in my backyard is just too good for firewood, but all the sawyers I’ve called seem reluctant to come mill it for me. They quote additional charges in the event of blade breakage. Should I have to pay for their equipment?
—Jimmy Feeling, Riverdale, N.J.

A:

A broken-blade fee is fairly common for sawyers operating portable mills, Jimmy. Especially when milling “urban” trees, which considerably raise the odds of hitting embedded metal. 

Did the maple ever hold a treehouse? Has anyone ever nailed a clothesline to it? Did it live along a fenceline where it absorbed barbed wire? These questions are often impossible to answer because trees large enough to hold useful lumber are also old enough to pre-date their current owners. A one-tree job probably doesn’t earn the sawyer enough to risk the expense of a seriously damaged blade, so you end up absorbing the cost.

If you take the plunge and hire a sawyer anyway, spring for a handheld metal detector and thoroughly inspect the lumber before and during milling to prevent damage to your own blades or yourself after you start working the wood in your shop.

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