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Cutting and Grading Logs


Cutting on the Crotch

Now where exactly would you imagine the crotch of a tree would be located? If you guessed that it is wherever the main trunk splits off in two or more limbs, then you would be right. Just as folks tend to be wider at the waist, so does a tree. This makes a perfect spot to cut your log to length, that is if it falls withing the right length. A log with a wider end will scale bigger than a log cut on the tapered part of the trunk. Not only that, but you will get better grade boards if that wild crotch grain is on the end of the board instead of the center. Pay attention to your logs, sometimes there are other places in the trunk that are naturally wider than others, try to take advantage of this to get a maximum yield.

Cutting Crooked Trees

There once was a crooked tree, who was cut by a crooked saw... No, it's not a nursery rhyme there really are crooked trees, but they can be straightened out, so to speak. Of course, every crooked tree is different, so it is really about using good judgment. Your measuring stick can be a handy log straightening tool , you can use it to sight down the log and determine just how crooked it is. Then you can cut the log to minimize the curves and crooks.

Many times it is just a matter of cutting all short logs out of a tree with a long bow shape. On the other hand, your tree may have a severe crook in the middle but other than that it is fairly straight. In this case it would probably be better to just cut the crooked part out. If it is high value wood like walnut you may be able to market the crooked section to gunsmiths and instrument makers. These folks are always looking for uniquely figured wood.

Recognizing Grade Logs

As part of your bucking responsibilities it is important to be able to recognize grade logs. While all the ins and outs of grading logs and lumber cannot be covered in a short article we will touch on a couple important points.

Generally the highest grade material is in the butt end of the tree, in other words, the part of the tree that is directly above the stump. This section will have the least amount of knots and blemishes. Be careful not to cut the first log to long. If you have a log that has 12 feet of grade and you cut that tree 14 feet long you either end up with lower grade 14 foot lumber or the mill has to cut that 2 feet off to make grade. Believe me, the mill will not be happy if they have to do this. It is board footage lost which equals money lost. Learn to recognize blemishes that will become knots in the lumber and you will avoid costly mistakes.

Burning Butts

Remember this phrase “dull chains burn my butts.” It is not just a catchy slogan, its true. Dull chains can get really hot and actually burn the end of a log. I know it is tempting to keep on working with a dull chain, but believe me, you will only end up tired and frustrated. You will get less done and the quality of your logs will suffer. Don't be the guy who “doesn't have time” to sharpen his chain. In the long run you will end up loosing time and money.

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