Quartersawing Sycamore Method Two

by J. Kevin K ‎06-09-2011 08:45 AM - edited ‎06-15-2011 10:24 AM

Last time on my blog we discussed quartersawing these giant sycamore logs by the bolt method.  This time we will give it a go with the more conventional quartersawing method that many of you may be more familiar with.  My Amish friend thinks this will be a lot slower, but I don't.  I bet your wrong Melvin! I am so sure that I am right that I will feed your pigs if I am not.


First, after we wrestle one of the giants onto the mill, we have to adjust the mill frame so the saw blade runs right through the heart on both ends of the log.  Since one end of the log is smaller than the the other that small end has to be jacked up.  This is the same procedure we used as on the bolt method, so no starting the clock yet Melvin.


Here we are ready to go.


cuttin log in half better.JPG


Next, we break out the log peavies, and flip the top half off the mill, again same as the bolt method.  We now have a half which needs cutting into a quarter.  Now you can start the clock Melvin.  In the bolt method we left the half on the mill, and just slightly rotated that half a little, and cut off a bolt.  You can review that method in the last blog I wrote if you like.  Below we are cutting the half into the quarters.   Picture got rotated, but you get the idea.


quartering 2 method.JPG



Next, off comes the top quarter off of the mill leaving us with the bottom quarter.  We shall now finally begin to actually cut some boards.


cutting quarter 2 method.JPG


We cut some nice 12/4 that would be 3" thick planks off the quartered faces.  After this first cut was done we flipped the remaining quartered piece, and cut off the other face.  There is a lot of more log peavy maneuvering going on here than there was with the bolt method.  I am starting to think maybe Melvin knows what he is talking about.  We still have another quarter get back on the mill, PLUS the other half that has to be quartered, and cut as well.


We tried this way for two more logs, and it ended up being over an hour longer than the bolt method.  Melvin won, and I had to go feed the pigs for him.  I don't think he fed these pigs in a while either.  The boar kept running into my legs trying to get me to fall down, and drop the feed bucket before I could get it to the trough.  Melvin kept rooting for the boar to knock me down too.  Hard to believe a guy like Melvin goes to church on Sundays.


After 60 man hours of quartersawing and edging we are done with the sycamore.  It is very important that if you ever cut sycamore yourself to end the seal the boards, or they will split like my son after he spills kool-aid on my wife's white carpet. I use a commercial end sealing wax, but old latex paint will work too.  You just want to keep moisture escaping from the ends faster than than it comes out of the middle. We ended up with about 1600 bd ft of quartersawn lumber.  The tally of the logs, flats sawn, would have been close to 2900 board feet, so we lost about 1300 board feet by quartersawing.  That is probably a little more than when we quartersaw oak, but we kept cutting off thin slices to cut for maximum effect.  You can see what I mean by reading the prvious blog.


I stacked the lumber pile in my barn with spacers (stickers) between the layers, and had some fans blowing through the pile for about a month as there was no room in the kiln.   This also means I get to stack the pile twice!  If air drying lighter woods, NEVER shut the fans off, or you could end up with stained lumber.


I talked to three experts on drying sycamore, and got three different kiln schedules! I decided to dry it at a moderate pace with lots of air flow, so I put more fans in the kiln.  If we dry it too quickly, it will split, and crack.  Too slow, and it will stain.


A few months later after that cold February week when we cut the logs, the first of the sycamore has arrived.  Here is what it looks like all cleaned up. The colors range from white to orange to red.  Some call this red sycamore.  Although very heavy when green the lumber dries to light in weight.  Easy to work, and soft.  Maybe a little softer that poplar, but some of the Amish here use it for flooring, and it is still hard enough to stand up to abuse.  Quartersawing produces the elongated to lizard scaling that you can see below. I have, or soon will have this in 4/4 (1") thick stock 5/4 (1.25") thick stock 8/4 (2") thick stock, and 12/4 (3") thick stock).











Below are some candle stick holders a customer of mine turned.



Thanks for reading


Kevin Koski

Dry kiln operator



We use two methods to quartersaw sycamore for maximum figure.  This is the first method we used.



The Amish Sawmill Part 3

by J. Kevin K ‎12-09-2010 11:17 AM - edited ‎12-09-2010 11:23 AM

We left off part two with the veneer logs up at the landing.  Let's see how they got there from over 1000' from where they were cut.  Here we see  the bulldozer as it made it to the landing.  Lester gave me a ride this time.  That road was really smelly, or maybe it was Lester?


load is here.JPG


He carries the cut lumber on his forks, and he is also pulling a sled that either has more cut lumber on it, or the veneer logs.   This road, and landing are in such bad shape that the sled was getting stuck in the mud.  When it would get hung up he would pull ahead with the dozer then winch the sled to it.  Rinse, and repeat several times each haul.   Below is another picture of that landing.


muddy landing.JPG


Usually these mills have bundles of slabwood that they sell, but after picking lumber up from here a few times, I noticed there never was any bundles there.  I asked Lester where they all were at.  He told me that he has been taking the four feet in diameter banded bundles, and dumping them into this road, and landing.  The whole bundles were never even broken apart, and spread out!  Under all that mud is countless slab bundles going all the way from the landing, and down that 1000' of road!  Lester said that that road doesn't have a bottom, and I believe him!


Now we are in early spring, and they are just about done with these woods.   Lester called and said that they did the last of the grading, and that they found a little more curly maple for me to pick-up.  When I got there, I noticed Lester was walking around like he had a brick in his drawers.  "What happened to you?", I asked.  He smiled, and replied, " $%#^&* poison ivy!" Lester like most everyone else working these wet woods were wearing muck boots instead of the work boots they usually wear.  The pants are tucked inside the boots, so you don't get your pant legs all wet and muddy.  Makes sense until you see this:


poison ivy 2.JPG


Ah yes!  The poison ivy vines growing up the trees.  As you get more to the edge of the woods you will see this quite a bit.  The poison ivy has enough light now to thrive.

 Lester doesn't like to wear socks (It's an Amish thing), and paid the price.  When he cut the logs to length, he was also cutting through the poison ivy vines which had climbed on the trees.  The sawdust went onto his pants and down into his boot.  So he was basically walking around on poison ivy sawdust all day.  He said his feet were so raw, and swollen that he had to buy a larger pair of muck boots to fit them!  Another hazard of being a logger.


As I left, I took one last shot of the woods as it was just about finished being cut.  Here it is below:


woods cut 2a.JPG


Yes, it is quite a mess, but from this end starts a new beginning.  In a few years this will be a brushy field with lots of deer,  song birds, and other wildlife calling it home.  This is what my woods looked like in 1976 when it was logged.  Now the trees are grown again, and many are ready to be harvested.  It's a renewable resource.


Thank you for reading.  I hope you all have a great holiday season!


Kevin Koski

Curly Maple Wood

Dry Kiln owner/operator












Part two of the Amish sawmill operation.

by J. Kevin K ‎08-11-2010 09:57 AM - edited ‎08-11-2010 10:07 AM

This hot spring we had sure was a precursor to this summer's weather, wasn't it?  Thirteen 90 degree days here in NE OH, so far, which is pretty hot for us.  Hope some of you guys were able to build your solar kilns, and get them running.  It's been a good year for them. Now, let's get back into the woods with my Amish friends.


I shot this picture on the way back to the truck. This is the road that the horses gave me a ride on as they went to the  landing.  These woods were so wet that this road was more like a causeway. 




After the horse team brought me to the landing, I met with Paul, and paid him.  Everyone was on break, so I was able to get some pictures.  Remember, as I stated in previous blogs, the Amish do not like their pictures taken.  From the back is okay, but not their faces. 


 Below is the mill of death they were running at the landing.  The operator was an old guy of about 25!





Watch your feet.  Stumble over something here, and you will cut something off that you might need. Below is  a close-up of the blade.  Smaller than  what you find in a more permanent sawmill set-up.









Below is the power plant that is running the mill.































Not sure how big their engine is, but my other Amish friend runs a 50hp Duetz diesel on his "fixed" sawmill.  Their sawmill, and this one above are relatively quiet as they have mufflers in place.  A lot of the Amish pull the mufflers off as they feel they get better engine performance without them.  Of course most are pretty close to deaf, so not sure what they think they are gaining.  We had a mufflerless Amish sawmill that was running in the woods here that was 5 miles from my house, and I could hear their mill running plainly.  I went up to talk to the guys to see if they had found any figured lumber in the 50 acres that they were logging (they hadn't), and you pretty much had to yell at them as their hearing was shot.  Not to mention it is extremely annoying for all of us living within a seven mile radius to listen to their mill running all day long.  You can hear it even inside the house with the windows closed!


Here are some logs that are on the deck awaiting their turn to be cut:




Two young guys with some log peavies roll them down to the mill operator.  The logs are cut into lumber, then they are passed to another guy that edges them, and then off to a couple of teenaged guys that stack them into bunks where they wait to be graded. See below:




This follows the same procedure as the first blog I wrote titled "In the beginning".



I found this image below  as a sad sight the last time I was there in June.  Here are some veneer logs marked, and on their way to...., guess where?  If you guessed China, you are right:




Even the Amish foreman, Lester, couldn't believe it.  Like he said: "It is hard to believe that they can pay to have these trucked to the east coast, pay again to have them shipped half way around the world, make something, pay to ship the finished product back, and it still cheaper than the wood products that we make here in NE OH".  Lester added, "And you know the really sad part Kevin?  The Chinese pay more for our veneer logs than the American veneer buyers"  It's a tough thing to drive through Youngstown Ohio and see the empty factories, and all of the people struggling there, but we are better off, aren't we?


Next blog we will finish up on this Amish sawmill operation.  I have some nice pictures of the woods before it was logged, and after.  Also, they started on the front part of the woods the last time I was there, so we have some pictures of that as well.


Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your summer. I also like reading your  comments, so keep them coming!


Kevin Koski

Curly Maple Wood

Dry Kiln owner/operator





A day at an Amish sawmill

by J. Kevin K ‎06-01-2010 01:15 PM - edited ‎06-01-2010 01:23 PM

A sawmill operation in the woods

Let's cut a curly maple part 2

by J. Kevin K on ‎02-26-2010 10:33 AM

Let's see what it looks like opened up, dried, and milled out. Read more...

Let's cut a curly maple log!

by J. Kevin K ‎01-16-2010 01:39 PM - edited ‎01-16-2010 01:43 PM

Hi Everybody,

Hope you are all well, and enjoying your winter.


I was working in the dry kiln late last fall when a logger friend of mine stopped by.  He was logging out a campground when he backed up into a maple tree with his skidder which caused the bark to come off the tree. 

He wanted me to come out on a field trip out into the woods and take a gander at it.  Here is what I saw. I know what you are thinking, " that looks pretty nasty".  The dirt wasn't what was bothering me though.  What was bothering me is that many, to most, of the time a log exhibits stong curl on the outside of the tree, but fades out as the tree is sawn into a cant. So the figure you see on the outside of the log is not always what you see on the inside of the log. Here is what I saw in the woods.cm1.JPG























So far so good on this log but let's digress from the subject at hand for a minute. Figured logs are ALWAYS more figured toward the sap (bark) side of the tree as I mentioned above.   There is a good trick for you guys that work with figured lumber, and aren't quite sure which side is your best face.  Look at your board from the end.  The surface that has the convexed grain lines pointing towards it will be your more figured face. The concaved grain lines are pointing to the  trees heart, or the less figured face since figure usually fades toward the inside of the tree.




   Here is what the convexed grain lined face looks like:




Now let's look at the "concaved" grain line surface.  AKA the back side of the billet:




You will notice ( aside from the misspelling of concaved) that the curl on this side of the billet is less pronounced than the front. This is taken from exactly the other side of the billet as the "front" picture.  So what you see on the outside of the log is not always what you see on the inside.


Now back to the problem at hand.  Is this log worth the $180.00 the logger was asking for it?  I could buy it, cut it, and have  180 bd ft of plain maple.  How do you know if it's curly all the way through?  Actually it's not to hard to find out.  Pull out the Husqvarna and cut off a slab!  You guys get to work with detail sanders and precision inlays etc.  My end is chainsaws and sawmill blades that could cut your car into two.  This is what happens when you do not have woodworking talent, but like to work with wood.  You  work on the heavy end of the business. Back to the slab. You have to cut it thin.  Why, you ask?  Because you have to be able to break it.  Not cut it, break it.  Cutting it will leave it too rough to see the figure.  A nice clean break won't.





That's what I am looking for. Smiley Happy The log he had for me was 20' long.  This slab is taken all the way at the skinny end.  If it's curly this far up the tree then the butt end of the log will even be better! Look closely, it's curly almost to the heartwood. 


Next blog we will see what it looks like as we cut it, and what it looks like kiln dried and milled out to where you guys can actually use it for something beautiful!  We still aren't out of the woods yet on this log, so to speak.  It can be riddled with ambrosia beetle streaks, bark inclusions, wind shake, or numerous other defects. The fun never ends.  Heck, just read my two previous blogs on the giant ash burl.


Thanks for reading.


Kevin Koski

Dry Kiln

Owner and Operator


curly cherry billets

by J. Kevin K ‎12-22-2009 12:10 PM - edited ‎12-22-2009 01:51 PM

Hi Everyone


Hope everyone is doing okay, and all you east coast guys are all dug out. 


I bet you are all doing better than my Amish friend here.  I went over his house last week, and he had a glove on one hand, and a big mitten on the other.  He's the guy with the sawmill that cut up that burl for us.  I asked him "What's up with the big mitten?"  His reply was that he was just cold, and couldn't find his other glove.  After working with him for a while, I noticed he wasn't using that mittened hand too much.  This time I asked him "Alright, what's going on with that hand?".  He just laughed and pulled off the mitten.  He had two big bandages on two of his fingers.  He pulled those off, and showed me what was left of those two fingers.  Here he was jointing a small piece of wood when it broke.  His fingers went through the jointer instead of the wood removing two of them to the first knuckle.  The doctor folded the skin over the stumps and stitched them up. Looked like slabs of lunchmeat.  Don't think I will be eating any bologna sandwiches anythime soon. I asked him if he planned on running his hand through the planer too!  He didn't find that comment as funny as I did.  I guess we all have had our woodworking injuries.  I had my finger smashed between the sawmill frame and a 800lb cherry log.   I pulled off my blood filled glove, and my finger was flat for a second then it swelled up like a sausage! I definitely broke it.  I thought I was going to have to go to the doctor for that one. I also had my hand caught in a belt sander once, and it sanded off a couple of my fingernails  That hurt a little too. Still tough to tell that story.  It was the pain that kept on giving for two months.



Anyway, things are picking up a little here on the sawmilling end of the business.  There are still some mills that I work with that haven't cut any logs for over 7 months though.  Some are also out of business for good, but most are back at it, albeit at a slower pace.


It would still be a really good time to stock up on lumber right now as prices are still about half what they were at the peak.  If you are lucky enough to have a sawmill close by go order yourself some "green" lumber, and dry it in your solar kiln.  I have the plans for you on previous blogs. FAS red oak is still around .85 cents a board foot.  FAS is one of the highest grades.  Cherry was still around $1.50 for the same FAS grade.  I was paying $1.70 for oak a couple years ago, and cherry was at $2.50!


Here are some curly cherry billets that an Amish mill found here a while back.  These were rough cut by the sawmill to a little over 2" thick (8/4). When the mills cut 8/4 they usually are expected to cut the lumber to 2 3/16" thick. Most of these billets finished off anywhere from 1 3/8" thick up to 2" thick.  I like the deep red color that Pennsylvanian cherry is noted for.  I definitely didn't get these for anywhere close to $1.56 a board foot though!


Here are some of the pictures from the finished off pieces:




Here's a different one









Here's another









And one more:










We have a really hard time locating any curly cherry let alone 8/4 curly cherry, especially now with the sawmills running as slow as they are. Sure are a lot more beautiful than that ugly burl we cut up last month, and a lot nicer looking than my friends hand!  


Thank you for reading, and hope everyone out there has a Merry Christmas!


Kevin Koski

Curly Maple Wood

Dry Kiln owner/operator






Big Ash burl has been cut!

by J. Kevin K on ‎12-04-2009 07:34 AM

Here it is! If you are like me, I bet you can't wait to see what was inside! Read more...

Big Ash Burl

by J. Kevin K on ‎11-15-2009 01:24 PM

How about this for a burl?  It was growing 25' off of the ground on a 6" diameter ash tree. The burl is about 24" long and 22" across, and weighs about 150lbs.  Appears to be solid, but who knows?  Maybe when we cut it this week it will look like it was touched by God, or maybe it will look like snot.  Check back.  If all goes well my Amish friend will cut it for me on his bandmill this week, and we will post some picts of any/all blocks we get out of it.

 We will also be cutting some curly maple logs this week as well.  I hope to get a blog on that too.  This blog we will look at how we can SOMETIMES identify figure not only in a log, but in a standing tree as well.


Thanks for reading


Kevin Koski

Dry kiln operator

Owner Operator



ash burl 1.JPG


ash burl 2.JPG

The Solar Kiln Part 3

by J. Kevin K on ‎11-03-2009 01:51 PM - last edited on ‎11-12-2009 12:11 PM by

How in the heck does this darned thing work? Read more...

Solar Kiln Part Two

by J. Kevin K on ‎10-23-2009 05:57 PM

The Inside of the solar kiln

Quartersawn Red Sycamore Set

by J. Kevin K on ‎10-23-2009 05:37 PM


Posted 10/9/2009 4:31 PM CDT

It pays to pay attention at the sawmill.  Good thing my Amish friend does just that for me.  He runs the edger at the mill and sees the lumber the second it comes off the saw.  Here he had the sawyer quartersaw a sycamore log.  This log was so large that it wouldn't fit on the sawmill, so it was bigger than 4 feet in diameter. He thought it was looking good, and the sheer size of the log, made him think he could get a quality 12/4 slab out of it. He also got a 16/4 out of it as well.
Before it was milled though, one of the poor guys at the mill had to cut it apart with the chainsaw, lengthwise, from opposing sides.  It was a cool 85 degrees that day too, and he was cutting it under full sun.  He also hit a metal hog fence that the tree had grown around.  He sharpened up the saw, moved up the log a couple feet, and hit it again!  Sailors could have come and seen him that day to learn some new swear words.  I wish I would of got some pictures, so you guys could have seen that tortuous event, and the size of the log. 

After the milling they send the lumber to me.  The torture isn't over yet.  I have to load them in the kiln, by hand.  Sycamore is an extremely wet wood when fresh cut.  I am told that it will actually sink.  These billets went 6lbs a board foot, so they were weighing in at 150-220lbs each. Next time we won't cut 12/4, and 16/4.Can't wait for my son to put on some bulk, so he can help me out.

After trying out some of the new swear words I learned at the mill, I finally wrestled them into the kiln, where they were slowly dried for three months.  The 12/4 was then resawn into this set.  It is a collective 23+" wide by 8 feet long.  I think it turned out pretty nice.  Sometimes we resaw them, and they are full of defects on the insides, and all that work goes for nothing.  Sometimes they blow apart in the kiln, and get converted into BTU's.  This one, all the defects were on the outside for a change, and it stayed in tact.



The black lines are spalting. The fish scale patterning is only achieved if the sycamore is quartersawn correctly.  Sycamore is a drab, uninteresting wood otherwise.



The black lines are spalting. The fish scale patterning is only achieved if the sycamore is quartersawn correctly.  Sycamore is a drab, uninteresting wood otherwise.


Thank you for reading!

Kevin Koski

Dry Kiln

Owner and OperatorCurlyMapleWood.com 

The link to my homepage.


Comments (0) | Permanent Link

All questions will be answered!

All questions will be answered!

Posted 10/9/2009 2:40 PM CDT

I will be writing a new solar kiln blog here in the next few days.  I will answer all questions from everyone in the future blogs!

Thanks everyone




Build Your Own Dry Kiln!

by J. Kevin K on ‎10-23-2009 05:20 PM

How to build, and operate your own solar kiln. Read more...

Not Always It's Lumber That Is Cut

by J. Kevin K on ‎10-23-2009 05:06 PM

Ceramic insulator vs Sawmill

In The Beginning

by J. Kevin K on ‎10-23-2009 04:39 PM

The Process of Logs To Lumber