From Firewood to Project Wood - Part 2

Several months ago I started the exercise of cutting small logs into usable boards. The task got sidetracked when I started to investigate the various techniques used to saw lumber. The results of that research can be read here. The steps required to cut the small log on a band saw are simple and few tools are needed.

You might not notice right away, but logs are often really dirty! This was particularly true in my case, so step one was taking a wire brush and cleaning the bark. Next I established a straight line to follow during the initial cut. I started by creating vertical lines from the heart to the top of the log as it rested on the bench and connecting those points along the length using a chalk line. Depending on the log you have, you might actually be able to head straight to the bandsaw, but often more support is required.

Additional support can be added by fabricating an 'L' shaped fixture from MDF. I raided the scrap bin and found plenty of material to make this basic framework. Two long pieces approximately the length of the log being sawn act as the base and the vertical fence while three smaller blocks are used as gussets to keep everything square. If you're impatient like me the assembly time can be greatly expedited by using MitreBond CA Glue. Using CA glue eliminated the need for clamps and the 15 second cure time means you're using the jig as soon as it's assembled.

Once the log is rotated into the desire position on the bench, the jig is simply fastened to the log with a few screws. This setup will ensure the log maintains the desired orientation throughout the cut. Now it's time to fire up the band saw and make that initial cut. Slow and steady is the name of the game here and an aggressive band saw blade is a must. In my case that was a 1" blade with 3 teeth per inch. The cut is made freehand following the line established with the chalk line earlier. Once complete you will have two halves of your log and depending on your success in cutting, each should have a fairly flat face. It doesn’t have to be perfectly flat, but if it’s a real mess you might want to improve it with the jointer or hand plane!

It's time to break out the fence on the band saw now. I first established a flat bottom by placing the face of the log half down on the band saw and ripping a few inches off the bottom side to create a straight edge perpendicular to the initial rip cut. The amount of material needed to be removed to make this cut depends on the log. The fence is now adjusted to the desired thickness of the boards and log half is positioned such that the secondary cut is down and the initial rip cut is perpendicular. It's simply a matter of making passes on the band saw until the log is completely cut up.

Since the objective for me was to learn and useful project wood was secondary, I tried quarter sawing some of the wood and chose some ugly shaped logs. The result is a short stack of boards with sticks to allow air flow that is going to sit for a year as it dries. I’ll check on it periodically to note it’s behavior as it dries. At the end of the day I had a better understanding of the process of turning a log into usable boards, and for that was all the mattered.