onverting a log into lumber requires certain compromises. Most logs are sawn in one of three basic ways. The sim­plest method squares the log and slices it into boards straight through from one side to the other. This technique, known as through-and-through sawing, results in stock cut tangentially to the annual growth rings. A second method, plain­sawing, is similar, except that the log is rotated as it is cut, and the low-quality pith is set aside for items such as pallets. Plain-sawn lumber is also known as flat­grained lumber.

The third method, called quarter­sawing or edge-grain sawing, divides the log into four quarters and cuts every board more or less radially. Quarter – sawn boards have their annual growth rings perpendicular to the face.

This orientation of th...

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In the sawmill

There are two main types of sawmills: those that use a band saw, and those that use a circular saw. A sawmill is often described according to the type of wood it cuts and the type of saw it employs, such as a softwood band mill or a hard­wood circular mill. Large band mills are often required for the larger-sized logs that are common in the softwood indus­try in western North America. Circular sawmills, more common in smaller hardwood operations in the East, have a smaller capacity, but are far less expen­sive than band mills.

The sawing process generates a great deal of “waste”—almost one-third of the bulk of each log—but every possible bit of wood is chipped up and used. Some is sold to paper pulp mills or wood-fired utilities...

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etween the standing tree and the boards you pick off the rack at the lumberyard stands a complex process that requires many people to apply enor­mous skill at every step. Undetected defects in the standing tree, damage
caused during felling, poor judgment in bucking or inattentive sawing at the mill can sabotage the value of a tree and raise the sawmill’s—and the wood­buying consumer’s—costs. Although power saws have replaced muscle-driven
pit saws in the forest and at the mill, and cuts are now guided by laser beams and computer technology instead of chalk lines, no replacement has been devised for the practiced eye of an experienced lumberman.

A tractor-like skidder hauls a hitch of logs from the forest.


A logger (left) makes his undercut in a mighty Do...

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rees are roughly divided into soft­woods and hardwoods, but the terms are inexact: Some hardwoods, such as basswood or aspen, for exam­ple, are softer than North American soft­woods like longleaf pine or Douglas-fir.

The type and shape of a tree’s leaves are more accurate indicators of a particular wood’s identity. Softwoods include evergreen conifers with needle­like leaves, while hardwoods comprise broad-leaved deciduous, or leaf-shed­ding, trees. But it is at the microscopic level that the true differences between softwoods and hardwoods can be seen. Softwoods are composed mainly of tra – cheids, dual-purpose cells which con­duct the sap up through the trunk and
provide support...

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Подпись: A pile of logs sit at a sawmill in Oregon, ready to be milled into lumber.

As you strive to improve your mastery of the demanding craft of woodworking, much of your attention will be devoted to learning about tools and the tech­niques for using them. But in your quest for perfection, do not neglect the most fundamental component of every project—the wood itself.

Rarely perfect and always vary­ing, each piece of wood exhibits its own character, just as certainly as a human being: Some woods are plain, some colorful; some are sta­ble, some unpredictable; some work easily, some with difficulty. A knowl­edge of these properties will allow you to make the most of your abilities, achieving a wedding of form, substance and technique that can transform even an ordinary project into a work of art.

You can obtain much factual information about the prop­erties of woo...

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ince I grew up in a family that owned a lumber business, working with wood has been a lifelong interest of mine. While many fellow woodworkers tend to con­centrate on tools and methods of construction, I find that the real essence of the craft lies in the medium we use—the wood itself. The world provides a great many fine timbers and some of them, such as walnut, mahogany and rosewood, lend a certain prestige to the finished project. For me, the joy of woodworking comes from discov­ering the special properties of various species and learning how to choose the most functional wood for the intended purpose, regardless of its notoriety or reputation. Every wood has an application for which it is unsurpassed. The goal of good crafts­manship is to discover just what that application is...

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s a supplier of hardwoods and fine veneers for the last 20 years, I have been priv­ileged to get to know some of the finest woodworkers in North America. I’ve also learned a lot about wood and its qualities, not only the good qualities, but the baffling ones as well.

Looking back, I suppose my own interest in wood began many years before I estab­lished my company. In fact, I can vividly recall my first hands-on experience with a piece of Brazilian rosewood—completely captivating!

That was in the mid-’60s, and in those days wood turners, luthiers and furniture – makers had little to choose from in the way of different woods...

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was exposed to wood identification at an early age while working at our family sawmill in Union County, Tennessee, during the summers. I felt a great deal of curiosity about the vast differences I could see between the logs of various species as they were “opened up” and the lumber moved from the saw deck.

Oak, poplar and other common hardwood logs made up the majority of logs deliv­ered to the mill, but there was the occasional odd species, such as persimmon or sas­safras. My job was to separate the lumber by species. If a poplar board was found in a stack of oak, that was my fault, so I quickly learned my woods.

At that time I only knew the common names of the different species...

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