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I have some small walnut logs I'd like to mill on my 14" bandsaw. (About 300mm diameter, and up to 1 meter long, but able to be cut down into shorter lengths as even at this size they're rather heavy!)

For safety, this requires either a sled, or a flat base on the log to avoid it rolling on the bandsaw.

With only about about 230mm of height available on the saw flattening one side seems like it would flatten the base and reduce the needed height.

Previously I've done this with a hand held planer, but now I have available an 8" jointer - is it safe to use the jointer to flatten one side of these logs?

I've seen references to people doing this online. e.g:

https://www.lumberjocks.com/topics/43666

and

https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/threads/can-i-run-split-logs-through-a-planer.135473/

But can't find many references to doing it, so am not sure if this is considered safe.

I've considered splitting the logs with a maul first, but the grain in some of them is quite curly so I don't see that going particularly well.

I can also fall back to the the hand held planer, but that's pretty slow going and doesn't leave a hugely flat surface due to its small size.

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It would be helpful to know how small your small logs really are. The answer to your question really depends on both the diameter and length of the wood you propose to run through the jointer. But basically, if the logs are small enough that you can control them, the jointer will work fine. That generally means short enough to be stable on both the infeed and outfeed tables, and small enough in diameter that the weight of the log is easily manageable. I think your 300mm by 1m walnut logs are probably at the upper limit of what is practical - even dry, that's 20+kg of wood to wrestle about the jointer, and they won't be fully dry by any means.

I would suggest some caution though, if the logs are very wet. Jointers are not designed for milling wet lumber, and you could experience problems with chip clearance, and of course you'll want to thoroughly clean the machine after, as wet wood will promote rust throughout the machine. Same is true for the bandsaw - a blade with set that is perfect for kiln dried lumber will struggle, bind and overheat in wet timber. That said, I have run many small logs through a jointer as prep for sawing them on the bandsaw. Works well, and if the log isn't overly large, you can reliably joint two sides at right angles to get a billet that is ready for straight slabbing on the saw.

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  • Edited question to specify size, and they should be partially dry - they've been lying round for a couple of years). Thanks for your thoughts - I'll give it try! Jul 18, 2022 at 3:57
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is it safe to use the jointer to flatten one side of these logs?

Safe for the operator I would say so, but for the jointer less so.

In addition to worries about the moisture level in the wood and its potential for kickstarting rust formation on and especially inside the jointer, the first reservation I would have is all that bark.

Bark isn't normally tougher than wood, generally power tools go through it almost like it's not even there, but it can (and IME frequently does) have microscopic grit in it1, which is a potential knicking hazard for your jointer knives.

While minor knicks in conventional jointer knives aren't the end of the world, obviously you want to minimise the chance of knicking them if you can.

So for this reason alone I think it would be worth removing some or all of the bark before you ran them over the jointer.

The following video on Nick Engler's channel, Workshop Companion, shows this as part of the prep steps for bandsaw milling (although not because of grit) and shows a very simple and commonsense way of approaching this task so I rate it highly.... with a minor reservation for his pronunciation of winding sticks — it's wind as in clock, not wind as in breezy :-)

Band Saw Lumber-- Sawing Firewood into Usable Boards.

For safety, this requires either a sled, or a flat base on the log to avoid it rolling on the bandsaw.

Since you will be making a flat that allows the logs to pass over the bandsaw's bed a jig of some sort is no longer a necessity, but you might wish to create one anyway.

If you want a sled that's just a smidge more elaborate than the jig Nick Engler shows see this previous Answer for two (of the many) sleds people have come up with over the years.

Note on blade choice for the bandsaw
Remember once you get going this becomes a resawing operation, which is already challenging for a bandsaw if it's not fitted with a suitable blade for deep ripping. If you don't have a low-TPI (5 max?) or skip-tooth blade fitted you must take it slowly to allow for waste clearance.

Also remember the wood is likely quite damp in the interior so waste clearance will be even more of a problem than it is normally. You may find you need to open up the saw periodically and clean sticky sawdust from the interior.


I can also fall back to the the hand held planer, but that's pretty slow going

Not sure if it's relevant at this point in the Answer, but just to have it said walnut is an easy-working hardwood, and even if fully air-dried at this point2 would be even nicer compared to the more typical kiln-dried stuff most of us are now used to.

So just hand-planing (using the appropriate type of plane) is definitely a viable option. With a hand planer it'll be faster3 and certainly a lot less sweat equity will be involved.

However, even accounting for both of the above and the removal of some of the bark further reducing the amount of wood that needs to be taken off the first tool I would reach for would be a saw.

A decent bucksaw would arguably be the ideal choice here, but in terms of workshop saws a large rip saw or a modern hardened-tooth utility saw could also make quick work of sawing off the bulk of the waste4. After that all that's needed is to smooth and flatten this surface just enough to allow you to proceed.

and doesn't leave a hugely flat surface due to it's small size.

Worth pointing out I think that this is a technique thing. While it's certainly easier to create a flat surface with something longer (that's why longer planes exist after all) if you had to you could create a dead-flat surface with a block plane, using the appropriate technique.


1 Note that this is even if the logs have never been on the ground; if they have at any point lain on the ground some embedded grit should be taken as a certainty, not a possibility.

2 Very unlikely given it's only been a couple of years and using the 'one year per inch of thickness' rule of thumb.

3 Possibly not quite as much as one might think, given the ideal hand planes for this work will have irons that have pronounced cambers so are capable of really hogging off material.

4 Although either type will benefit from regular lubrication with wax or oil.

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For safety, this requires either a sled, or a flat base on the log to avoid it rolling on the bandsaw.

Use a sled to hold the log safely while you cut the first slice, giving you the flat base that you're looking for.

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