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I live in suburbia USA, where hardwood trees grow all over the place. I regularly see large diameter (8 inch, 20 cm) branches and even whole trees removed and end up getting chipped or allowed to rot on the ground. I would like to rescue some of this green wood, let it age and use it for projects in a couple of years. But I am not sure where to start, should I leave it whole, cut the green wood with my table saw, or what?

I have a table saw with a 10 inch blade which is the closest thing I own that could work as a lumber mill. I have this vision where I cut the green wood into rough lumber, stack it outside and a couple years later start using my rescued wood to make stuff.

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    You've got some good answers here and I won't add to them. However, I'd be careful about using a tablesaw for resawing since there's a good chance of getting kickback (not to mention the added waste of using a bigger kerf). I'd instead use a bandsaw or a chainsaw, as one of the answers below mentions. – dfife Mar 23 '15 at 15:51
  • Remember that green wood may contain insects, potentially including termites. Kiln-drying kills them off; unclezr what else will safely do so. Do not transport green wood significant distances; there's too much risk of spreading tree-killing pests. – keshlam Feb 3 '16 at 16:47
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First thing, most branches are very poor for turning into lumber. They will be stress wood and very likely to bend and twist as they dry or after, sometimes even while you are cutting them.

They of course can be used for turning.

As Peter Grace said, always ask before you collect it, but if it's just laying around, most of the time you will be allowed, some might be very grateful to get rid of it.

Now for processing and storing for later. You have many options, but if all you have is a table saw you are asking to loose parts of your fingers.

If you are saving the larger pieces for turning, splitting it in half and drying it like firewood is a good idea.

Peter also recommended the chainsaw mill. They can work and they are a LOT of work, but likely the cheapest option. Not only do you need to buy the guide, you need (should) to have a special chain for the saw. Most chains are designed for cross cutting wood (across the grain) and to make lumber you should have a ripping chain (along the grain), cutting slabs like that is not only hard on the person it is hard on the chain saw, and not having the correct chain is MUCH harder on both.

Also be aware that unless you are an expert sawyer you are not going to cut nice flat cuts. so you need to cut them larger to be able to plane down to your desired thickness. You also need a guide to make your first cut 'flat' and not twist around the log.

Now, you can make lumber this way and MANY people do, the equipment is relatively cheap and after a dozen logs your will likely be doing a reasonable job.

Some people also use bandsaws to make lumber, getting a large throat like 12" would be my minimum recommendation and then you would also need to build some guides to help run the logs through.

Band saws will waste a lot less wood because of a much smaller kerf, chain saws are going to be at least a 1/4" for each cut and the more uneven the cut you more you have to waste planing it. Bandsaw kerf is about 1/16" or less.

You can also find in many communities people who have portable mills and can be paid to cut up the lumber.

Last you can get your own, My dad and I bought a Woodmizer LT15 (used) 8 years or so ago and make our own. It's been worth every penny.

However, with all of these options you still have one thing to worry about, often trees that are 'harvested' in town have many things inside that are dangerous to blades of any stripe. Nails, barbed wire, even large parts of bicycles.

Once you have it cut into lumber, you need to 'sticker' it and let it dry for quite a while, species and environment dependent for how long.

You can also pay to have it kiln dried or make your own small solar kiln.

  • Note that if you are willing to do the work of hauling big logs to the shop, building appropriate support tables and carriage (with some kind of hoist to lift the log in the first place) it is possible to use a standard bandsaw as a bandsaw mill. I've.seen an aticle or two illustrating folks having done this. I'm not convinced it's practical formost people, but "if it hzppened it must be possible." I've only done it to a few small pieces when playing around with possible homebrew veneers – keshlam Feb 3 '16 at 16:43
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First, make sure you're permitted to take the wood! Some places intend to sell their dropwood to local mills. Always check first about a downed tree.

You want a portable sawmill or an apparatus to saw into boards with a chainsaw: Chainsaw mount to mill slabs

Once you have sawn the log into slabs, you would use stickering to dry the wet slabs over a period of months. This process involves setting the slabs on some wooden "sticks" so that airflow can get around the entire slab:

photo of stickering a pile of wood

It takes a while for green wood to age properly. Depending on the type of wood, it can be over a year to properly age. Having the wood in a warm, dry place (like a dehumidified garage or basement) can accelerate the drying process.

  • actually some species take 2-3 years to air dry properly. – bowlturner Mar 23 '15 at 15:08
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    A spin off question from this would be How do I know when my green-wood is dry? Which I could totally make – Matt Mar 23 '15 at 15:16
  • I was just thinking of opening a question about portable sawmills... how well the cheaper options work (my understanding is that the biggest functional; drawback is that chainsaws waste more wood than bandsaws), safety (I need training before I'll go near even a guided chainsaw, and I'm a firm believer in chain-stop safety gear), when it makes more sense to hire someone to bring in a serious rig, how much can be done by hauling log sections into the shop and running them thru the bandsaw you already have ... New question, or do we wand to merge it into this one? – keshlam Mar 23 '15 at 15:35
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    I would open a separate question honestly. Portable Sawmills are a whole new beast. This question seems more about the theory of reclaiming wood, whereas a question of "how does a portable sawmill work?" is a different kind of discussion. – Peter Grace Mar 23 '15 at 15:41
  • Sounds good; ill try to get to that later today. – keshlam Mar 23 '15 at 16:47

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