I have two 30 meter sitka spruces that have fallen in my yard. I'd like to process them into usable planks ideally as long as possible only using hand tools. Can someone give me a step by step on how to do this? I've been reading about riving and hewing and splitting but I'm not sure how it all fits together.

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    You're not going to get a decent Answer for this here I'd bet. You'd be better off asking in a different venue where you're more likely to get some firsthand advice from people who do this, and if you're very lucky from one or two who do it on a semi-regular basis. BUT, since this is spruce I think you'd want to give serious consideration to not bothering at all. It's not that the wood isn't worth having (although the wood from these trees could turn out to be) it's that riving softwoods trunk is likely to prove a nightmare because of all the knots. [contd]
    – Graphus
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 6:54
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    Riving and hewing also is the most wasteful conversion method possible in case that hasn't been said in anything you've read so far, or was evident to you. At the very least 1/3 of the trunk ends up on the ground as flakes, and wastage can be even higher. Alaskan sawmill totally the way to go if you really want to get the most wood from the trees. Do also bear in mind the wood won't be usable for at least 6-9 months and as long as a couple of years, depending on local drying conditions and the thickness you process to. Buy some Anchorseal before you start cutting!
    – Graphus
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 7:01
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    There are places that specialise in processing reclaimed wood that will sometimes take your green timber and cut it into lumber for a fee. They specialise because, as is often said, "there's a nail in there somewhere". See if such a place exists near you and let the pros do it for you. As suggested in a comment, splitting/riving softwood like this is going to result in a lot of excellent firewood. If you do decide to saw this timber into lumber, know that there is a nail in it somewhere, and proceed accordingly.
    – user5572
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 14:49

1 Answer 1


If you want to use hand tools only you don't have a lot of choices. In the olden days you would most likely hew each log into a single timber (i.e. in building a mighty timber-framed barn, or a ship) rather than sawing it into planks. See Roy Underhill's TED talk for a brief demo of the technique. If you really want to saw it into planks with hand tools you need to get together with a friend and set up a saw pit. Even a water-powered or wind-powered sawmill would seem to be outside of your requirements.

If you really want to get into preparing your own lumber, you will want a powered sawmill of some kind. The most common type is a bandsaw mill and I won't mention any brand names but you can do a search for those. They come in all kinds of sizes, some small enough to be portable, and essentially you're looking at a big gas-powered bandsaw that moves along a track. You set the log down and move the bandsaw down the length of it.

You have another in-between option and that's an Alaskan chainsaw mill. This is a kind of frame or rack that you bolt onto your chainsaw and can be used to saw flat planks off your fallen log right where it lies on the ground. Looks like a lot more effort per board foot than a bandsaw mill, but if you only want to saw these two trees and no more, it might be a good inexpensive option.

  • +1 for the saw pit. Beat me to it. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 13:01

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