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Sawing and Drying

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Message Thread:

Thickness standard for 5/4?

Dave Boyt  Member

Website: http://www.norwoodsawmills.com

I'd like some insight on a situation. I've got some walnut cut to 5/4. The customer maintains that board footage should be calculated as though it were 1" thick, because it will shrink some during drying. To me, it is like giving away 20% of the lumber. My interpretation of the NHLA guide is that 5/4 green lumber off the mill would be scaled 1.25" thick when calculating board footage. It may shrink below that during drying, but the higher value of kiln dry lumber compensates for the volume loss, as does the loss in volume due to planing. Am I interpreting the rules correctly? I'll be sure everything is spelled out more specifically in future dealings, but this is a first for me. Thank you for your input!

3/31/14       #2: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

He's wrong, when you go to a lumber store to get a 1'' board,it isn't 1'',it's 3/4''. 5/4 at a lumber store will be close to 1'',like deck boards are.

3/31/14       #3: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

Dave, I see what you are saying,you sawed 1.25 board feet,and he is calling it 1 board foot. When I sale my wood I figure board footage like you. Green lumber is figured as green lumber prices,not as dried nor planed lumber is.

4/1/14       #4: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Dave Boyt  Member

Website: http://www.norwoodsawmills.com

Thanks, Rod. That's what I figured. I just wanted to be able to point the the NHLA rules so he knows it is a valid claim. He's worked around lumber before, and should understand that.

4/1/14       #5: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Scott Member

If it is 5/4 lumber then it should be tallied as 5/4. However, the standard thickness for 5/4 S2S lumber is 3/16" from standard rough thickness. So 5/4 lumber should be able to be surfaced to 1-1/16" thickness. If you cut it exactly 1.25" it may not make 1-1/16" as a surfaced product. That is why lumber is sawn slightly plump, to allow shrinkage and still make the thickness requirements.

4/1/14       #6: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

Dave,that would be like complaining at a lumber store about having to pay for a 2''X4'' when it's really on 1 1/2'' X 3 1/2''.

4/1/14       #7: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...

It comes down to how thick the wood is after drying. Without knowing that it's all moot.

For instance if I go to buy 5/4 stock and it's measuring at 1-1/8"?that's not 5/4 stock! As the consumer I don't care what it measured at when it was sawn from the slab, I just care about what it is now that I'm buying it. If it measures 1-1/8" then it's thick 4/4 which happens every so often with my supplier, especially with certain woods like maple. If it comes in at 1-1/4" then it's 5/4 stock. I don't know the exact measurement where you can draw the line, (if there is one?), but you have to have a measurement first.

So you need to know how much it will shrink and saw your material accordingly. If you know your going to lose say 1/16" of thickness in drying, then you need to saw 1/16" oversize to account for that. That's your responsibility as the sawyer.

FWIW it has no relation at all to construction lumber so not fair to compare the two. It also has nothing to do with material that has been surfaced and is sold as such. Lumber that measures at 3/4" is being sold as S4S and is not quite the same as 4/4 rough lumber. Even though it will be measured the same it's now been milled and is a different product. If it measured at 3/4" in rough form, then it was milled thin and would have to be sold as such.

good luck,

4/1/14       #8: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Scott Member

Properly sawn 5/4 lumber, when dried properly, will S2S to 1-1/16". Most green lumber specs require the lumber to be sawn 1/16" (possibly 1/8") plump and there should be no issues.

4/1/14       #9: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

JeffD, it's more likley that the consumer has no idea how lumber is graded. If my lumber measures an 1 1/8'' I'm selling it as a 4/4 price. Same with 1 1/4''. If the 1 1/4'' air dries down to an 1 1/8 I'll be asking more money because of the time it took for the shrinkage down to about 12 present. Then if I bring the air dried lumber inside and bring the moisture down to 6% I'll ask even more money for the shrinkage.

4/1/14       #11: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...

Rod, I guess it depends on who your selling lumber to and how? If your selling to guys who have no idea how their lumber is graded than I can't imagine your selling much to professional shops?

I buy from lumber wholesale yards where there's established prices for kiln dried hardwoods based on thickness and grade, and they are pretty close from yard to yard. I'm not going to pay $4 bf for FAS maple at one yard if another is charging $3 bf and they know that. So the prices in any given region are pretty well established.

If your selling retail to consumers at whatever thickness you decide to saw and maybe it's dried maybe it's not. Then you can certainly set your own prices as you see fit. It's up to the consumer to know what they're buying and to know what it's worth. So if your trying to sell me 5/4 maple at 5/4 KD FAS prices and it's not graded, plus it's undersized and only air dried you can bet I'm not buying. That's not to say others who don't know any better won't. Or that maybe your pricing is way less than market rate and then it's worth it to them? Just that there is an established market for kiln dried hardwood based on grade and thickness. If your operating outside of that market than you have to establish your pricing with your clients in a way that works for both of you. In that situation where there are so many variables at play, whether or not it's a true 5/4 is probably a moot point?

good luck,

4/1/14       #12: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

jeffD,right, if we are assuming it's not a true 5/4. Also in this situation that Dave posted wasn't about assuming if it was a 5/4. The question was,do you sale a 5/4 green lumber off the mill at the 1 1/4'' green lumber price,or do you sale it at the 1'' dried price. Someone selling millons of boardfeet a year is a whole different situation on grading rules and so on.

4/1/14       #13: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Dave Boyt  Member

Website: http://www.norwoodsawmills.com

Ooooohh, my head hurts! I want to be fair, and use NHLA standards to back up (or back down on) my position. The customer agreed to pay a given amount per board ft. for 5/4 lumber, paid for it, then, upon bringing it home, determined that I had overscaled it (he was helped load it, and watched me scale it as 5/4). We did not pre-agree whether it would be scaled as 4/4 or 5/4. He is a broker and re-selling the lumber, so my assumption is that he understands NHLA.

4/1/14       #14: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Scott Member

Here is a quote from NHLA Rule Book: "Lumber should be properly manufactured of good, average width and lengths. It should be edged and trimmed carefully to produce the best possible appearance while conserving the usable product of the log. Shipments of rough lumber will admit 25% of surfaced lumber when it is of the specified thickness. Contracts for green lumber should specify dimensions required to provide for shrinkage in drying"

The last sentence is where I think you got in trouble. As I see it, the bottom line is EXACTLY how thick is it right now, and will it surface to 1-16" thickness after it is dried. In black walnut lumber that is plainsawn, you can expect to have about 4.4% shrinkage in thickness when dried to 6% moisture content. It should shrink about 1/16" of inch (maybe a little more). If it is exactly 1.25" in thickness right now in the green state, it wil be tough to dry it and surface it clean to 1-1/16".

That being said, without a contract that stipulates otherwise, (and assuming you cut exactly 1.25") you may have a valid argument in saying the customer got he asked for: 5/4 lumber. Lumber should be sawn a little plump to account for drying shrinkage.

4/1/14       #15: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

It looks to me if you told the broker it was so much per board foot of the mill,and there was nothing said about shrinkage, I believe it's reasonable to conclude your figures are right. The amount of wood is till the same even after the water evaporation and shrinkage. I other words, your 5/4 price is per boad foot.

4/1/14       #16: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Gene Wengert-WoodDoc

For hardwood lumber, the requirement is that for 5/4 lumber the thickness IN THE AREA USED TO ESTABLISH THE GRADE must be 1.25" or thicker. This requirement is in the NHLA Rule Book and the NHLA is the basis for measuring and grading hardwood lumber in North America, if not almost all the world. This requirement of 1.25" thickness is applied to green or air dried lumber, but it is applied AT THE TIME OF GRADING. Again, this is in the Rules.

For kiln dried rough lumber, the Rules require the thickness to be 1/16" thinner than 1.25, which means the rough thickness can be 1-3/16"

Then, as mentioned previously, for kiln dried lumber that is surfaced or planed, 1-1/16 is the minimum thickness. Note that when planed the grading side changes from the worst side to the best side.

Hope this clears up the confusion and differences in the previous postings.

Note that the thickness rules for softwood lumber are different...for example, when buying 5/4 softwood lumber it will be only 1.00" thick and 4/4 is 3/4" thick, etc. at the time of grading.

4/2/14       #17: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

Here is another way to see it. If you,or anyone who saws for someone, do you or they figure the board footage of 5/4 as 1'',or 1 1/4'' , 4/4 as 1'',or 3/4'' and so on when they figure the board footage sawn?

4/2/14       #18: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Tennessee Tim

Website: http://tsmfarms.com

Hey Gene, let's also get a proper definition on "at time of grading"!!!
I'm saying this due to I've sold green graded lumber through a friend whom grades and sales....when is the "correct" time of grading established....IF it was sawn true 5/4, graded and sold green than it's 5/4..... or IF it's sawn true 5/4, dried THEN graded ...it only loses 1/16"??? WHAT is it??? I had to over/plump saw 3/16 to 1/4 ".....I wasn't too happy for not getting paid for that either...I can see + 1/16" mmmmm push 1/8" over but after that should be like buying/scaling logs....over 1/2" goes next inch up.

I saw at full 6/4 and 8/4, dry it....and sell it as that, BUT now IF I read your statement correctly , I'm possibly incorrect due to shrinkages that I'm supposed to "give away" by not being there anymore due to drying.

Please help, I'm with original poster....IF you ask for 5/4 than that's all you get off the saw...IF shrinkage is a concern, THAN order the thickness YOU want, I'm still selling green off the saw bd ftge....NOTHINGS FREE...bd ft is bd ft.... or let me know up front the thickness to saw and how YOU want to call the thickness as measured when buying and I can RE-calculate my loss compensation into the my selling "bd ft" price.

Again Gene, thanks for the help you give us....even when I don't agree with the standard...LOL.

4/2/14       #19: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Gene Wengert-WoodDoc

Clarification: "For kiln dried rough lumber, the Rules require the thickness to be NO LESS THAN 1/16" thinner than 1.25, which means the rough thickness can be 1-3/16" minimum in the grading area, etc.

Now, in response to TT.

If you saw and sell green lumber, there is not thickness issue because the NHLA definition only applies when the lumber is graded. When it is graded, it is then that we know what region of the piece of lumber is being used to establish the grade. So, if lumber is graded and the thickness is properly determined, there are no guarantees for the future thickness. So, green lumber could be 5/4 when graded green, but after air drying, it could have shrunk enough to be only 4/4 when it is regraded (if in fact it is regraded).

Now, if you have a green piece of 5/4 quartersawn (which means it will shrink more than twice as much in thickness as a flatsawn piece), it will shrink in air drying about 5% in thickness if it is oak especially. So, if a piece of lumber is 1.25 green when sawn (in the grading areas, etc.), then in air drying it will shrink 5% which is 1/16". So, if graded after air drying, it will be too thin for 5/4 if it was 1.25" green. Continuing with kiln drying, we will see about 6 to 8% total thickness shrinkage in q-sawn (but maybe 4% in flatsawn from the green size). So, at most that would be about 3/32" thinner. So, the 1/16" allowance for shrinkage when drying is OK. So, after kiln drying, it is back to 5/4 IF IT IS GRADED AFTER KILN DRYING. If it is not graded after kiln drying, then the green or air dried grading would apply. Again, if we do not grade it, then we do not know the grading areas and so we cannot get the thickness.

The rule actually allows 10% of the pieces that are under 1.25" to be 3/32" thin on one edge for quartersawn. This would be quite a rare event however.

Of course, to be safe, many folks add 1/16 to 1/8" extra to their average green thickness at the mill, hoping that sawing variation, shrinkage or whatever will not cause a piece to be too thin.

The allowances vary by thickness...you get a large allowance for thicker pieces. For example, 8/4 kiln dried rough can be 1/8" thinner than the green minimum.

Of course, we have not considered warp at all...that is another can of worms indeed.

Of course, you are not sawing lumber for the NHLA, but sawing it for the customer. So, the customer rules, but at the same time, you need to adjust your price to get the income you want...thick 4/4 should get more money than thinner 4/4 (assuming you own the logs).

4/2/14       #20: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Dave Boyt  Member

Website: http://www.norwoodsawmills.com

I think I've got a handle on the situation. Thanks for the input. If the lumber is not to be graded before drying, one needs to estimate shrinkage and cut enough over 5/4 to allow for it? It seems that this makes it very difficult to sell ungraded green lumber, as the neither the sawmill nor the buyer would know the volume of lumber until it is graded, which may not even happen, in some cases. It sounds like the safe thing in the future is to cut 1/8" over, to be sure the customer is getting enough wood.

4/2/14       #21: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Gene Wengert-WoodDoc

Or you could learn to grade and then sell green, graded lumber that meets the rule requirements...so you will be "legal" and have an unhappy customer.

4/2/14       #22: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

Well Dave, it appears sawmillers have a choice. Become a legal grader,or get there boards graded,or sale boards illegaly without a grade. I guess this illegal legal board selling is if it goes to court. I've never heard of anyone getting in trouble for selling ungraded boards before from a small bandsaw mill though.

4/2/14       #23: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Gene Wengert-WoodDoc

Note that I put the word "legal" in quotes, as it was tongue-in-cheek. The NHKLA Rules are not a law, but often a written contract makes it so. Further, a lawyer can pursue a claim based on what is common practice, even without a written contract.

However, in order to collect on a claim, the sawmiller has to have money, which might be a rare event????

Regarding legal issues, it would cost at least $100,00 to bring a lawsuit and probably the same to defend yourself. Small claims court may not even hear such a dispute, but if you fail to show up, then you could be in trouble with a summary judgement. With these big numbers, you can see why many folks seek to settle out of court prior to much legal expense. But, I have seen lawsuits against the big mills that were settled for over $1 million in damages.

4/2/14       #24: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

Got yea Gene,glad we have the ''legal'' situation cleared up now.

4/2/14       #25: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Tennessee Tim

Thanks Gene... It all boils down to "how" it's to be used and who's buying....the need to know prior to dealing or sawing....even pricing.

Again Thanks

4/2/14       #26: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Gene Wengert-WoodDoc

You are "right on target." So, going one step more, the secret to pricing is to make your lumber have more value than the competition's lumber so you can raise the price. This requires, as you state, figuring out what you are doing before sawing starts.

4/3/14       #27: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Dave Boyt  Member

Website: http://www.norwoodsawmills.com

I understand, there's legal, "legal", and ethical. This is a learning experience and I appreciate the input. It never occurred to me that when a customer orders 1-1/4" thick lumber that I would have to bump up the price 25% and scale it as 4/4. Live & learn.

4/4/14       #28: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Tennessee Tim

That's "bump up the price" and the thickness. The mill I sold through cuts 5/4 @ every 1 1/2" mark and that leaves after kerf the 1/16-1/8" overage needed.

4/4/14       #29: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

It's seems that alot depends on the moisture content of the log. An old logger told me that if you cut a tree down this time of year and let it sit and draw the water that is in the log up to the tree top, the log will have a lot less water in it. I've tried it before and I believe his idea works. I believe they say a poplar tree takes something like 30 gallons of water a day. So I'm guess when the tree is cut down with the top left on it's loosing close to 30 gallons a day for a while. Its seems to me it make a big differents in the weight of the log.

4/4/14       #30: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Gene Wengert-WoodDoc

The monthly change in MC of a living tree is not over 1%. So, time of year is not a factor in the green MC.

However, if the tree is felled with the leaves on, the leaves will dry out the upper portion of the tree for a few weeks. After that, normal drying of the log will occur through the bark, along with blue stain, insects, etc. in most species.

How much does a tree weigh? Is 5000 pounds a good estimate for a large tree? So, a tree when first cut would have about 3000 pounds of wood and 2000 pounds of water. A gallon weighs 8 pounds, so 30 gallons is 240 pounds. So, if the tree loses 30 gallons a day, that is 8% MC loss per day and in 8 days the tree will be almost totally dry....I think your logger friend was not correct.

4/4/14       #31: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

Gene, by your numbers and by what I have observed, the log does seem like it is bone dry in about a week as crazy as it may sound.

4/4/14       #32: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Gene Wengert-WoodDoc

I know it does not happen with Christmas trees, as they are cut in August and still are pretty wet in December.

But if this is indeed true, then think of the benefits that a firewood harvester would have by waiting a week after felling...in fact, often they do, but they do not see this effect. I worked in a road clearing project where the trees were felled and the leaves left on for several weeks until they were cut into logs and then to a mill. We did not see that then either. About 30 years ago, Virgina Tech looked at the moisture change when harvesting and leaving the leaves on. Bill Stewart was the researcher, but I cannot find the article yet on the internet.

4/4/14       #33: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

I'll cut some Elm and poplar trees down when I can getback up on the mountain and leave to tops on them for a week. All the Elm and poplars I've cut so far were full of water excpet for the few I left the tops on. Maybe it was just the differents in the trees,I don't no. I would like to see that study if you can find it. It made sense to me when my logger friend told me this,but now I am having doubts that his theory was right.

4/4/14       #34: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...

Rod, if you do your experiment, get a moisture content of the material when it is cut then get another one later from 5 or 6 feet up from the cut end of the log and see what the difference is. That will tell the tale.

4/4/14       #35: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

Scott, can you explain what would be an acceptable way to get the moisture content from a log? If I could weght the tree and the top before and after I think would be the best way,but I don't have any way to do that. I don't believe a moisture meter would work either on a log.Plus I don't have one of those. But a moisture meter is something in reach I could afford to buy though.

4/4/14       #36: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

Gene,about the firewood. Most cut firewood in the fall. I don't believe it would be of much use to a firewood cutter to cut trees and leave the tops on them for a week this time of year. I'd cut and spit the tree up this time of year to sale in the fall.

4/4/14       #37: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...

Rod, You don't need to weigh the whole log. Just take a wafer and weigh it on scale then dry it completely and weigh it again. Then calculate the MC as follows: Original Weight minus Ovendry Weight. Then divide that answer by the Oven Dry Weight. The moisture section will give a representation of the moisture content of the log. When you do the second one after the waiting period, be sure to move up on the log as you may see some drying close to the cut end of the log. To get a better picture of what is going on move up 5 or 6 feet to take the second wafer. I would remove any bark from your wafer before doing this, just use the wood. Moisture meter will not be very accurate at those moisture contents. You can do a search on the internet for Dry Kiln Operator's Manual for details on determining moisture content. It is a free publication.

4/4/14       #38: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Texas Timbers  Member

Website: http://www.woodbarter.com

Very informative thread. I couldn't add anything so I have just followed. Only reason to post now is to say to you Rod I am surprised you would believe what this 'old logger' has told you. Logs of any appreciable diameter can lay in the forest for years and will still be sopping wet inside, tops or no tops. In 2005 I milled a dozen black walnut logs from trees that had been felled in an open pasture where they were left with tops on, getting direct sunlight for most of the day. The land had changed hands right after the trees were felled so they had lain for 5 years before they were brought to my attention. Sizes ranged from roughly 16" for the smallest up to 26" for the largest. The sap had all mostly rotted off and there were large cracks in the logs and appeared 'bone dry' from a casual observance. But when I bucked them I could see they were still green inside. I got them on the mill and each and everyone was wet inside past a few inches deep.

From similar experiences even with box elder, a species that dries (and rots) very quickly once horizontal, I can assure you this logger may have been a great logger but not much of an experienced sawyer. Back in the day a maker of fish nets could sound like an experienced fisherman because he'd hear all the stories, but in the end he was a maker of nets, not a catcher of fish.

4/4/14       #39: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

Texas Timbers,I agree 100% with what you have said. A tree left to long will soak up water. It might all hinge on the type, time and how long the tree was left before the top was removed from the log is my conclusion. The only time of the year you can do this method is when the tree is buding is what I was told.

4/4/14       #40: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Tennessee Tim

I'm in the boat with TT....I've cut logs with sapwood rotted off out of the woods, logs that have laid on my log yard for 2 yrs unsealed AND/OR anchorsealed, various species There is still high moisture content in them.

Log home manufactures that claim their logs are kiln dried ONLY mean they've been debugged and did lose a little MC BUT not as a whole 8-10" log,from the articles I've read it's close to 6-8 months to drop them to 8% UNLESS their standing dead and I'm not sure where they are at.

SO that means a laying log isn't/doesn't lose a great amount of water/moisture.

4/4/14       #41: Thickness standard for 5/4? ...
Rod Hays

Tennessee Tim, Like I said earlier, I agree with everything Texas Timbers said. Also most log homes are built with pine,which is another horse of a different color,meaning pines don't bud out in the spring. My theory is along the the lines of when the sap runs in sugar malpe trees.


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