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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just got a portable sawmill, now trying to figure out what sizes to cut to. Conventional lumber like 2x4 is actually 1 1/2 x 3 1/2. That is due to planing and kiln drying. Given that I will not be planing the lumber and will air dry and given that I may wind up with a mix of my rough cut lumber and store bought lumber. Should I cut to finished sizes or is there a reason to go with full dimensions? Or is there a size inbetween that allows for shrinkage? I am in the northwest and most of my logs are fir, pine and western larch.
Appreciate any feedback.
 

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I mill everything to true dimensions. I find it much easier to do the math quickly instead of having an oops with x/16ths plus x/8ths, etc. on the fly. I mill mostly douglas fir but some ponderosa. PPine smells sooo very good but it can take a curl or warp more than the fir*. It is also prone to leaking sap which really sucks. If there's any measurable shrinkage it is more in length than sides or thickness unless its a beam. But for a beam the shrinkage doesn't matter anyway. And length shrinkage doesn't either. And for PPine its use is mostly sheltered and/or above ground/splashing. Raw PP sucks for anything but a controlled environment. Yeah, there are coatings but PP needs more TLC and maintenance. Dense fir is good but for ground contact with care but mstly I do the evil treated stuff and still paint it with thinned roof coating and if in the ground, a wrap of tar paper.

As for plaining I have done very little as I love the rough cut finish**. For planks and siding I make sure to use a fresh blade and make sure to slow the speed down so the finish comes out consistent without much showing of the blade cut. But if I want some character via cut marks I have rolled the blade to where the weld is and with a vise grip, very slightly adjusted the kerf on one tooth, three teeth back so I know where it is, and usually downward as that is what I will see after the pass. Very, very little. You'll not break the tooth and if you want you can add more. If you don't like it you can return it.

We've had our WoodMizer for 10+ years. Except for sheets and ground contact wood, everything comes from the mill. Still to this day that 1" or 1.25" pitch blade at 4000fpm demands absolute attention and respect. There are no small accidents. Accidents are a dull blade, flipping the wrong lever or tripping. Keep the area spotless.

* Here's a tip for a project as you learn and practice with your new mill: MAKE A DRYING RACK and make a BUNCH of spacing stickers. I make my stickers 3/8 x 3/8. For the rack I make it on 18" centers of true 2 x 10 or 12 stout fir (close rings). Your drying rack gets VERY heavy, very quickly so don't mess around worrying about over building it. If your rack has to be outside a building then plan on at least a lean-to open to the non sunny side sometime ASAP. My gosh, don't tarp cover your deck and don't have the sun directly on the bunk. With the 3/8 stickers you can make the pile as high as you want. But keep in mind the outsides and ends will dry quicker so a few fans will help mix the humidity. The ends may split so expect to lose a few inches to half a foot on each end. It's great fire kindling as are the slabs.

** We live in a world of dust. All year long. Rough cut sucks when needed to clean surfaces. You can't wipe. It won't vacuum easily. It is, eh, OK on vertical surfaces but horizonal it sucks. Dust bunnies and dog hair just stick. With milled and finished wood you wiped it. On rough cut you use a scrub brush. With planed and finished you use some commercial crap.

But for the record I'll take the rough cut. But of some trim I would plane it.
 
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The common 2X4 these days is actually 1 1/2 X 3 1/2 so that all of the other common construction elements come together nicely. Plywood being half inch most commonly used plus the 3 1/2 makes 4 and many other facets of modern construction are cut / made to fit well together. Reason that it was reduced in size was really more to get more out of our trees. get a shrinkage chart if you want to cut to meet current lumber dimensions. If you search for fir shrinkage you will find a trove of things to read up on.
 

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Engineering testing yrs ago showed that the full dimensions were unecessarily strong and making them smaller didn't sacrifice safety...That extra 1/2 inch saved on a 2x4 allows you to get an extra stick for every 7 you cut. The savings of wood and exfra profit add up quickly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I mill everything to true dimensions. I find it much easier to do the math quickly instead of having an oops with x/16ths plus x/8ths, etc. on the fly. I mill mostly douglas fir but some ponderosa. PPine smells sooo very good but it can take a curl or warp more than the fir*. It is also prone to leaking sap which really sucks. If there's any measurable shrinkage it is more in length than sides or thickness unless its a beam. But for a beam the shrinkage doesn't matter anyway. And length shrinkage doesn't either. And for PPine its use is mostly sheltered and/or above ground/splashing. Raw PP sucks for anything but a controlled environment. Yeah, there are coatings but PP needs more TLC and maintenance. Dense fir is good but for ground contact with care but mstly I do the evil treated stuff and still paint it with thinned roof coating and if in the ground, a wrap of tar paper.

As for plaining I have done very little as I love the rough cut finish**. For planks and siding I make sure to use a fresh blade and make sure to slow the speed down so the finish comes out consistent without much showing of the blade cut. But if I want some character via cut marks I have rolled the blade to where the weld is and with a vise grip, very slightly adjusted the kerf on one tooth, three teeth back so I know where it is, and usually downward as that is what I will see after the pass. Very, very little. You'll not break the tooth and if you want you can add more. If you don't like it you can return it.

We've had our WoodMizer for 10+ years. Except for sheets and ground contact wood, everything comes from the mill. Still to this day that 1" or 1.25" pitch blade at 4000fpm demands absolute attention and respect. There are no small accidents. Accidents are a dull blade, flipping the wrong lever or tripping. Keep the area spotless.

* Here's a tip for a project as you learn and practice with your new mill: MAKE A DRYING RACK and make a BUNCH of spacing stickers. I make my stickers 3/8 x 3/8. For the rack I make it on 18" centers of true 2 x 10 or 12 stout fir (close rings). Your drying rack gets VERY heavy, very quickly so don't mess around worrying about over building it. If your rack has to be outside a building then plan on at least a lean-to open to the non sunny side sometime ASAP. My gosh, don't tarp cover your deck and don't have the sun directly on the bunk. With the 3/8 stickers you can make the pile as high as you want. But keep in mind the outsides and ends will dry quicker so a few fans will help mix the humidity. The ends may split so expect to lose a few inches to half a foot on each end. It's great fire kindling as are the slabs.

** We live in a world of dust. All year long. Rough cut sucks when needed to clean surfaces. You can't wipe. It won't vacuum easily. It is, eh, OK on vertical surfaces but horizonal it sucks. Dust bunnies and dog hair just stick. With milled and finished wood you wiped it. On rough cut you use a scrub brush. With planed and finished you use some commercial crap.

But for the record I'll take the rough cut. But of some trim I would plane it.
Thanks for the info, i figured out really quick that i need a place to stack the lumber and a way to cover it. But i am enjoying turning my trees into usable material and not giving money to the lumber yard every time I turn around. Seams like I never have enough lumber with all the project that come with living in the mountains. I have a small planer but would only do finish board if any. Will work on cutting stickers out of the edge trimings and thick slabs. Thanks...
The common 2X4 these days is actually 1 1/2 X 3 1/2 so that all of the other common construction elements come together nicely. Plywood being half inch most commonly used plus the 3 1/2 makes 4 and many other facets of modern construction are cut / made to fit well together. Reason that it was reduced in size was really more to get more out of our trees. get a shrinkage chart if you want to cut to meet current lumber dimensions. If you search for fir shrinkage you will find a trove of things to read up on.
I agree it would make more sense to keep the sizes the same or close to it as commercial lumber. But the gages Woodland Mills send with the saw are more geared to full size cuts. So was thinking maybe I was not seeing something. I will look up a shrinkage
Engineering testing yrs ago showed that the full dimensions were unecessarily strong and making them smaller didn't sacrifice safety...That extra 1/2 inch saved on a 2x4 allows you to get an extra stick for every 7 you cut. The savings of wood and exfra profit add up quickly.
Thanks i will carry on cutting to standard sizes and see how the do over time.
chart. Thanks for the feedback I appreciate it..
Does your sawmill have a hardwood scale or softwood scale or combined scale?

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It has 2 scales, one i think allows for 3/16 over size which is more than the blade cut. But it is based on 1" 2" and 4" increments. I would like to wind up with regular sized lumber not oversized. So I have been measuring each cut to get near commercial sizes.
 

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Thanks for the info, i figured out really quick that i need a place to stack the lumber and a way to cover it. But i am enjoying turning my trees into usable material and not giving money to the lumber yard every time I turn around. Seams like I never have enough lumber with all the project that come with living in the mountains. I have a small planer but would only do finish board if any. Will work on cutting stickers out of the edge trimings and thick slabs. Thanks...

I agree it would make more sense to keep the sizes the same or close to it as commercial lumber. But the gages Woodland Mills send with the saw are more geared to full size cuts. So was thinking maybe I was not seeing something. I will look up a shrinkage

Thanks i will carry on cutting to standard sizes and see how the do over time.
chart. Thanks for the feedback I appreciate it..

It has 2 scales, one i think allows for 3/16 over size which is more than the blade cut. But it is based on 1" 2" and 4" increments. I would like to wind up with regular sized lumber not oversized. So I have been measuring each cut to get near commercial sizes.
Your quarter scale is for hardwood it cuts an 1/8 over size to allow for movement and shrinkage during drying. So say 4/4 red oak will measure an inch and a 1/8 when it's green fresh off the mill. Once it dries it should joint, plane to 3/4 thick cleanly.

Your inch scale is the same principle but it's for softwood or spruce, pine, fir (SPF) like you would purchase at the lumber yard. A 2x4 is cut on the mill to measure 2x4 and once dry it should make a clean straight 1 1/2 x 3 1/2.

Machining after drying is called SFS (Surfaced Four Sides) if the board does not produce a clean SFS after drying it becomes economy or a #2 grade. Only prime or #1 are ture dimensional (ie. 1 1/2 x 3 1/2) and clean of all sawmill marks on all four sides.

When lumber dries it shrinks, that's why you cut it oversized so it will SFS and produce the best boards.

Hope that helps...

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Yes, there isn't much difference in strength or integrity between a store sized 2x4 and an actual 2x4, but I prefer the actual sized 2x4 if It is my wood and I am making it. I use full size rough cut for most everything I have built outside.
 

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Just got a portable sawmill, now trying to figure out what sizes to cut to. Conventional lumber like 2x4 is actually 1 1/2 x 3 1/2. That is due to planing and kiln drying. Given that I will not be planing the lumber and will air dry and given that I may wind up with a mix of my rough cut lumber and store bought lumber. Should I cut to finished sizes or is there a reason to go with full dimensions? Or is there a size inbetween that allows for shrinkage? I am in the northwest and most of my logs are fir, pine and western larch.
Appreciate any feedback.
In the past rough cut lumber was the size indicated, 2X4, 1X4 etc. Finished (milled sized) lumber was 1 3/4 X 3 3/4, about 15 or 20 so years back finished lumber was resized to produce more picies of lumber from each log to todays 1 1/2 X 2 1/2 sizes.
 

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If you are building a home/cabin and buying pre-hung doors and windows the jams are sized for standard thickness walls based on store bought size lumber. Using lumber cut to true dimensions, like 2X4, means that you have to Micky Mouse jam extensions to make them fit.
 

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I would cut everything to match conventional lumber once dry. It is extremely frustrating to try and build with lumber that is not consistent in size.
 
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I guess the point I was trying to make is that lumber shrinks as it's drying. So if you cut a green 2 x 4 at 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 on the sawmill what will it measure when it's dry? The answer is less than when when it was green, but the exact measurements have too many variables to arrive at an answer. Even within the same board the measurements will vary.

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I would cut everything to match conventional lumber once dry. It is extremely frustrating to try and build with lumber that is not consistent in size.
👍 Sawmilling, Drying (including pitch setting and sterilization) and Machining (SFS) are the basic steps to producing construction grade lumber.

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If you are building a home/cabin and buying pre-hung doors and windows the jams are sized for standard thickness walls based on store bought size lumber. Using lumber cut to true dimensions, like 2X4, means that you have to Micky Mouse jam extensions to make them fit.
I guess that is exactly one of the reasons for buying a mill. Ya can cut any size wanted so just make your own jams including the doors. The rough cut and color of the interior wall planks will match the character, not to mention save a chunk of cash The exterior doors of course were insulated and prehung though.

Building Wood Tints and shades Hardwood Flooring
 

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I would cut everything to match conventional lumber once dry. It is extremely frustrating to try and build with lumber that is not consistent in size.
Yes it is. I have to do a lot of sorting and cutting to size. But I only build for myself, so I am not in a hurry. I buy all of my limber directly from the mill, some of it dried, and some of it green. I have learned to work around the off sized lumber. And I have no waste at all. I burn the scraps and the sawdust in my wood stove.
 

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Sawdust is a BITB for sure. I have a neighbor who has some one room off grid cabins he rents out and he uses saw dust in the commode buckets. But when it gets too big of a pile I end up spreading it out on the road away from the house. When it gets wet it sticks to boots and dog feet and is worse than mud to clean off before coming inside.
 

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My wife and I built this 100% eastern red cedar pool deck. I bought a tractor trailer load of tree length nice eastern red cedar logs from a logger buddy. They were destined for the wood chipper to be made into hamster bedding 🙄. I sawed it all out on my woodmizer and planed and routed all the boards. We dug holes 3' deep and set the posts with cement. We also bent the inner banding around the pool and set the joists to the square out the banding. I don't recall how big the deck is but the pool it'self was 30 feet diameter. Stained with Benjamin Moore oil base cedar stain.
Property Wood Fence Tree Outdoor furniture


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I also built this 8 string double octave, semi hollow body neck trough electric bass guitar. All the quartersawn tiger stripe hard maple cut on my Woodmizer.

Musical instrument Guitar Musician String instrument accessory Guitar accessory


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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Been Sawing for 30 years. We have settled on full width but we cut the thickness on 2 by to 1 21/32. This is the thickest you can cut and still use a nail gun.
We are in Middle TN and have cut 1000s of feet for customers doing that.
Is that sawing pine or hardwood or both?
From this conversation and others i have decided to cut 2x material at 1/8th to 3/16 over finished size depending on moisture. I cut mostly fir, larch and pine this should give 1 1/2 after drying and can be used with commercial products like joist hangers, screws, nails and such even while green. Thanks for the feedback.
 
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