Home>Discussions>YARD & GARDEN>Dead tree, good wood. Can I get it milled?
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zipkruse
Dead tree, good wood. Can I get it milled?

We regrettably have a big, old, beautiful oak tree in the yard that has died. It's about 40' tall with strong old limbs, and I know that there is going to be some millable lumber in it if I had the equipment.

Is there a way to get a tree taken down and get some of the wood milled? Will a tree company do that for you? I'm otherwise convinced that they're going to take the wood for firewood or simply leave it here all cut up.

If you're buying oak like this at the "home center" it can be extremely expensive. I'd love to have it for projects like building a fireplace mantel. I have a thickness planer, but not the rest of the equipment that might be required for big chunks of log.

Thanks!

A. Spruce
Re: Dead tree, good wood. Can I get it milled?

Can you have the tree taken out and milled? Yes, but the question is feasibility and value. Check Craigslist and your local yellow pages for someone with a mobile sawmill. They can give you a price for felling and milling the tree.

Once you've got a pile of lumber laying in your yard, you're a long way from making projects with it because it's green, wet, and unstable. The quick fix is to take it to a kiln and have it dried. The long term would be to wax the but ends of the lumber, stack it - stickered - in the corner of a barn or other dry place for several years until it's cured and it's moisture content is down to acceptable levels (3% to 5% if I recall ... ).

You may also be able to sell the tree to the mobile miller or exchange your tree for an amount of cured lumber if the miller deals in it.

The other option is to contract a tree removal service to make you a pile of firewood (worth about $250 a cord ).

mpriley05
Re: Dead tree, good wood. Can I get it milled?

A tree service may be able to help. They would need a log loader (a ~30' truck-mounted grapple), and the tree needs to be accessible to the loader. They would probably charge an extra fee to transport the log to the mill.

You can look through the list here to find a sawmill near you. They also list portable sawmills (there are none listed in Essex County, but a couple in Middlesex).

A portable mill will charge a setup fee, plus a charge either by hour or by board foot, and possibly a travel fee. They would also need a way to load the log onto the mill (tractor, bobcat, etc.). You will be responsible for the cleanup of the waste slabs and sawdust.

If you get a tree service to take the tree down before you are ready to have it milled, use log sealant, wax, or latex paint to seal the log ends to prevent checking.

I'd be cautious about hiring a sawmill operator to fell the tree, especially if it is in your yard. If you decide to do that, make sure the operator is insured for tree removal operations (they may be insured for milling, but that won't cover a tree through your roof). You would also have to deal with the brush as well as the waste slab pile and sawdust.

A. Spruce
Re: Dead tree, good wood. Can I get it milled?
mpriley05 wrote:

If you decide to do that, make sure the operator is insured for tree removal operations (they may be insured for milling, but that won't cover a tree through your roof). You would also have to deal with the brush as well as the waste slab pile and sawdust.

This would be a prudent check for ANYONE who enters the property to do work, not just a mill operator. It would also be a good idea to check with the local jurisdiction for any liability or limitations on removing the tree.

FederalStyleFar...
Re: Dead tree, good wood. Can I get it milled?

zipkruse,

The guys are probably right, by the time you get all the required operations done, milling, loading, drying, etc. you will not have cheap oak. BUT,...you will have wood that you are personally connected to, and that is priceless! The point is, maybe pick a very special project and use the wood from the tree for it.

A couple of things to keep in mind. Sizing is important, if you dry the board stock when it is very thick, then cut down the stock again to get to a finish size, you can cut off the dried wood and end up with a relatively green stick, if the drying was not well done. If you decide to mill boards from the limbs of the tree be careful, there is a lot of reaction wood there (this is wood that wants to move, split or crack).

Good luck,
Phil

A. Spruce
Re: Dead tree, good wood. Can I get it milled?

You'll notice I qualified that response with "if I recall ... " :D

I knew I was close, but not certain of the exact number. Thanks for clarifying.

zipkruse
Re: Dead tree, good wood. Can I get it milled?

Gentlemen, these are exactly the kind of responses I'd hoped to get - stocked with great information. Thank you very much.

It appears that it may or may not be worth the trouble, but I will consider and check into the options.

Perhaps there's some simple emotional attachment to the tree - we love it, and it's offered the perfect right-angle limb for a two-place tree swing for us. My 5 year old and 3 year old are both going to miss it desperately - nearly as much as their Dad. It's been there all their lives.

Thanks again and kind regards,

Barry

A. Spruce
Re: Dead tree, good wood. Can I get it milled?

You're welcome, glad to have helped.

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Dead tree, good wood. Can I get it milled?

One thing that was not mentioned, it is very hard to find a mill that will mill a "yard tree" because of the possibility of metal embedded in it. Some will require you to sign for liability for any blade damage and these are not $29 blades.

If you do work it out to have the milling done don't waste your time on anything but the may trunk. \

Air drying takes approximately 1 year for each 1 inch of thickness of the lumber.
Jack

ed21
Re: Dead tree, good wood. Can I get it milled?

I know in Md. their is a blight or fungus that has been killing apparently healthy oak trees. The process takes a few years and by the time they are dead, you may find a lot of the beginnings of rot in the tree. I'm not sure the wood is really usable for anything other than firewood. My firewood rack was filled with some of this oak, that I personally helped to cut and split.

Fencepost
Re: Dead tree, good wood. Can I get it milled?

I'd recommend you call a certified aborist. Not necessarily to help you take down the tree, though many of them do this sort of work and will probably sell you their services, but to help you identify why the tree died, what kinds of trees might be suitable to replace it with, and how to prevent any replacement trees from meeting the same fate.

It may be that there is some external cause -- such as a leaky sewer pipe -- that could cause other problems with your home and property.

The arborist will appreciate it if you call him BEFORE you cut down the tree. If all he has to go by is your description, all he can do is make a wild guess. If he can see the tree itself, he can make a pretty accurate determination.

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