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Boundary Waters Quetico Forum :: Group Forum: Boat Builders and Repair :: I have a sawmill - can I get clear logs
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02/28/2022 01:56PM
Another thing affecting the availability of cedar in the US is that harvesting by loggers or the public is not allowed on federal lands. By harvesting I mean taking cedar (dead) for anything other than firewood. Any cedar you've seen in stores for sale is either from Canada or private land in the US.
02/27/2022 07:07AM
I used to buy my cedar from a mill in Canada. The sawyer I worked with had full cedar logs and we would cut those logs into boards. Some of the logs were 19’. The only clear lumber in a cedar log is just under the bark, the second cut. After that you will run into knots. On a cedar log, you might only get one or two clear boards but it depends on the log, size and all of that.

I had plenty of clear boards that were clear on one face and knotty on the back side. I still have a few 18’ clear white cedar boards left that I will probably never use since they are so rare. If I do, they are for strippers.

There arn’t many cedar logs available in part due to availability and second the lack of a market for them. Finding long logs will have to be worked out exclusively with a sawyer willing to pull them out of the woods that way.

For your ash, there is plenty of good long logs out there. The Emerald Ash Borer is being certain of that. I love ash, both black and white. It is ideal for gunwales, seats, and trim. Long and short are both good. Snowshoes, toboggans, so many uses for that great wood!

As mentioned, cut all your boards flat. However, on a cedar canvas canoe, we use wide quarter sawn boards. The nice thing about cedar canvas canoes is that you don’t need long wood and you can use al the short stock for ribs, much less waste.

I recently bought a sawmill myself and am always looking for things to cut!

02/25/2022 06:56PM
I have a bandsaw sawmill and am wondering if I can get logs in Western WI that are reasonably clear so I can saw my own boards, dry them and cut my own strips. The mill can saw an 18' log. What logs are available in this area of the country that would be usable for building canoes. Are there any cedar that is large enough to get clear boards.

Also, what is the best way to saw the boards for strips? Does it matter? What grain pattern do you look for in a board to make strips out of?

I am very willing to work with others if we can get some logs and share the boards. I will be getting some ash logs for free this spring if anyone is interested in coming down for a day. I live just north of Menomonie WI
02/26/2022 08:40AM
I don't think you'll be able to find white cedar anywhere near that length. If you need full length strips, then the only other reasonable species is probably white pine in your part of the country, although that would have to be from a really old tree and the likelihood of finding one is slim unless you already know of some available. You can use any species of wood for a canoe, but there is a huge weight penalty if you stray from cedar or white pine. I use various species of spruce in addition to western red cedar. Some use redwood, but none of those grow where you live. Check out the wood database online to get average density of different wood species.

An average tandem canoe will use about 1 cubic foot of wood. The hull alone will be upwards of 20 lbs if made from western red cedar and double that for most hardwoods. Add the glass, resin, and trimmings and it all adds up fast. Your sawmill will be good for milling hardwood gunwales, seat frames, thwarts etc. Ash is a good species used by many boat manufacturers.

With all the time, effort and other materials involved with building a canoe, I think it's best to pay the money for good lumber for the hull. All that being said, you may be able to find shorter clear lengths of lightweight wood that you can mill, and I would recommend going that route. There's nothing wrong with butt joints. I've built plenty of boats that way and they look just as good as ones with full length strips and just as strong. If I owned a sawmill I would use whatever lengths of logs I could find to build a boat.

When you mill your logs, you want flat sawn boards to start with, which will give you quarter/rift sawn strips.

Good luck, sounds like a fun project. Mark
02/26/2022 10:11AM
I buy my planks for strips, in 1"X stock. I much prefer Flat grain planks ! Thus when cut into strips, I get quarter sawn strips. The Best !

Another tip. I like rough sawn planks, as when I bead and cove my strips ? There is no need to plane them before cutting strips.

I run my strips Between the bit and the fence. The first pass uniforms the strips ! Uniformity is the name of the game ! Bead and cove is the best method !

Anxious to hear how the saw mill works out ! Are you able to find Western Red Cedar ?

03/01/2022 04:00AM
Did you check Craigslist and/or marketplace? I used to buy rough cut lumber on them before I found a good local supplier. Seemed there was always someone selling logs and/or boards they harvested themselves.
02/26/2022 05:34PM
I can certainly buy boards and/or strips. I just enjoy starting from logs. My first project years ago was a chest for my daughter built out of oak from trees on my land. I made all the trim for our breezeway from pine boards from some logs a friend gave me.

I am in no hurry at all. I know where there are some really large cedar trees. I just need to find out who owns the land. There are a lot of cedars that grow in Door county along lake Michigan.

I do have some 12" x 1" x 12' clear white pine boards that came out of the attic in the honey house at my grandfathers farm. Really beautiful wood with some red and blue coloring. It's so fun to work with because whenever you put a sander or saw to it you can smell the honey house.

I want to start making some paddles and eventually a canoe but not in a hurry. You cannot be in a hurry when you start from logs.