How To: Cutting lumber from logs

September 28, 2011

Q. Is there someone who would cut nice poplar logs for timber?

Darnestown

A. Much like the local food movement, there is growing interest among woodworkers in building with local wood.

Near you, Herbine Hardwoods (703-771-3067; www.herbinehardwood.com) operates a small bandsaw mill and two drying kilns in Lucketts. Owner Rick Herbine does custom cutting and drying, and sells rough-cut, kiln-dried hardwoods. He sometimes buys logs or takes donated logs from homeowners, but he’s more interested in species such as cherry, walnut, maple and oak. Poplar produces stable lumber, an asset in woodworking, but it’s relatively soft and lacks the color of some woods.


Much like the local food movement, there is growing interest among woodworkers in building with local wood. (BigStock)

If you want the lumber, Herbine charges by the volume of wood cut, not the number of cuts. The fees range from 60 to 90 cents per board foot (144 cubic inches), depending on whether he simply slices boards off the logs or maneuvers them repeatedly to produce straight-grain boards, which are less likely to warp. For kiln-drying, he charges 60 cents per board foot for lumber one inch thick and 75 cents for lumber two inches thick. If his saw hits a nail in your logs, he charges $25 per hit. And he doesn’t pick up logs; customers need to get them to him.

Those last two issues — the relatively high risk of having hidden metal in downed trees from urban and suburban settings and the need for a truck capable of hauling logs — have created a niche that another area small-scale sawmill operator is trying to fill. Chris Holmgren of Seneca Creek Joinery in Dickerson (301-972-7453; www.woodsurgeon.com) specializes in turning urban and suburban wood into usable lumber. He will pick up logs, for a fee. He does not pay for the logs and charges an hourly rate for sawing, but if you want the lumber or know of a woodworker who does, it’s one way to end up with cabinets or furniture with a pedigree. He encourages customers to watch as he mills the logs so the grain orientation, which is everything when working with wood, is what they want. Holmgren also operates a woodworking shop where he turns customers’ lumber into custom-made products.

Marcus Sims, owner of Treincarnation in Silver Spring (443-831-1781; www.treincarnation.com), is another option. His focus is making lumber from trees that blow down or are taken down by homeowners in Montgomery County and the northern Washington area. He uses the wood in his furniture-making business and sells boards directly and through a few local outlets, including Community Forklift (301-985-5180; www.communityforklift.com), a store in the Hyattsville area that specializes in salvaged and green building materials. His fees are similar: no payment for logs (though he notes that giving them to him is often less expensive than paying a tree service to deal with them) and a fee if you want the lumber. He’s not as interested in getting poplar as he is some other species.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in September, such as tuning up your heating system.

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