Last summer we walked our land with our architect selecting the trees that would be used to build the house.  We were looking for trees that had specific dimensions and in some cases particular branching patterns.  We were also looking for trees that were growing too close to their neighbors or were injured or dying.

Several black walnuts and elms that had great post or beam potential at their tops left substantial trunks that were too big to be unmilled timbers for our home.  In addition, there was a massive elm and a huge cherry that were at the end of their lives because of disease (the elm) and a lightning strike (the cherry).  These were stacked in a pile, waiting the arrival of a portable sawmill.   We also needed the mill for a number of pine trees that were removed to thin the woods or open the solar access to our building site.   And they were sawed first for our roof decking, which we decided to use instead of the traditional plywood.  (See my post Using Every Particle of Pine.)

The suspense has been killing me.

Watching hard wood logs be milled is amazing.  It’s like opening books of breathtakingly beautiful pages, and as each page is turned, you see the art within for the very first time.   It’s also like meeting new friends that you know you are going to like and spend a lot of time with.

The first ship is away.

These saws seem very dangerous to me, but Vince Lease, our miller, said the worse that has ever happened is he has pinched his fingers operating it.

The dangerous part is hauling these 2-1/2″ slabs.  They are really heavy!  Doug said the oak was noticeably heavier than the others, including the elm and cherry.

We are really getting a good supply of wood stacked and ready for the kiln.

If this were a beauty contest, I think Brad would name this elm the winner.  I have a hard time deciding.

So, now we have milled the logs that will become our roof decking, kitchen counters, window seats, shelving and stair steps, and other parts I haven’t even thought of.

Next Tuesday, I hope to be reporting on the basement excavation – weather permitting.

4 replies

  1. Wow – that’s amazing and exciting. That piece of elm in the photo is very lovely and I’m sure there are many others just as lovely. My first thought was that it was a slab of cherry. Beautiful grain!

  2. Yes, it was a very exciting day when it was cut Thursday. I was working on finishing pine timbers, which was also great fun — smoothing the knobs where branches came out and sanding it all to a smooth feeling. But I kept going over to see what was coming off the mill. I couldn’t help myself.

  3. Beautiful wood, and wonderful use of resources that so many simply burn, or even leave to rot. I enjoy your posts, Denise.

  4. Thanks for your kind words, John.
    We are not able to use every scrap. (We have not figured out what to do with the pile of the outer edges of the logs that get shaved off first to turn free-flowing trunks into geometrically precise building units.) But we are trying to build as sustainably as we can figure out to do. That is why we are building at all. We are hoping our project will inspire others and nudge the building industry toward a more sustainable path.
    In the next few days the big equipment will scoop out a niche in the hill, and the foundation will be poured. That’s going to be both sobering and thrilling!

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