How To Select Your Wood Type
Any type of wood is acceptable for log working projects. Most people work with the type of wood that is common in their area. Oak, cherry, ash, pine and spruce are only a few of the types commonly used by log furniture builders. The only requirement is that the logs are large enough to bear the weight of the person or item it is intended for. Chairs, beds and other furniture will require heavier logs of at least 2 1/2 inch diameter. Many people select wood that is between 3 and 5 inches for these types of projects. Bed posts will generally range in size from 4 inches to 7 or 8 for those doing custom projects. Lamps, shelves, coat racks and other non-weight bearing projects can use any size you would like.
Why Is Wood Dryness Important?
Wood dryness is important when working with logs. Green wood still has moisture in it, and logs will shrink as they dry out. Dry logs are especially important in making furniture. If you work with wood that is not dry enough, your project will shrink and the joints will become loose. To avoid this problem, wood should be at a dryness level of about 15%.
One way of determining if your wood is dry is the weight of it. If you lift the log and it feels light, then it has dried out enough. If your logs feel heavy for their diameter and size, then setting them on sawhorses in a warm breezy area would be one way to dry them. Keep in mind the humidity of your area. If you are using this method in a dry part of the US, your logs will dry out relatively quickly. If you live in an extremely humid region you may be waiting for quite a while. Another way to determine wood dryness is to use a wood moisture meter.
Many people buy "kiln dried" logs from a local source, or cut the trees as "standing dead". These are trees that have died due to fire or other natural causes, and have not fallen down. Over time the trees dry out and are ideal for log working.
What Is "Standing Dead"?
These are trees that have died due to fire or other natural causes, and have not fallen down. Over time the trees dry out and are ideal for log working. For those who are close to a state or national forest, you can usually get a permit to cut these trees. If you know of a person (private land owner) who has "standing dead" trees, you can approach them and see if you can cut these trees yourself.
Where Do I Find Logs?
There are many options for locating your logs. First consider what type of wood is typical for your area. You may want to work with pine, but if you are in an area with mostly oak, you may have to look out of your region. Here are some sources that we suggest.
- Your local lumber yard.
- Check your yellow pages for "firewood cutters" or "danger tree removal".
- National or state forest - request a permit to cut your own "standing dead" trees.
- Private individual with "standing dead" on their property who will allow you to cut them.
ALWAYS GET PERMISSION FROM THE LANDOWNER FIRST!
- Pole yards
- Logging companies
There are a few sources that will ship you the logs, but the price of shipping is usually so high that it is not practical.
What Do I Need To Get Started?
- All you really need to get started is:
- Tenon Cutter
- Forstner Bit (same size as tenon cutter)
- Bench Vise
- Drill (see below for size and style recommendations)
#1 We carry several sizes of Tenon Cutters. Just select it according to the size of logs you want to work with. If you want to make furniture out of logs that are 4 inches in diameter, then you will need at least a 1 1/2" x 4". That means the log will cut a 1 1/2" tenon onto a log up to 4" in diameter.
#2 You will need a Forstner Bit that matches the tenon cutter. If you get a tenon cutter that cuts a 2 1/2" tenon then you will need a 2 1/2" forstner bit to go with it. The forstner bit cuts the "mortise hole" that the tenoned logs fit into.
#3 Many people already have their own Bench Vise, so most people will not need to buy this. You will need a vice with jaws that will open far enough to hold your log securely. It is important that you use something to secure the log when you are cutting it. Try our New Clamp and Carriage System!
You Will Not Be Able To Hold The Log Securely By Hand!! Please Do Not Attempt To Do So, As You Will Cause Serious Injury!
#4 You will need a strong Drill. We recommend the Milwaukee Hole Hawg 1/2" drill (model 1663-20) for logs up to 4", or the Milwaukee 3/4" drill (model 1854-1) for anything larger. The 3/4" drill can be used on ANY size of log.
If you have a drill of comparable size and power, then you do not need to buy a new drill. We recommend these drill styles because we have personally worked with them and know they will do the job. We also offer a Clamp and Carriage System that will hold both drill and log securely. This system is built specifically to accommodate the Milwaukee Line of Drills. More carriage system configurations will be available in the future.
Tenon Cutter Sizes -- Which Do I Need?
The first thing to consider is "what do I want to make?". For most furniture and railing, a 1 1/2" or 2" tenon cutter is ideal. For smaller projects like lamps, coat racks or hickory furniture, the 3/4" and 1" tenon cutters are great. For larger "custom" projects you should look at the size of the logs you will be working with. If you want to work with logs that are 5 or 6 inches in diameter, you will need to consider the larger 2 9/16" or 3" x 5 1/2" tenon cutter. This will cut a larger log, and needs a larger tenon to bear the additional weight.
When looking at Tenon Cutter Sizes, keep this in mind: The first number is the diameter of the tenon, and the second number is the largest size of log the cutter will take. So a 2" x 4 1/2" Tenon Cutter will cut a 2 inch tenon out of any log that is up to 4 1/2 inches in diameter.
Can I Put Smaller Logs Into My Tenon Cutter?
Yes. Your tenon cutters can take any log smaller than the wide end of the tenon cutter. So If you have a 2" x 4 1/2" tenon cutter, you can use any size log that is up to 4 1/2". So a 2", 3" or 4" will all fit fine.
Keep in mind, though, that if you are working with a 2" x 4 1/2" tenon cutter, you would not want to use a log or branch that is smaller than your tenon size. If the log is already smaller than the 2" tenon of the cutter, you couldn't cut a 2" tenon on the end, right?
How Often Will I Need To Change The Blades?
Your blades are resharpenable, so you will not have to "replace" them for quite a while. How long a blade will last between sharpenings depends largely on use. Clean, dry stock free of dirt and debris is the best for keeping your blades sharp. With clean stock like this you should get hundreds of cuts before you will need to resharpen the blades.
What Size Drill Do I Really Need?
You will need a strong drill. We recommend the Milwaukee Hole Hawg 1/2" drill (model 1663-20) for logs up to 4 inches in diameter. If you are working with logs that are larger than 4" in diameter, then we suggest a Milwaukee 3/4" drill ( model 1854-1).
The 3/4" drill can be used on ANY size of log.
If you have a drill of comparable size and power, then you do not need to buy a new drill. We recommend these drill styles because we have personally worked with them and know they will do the job. We also offer a clamp and carriage system that will hold both drill and log securely. This system is built specifically to accommodate the Milwaukee Line of Drills. More carriage system configurations will be available in the future.