Archive for the ‘Pine logs’ Category

Logs+Lots of Work+Time=Flooring

June 4, 2009

In May, 2008, Kelley located some large Southern yellow pine logs, which he thought would make good flooring for the house, at Yancey Mill near Crozet. Since the logs were larger than the mill usually handles and milling them would require resetting a lot of machinery, it was not cost-effective for the mill to saw them. Kelley borrowed John Boody’s log truck, and we headed for Yancey Mill to buy some logs.

Riding in John Boody's log truck to Yancey Mill. Getting into the truck was the hardest part. Once I was in, I stayed in until the expedition was over.

I was very excited to be in the truck--it was the biggest truck I've ever ridden in. It did not go very fast.

Southern yellow pine is a traditional flooring material, because it is the hardest of the pines, it is relatively inexpensive, and it is very beautiful. There are many varieties of Southern yellow pine. When the European settlers arrived in North America, the eastern coastal plain from southeast Virginia to Florida was covered with Southern longleaf pine forests. The longleaf pine, which is extremely slow-growing, was in high demand; it was used especially by the Navy for timber, turpentine, and resin. Now, only about 3% of that forest remains. The very desirable pine called heart pine has usually come from the longleaf pine; most of the heart pine used for flooring today has been reclaimed from old buildings. The logs Kelley found are from another variety of pine, the shortleaf pine. The logs were very large, some of them nearly 36 inches across. This variety of pine grows faster than longleaf pine, and there is a smaller proportion of heartwood to sapwood. You can see in the photo below the pronounced circle of heartwood in the center of the log.

One log gets loaded onto the truck at Yancey Mill.

One log is loaded onto the truck at Yancey Mill.

The size of a tree’s rings indicate the speed of its growth. The closer together the rings, the more slow-growing the tree. As a tree grows, the cells of the old center part stop carrying nutrients and, essentially, die, while the outer cells continue to nourish the tree. The older the tree, the larger the proportion of heartwood (“dead” cells) to sapwood (“living” cells). The color of the heartwood is different from that of the sapwood. It is also harder and more stable and is therefore more desirable.

Kelley measured the heart of this pine log at about 15 inches.

Kelley measured the heart of this pine log at about 15 inches.

The yellow pine logs were so large that only three of them could fit on the truck. Kelley made a second trip to the mill to pick up two more logs.

The yellow pine logs were so large that only three of them could fit on the truck. Kelley made a second trip to the mill to pick up two more logs.

Kelley took the logs to the Taylor and Boody sawmill at John Boody’s place, where he and John Boody flat sawed them to a thickness of 1 1/8 inches, to allow the wood to shrink and move as it dries and still produce floor boards 3/4″ thick.

John Boody and Kelley sawed the logs.

John Boody

This hefty log is one of the five logs that will make the flooring for Bunny Vista.

This hefty log is one of the five logs that will make the flooring for Bunny Vista.

John Boody begins to saw one of the pine logs.

John Boody is using a chainsaw to saw off the log's butt swell, which was too large for the mill. Kelley gave me this handsome terminology, which simply means the part of the log closest to the ground. Butt swell is funnier.

Even though quarter sawn lumber is more stable than flat sawn lumber, Kelley and John flat sawed the pine logs. Flat sawing produces wider boards and allows the growth patterns to be visible in the surfaces of the finished boards. John very carefully sawed the boards so that the heart sections aligned properly on the saw from one end of the log to the other to produce the most beautiful effect. Kelley and Lewis plan to use boards of varying widths in the house; the widest boards will probably be 12″ wide.

One of many boards from the yellow pine logs.

If you look at the end of this board, you can see the closely-spaced growth rings. Flat-sawing the boards allows the growth pattern to be visible in the board's surface, which Kelley loves. This board is from the very center of the log.

The boards have been stored and stacked now for a year, air drying. They are ready to go into the kiln to complete the drying process.  After they are kiln-dried, Kelley will take the boards to a mill to be made into tongue and groove flooring. We will use the wood throughout the main floor of the house.

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