Eight Tips for Milling Rough Lumber

With these simple tips for successfully milling rough lumber, you can turn inexpensive wood into the raw material you need to build beautiful wood projects.

| October 4, 2010

The following is an excerpt from Getting the Most from your Wood-Buying Bucks from American Woodworker (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2010). Along with detailing the most economical way to buy and process lumber, Getting the Most from your Wood-Buying Bucks provides a variety of tips, techniques and general wood know-how. This excerpt is from Chapter 2, "Sawing & Milling Great Wood." 

 Transforming a long, gnarly plank of rough lumber into a set of perfectly milled boards is immensely satisfying. Not only do you save money, but you become intimate with the character of every precious piece of wood. The biggest benefit, however, is being absolutely certain that your boards are truly flat, straight and square. That’s the solid foundation you need to make accurate cuts, lay out precise joints and glue boards together without gaps. Here are some helpful pointers to build that foundation.

Cut Off the Ends First

Cracks in a board’s ends are a common flaw. Cut them off before you do any other crosscutting, so you know the true, usable length of your board. These cracks are also called end checks. Large checks are easy to see and remove, but you may also find hairline cracks that aren’t easily visible on the board’s surface or end.

I cut off the end of a board a little bit at a time, like slicing a loaf of bread. The slices are about 1/4 inch thick. As each slice falls off, I inspect it for checks. If the slice breaks very easily across the grain, it probably contains a hairline check.

Let Boards Rest

To make pieces dead flat, I usually let boards rest before taking them down to final thickness. I plane boards 1/8 inch thicker than needed and stack them with stickers or stand them on edge so air can circulate around every side.

After the boards rest for a day or so, I check each board for flatness by laying it on my tablesaw or jointer. It’s not unusual to find that some previously flat boards have cupped or twisted a bit. I rejoint one side of these boards, then plane every board to final thickness.

5/22/2018 9:08:55 PM

I use the plans at WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG to build my own DIY projects – I highly recommend you visit that website and check their plans out too. They are detailed and super easy to read and understand unlike several others I found online. The amount of plans there is mind-boggling… there’s like 16,000 plans or something like that for tons of different projects. Definitely enough to keep me busy with projects for many more years to come haha Go to WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG if you want some additional plans :)

3/9/2012 10:35:56 PM

I think the heading of this article should be changed. When I see 'milling rough lumber', what I would expect is an article on how to mill logs into rough lumber. However, this article is about starting with rough sawn lumber to create finished sizes for woodworking projects.

3/9/2012 10:30:01 PM

Jointing here means truing an edge or a face.

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