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How Tree Trunks Are Cut to Produce Wood with Different Appearances and Uses (archdaily.com)
123 points by bentaber on June 27, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments

If you shop at Home Depot or Lowes the only cut you'll find are from flat sawn logs.[1] Even at lumber yards most will be cut this way.

Because I don't have a planer, and don't want to spend megabucks on furniture-grade hardwood for my learner projects, I have to spend a considerable amount of time picking through pieces, whether dimensional construction lumber or squared project pieces, checking the grain to find those pieces cut near the middle, but not directly through the core. And then of course checking that it's not otherwise too warped or twisted. See

I think the only places you'll find lumber cut using those other patterns are lumber yards selling high quality lumber for furniture or architectural pieces, often sourcing from boutique mills. Or places selling reclaimed lumber from the days when lumber was harvested from old growth forests and it was cost effective to setup a large mill using different patterns. The trees from modern farms don't get big enough to use the other patterns; at scale the only cost effective method is flat sawn and letting downstream purchasers sort through the mess.

[1] The exception may be the poplar and oak project boards, but they're so expensive at the big box stores I don't even bother looking. I think poplar is pretty stable so they're probably flat sawn, too.

I have to get my project wood from a small local mill, I can get it cut any way I want, the downside is I can't just pick a few boards of different types out of a stockpile like a hardwood supplier. But it is cheap enough that I can buy it an entire tree's worth at a time and keep a decent stock going. The prices for a hardwood board at a normal lumber store are absolutely criminal so it is worth it a dozen times over to get it from a mill or drive to a hardwood supplier's warehouse. Plus with a mill you can bring them any tree you want cut up, I got a few black walnut trees that will probably get me a decades worth of material for next to nothing.

I know a physicist, who now works for the world-leading saw-mill manufacturer applying machine learning to this problem...

Ha HA that's my job.

You work in a mill? What's it like? Could you talk about some of the industrial optimizations you've seen in your time?

I'm curious, how did you discover HN?

That's fitting for a woodworker to come in a forum called "hacker news". After all, they are the original hackers.

Why do sites have to hijack my scrolling wheel? Seriously who thinks that's a good idea?

What do you mean? I don't see any scroll wheel hijacking.

Scrolling is slowed down for me. I.e. I have to scroll 10 times as much as usual.

The same people who inject ads on scrolling, duh ;)

Why drawings, and no photos?

I wonder if those wood cutters ever talked to Sir Roger Penrose. I have the feeling there is room for some optimizations.

I'm curious why you think that. It's all these mills do all day, for thousands of years. Reducing waste by more efficient cuts is literally free profit, which is why they've had automatic scanners and optimized for years[1, 2000].

I've done a little woodworking, but it's enough to realize that wood is complicated and tricky and there are definitely pros & cons to the various cuts. I'm sure if they could get more high quality cuts from a given log they would - it is more valuable down stream.

[1] https://www.vision-systems.com/articles/print/volume-5/issue...

Modern mills are impressive! SCA Tunadal does 200 meters logs per minute. With multiple laser/xray scanners for optimal cuts.


I think the article was geared more towards giving outsiders a rough idea of how boards are made. Not an in depth guide to someone wanting to start a mill. Given the volume of material the industry produces, saving even 1/16" on a cut would likely translate into billions of dollars. I would find it highly unlikely that any outsider, regardless of their mathematics abilities, would be able to walk in and make an improvement. More likely only very incremental improvements come from people who've worked in the industry for years and have an in depth understanding of everything involved from how the wood is used, transported, cut, what's done with the waste, and things like how saw blades are made.

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