Carl’s Kiln Dried Wood Process

Photo: Kiln Dried Wood Process (wood_process_11)

Here is the blank cutting process that I use to get the most out of hardwood kiln dried boards for woodturning.

I am documenting this process for my students. This is how I determine the price I charge students for kiln dried blanks.

At some woodturning schools they make money when they sell blanks to students. Selling wood is definitely NOT a profit center for me! I LOSE MONEY on every piece of wood I sell! Because, I DO NOT charge students for the time I spend going down to the lumber yard and the time I spend cutting up blanks!

Photo: New Load of Lumber (wood_process_01)

I like to make 10" diameter low wide rim bowls or plates out of hard maple or cherry. Thus, I purchase lots of 10" wide kiln dried boards. I purchase my lumber in 10 or 12 foot long boards and then cut them into 10" square blanks.

Over the years I have come up with the process shown below. It allows me to get the most out of expensive wood, while still keeping things simple.

I have decided to go with 12' long and 10" wide in this blog entry. To keep things simple and easy to understand.

When I say 12' long you should think 10', 12' or 16' long. When I say 10" you should think 10" or wider. i.e. 10", 10-1/4", 10-1/2", etc.

I use the same process regardless of the width of the boards. I am using 10" everywhere in this blog entry. If you want to make 8" square blanks then think 8" when I say 10".

Note: I prefer to use air dried, rather than kiln dried wood for turning. Air dried turns better. I can't get air dried in large quantities. Thus, I use what I can get. Kiln dried.

Photo: New Load of Lumber (wood_process_01) New Load of Lumber

I get my hardwood lumber from "Condon Lumber". They are not cheap! But, they have everything. Often in large quantities. They have nice fresh stock. They have more than a couple of old boards to choose from when I want 1-1/2" or 2" thick hard maple that is 10" wide or wider.

I get the best price by purchasing WHAT THEY HAVE at the lumber yard AS IS. Then cutting it into blanks on my own.

Condon Lumber has lots of 10' or 12' long hard maple in stock. Thus, that is what I purchase. Longer or wider lumber costs more. There are also additional charges for planing and cutting.

You can see in the photo it is a nice warm winter day in March of 2022.

Yea, I don't have a truck. My Honda Fit gets 38 mpg! It has a 9 gallon tank. I fill up once every 2 or 3 weeks. Think about that, the next time you take your big gas guzzling truck to the gas station. I borrow a truck when I really need one.


Rough Cut Into Easy to Handle Pieces

Photo: Rough Cut Into Easy to Handle Pieces (wood_process_09)

This photo shows my rough cut goal. I start by rough cutting the 12' long planks into 6' or SHORTER pieces, that I can then take inside and cut into 10" blanks on my table saw.

Over the years I have learned to do this very carefully! Plan the finial blank sizes BEFORE making the first cut!.

If you just ARBITRARILY rough cut things into 4', 5' or 6' chunks NOW and then cut blanks latter. You may end up with a left over worthless 6" x 10" blank. Because you rough cut things 4" to short.

Note: In the photo you can see, I just cut the 12' long planks in half. I created four 6' long pieces from two 12' long planks. I have never done this before! There were no cracks in the end of these planks or big knots that I had to plan around. I often cut a 12' long plank into several odd sized pieces due to cracks or knots that I DO NOT want to include in the final 10" square blanks.

Photo: Measure Twice, Cut Once. (wood_process_02) Measure Twice, Cut Once.

I start by carefully inspecting BOTH side of each plank. I mark any cracks or knots that I DO NOT want to include in the final 10" square blanks.

I mark them with a BLACK MAGIC MARKER so they really STAND OUT latter when I go back and look at a piece. I mark cracks on BOTH sides of the plank.

Knots are a fact of life. I often end up leaving knots (even large knots) in one of the blanks. I use blanks with knots for class demos, trial runs of new ideas, etc. Or I feature a knot in a finished piece. I do NOT sell blanks to students with knots!

I have learned to plan the blanks with knots. Try to make them square. 10" x 10" rather than 3.25" x 10". If and ONLY if there is enough scrap left over after planning the max number of crack and knot free blanks. Plan the knots! Don't create USELESS short sections of scrap!

Photo: Plan 10 Plan 10″ Blanks BEFORE you Rough Cut

If you want to turn a bowl or plate with a 10" FINISHED diameter. Then you need to start with a blank that is a little bigger than 10". I like a blank that is at least 10-1/4" x 10-1/4".

Hardwood lumber comes in rough cut widths. 10-1/8", 10-1/4", 10-1/2", etc. It also comes in rough cut lengths. 12' is often really 12' plus 3", etc. For more info Google "how to purchasehardwood lumber".

When I called the lumber yard, I asked for 10" or wider. I got 10-1/8" wide by 12'-2" (146"). I would have preferred 10-1/4" wide and 148" long. But, that is the way life goes!

DO NOT forget about the width of saw cuts between blanks! I always add 1/4" for the width of saw cut. My saw blade may only be 3/16" wide but things happen.

I also like the finished diameter of a turned piece to be dictated by the WIDTH of raw plank. Thus, I like to cut the length of my blanks to be 1/4" long than the width of the raw plank.

Thus, I like to plan for blanks that are a 1/2" longer than the width of the plank. Add 1/4" for saw cut. Add 1/4" for longer than wider.

For example: If the plank is 10-1/8" wide than plan on each blank being 10-5/8" wide. Really 10-1/8" x 10-3/8" AFTER cutting.

STOP! Time to reconcile the REAL WORLD with what I would like! Time for some MATH!

Today I got lucky. There are no cracks or knots in my blanks that I need to avoid. My planks are 146" long.

146" divided by 10" is 14.6 blanks. Thus I should be able to get 14 blanks with 6" of scrap for saw cuts, etc. Thus, 14 blanks is my BEST CASE goal.

146" divided by 10-5/8" (10.625) is 13.7 blanks! Thus my 10-5/8" desired length is NO GOOD!

Lets back off and try 10". That would be 146" – (14 blanks * 10") = 6" of scrap.

6" divided by 13 (13 cuts for 14 blanks) is .46" (a little more than 3/8"). Thus I can get 14 blanks if I make them 10-1/8" long after a 1/4" wide saw cut. Go with 10-1/8" x 10-1/8" blanks.

I decided to rough cut each 12' long plank into two pieces. Each piece would be for 7 blanks each (14 blanks / 2 = 7). Each piece should be at least 72-3/4" long (7 * 10-3/8" = 72.625"). Double check. 72-3/4" * 2 = 145.5". Ok! Less than 146". We have 1/2" of room for the rough cut saw width.

Photo: Example of a Crack (wood_process_04) Example of a Crack

There were no cracks in the above planks. This is very RARE. Most hardwood lumber comes with a crack in at least one end. Often both ends.

This photo shows a different plank. It has a crack in one end.

I mark cracks and knots with a BLACK MAGIC MARKER so they really STAND OUT latter when I go back and look at a piece. I mark cracks on BOTH sides of the plank.

I start measuring the total length of plank after the crack and stop measuring before any crack on the other end. Then the process is the same as the above.

When people estimate the cost of furniture, etc they often add 20% to the total cost to account for any wood discarded due to cracks or knots. I DO NOT do with when cutting blanks for students.

I charge students what it actually costs me (with tax) for blanks. They PAY ACTUAL COST for any cracks. How? If I only get 13 blanks out of 12' long plank (rather than 14 blanks) then I take the total price of the 12' plank with tax and divided it by 13 (rather than 14).

For example. If I paid $126 for a 12' plank. If I get 14 blanks then I charge ($126 / 14) = $9 for each blank. If I get 13 blanks then I charge ($126 / 13) = $10 for each blank.

Note: I DO NOT charge students for the time I spend going to the lumber yard and cutting up blanks, etc. Thus, I do not feel guilty about ALWAYS rounding all prices up to the nearest dollar! Thus it is $10 rather than $9.69 ($120 / 13 = $9.69).

When I go to the lumber yard, I take my chances. Will there be planks near the top of the stack with no or few cracks and knots? Will they charge me for the cracks and knots or take a little off? If I get lucky then my students get lucky. Otherwise they get what I get.

Photo: Circular Saw Setup for Rough Cuts (wood_process_05) Circular Saw Setup for Rough Cuts

This photo shows my saw bench. A couple of old 2x6s and some 2×4 scraps.

This setup allows me safely cut the big heavy planks. The piece I cut off is fully supported. It does not fall down and hit me.

Photo: Rough Cuts (wood_process_06) Rough Cuts

My goal here to cut the 12' long planks into 6' or SHORTER pieces that I can then take inside and cut into 10" blanks on my table saw.

I make the rough cuts with my good old Makita Hypoid Circular Saw. It is over 20 years old. I really love this saw. It works great. Easy to control, lots of power.

Beware of kick back. Don't bind the saw. Arrange the support blocks so the end you are cutting off will drop off.

Photo: Document Your Plan (wood_process_08) Document Your Plan

I mark each piece with what I was thinking when I made the plan. How many finished blanks? Blank size. Price for each blank.

On my better days I do this before I make the cuts. I do it, when I make the plan.

Photo: Ready To Go Inside (wood_process_09) Ready To Go Inside

Rough cuts done. Ready to go inside.

I may put one of these into storage. Then cut the rest of them into 10" banks. If I change my mind latter about blank sizes, I can use the one in storage. But, not today. I cut all of them into 10" blanks.

Photo: Cut 10 Cut 10″ Blanks

I cut 10-1/8" long blanks on my table saw. It is an old 2 hp Delta Cabinet Saw. I use my Forest Woodworker II table saw blade. It cuts hard maple like butter.

Yea, my sled is an old design. From a book. Long before the web existed. Maybe some day I will make a new one. But, I doubt it. I rather spend my time turning!

I clamp the board in my sled to make things safer. Notice the c-clamp and stop block on the right set to 10-1/8". The c-clamp and block on the left LOOSELY holds the board down in the sled. The pine 2×4 wedge in front right holds the blank firmly in place. The board on the left floats to avoid pinching the saw.

You should read and follow all the rules that come with your table saw! This blog entry is NOT a table saw safety lesson.

Note: I may rip the big rough cut pieces on the table saw down to 10-1/4" or what ever BEFORE cutting blanks. I am in charge here! If the lumber yard gives me a 10-3/4" wide raw plank then I will cut it down to 10-1/4" if that makes more full size blanks fit in the overall length of the raw plank. i.e. to lower the price of ALL blanks. One extra blank per raw plank , often lowers the price of all blanks by $1.

My $6000 Saw Horse Photo: My $6000 Saw Horse (wood_process_11)

1-1/2" and 2" thick hard maple blanks all cut up and ready to go.

Photo: Cutting the Corners of Blanks (ford_hex_templates_00) Cutting the Corners of Blanks

I leave the blanks square for my students. I let them cut them sort of round on the bandsaw.

I often cut the corners off the blanks I am going to use myself. I do it on the table saw. See my "Octagon Template Cuts Corners" blog entry.

You should read and follow all the rules that come with your table saw! This blog entry is NOT a table saw safety lesson.

Photo: Blanks Ready To Go (wood_process_12) Blanks Ready To Go

I store the blanks on a shelf in my studio. Ready for me or my students.

Photo: Mark Each Blank with Price (wood_process_13) Mark Each Blank with Price

I have found that marking each blank with the price is the best solution. Students can pick their own poison. I don't have to be the bearer of bad news.

I mark each blank with the price, date, size and the side I would make the top of the plate or bowl.

Note: The price on the 1-1/2" thick blanks in photo ended up being $10. It was only $9 outside. I found a crack in two of the blanks when I was cutting things up.


Students are Encouraged to Bring Their Own Wood

Photo: Students are Encouraged to Bring Their Own Wood (my_ww_class_details_2020_page2_header)

If you don't like what you see above. Then bring your own wood!

I advertise that "Students Must Supply There Own Wood for Classes".

My "Woodturning Workshop" class is not like other classes at Craft Schools where the instructor can supply all the wood, tools, etc. because the instructor knows what the project is in advance.

In my "Woodturning Workshop" class students are free to do there own thing. Thus I can't supply the wood, because I don't known what the projects will be in advance.

I sell wood to students as a convenience! I encourage students to bring there own wood to classes. See item #3 under "The Fine Print" here.

Selling wood is a definitely NOT a profit center for me! I LOSE MONEY on every piece of wood I sell! Because, I DO NOT charge students for the time I spend going down to the lumber yard and the time I spend cutting up blanks!