Black Walnut Branches into Lumber

As many of you already know, I love to build things out of wood: guitars, acoustic treatments, furniture, and assorted house-oriented projects.  What you probably didn’t know is that there’s a black walnut tree in my backyard.  For years and years the squirrels have been denting the hood of my car by throwing walnuts at it. You can’t blame the squirrels.  The walnuts do sound great when they bonk my car, but it still sucks. Partially from my frustration that cars are made out of aluminum foil instead of actual steel, I have been fantasizing about cutting down the two large branches above my parking space in the driveway. And I have been fantasizing about how great it would be if I could then mill the logs from the branches into usable lumber.

Last week my dreams came true and the next door neighbor hired a tree company to remove the branches because they were also above their parking spaces and creating a wonderful super-highway for the squirrels nests in the roof of their house. I then convinced the guys gutting the trees to give me all of the large branches from the walnut tree for free. Score! I was so excited.  Black walnut has an incredibly beautiful grain with a dark brown heart wood and a creamy tan sap wood.  Walnut makes amazing guitar necks, great furniture and is just generally really cool looking and feeling.

I ended up finding out about Roy from A.W. Woodworking (phone: 401-219-1258) through Craigslist and he gave me a quote for driving all the way from Rhode Island up to Medford, MA to mill my black walnut into usable lumber. The price was about 1/4 – 1/3 what the lumber would have cost from a lumberyard locally. Hurray!  The following is a short photo story of the process:

Black Walnut Tree

The Black Walnut tree after the branches have been cut down

Black Walnut Branches

Black walnut branches waiting to be milled

Branches are somewhat less than ideal for milling because they aren’t straight and they aren’t very big. It makes is harder on whoever is milling the wood. Roy did a great job!

Log Section and Walnuts

A cross-section of a log and 4 fresh walnuts before the soft outer shell dries and falls off

Cross Section

Another cross section of a log with the bark still intact

Baby Walnut Tree

A tiny black walnut sapling growing from the neighbors' foundation

Waxed Log End

The waxed end of a cut branch

The Arrival

The saw mill has arrived and is backing into the driveway

The Portable Mill

The portable saw mill is in position and ready for work

The First Branch

Garfield places the first (and smallest) branch on the mill to rip it into planks

Blade Against Branch

The blade of the mill is lined up with the first branch ready to remove the first slab

The First Slice

The first slice comes off the first log while the saw exhausts on the driveway

Cranking the Mill

Roy cranks the handle pulling the saw blade through the log


Garfield rotates the log into position for ripping off the top slab

Squaring Off

Ready to rip off the top slab to create two square edges

Two Clean Edges

Now with two clean edges the log can be ripped into planks

Top View

A bird's eye view of Roy and Garfield working

Arched Grain

This ripped log shows the beauty of black walnut's grain


Discarded slabs of bark and pieces that are too short to mill


Black Walnut planks after milling waiting to be stacked and dried

Wood Grain

Top view of the black walnut wood grain showing both the lighter sap wood and the darker heart wood

Embedded Metal

This piece of embedded metal ruined the band saw blade

Detail of Wood Grain

A close-up view of the grain of the black walnut plank


3 Responses to “Black Walnut Branches into Lumber”

  1. Black Walnuts Says:

    […] stuDIY: recording studio do-it-yourself » Blog Archive » Black … What you probably didn't know is that there's a black walnut tree in my backyard. For years and years the squirrels have been denting the hood of my car by throwing walnuts at it. You can't blame the squirrels. The walnuts do sound . […]

  2. elbandito Says:

    how long will those planks take to dry out? any plans for what you will build with them?

  3. Hendrik Gideonse Says:

    The 1″ planks were dry at around 9 months and everything else took about a year. I am planning on building some furniture and guitar necks. If I ever get a few minutes to myself!

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