What to look for
Logs felled during spring and summer give up their bark easier once dry, and have more unusual coloring due to higher moisture content.
Search out logs with multiple knots, burls, limbs, and other unique characteristics.
To create even more character in your wood
, allow the logs to lie on the ground or in a stack for a year or two uncovered. Exposure to weather increases the chances of getting spalted streaks and color variations. (Cherry, soft maple, birch, box elder, and most softwoods break down quicker, so limit their exposure to a year.)
Cutting the logs
Bark contains grit that dulls blades quickly, so remove as much as possible before firing up the mill. Start with a sharp blade, and keep extras on hand.
Cut slabs a minimum of 2" thick to minimize warping. Saw thicker slabs for specific purposes or projects. If you want to use the warp-prone pith (the log’s center), cut it as a 4–5"-thick slab, as shown at right. If the slab warps or splits later, remove the pith and make two slabs with single natural edges—great for shelves and mantels—or glue them together to form a wider slab with two natural edges.
Drying the slabs
Air-drying maintains the best color of your wood; kiln-drying, although quicker, tends to even out subtle differences in wood tones.
After cutting, don’t leave the slabs stacked for more than a day or two without stickering (adding spacers to promote air circulation).
Place slow-drying thicker slabs at the bottom of the stack so down the road you can access the thinner, drier slabs without dismantling the whole stack.