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  • Writer's pictureTreecycle Ltd

Q: Is my tree worth milling?

We often get asked this question, and the answer is not that straight forward. There are many factors that determine if a tree is suitable for milling. But first let me say, a lot of very nice wood is being cut to firewood by others because the customers are being told "It's not good wood", or "It's not worth the hassle". We at Treecycle Ltd believe in respecting and reusing the many valuable products of trees. Yes sometimes large trees need to be removed for various reasons, and sometimes it is impossible to recover due to the site. However often they can be removed and those trees are toanga, they are our collective heritage and we have a duty to respectfully harvest and use the timber where we can. So to answer the question, is my tree worth milling? It depends on the tree, the access, and what you would like to yield from the tree.

The Tree

What species is the tree? ID the tree and research it's timber properties. We have done a fair amount of milling and should be able to tell you what the timber will be like and what it can be used for. If we haven't milled it, our colleagues and sawyer friends may have. Measure the stem, how tall is the main stem until the first branch? Does it form branches low to the ground or higher up? Is the stem straight or bent? Are there any visible defects that might affect the quality of the timber? As a general rule the SED (small end diameter) of the main log should be over 350mm, but ideally >500mm+. Knotty wood isn't necessarily bad - the knots can look really cool when milled. In the below photos, the pine on the left is very suitable for milling. The eucalyptus log in image 2 was large enough, but it was a E. cinerea (silver dollar gum) and that timber is not very good. The ideal milling tree is straight, clear of branches to at least 3m and at least 350mm diameter at 3m. There are exceptions and each tree is worth considering case by case. And rot or defects can decrease yield and timber quality.

Native trees require a permit from MPI to mill. We are registered in accordance with the Forest Act 1949 and Forestry Regulations 1993 to mill indigenous timbers - Reg No. 01/0046

The Access

Where the tree is located and the access for removing the wood is an important factor that will affect whether we can mill your tree. A lot of our work as climbing arborists is working in tight access areas and we frequently work above buildings, gardens and other sensitive areas. In these environments if it is economical, faster, and safer to remove a tree with the assistance of a hiab crane, we will go for that option. This also allows us to take the wood off the site to a more suitable location for milling. To use a hiab we need to consider the proximity to traffic, pedestrians, power and phone lines, and other obstacles that might get in the way of the crane arm. Also most hiabs have a 20m reach limit out/up and have weight limits, so these need to be calculated on site. The below images are examples of jobs where the site allowed good access for hiabs and the wood was salvaged for milling.

If the site has space for the log to be felled to the ground, then we can mill the log in situ. Below are examples of sites where straight felling was a better option.

The Yield

We do a lot of milling of trees that have been planted by a family member but due to size or age/health they need removing. The tree is sentimental and the current family would like to include that wood in a renovation project of the house or turn it into some furniture or bench tops etc. What you can do with the wood is in part dictated by the tree. If a tree is short and wide and branches quite early, you will get short wide slabs suitable for coffee tables or vanities etc. If the log is tall and long, it is more possible to get long timber for shelves, benches or even framing timber. Below is a selection of images showing various cuts from logs.

Our alaskan chainsaw mill is capable of slabbing logs up to 1650mm wide and is a good option for tight access areas where it is hard to get the log out and hard to get a larger mill to the log. Large slabs are very heavy and the work is tiresome but the results are well worth it!

Get in touch

That was a basic overview to milling. If you have a tree you are thinking of removing and milling get in touch via our contact page with some information and pictures of the tree and site and we can discuss your options. We undertake professional tree care services and alaskan milling throughout Whangarei and the wider Northland area.


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