Work Holding for Quarter Sawing by Hand


The best work holding is a heavy log. So, take one log and saw it in half. Easy right? With an asymmetrical pith it takes a bit of eyeing the symmetry to decide where to cut. I clocked this cut, it took two hours of sawing.


In this case there was quite a pronounced crook at the bottom end of the log. I was glad that I had sawn through the crook halving the crotch wood. Looking at the inside of the tree it was clear that the main trunk had at one time died, and a side shoot took over as the primary, so there’s some really wild grain at the bottom. Its the kind of thing that I should have seen when bucking the tree to length and cut around.


At this point it became obvious that my center line had to be moved to better orient to the grain, and produce boards without excessive taper.  I thought I would saw the quarters on my bandsaw so no board cuts were marked at the time.  Knowing what I do now, that my bandsaw simply cannot handle heavy stock with the blade I’m running, I should have gone ahead and marked two boards on each log half either side of the center line.


One of my neighbors, Tuck, dropped by and gave me a log. Now, this is the truck you want if you’re picking up logs! I’ve come up with a couple better ways of loading logs in my pickup truck, but this is what the pro’s use.

This reminds me, I was watching a video the other day about a guy loading a giant red gum in Australia. The loading process is not that remarkable, but the end of the video shows a really unusual saw mill.

Ever seen a giant circular saw connected to the boom arm of a bobcat? Wild stuff, I would not have wanted to be the guy standing there taking the video.


I added this simple back stop to hold the bottom of the quarters. I suppose I should pick something a bit more durable looking. If this were to break the log would swing back like a pendulum and deck me in the skull. Up to this point I’ve been simply screwing the log to the horse, but for a log quarter you end up putting too many screw holes into the bottom of every board you make.


Now knowing that I need to saw most of the quarter by hand I leveled one face and marked the ends for each board cut. Even though I had sealed the end of the log with wood glue the sumisashi gave a fairly clear line.


My other work holding solution, screws and plastic pipe strapping. Not terribly elegant, and I’m working on something better, but it works. Log dogs are great for holding logs in a given orientation, not so much as a hold-down device.


This is what a dull saw looks like. The teeth actually take quite a polish from use. Edge wear is just polishing of the steel.


The site that I linked to in my previous post, Carpenters from Europe and Beyond, also have video of many other sawyers. One of them:

Pit Sawing in Turkey

It shows a rope hold down with board and wedge. Its a simple concept that I would use in a couple different points of holding on my ‘A’ frame saw horse, pictured is my favorite so far. One of the problems I’ve had is the log pivoting over the horse when sawing beneath it at the start of the cut. If you think about it, I could use a variation of this for holding the log vertically in lieu of the pipe strapping. You can tell that I don’t go to any extra effort to make this stuff look nice, its all about function.  I also had to add an extra log cradle on the bottom rest to bring the log high enough up off the ground that I could saw underneath with a full comfortable stroke.


And! My wooden floor, how’s this Mark? Good old mother earth and a bed of soft sawdust.

4 thoughts on “Work Holding for Quarter Sawing by Hand”

  1. Looking good.

    I like the bit of detective work on the tree development. I trained as an arboricultural tree inspector for a year and loved reading Alex Shigo’s work:

    You may have heard of him. A digression for sure.

    Have you thought about true quarter-sawing at any point? Obviously the wastage is catastrophic and I guess with pine, if your looking for straight grained then very steep riff-sawn is ideal. The difference with English oak though is staggering; get that grain truly vertical and the perfectly horizontal rays explode. My kithchen table has a number of true quarter and just off ( by 5 degrees maybe) boards. Boy I wish it was all pure stuff. Nice table though!

    As for stopping the pivoting; how about a log running perpendicular to your top beam but that can swing down and wedge the log your sawing. A cross pein style shape log basically, corresponding to the beam/log shape and it should squeeze that sucker tight. No that’s crazy. How about run another beam halfway down then wedge the strangely shaped log in – more flexibility. Or another low beam to shove the far end of the log under would do it for really long trees.

    There is always something way simpler and easier that some genius humbles me with though.

    Like the little notches on the log as he goes along. Do you start the kerf with a smaller saw?

    Good luck

    1. What you call ‘true quarter-sawing’ I think of as radial sawing. I know that it would be fairly straight forward to saw the wedges, but as for resawing the wedges to a flat board? I don’t know about that. The coolest idea would be radially sawing a log for live edged clapboard siding, hardly any waste. I too love the flecking on white oak, I’d love to see some English oak! Honestly I’d love to come over there and saw some.

  2. Great work!

    Me and Mom were talking about the walnut bench I made. I love building stuff like that, everyone seems to love the style, mainly the thickness of the wood. The only problem is in getting that wood, which brought us to sawing my own lumber.

    Basically, I think you’ve sold me on the maebiki oga. Now to save up and find a good one. Any tips on picking a good one? And how do you think the saw will handle in hardwood?

    1. Cool! I hope you get a great one. I haven’t seen enough of these saws to really know what is good or not. I bought two to increase my chances of getting a good one. One of the reasons I was willing to buy a saw with a tooth snapped off (besides all of the other saws the guy threw in the deal) was that it was an indication that the hardening of the teeth was good. I would say a saw whose tooth line has moved a lot from sharpening is a good sign, that somebody else found it good enough to use a lot. Of my two saws I definitely prefer the one with a ground plate and only the hammer tapering on the top corner of the spine. If you plan to mill mainly hardwoods then you’ll want to find a saw with more relaxed tooth angles, they’re out there. Both of mine are softwood saws, but I was still able to saw the piece of elm I started with, green wood works with great ease despite the density of the lumber. Its also a really necessity to have a madonoko that can handle the cross cuts for bucking to length. I’ve used a chainsaw, but it leaves a surface that’s hard to draw on with the sumisashi, madonoko leaves nice smooth surface for layout. Jason has a good sized one, mine is very difficult to use in timber larger than 16″ diameter. Plus, if you’re felling trees without a chainsaw you can use it (and an axe).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *