My first attempt at milling an 18-foot beam with a chainsaw came out less than ideal. The guide rails I used were 10-foot 2x4s butted end to end and scabbed together with scrap lumber. I used lag screws to hold the rails against the log and in retrospect, there is really no reason I should have assumed the milled beam would turn out reasonably square. I’m glad I practiced on a windfall hemlock that had a pretty significant shake in the heartwood as hemlocks are prone to have. I can learn from the mistakes, reevaluate and refine my technique, and move on to the more desirable white pine logs. Plus, the hemlock 4×6 will make good practice for timber frame joinery when I get to that stage. I’ll probably make saw horses or timber ponies with them and that will give me some practice with mortise and tenons, and also allow me to get a feel for all the new tools I’ve picked up over the past winter before I jump into the joinery for the actual cabin. Another quick point I’d make is that I’m glad the first beam was hemlock for a couple reasons. First, the old growth hemlock and yellow birch complex is one of my favorite forest types and secondly, hemlock has one of the best Latin names ever: Tsuga.
This 18-foot 4×6 boxed heart hemlock beam is all I could salvage from a large windfall tree. Multiple stems, knots, reaction wood and checking made the rest of the tree unusable for timbers. After it was milled, I sealed the end grain and labeled the timber with the species and grade.