Over years of backbreaking work moving planks of green
oak from a sawmill to a kiln by any means possible, we
have given the problem some thought and developed a way
to save your back, and a hernia (or at least another one).
We plank up oak, ash and sometimes Douglas Fir (when we
want something lighter to move) using a Wood-Mizer mobile
sawmill. With the improved efficiency of the mill over
the years as well as the speed and accuracy of the guy
using it, timber is being converted from tree trunks into
boards at a faster rate than previously. As a result we
have had to become quicker keeping up with the mill.
The problem we had was multiple handling. The solution
was to reduce the number of times that we manually moved
the boards, which was back breaking stuff to say the least.
I have moved over twenty ton of the stuff in one day myself,
Once the timber came off the mill, it was loaded into
a trailer, unloaded and put into a stack. Then after
a while air drying it would be loaded into a dehumidifying
kiln, to finish the drying process off, (not to mention
the lads moving the wood).
When the wood was ready to come out of the kiln it was
manually carried and put into a rack, for storage ready
for use in the workshop, or a customer to select it for
his winter garage project, before surprising the wife on
We had the use of a forklift or tele-handler for moving
the tree trunks, which was a bonus, but what we needed
was something to deal with the weight at the other end
of the process.
After a chat over a cup of tea, we decided to make up
a cradle to stack ‘packs’ of timber in. This
consisted of four 6” x 3” about 72” long
running from front to back, with three more on top what
ever length you wanted to pack plus about a foot. We decided
on producing packs of timber 100” long, a convenient
length for most cabinet and furniture makers.
We then built a vertical frame about 42” back from
the front edge to produce something similar to a stud wall,
with the uprights about 12” apart. We then bolted
a few supports from the top of the wall, to the back of
the four 6” x 3” about 72” long running
from front to back, to triangulate the wall.
Along one end, either, depending on where you are loading
the boards in relation to the mill, we built another stud
wall, this time boarded over with thin pine, again it helps
if the wall is supported with some triangulation towards
I have made several of these, both left and right handed,
so that they can be strategically place around the mill
for minimum carrying distance and accessibility.
As the timber comes off the mill, it is loaded in the
cradle with the boards against the end wall. I find it
easier to stack the boards from the front to the back,
getting a straight surface both front and back of the stack.
When the first layer is in, I place a row of ¾” sticks
44” long, at 12” intervals from one end to
the other. You can line these against the uprights on the
back wall if they are put in the correct place, making
life even easier.
Obviously, as more timber comes off the mill, you keep
repeating to the process until you have reached you desired
height (our packs are about 36” to 40” high).
We put poorer quality boards on the top layer, as they
may be left outside for a while, and check (crack) in the
direct sunlight. These boards will also protect the better
timber from being ‘knocked about’ by the forklift
We then thread some strong fabric banding around the pack,
(carefully missing to struts and supports of the cradle,
and yes, we have done it!) in a couple of places and use
a ratchet tensioner to get the bands as tight as possible.
We can then carefully drive to forklift towards the stack,
missing the cradle if possible, and pick up the stack on
the tilt action of the machine. When to ‘pack’ is
clear of the cradle, you can put it on a couple of bearers
wherever you want. A green oak ‘pack’ weighs
about two ton, is about 100” long x 42” wide
x 36” high, and we stack them about three high.
Taking this a stage further, we have built a couple of
kiln boxes that will accommodate a ‘pack’ of
this size, in which we can place the ‘packs’ straight
in with the forklift. When the wood has been dried, we
can lift the ‘pack’ out of the kiln and dump
it straight in the workshop, (a 12’ doorway helps),
ready for stacking in the racks.
The boards are handled off the mill, then into the rack.
A kiln can be loaded and unloaded in minutes instead of
hours and no back pains or hernia to show for it. It is
well worth the effort to buy, beg, borrow, or rent a forklift
or tele-handler to do this, it’ll pay for itself
in no time. But beware that if you are on anything other
than a smooth, flat, hard surface such as concrete or bitumen
you will need an all-terrain machine, with larger wheels
without solid tyres, otherwise you will tip the machine