Working Big Beams

I guess this would be considered woodworking, on a big scale... I'm looking to taper and radius the ends of a number of 8x8 and 8x10 douglas fir timbers. These will be used in a hybrid-frame house project. Basically, I intend to cut a gentle radius starting about two feet from the end transitioning into a tighter radius right at the end. Since I have several dozen beams to treat, I'm trying to figure out the most efficient method. I've seen a method using a circular saw to cut a series of kerfs with depths that follow the desired profile. The waste is knocked away with a chisel and final cleanup is done using a belt sander. This would work, but it seems slow because of having to reset the saw depth dozens of times for each beam. The volume of dust and chips this method would create is also undesirable. My current thinking is to build a profile template that indexes to the side of the beam. I could then use a 1/2-in dia, 2-in deep spiral cut bit in my 2hp router. Working from opposite sides, would produce matching two-inch-deep cuts in the beam following the desired profile. This would still leave almost 6-in (9 1/2 in - 4in) of the cut yet to be made, but the grooves could be used as rough guides. I think I could make these last cuts with a large bow saw or possibly a long blade in a reciprocating saw. Either way, I'd end up doing clean up with a power planer and belt sander. At least this method would slab off the bulk of the waste in one big chunk cutting down on the dust. The largest beams I'll be working are close to 400 lbs, so running them thru any type of stationary tool is out of the question. Additionally, I'll be working with one beam at a time on saw horses, so I can't do all the ends at once. Anyone have a better idea for working the ends of these big sticks?
Richard Johnson Camano Island, WA
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How about buying one of those handheld portable bandsaws that the timber framing guys use? My tenant, a master timber framer from der fatherland, uses one and I'm really impressed seeing him cut up to 12" thick timbers for the mortises(sp) and tenons. The proper tool for the job makes it a lot easier and safer. fwiw Jay
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I was going to suggest the same thing. A few passes with one of those could get awfully close to a circle.
j.b. miller wrote:

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On 15 Dec 2003 15:00:42 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@boeing.com (Rich-in-WA) wrote:

I've done this using a chainsaw, with a plywood box attached to the safety plate, that rode on another box fastened to the beam, cut to the shape of the taper. It worked fine but made a hell of a mess.
Regards, Tom Thomas J. Watson-Cabinetmaker Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania 19428 http://users.snip.net/~tjwatson
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On 15 Dec 2003 15:00:42 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@boeing.com (Rich-in-WA) wrote:

I'd use a combination of an Arbortech carving disk (the solid sort, not the chainsaw rings) and a big drawknife.
If I could work one accurately, I'd use an adze. -- What ? Me ? Evil Dictator of Iraq ? Nah mate, I'm just a Hobbit, honest
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Think I'd try templates clamped to each side of the beam, with a router on a long baseplate running in between. Templates should be spaced away from the beam so you wouldn't cut into them.
John Martin
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I think the portable bandsaw may be the ticket although I've never used one myself. Not sure what the market is like up there, but there are dozens of places here that cut timbers for the housing market. Granted they are for decorative purposes typically. They use a fancy bandsaw that is mobile but is suspended from above using a large boom/jig apparatus. They fire this thing up and can move the bandsaw any which way to cut the profile they need. If you aren't in the mood for buying a portable or trying some of the other methods, you might try seeing if someone local has a similar setup and see what they'd charge to do it. Just an idea. Cheers, cc
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I've seen a setup where a regular bandsaw is set on casters - the beam is set at the height of the table and the bandsaw is moved, rather than the beam.
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Prazi beam cutter. Like a chain saw powered by a wormdrive circular saw. The bar replaces the blade.
On 15 Dec 2003 15:00:42 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@boeing.com (Rich-in-WA) wrote:

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On Tue, 16 Dec 2003 08:42:53 -0600, Thomas Kendrick

this might be the most practical solution for the OP. I'm not sure if it will make the radius he's after on the ends...     Bridger

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Thanks for the helpful tips on and off list. I&#8217;d thought about using my stationary bandsaw &#8211; a vintage PowerCraft unit &#8211; as it is mounted on casters. The problem is the throat depth of 8-in is a bit shy of the 9 in sides on the 8x10 beams. This does however prompt me to look into fabricating a &#8220;lift kit&#8221; to increase the throat depth, something I&#8217;d been meaning to do for a while anyway. This would be useful down the line for resawing on furniture projects etc. I&#8217;ll have to study this option. I would think that if we block the beams up just proud of the table elevation, we should be able to guide the saw fairly accurately along the cut. I&#8217;m a little nervous that if we can&#8217;t maintain good alignment between the beam and saw we&#8217;ll end up breaking lots of blades. Of course each cut would have to go slow, like resawing I suppose. If it works though it would probably save a bunch of work with the power planer and belt sander. As far as a dedicated timber-framing bandsaw goes, I took a brief look and ruled it out on cost. The price of one of those units is more than half that of the timber for my particular job. If I was doing this for a living it would be a no-brainer, but for my one job, I&#8217;ll probably try to make do with the tools I have on hand. Thanks again.
RKJ
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A giant pencil sharpener?
:)
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a large laser
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