It's hard to understand the objection to What is the process, from start to finish, for milling a tree into boards?. It was closed as unclear due to feasible being too vague. But that word simply means "possible to do easily," and while the "easily" aspect could be a little subjective, most people would infer that the OP means something like "easily enough to make it worth the effort." I tried to edit to focus on the factors one should consider when deciding whether to mill a tree, thinking that that would remove the subjectivity from the question, but my edit was rejected.

I've voted to close many a question as unclear on other SE sites, but I don't think this one sinks to that level. It's a reasonably good question on a site that needs as many good questions as it can get. Please vote to reopen.

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    What constitutes "easily enough to make it worth the effort" is still subjective. There are actually many problems with the question as it is currently written, which I've outlined in my answer. I think if we give glw an opportunity to clarify the question, it will be much more valuable to future visitors. If the question remains unedited for too long (a week or two?), I propose we edit it for consistency with itself and the two existing answers before reopening it. I would also suggest reducing its scope accordingly, and posting one or more spinoff questions as appropriate.
    – rob Mod
    Apr 27, 2015 at 6:24
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    Also, "a site that needs as many good questions as it can get" reinforces the notion that it would be better to reduce the scope of this question and spin off additional questions as appropriate, rather than editing it for clarity but still keeping it as a single, very broad question.
    – rob Mod
    Apr 27, 2015 at 7:46
  • Given glw's blessing (see answer below), I've edited and reopened the question.
    – rob Mod
    Apr 27, 2015 at 21:12

3 Answers 3


I closed the question because, "Is it feasible?" is too broad and it isn't clear to me which question glw really intended to ask. As it is currently written, there can be no single objective, definitive answer. In fact, glw's conclusion is technically, "No, it isn't [easy or convenient]," by the dictionary definition (or, "No, it isn't worth the effort," by Caleb's interpretation), while bowlturner's conclusion seems to be the opposite. As I'll explain later, the title is also inconsistent with the body of the question.

From m-w.com:

feasible, adjective: possible to do

Based on the above definition, "Is it feasible?" is a silly question because we all know wood comes from trees. So there must be some additional context omitted from the question.

From oxforddictionaries.com:

feasible, adjective: Possible to do easily or conveniently

If we are to use this second definition, any answers will be subjective because it isn't clear what constitutes easily or conveniently. glw's self-answer to the question opens, "Short answer: it is an enormous amount of effort but it can be done. The resulting wood can be prone to cracking." But for some reason, glw was compelled to go into great detail about the steps required to harvest usable wood from a tree or even its fallen limbs. It seems to me that much of the context included in the anecdotes of glw's answer should have been in the question instead.

If we are to use the Oxford Dictionary definition of feasible, then glw wasted an incredible amount of effort detailing the process when the first couple lines of the answer would have sufficed.

Getting beyond the technical definition of feasible, the title and body are inconsistent with one another, and there are several possible interpretations of each, some of which I've outlined below.

Here are some possible interpretations based on the title. Note that a fallen tree specifically refers to a tree that fell without being intentionally cut down--for example, it may have died and rotted, or the wind could have snapped its trunk or uprooted it. A fallen tree could also be a tree that has been dead and perhaps decomposing for a long time.

  1. "How does one determine whether a [naturally] fallen (not cut down, or felled) tree is likely to yield usable hardwood lumber?"
  2. "Is it easy to cut a [naturally] fallen tree into boards?"
  3. "Under what conditions does it make sense to try to harvest hardwood lumber from a [naturally] fallen tree?
  4. "If I find a tree that has been fallen for some indeterminate amount of time, how can I tell if it would be worth trying to mill it into lumber?"

Below are some interpretations based on the body, which refers to a tree that was intentionally cut down, or felled. Perhaps glw only intended to mention a "tree removal specialist" rather than an arborist, but the mention of an arborist implies that the tree was unhealthy. Some people may catch this detail and consider it in their answers, while others may not. The question should either omit the mention of the arborist (allowing answers to address both healthy and unhealthy trees), or it should more explicitly state that it applies only to unhealthy trees.

  1. "If I'm cutting down an unhealthy tree, is it easy to harvest lumber from the trunk for some future woodworking projects?
  2. "If I'm cutting down an unhealthy tree, under what conditions does it make sense to use the trunk in woodworking projects?
  3. "If I'm cutting down a tree [for any reason], is it easy to harvest wood from the trunk for some future woodworking projects?
  4. "If I'm cutting down a tree [for any reason], under what conditions does it make sense to use the trunk in woodworking projects?

If the question does not want to specify whether the tree has naturally fallen or whether it was felled, it should clarify that point.

Simultaneously, the question is overly-specific in one respect. Obviously it would not be feasible to harvest hardwood from a tree which does not belong to a hardwood species.

The answers posted thus far, including glw's self-answer, primarily focus on answering a completely different question, which is, "How do I harvest wood from a tree?" I suspect glw wanted to share a particular answer but did not properly frame the question with respect to that answer.

I think the question and answers, as they stand currently, are trying to address too many things all at once:

  1. the decision-making process for determining whether it makes sense to harvest wood from a tree
  2. all conditions of trees, ranging from long-since-fallen to recently-felled, and from rotten to infested to fully-intact--and also including branches which broke off a tree while the rest of the tree is still standing
  3. the process, from start to finish, for milling a tree into boards

Not differentiating these concerns could cause this to be treated as a general catch-all question; in turn causing many future, more specific, questions to be marked as duplicates when the answers to this question may not specifically address the nuances of the more specific questions. I've observed this problem many times on SU and have been disappointed when a very good, very specific question was summarily closed because it fell under the umbrella of a generic catch-all question. (For example, "How do I do X on Linux?" is often closed as a duplicate of, "How do I do X?" even if all the existing answers are only relevant to Windows.)

I think the question should at least be split into the following questions, each of which should be written such that it can be answered definitively and objectively:

  1. How do I determine whether milling a tree into lumber will be worth the time, cost, and effort?
  2. What is the process, from start to finish, for milling a tree into boards?
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    Ok, you convinced me!
    – bowlturner Mod
    Apr 27, 2015 at 14:57
  • The OP of that question has not been here in 2 days if I can believe profile stats so guessing we should still wait.
    – Matt
    Apr 27, 2015 at 16:25

I've been thinking about that question since it was closed. As you might have noticed I answered the question because I thought it was fairly reasonable question ans was surprised when rob closed it.

I've been hoping glw would make a response. While I believe that the question could be improved I'm personally not so sure it should have been closed in the first place. I haven't had a chance to discuss this with rob yet.

  • I felt the question could have been too broad. For the same reason rob did. Was the focus of the question about the state of the log or the milling process itself. It could have been two excellent questions.
    – Matt
    Apr 26, 2015 at 20:21
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    Because the question doesn't mention the state of the log, I think it's reasonable to assume that the question is more general than that: How would one decide whether milling is worthwhile? If the state of the log is a factor, mention that along with other factors in the answer.
    – Caleb
    Apr 26, 2015 at 20:37

As the OP, I think I've violated my own personal policy: never write and post something in a hurry. I've been too busy to properly deal with this and will be for some time. Please feel free to delete or let remain on hold. Or edit it until it becomes something more useful. I do wish I could delete it and start over but I hesitate to do anything like that now that there has been some response.

  • Nothing is sacred on a site like this: if the question doesn't say what you mean, or needs clarification, don't hesitate to edit.
    – Caleb
    Apr 27, 2015 at 20:35
  • @glw Thanks for dropping in. As Caleb said, you can always edit your own question to clarify it, but for now I've edited it to reduce the scope and more closely match the existing answers, and reopened it. If you think my edit does not align with your original intent, feel free to further edit it or post a new question, whichever seems more appropriate.
    – rob Mod
    Apr 27, 2015 at 21:20

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