Updated: Sep 28, 2019
There is a lot of fiction and folklore that surrounds the reality of cutting a redwood stump. First, the stump is actually the root system. I’m not certain why burlers (common name for someone working in the burl business) decided to refer to the root system as a stump. My guess is that the roots where often discovered by eyeing the stump that protruded from the ground.
Generally, when referring to the stump, most are referring to the point in which the logger cut the tree and left the base sticking out of the ground. Either way, when someone in the redwood burl business refers to a stump, they are almost always talking about the root system.
Most redwood burl, natural table bases, live edge slabs, turn blocks, and so on are being cut from the roots of long dead redwood trees. No one that I know of actually falls trees in the burl business. Most often, the stumps are purchased from private land owners, but there are plenty to be had on public land as well. Unfortunately, most public lands with redwood stumps on it is closed to wood gathering.
Cutting the stump or root system requires as keen of an eye and experience as it does to properly fall a giant old growth redwood. One can’t simply start cutting. The process is painstakingly slow, and requires the sawer to have a full understanding of the many ways the grain is changing from cut to cut.
No to mention the enormous size of the stumps. It can be very difficult to wrap your mind around what it is like to burry a 6 foot or 10 foot chainsaw bar deep into a massive redwood stump, the whole time knowing that your chainsaw bar is only half way through the massive redwood root system. Most the time, it’s good enough to just half the stump before putting it on the slab mill of your choice. However, sometimes one has to quarter the stump to get it onto the slab mill.
Once you start cutting, every single cut changes the way the next cut is made. It’s difficult to understand if you’ve never cut stumps. The grain is all over the place. You may make one great cut, and then have to re position the stump to make the next cut.