Lumber Cutting with Home Sawmills
So like me you have started to need more wood for your projects, but do not want to pay the expense of buying rough sawn wood. Then a portable saw mill may be a cost effective solution.
There are quite a few home saw mills on the market, most operate with a chain saw, but a few use a band saw.
A home made saw mill, using some lumber, clamps, a commercially available guide and a chain saw.
There are upgrades to this type of system, which included extruded aluminium rails and clamps.
I found that these were great for the occasional use, but played havoc with my back, as you bending all day.
A large commercially available horizontal bandsaw - The length of the bed can be increased, so you re not limited by the length of the log you want to cut. But this style of saw is definitely “Rolls Royce” price range for the occasional user.
Another great advantage to using a band saw over a chain saw, is the size of the kerf 1/8” vs 3/8” of a chain saw. (just think if you made 5 horizontal cuts on a log, using a band saw you would get an extra 4/4 piece of lumber from the log, and a wheelbarrow less of sawdust).
Here is the mill I use, It is a commercially available system, based upon the home made saw mill above, but a lot faster to set up and operate. This will be the subject of the main discussion with in this blog.
The mill I use is not cheap by any means. I bought it last spring (2007) to cut up a Bird Cherry Tree (Finnish Tuomi), I was given the tree by neighbours, who wanted to burn it for fire wood. This year I have cut 3 large Douglas Firs (80 cm dia) and 5 Silver Birch (40cm dia). I am not sure what is on the cards for next year, but I cut a similar amount to this year, then the money I paid for the Mill, Accessories, fuel and oil to cut the wood, I will have saved an equal amount so the system will have paid for its self in just 24 months.
Setting up and using the mill
Semi-permanent set-up at the house.
Set-up at my neighbours house (2007)
The basic set-up at the two locations is exactly the same, except for the wooden “Steps” (right) used for loading the logs, and the large silver/grey plastic sheet.
Picture of the safety equipment and accessories.
- Helmet with ear protection and mesh visor.
- Safety Glasses
- Various log handling tools
- Second chain saw
- 90cm (36”) blade and chain
- Box containing, spare chains (8), spanners, chain sharpening kit, wooden wedges etcetera...
You may see that I do not wear the safety jacket and trousers whilst using the mill. This is because the saw is securely fastened to the mill, so there is absolutely no chance of “Kick back”, but hearing and eye protection is an absolute must. If using the second saw for trimming logs, then all the safety equipment goes on.
The Birch I am cutting today was felled in January 2008, but I have waited to cut the last of the wood from this season, as I have been so busy with other things.
I normally like to mill the lumber in March, so I get the best drying period in the April to June
Here I have squared up the first log (9” x 9” x 16’), before I start to make it into 8/4 x 9” stock.
You will notice in the background, one of the compost heaps I have, where I mix the grass cuttings with saw chips (2 years later perfect compost)
Here are some photographs of last years (2007) timber cutting, with yours truly at the saw.
You will note the strange shaped logs, this is how I was given them, unfortunately a little too short for the mill, so I have had to mount the logs atop some stout planks.
A circular saw, would have problems to mount these logs and saw them, so this system and the Band saw mills have an advantage
The tree being cut is called TUOMI (Bird Cherry), this is an exceptionally large specimen for Finland, so I was very happy to be given it.
I am going to make my neighbours who gave me the tree, something from the tree in next year or so for their rebuilt house, as a thank you.
This is quite a soft wood, more akin to Aspen, than to Cherry for its hardness, but the colours are really quite striking, especially when oil is added as the first finishing coat.
5 Birch logs later and finished for the day. You can see why I used the plastic sheet on the ground, you make quite a bit of sawdust, it makes it easier to clean up afterwards and does not “clog” the grass underneath.
The outer part of the logs from squaring up the lumber will be used later as ballast to hold down the stacked pile of lumber.
Here is the cut wood most of it 8/4 (52 mm), but I cut a couple at 14/4 (89 mm) for a special job I have planned in 3 years time.
All the lumber is trimmed to 10’ (3 m), the off cuts are about 4’ 6” (1.5 m), which is a manageable size, it is not light when wet.
As you can see the mill, wooden steps, and all the equipment easily fit in the back of an 8’ x 4’ trailer - so it does make this quite versatile.
I hope that this has given you an insight into cutting lumber with portable mills, there are quite a few version and manufacturers out there. Search the web and you will find a multitude of information.
The next blog in this series, I will talk about cutting smaller logs on the band saw in your workshop, so watch out for - lumber cutting on the band saw (#4).