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DIY Lumber Mill

 
Posts: 39
Location: Pompano Beach, FL -> Roane County, TN
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I will be dealing with various oak but also a good bit of pine.

I was thinking a chainsaw mill but, then saw the bandsaw mills aren't really a lot more money and they look a lot easier to use. They also look less "portable" as if they are anyway. I can't really see dragging a bandsaw around the woods.

I'm okay bringing the lumber to a central mill.

I was thinking about making one of the portable wood mills from a random YouTuber but, perhaps I can make it larger and more permanent.

Mostly, I want to make boards that I can use for my own building projects.

Can I hear about your experiences with these types of tools?
 
Rocket Scientist
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Hi Chad;
Here is a little food for thought.
If you choose to go with a band saw Then you will need to investigate having the band sharpened.
When I worked at a full size sawmill , they had specialty machines in the filing room to sharpen things like bands.  
The big circular blades they sent out to a specialty sharpening shop.
Learn ahead about this before buying.

Now the chainsaw mills although I have never owned one, they at least can be sharpened where ever the saw is at.
New saw chain and files are easily available.

Not having a sharp blade makes for a long day and poor cuts.
 
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Chainsaw mills are pretty wasteful and messy to use. You can at least use the sawdust in your gardens, and I'd recommend a good dust mask. I've used several band saw mills and a few circular mills. You need to consider how you will use the wood. If your paying a mill, you'll probably get pretty consistent material. If you've got a good setup and keep your blades sharp, you'll get consistency. If you're planing or routing the rough cut lumber, not such an issue but still needs attention. Don't forget you need drying space for all of this wood.

I started out with the cheapest mill I could find; free! It was very dangerous and broke frequently. I paid about $3000 for a used trailer mounted gasoline powered band saw mill that still works after 15 years or so. I later bought a used trailer mounted diesel powered band saw mill that was much better but cost about $30,000. I prefer blade mills for cleaner cuts and less waste. Keep spare blades on hand and learn to sharpen your own. Be patient and look for a bargain, maybe find a few friends to pitch in together.
 
Chad Kovac
Posts: 39
Location: Pompano Beach, FL -> Roane County, TN
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Great info, thanks!

I agree with the chainsaw mills being wasteful. There's a TON of sawdust being created... but, I do have multiple uses for sawdust. -- Mushroom farming being one!

If I need to, I can always plane the boards down and sand to get a better finish.

I have room for drying so that shouldn't be a problem.

Big dreams, little experience.
 
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I was over a wood shop for many years.  We did not cut logs.  That said, we had a pretty good sized bandsaw that could have.  Although we never had an injury beyond a welt from the bandsaw, it can get real exciting when the blade on one of those things breaks. I always insisted the the operator wore a face guard.









 
Chad Kovac
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yeah, I'm not going to lie, I have a bit of a fear of these machines. I saw one guy watering his blade as he pushed his bandsaw through a huge log and instantly imagined him slipping and losing his arm.

No unnecessary risks.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Chad,

If you have some degree of experience around the machinery, and lots of good sense, you should be ok.  I was CEO of an org that worked with people with a variety of disabilities..... including substance abuse. Though the huge majority of the individuals were thoroughly committed, I had to prepare for the possibility ....  Yes, pouring water over a blade indicates there were a number of issues at play.
 
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hey chad

My experience lies with a mobile dimension sawmill which is set up permanently. The owner of the mill has an excavator. He buys logs to bring to the mill sometimes he trades logs for excavator work. The mill 's kerf is 5/16s so for every 3 boards i cut i lose 15/16 of an inch to sawdust. I am only the operator so it doesn't bug me much. The teeth are removable and can be either sharpened on the mill or taking to the bench grinder. It has belts and requires upkeep to keep it running smooth.

I find my self in a similar situation to you.

I occasionally have a log here or there which i could either cut up on site at home. I also salvage wood from the beach which i could be cutting up at home.
Its looks like in order to have a chainsaw mill you will need to have a dedicated saw to use with it which is at least over 90cc. or electric equivalent. You will need to buy either a granberg mill or something of the equivalent. i have even seen you can build your own.  I hear they are not in any way fast. sometimes taking 5 minutes to cut a board!

So with that being said i can look at bringing the log/s to the mill. It will require an excavator or a timberjack, or a truck with an a frame. It could also be done with a winching system. I am sure there are more ways to move the logs. Often the logs situated on the beach are inaccessible by land, so that means a boat. lol

Needless to say i do not think there is a best answer to this question.

If you have a machine which can easily lift 2'-3' diameter logs which are 8-12 feet long. I would say it would be money saved to either hire someone with a bandsaw to come and mill the wood up for you. This requires it to be worth the operators time to come to the site. Often they will charge you a rate per 1000Board Feet.

The other option is you could find a few neighbours who also want the same as you. Pool your resources together and buy nice bandsaw mill. 3 people get the benefit of the mill. AS i am sure has been said bandsaw mills kerf is 1/16th i believe? Meaning every 16 cuts eats up 1 inch of wood. Quite the difference to the mobile dimension saw i use at work.

So my suggestion is to check out how much board feet you would like to cut. Are you wanting to cut lumber for a living?

Good luck :)
 
pollinator
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My experience is with an old, tiny, and heavily used bandsaw mill.

It was on at least its second motor when I bought it, as this one has labeling from a pressure washer. The exhaust manifold bolts studs sheered off in use the other day, so now I need to drill those out and retap, or replace the motor. Everything is worn, or outright broken.


That said, I am glad to have it, and really can't imagine using a chainsaw mill for much milling.

I have a couple hundred acres, but it was thoroughly logged over the last decade.

The very few remaining usable trees, I would prefer to leave alone... but if they are clearly dying, I take them down and use the wood. This is unfortunately quite a few of the few.

The kerf on my bandsaw is very, very thin compared to a chainsaw. I would guess I get an extra board out of every medium sized log I mill, vs a chainsaw.

And, if you consider that you are spending the energy to cut all that kerf, it seems to me I must be using quite a bit less fuel than a chainsaw, cutting the same wood.



Yes, sharpening is an issue. I got a sharpening rig with my mill, but unsurprisingly it is in need of repair. Even so, I have heard you may only get one sharpening out of a blade.

I can have my blades resharpened professionally for about 20 bucks. They cost about 40. Cheaper than a chain. Cutting fir and cedar, they do a fair bit of work before needing sharpening.


I have ripped a couple skids freehand with chainsaws, equipped with brand new purpose-built ripping chains. Fir and western red cedar, the same as what I am milling.

It was brutal for the saw, even a 394XP was working hard, and it did not go quickly. A chainsaw mill would no doubt help immensely vs freehand, but still.


Where would a chainsaw mill be good? If you want to cut big timbers, just one or two per log, much of the kerf is going to be slabwood. No big deal to make more of that into sawdust. And with far less cuts per log vs making boards, a bit more fuel burned is less painful.



Portability... well, I can take my mill whereever the tractor can carry it. It used to have an axle, towing it would be the way to go if I had no tractor, or wanted to take it back in the woods.

I prefer to move the wood to the mill in chunks sized for milling; then, the finished product is all in one place.
 
D Nikolls
pollinator
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Hiring a mill can be pretty economical. My friend hired a very nice fully hydraulic mill, twice, for a short day each time. He had the logs all staged beforehand.


He's spent about 2/3rds of what I paid for my mill, and probably has 2x as much lumber, of much better quality, some of it larger lumber or larger logs than my 12ft mill can handle, without spending days on end running, maintaining, repairing, and fueling an ancient machine.

I think I will likely come out ahead dollar wise eventually, and I like doing things myself... But it will be at the cost of a great many hours.
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