I am considering doing this and using my electric chain saw with a slow feed so I can set it and walk away.
Personally I wouldn’t waste my time. I used an Alaskan saw mill a chain saw just isn’t worth the headache as a saw mill too slow too much dust and I definitely wouldn’t trust one in any walk away setup but that is just me.
If you do use a chainsaw make sure it is a big one as it takes a ton of power and also make sure you have the chain cut at 15 degrees not the normal 35. I made that mistake when I started with an Alaskan saw mill. Honestly you would be better off to pay someone with a portable bandsaw mill. I say this as someone who decided to buy a bandsaw mill myself and have done both.
One thing to remember the lumber is only as square as the mill you cut it on.
It will work, but be painfully slow, especially with the power limitations of an electric chainsaw. And the electric is apt to burn out rather quickly, universal motors won’t hack that use for long unless really babied. Plus the kerf waste will be huge. Look at @BillSchiller 's observations.
My advice would be to jump into making a small bandsaw head, one that uses a fairly sturdy blade, and either power that with an electric motor or gas engine. Bandsaws are very simple in principle, just 2 wheels in the same plane on a fairly rigid frame with a tilt mechanism on the idler wheel for tracking on crowned wheels. Add blade guides. First invented by Chippendale, I believe, pre revolution. (He deserves a statue for that… )
Or buy a cheap Harbor Freight, modify and rebuild accordingly. Probably worth it just forthe wheels, tracking and blade guides.
The real sweet spot for a low capacity mill like that is to be carried into a remote location to make dimension lumber on site.
Excellent points Dan,
I have a friend that has a bandsaw mill and it does the trick, but he is about 50 miles away so that = lots of hauling. I think this would work great combined with my CNC for signs, or other rustic designs. It also depends on how much time / money you are investing in the project.
What Garry and Dan has said .
Before you invest the time to make a sawmill like that, I suggest that you simply rip one 8 foot board from a 12" diameter log, free hand. Even pine. But if you are going to be milling hardwood, try it on an oak or hickory, too.
How much wood are you looking to saw? If just a little it is one trip to haul it down if alot you will want to make the investment in a good mill. I sawed out enough oak to make a trailer bed one full old tree and enough pine to make a 700 gallon water tank which was about 5 feet square and just under 6 feet tall with two layers of vertical board siding. By the time I did that I decided I would never use a chain saw again for lumber. I did also cut out a few beans with one. To be honest if your just looking for a few beams on site a chain saw might make since but more than that you will pay a high labor price for that lumber.
My brother got someone to come on site with a portable bandsaw in trade for some of the lumber when he cleared his house lot.
Great suggestion you can also nail a 2x4 on the side of the log and use it as a rough guide. I have done this more then once with a chain saw when I didn’t have a mill.
I agree with what everyone said. With that said, sometimes you just need to try your way to appreciate what everyone’s opinion actually means.
I ended up buying a $1500 mill that performs well for my needs. I use the lumber I cut and have no plans on selling any of it except for the slabs. The artsy people buy those to paint stuff on. Gives me enough money to buy more logs.
I think I would get tired of waiting for the thing to cut. But I think it’s a neat idea…maybe in a development situation where nothing else was available… But I also agree with Bill. Every context is different, it might work for you depending on what you want to do.
If I was going to try it, I would want to cover the contact points of the boards-to-rollers with metal so the wood wouldn’t get worn out… Also, maybe where the logs are going to be rolled.
Also, in my experience with Alaskan mills and ripping lumber freehand in the Amazon, cutting at 90 degrees is much slower, albeit cleaner cut, than cutting on less/more of an angle.
Hi all, Take it from a guy that’s tried vertical, and horizontal chainsaw mills with an 056 Stihl with 32’’ bar they are miserable slow, and not cost effective. When you add the price of saw, mill, and the amount of gas, oil, and bar oil, plus it is very hard on the saw you can buy a cheap HF mill. On average I saw 4-5 logs on one tank of gas on the HF mill.
I think it really depends on how much you are willing to spend, and how much you are going to do. For 1 log, a sawmill isn’t worth it. Or if you don’t have equipment to haul the log to the mill or space to have one. I would probably go with the Alaskan chainsaw set up, I think the rigs are like 100 dollars and made of metal, so they won’t bend/warp as much. plus you can store them easier.
Our shop teacher said, well you can do that, but the kerf is bigger, the boards aren’t as accurate, and you spend more time on the planer and sander and end up wasting wood. Planer blades aren’t free either. It is a pain working with boards that aren’t square in a number of applications, but not all.
The idea of using of an electric chainsaw is neat, it -might- work, but I am not sure they can go fast enough and too much heat will build up. You do need a different chain.
The big think to look at on low cost bandsaw mills is the tracks. Some of them collect sawdust in a type of box frame and look to me as though they will rust out pretty quickly of worse fill with sawdust and rain and expand and break in the winter.
I bought a used mill myself by watching craigslist for about a year and got a great deal. Alot of people seem to buy one for the purpose of clearing a lot to build a house or something like that and decide they don’t want it anymore after a few years.
I ended up with the 36 inch wide version of the Turner mill. Mine came from someone who built post and beam homes and it has 2 track sections so it would actually saw something like 44 feet if I wanted. I honestly don’t remember what I paid for the mill because it was one of those deals where I bought my Allis Chalmers D15 industrial the mill and some other stuff all at once for about $4500. Of course the D15 was it turned out little better then scrap metal but I didn’t realize it at the time. Another parts tractor later totally new loader frame and complete rebuild and it is a really expensive nice tractor again.
But the mill has been a good deal. It doesn’t have power feed and the winch to set head height is tricky I would actually prefer a manual lead screw setup so I could know how many turns per inch but it works.