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Sawmilling - hints, tips, do's and don'ts.

Big J

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I thought it would be useful to start a thread sharing our personal experiences in sawmilling and the things we have learned along the way. There are all manner of little things that we all probably do, without realising that many of them are quite novel, and others might be uniquely ingenious.


Anyway, I shall get the ball rolling with a list of vital kit:


Forklift: This is the single most important piece of kit in any yard. Before you invest in a bandsawmill, buy a forklift. A second hand 4x4 masted forklift will set you back about half what a second hand Lumbermate or similar will cost. For me, everything stops the moment the forklift breaks down - I'm unable to do anything. If the bandsawmill were to break down, I'd load a kiln, do some firewood, tidy the yard, chainsawmill something - you get the picture.


Pressure washer: Every log that goes on the bandmill gets washed, regardless of how clean it looks. Debarkers on higher end hydraulic mills are usually rubbish - when I had one on my Woodmizer it was sometimes unreliable at actually working (though more reliable than anyone else's I know of) and wouldn't reach the mud on some deep fissured bark logs (like E. Larch). I have mine mounted to a pallet with an IBC tank. It means it's fully mobile, I can take it to any log in the yard (though I now always wash them in the same place, on a concrete pad as it's easier to clean) and get the logs clean. 5 minutes spent cleaning a log will save you twice as long on band changes/slow cutting, will save you hundreds each year in sharpening costs and means much more accurate cuts. My bands typically just blunten though heavy use - there is no waving around and I think that is because the logs are spotless when they go on the mill.


Floor scraper: I use this for cleaning the boards of sawdust, and as far as I know I was the only person in ASHS (Association of Scottish Hardwood Sawmills) using one. Scrapes sawdust off in one pass - better and quicker than a brush and less than £20 from a builder's supply. This is what I mean:




Cant hook: Not a large felling lever but a cant hook intended for sawmilling. About £50-90 depending on what you buy but invaluable, even with a hydraulic mill. I was cutting double waney edge larch cladding today and the hydraulics on the mill always struggle to turn half a log (I cut down to one board shy on the heart and then flip). It was the same on the Woodmizer. You can fanny around for a minute or two and flip it with the hydraulics or take 15 seconds and do it with the cant hook.


Wykabor: Borate based anti fungal and anti insect treatment. Makes a very large difference to the amount of mould that will grow on your timber once stacked, especially in warmer conditions. Every board that goes into the kiln or onto the air drying stacks is treated and it costs pennies per board.


Work lighting: It sounds patronisingly basic, but get yourself some proper work lights so that you can work into darkness at this time of year. This is the first year where I'm pretty well sorted and what a difference it makes. If you have good quality hardwood butts, you want to be milling them in December, January or February. Daylight and good weather is at a premium, so make the best use of those cold, clear and pleasant days and mill for as long as you can. Then take summer off! :thumbup1:


Chainsaw mills: If you run a band mill and don't have a chainsaw mill, get one. They are hard work, unpleasant and I hate chainsaw milling, but they are worth their weight in gold. This is mainly for breaking down larger logs for the band mill, or getting those inaccessible trees that would otherwise be cut up for firewood. Or even supplying extra wide boards for a special order. Infact, I've used mine on more than one occasion for chainsaw milling very large butts in half on site so that the available machinery can lift it. If your budget only stretches to a small bandsawmill or a larger chainsaw mill, get the chainsawmill.


This list is by no means exhaustive, but in my exhausted state, is all I can think of at the moment. I really look forward to hearing everyone else's tips and hints :biggrin:

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Thanks J, good of you to share,9 i would have thought alot of people would want to keep their hints and tips to themselves (hope not). I am becoming more and more interested in milling all the time. From what at first appears to be a rough old bit of waste wood, can produce amazing things.


A friend of mine, Gobbypunk on here has started milling and producing good stuff. He milled me 3 window sills from a lump of elm he found in the river Stour local to us!!!!


Good stuff J.:thumbup:

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We're a cooperative bunch (of sawmills) up here. Whilst obviously everyone looks after their own business, I believe that sharing things that have made your job easier is well worth doing. Like with anything else, you can regard yourself as being quite proficient (or indeed expert!) and still not know the half of it. I'm pretty sure that's me, and I look forward to other contributions!


When I've got a moment over the Christmas period, I'll do post on what to look out for when buying and sawing logs, what sells and what doesn't and guide prices for butts.

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Thanks for starting this John, its shaping up to be an invaluable resource.

I can't see I'll have a huge amount to add to this discussion as I only dabble in chainsaw milling but I appreciate anyone who tries to pass on there knowledge.

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I'm also new to milling, I have an Alaskan and bought a Robinson 48" re saw two years ago, I would love a rack saw to break the logs down.

A good tip just off the top of my head would be to buy a metal detector to find those bloody nails and screws. Especially if you mill arb timber!


Great thread Big j I like your hints, very good ideas and make the job a pleasure !



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Many good points there Big J , and thanks for sharing ... I do not mill wood as such but obtain many lumps to use in turning mostly green and as you say it is definately best to cut wood and set aside to start the seasoning process at this time of year so the wood dries slowly , reducing losses due to cracking , I always keep a close eye on my stocks towards spring as the first warm dry spell that is typical in april / may can cause a sudden increase in drying rate , so I often cover my pile with a loose tarp of some kind to abate this . Some woods are much worse than others though .

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