greenskpr

Portable Chainsaw Mills

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Looking for any knowledge on these units. Have you used them or seen them used. What are their pitfalls or do they pretty much do the job. Clearing for the shop left enough trees to build a heavy bench and is fueling ideas for a new dining table but I'm too cheap to haul it to get it milled professionally. 

Thanks for any input. 

Ben-using-ALaskan-MKIV-lower-res.jpg

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It takes practice but an Oregon Mill makes good lumber. Take special note of the wedges in the pic above, forget and the plank will pinch the chain and put cuts in the both pieces.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I've not used one but a friend has one and has implied a couple of insights regarding the things:

1)  It's obvious to more experienced people but not so obvious to inexperienced...rip chain, not crosscut chain and SHARP SHARP SHARP

2)  Though advertised as one person machines, it is worth it to have a *smart* helper around to do things like insert the wedges (they can vibrate out behind you) or scream at you if something is amiss.  That allows you to focus on leaving with the same number of body parts as you came with.  Bonehead helpers are best left at home though.

3)  Don't buy the cheapest Chinese knock-off on the block.  These are so dangerous and finicky that you should take no shortcuts or cheapskate paths.

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Depending on how many trees you have, it might be worthwhile bringing a portable mill to your site. Around here guys with portables advertise on CL, or you could go to the Woodmizer site. I had a guy come to my site, and in a mornings time, with my help, I ended up with over 1100 bf of mostly walnut, and some oak for $.30/ bf , milled to my specs. Some guys work by the bf, some by the hr, and may or may not have a minimum set-up. I kept the premium stuff, and sold enough to recoup my cost. Worth a thought.

Steve

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22 hours ago, Frosty said:

Oregon Mill

Hahaha, the guy from Alaska calls it an Oregon Mill, while I've only ever heard it called an Alaskan mill.

 We had a neighbor who rented his out(with him as operator) to locals who had 1-3 trees to mill up, past that it was more cost effective to rent a mobile mill. Ive helped him when he was at home and what kozzy said is correct. SHARP is key, if he was milling soft wood, he'd sharpen his chain every 7th pass, and hard wood every 5th pass. On certain high dollar jobs he sharpened each pass, but that was usually oak burls.

I wouldn't be able to tell you what he charged, but he paid a pretty good wage to a teenager helping him, $20 an hour. Worked for him for 3 summers before he passed. My job was to place wedges, stack boards as they were finished, move logs into place, keep an eye out for dangers while he was engrossed in the milling and to keep the customer a safe distance away. Though the last one was mostly to keep them from bothering him mid cut.

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I have an Alaskan Mill and have used it a fair bit over the last decade or so.

Pros: 

relatively cheap way to get into milling (especially if you only expect to use it once in a blue moon)

portable: take it to the tree, so you don;t have to lift/drag a 2 tonne trunk!

Simple and easy to set up and use

tapered planks, for something like shiplap boarding

 

Cons:

your face is in the exhaust the whole time

Unless you can raise the trunk, you are on your knees a lot of the time

If you first cut (ie with guide rail) is wonky, then every other cut will be. So make sure your guide rail is straight, square and doesn't sag

chainsaw finished planks need some cleaning up

 

In addition to the argument about the Alaskan mill, it is a chainsaw mill. I also use a Logosol mill, which is a proper sawmill bench which also takes a chainsaw. Chainsaw mills loose 8-10mm on EVERY cut due to the kerf of the chain, so is a bit wasteful of material. If the Alaskan mill is set up with a support at both ends of the bar, you lose about 5" on your bar length: so a 20" bar will only mill a 15" log. If you set it up with the support only at the engine end, then you get a wonky and tapered board. That said, I've used an 18" bar (on a 45cc engine) to mill 20" wide oak planks before, there was about 1/4" overlap from where I switched from one side to the other. When it comes to the saw you use, the bigger the better. I use a Stihl MS880 (120cc, 18.9bhp), which is as big as they get and I find it too easy to stall on even a 14" hardwood tree;l I know people who use two engines to run a 5' bar. 

 

I've no idea what the knock off's are like, but a proper alaskan mill is worth a punt if you have access to the occasional log that should be turned into better planks. Certainly much cheaper than getting the trees hauled out to a mill or getting a mobile miller in with a Lucas or Woodmizer that's for sure! Getting somebody to come and mill for you is worth doing if you've got a lot of wood to mill. A single tree, say 2 cubic meters, takes about an hour with this sort of set up, but half that with a bandsaw mill. So if you hire somebody in, they are there for at least a day, so you've got like 4-6 good trees to make it worth the trip

 

n.b If you can, set up a winch on the mill. It makes the job quicker, easier and smoother ;) 

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I agree David Budd. I'll add that you must keep your bar in top shape for good cuts.

I've used my alaskan mill for decades. I've only milled pine and spruce. My stihil 044 has never had a problem, although a more powerful saw would be great. Here's some pics from a few years ago.

the first pic is my friend mark and my setup for the first cut.

2: easy peasy.

3: width of kant.

I have 30-40' logs waiting to become my new shop next spring,,,, till done.  

 

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The Alaskan school system actually has a lesson plan on using them (as well as making wood stoves) and making a standard chain saw chain into a rip chain (file down the rakers and use a smaller file to make a more acute tooth) as one already knows their are two gages of chain and bar, and the smaller/thinner one cuts a thinner kerf.

 

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Awesome info, gentlemen.  Exactly what I was looking for.  

Will post pics here and report back of what we get up to.

 

Thank you.

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Do you have access to a planer? The boards will take a bit of finishing.

Pnut

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Plenty of plans and articles on the net. One of particular note uses a trailer. It uses the “V” rollers to support large gates running on angle iron on a separate frame. Thus eliminating the fiddling with a guid board to get the first cut.

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I've found that with a sharp chain an a good bar that the cut is better than rough cut from a mill. Plenty good for rough cut timbers, siding, heavy planks and beams. 

The spruce in my pics above were planted by my friends mom and dad in the '30's. We made sure when milling to add enough extra wood to run them thru a planer. His plan is to make something for each family member from the "Founding" tree of many branches.

As for ripping chains, I'll add that it's good to start with a skip tooth chain.  

Some use a 10 degree angle and some set the angle to zero. I think you get a better cut with the latter. The trade off is you remove less material when you set it to 10 degrees. Thus longer life on the chain. 

And a big yes on saving your dead chains for chainsaw Damascus. You will certainly get your money back in spades.

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I may have to remove the redwoods from my folk/s estate.  Dad planted them in 1970, and the biggest ones has a real burled up base, and is around 4' in diameter now. No mills are interested in buying them, so I would like to do something with them as opposed to just dumping them.

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Their are several good diy band saw mills on line using automotive or trailer parts. I would think that would be the way to tackle a 4’ log. 

One might consider an electric motor for occasional use (saw a garden tiller converted to electric once) 

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Ive thought of a portable band mill. They are expensive, at least for me.

The other problem is having the equipment to lift logs onto the bed. Not impossible, but that detail has made a band mill out of the question for me.

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another mill that is worth looking into, that I also use, is the Logosol mill. It's a chainsaw based mill like the Alaskan, but it is a proper bench that has trestles that raise the log to a bed that has the saw running along it.  I have their 'farmers m8' model which is one of the cheaper models and can be set up near to the tree (comes apart into small enough bits to fit in a car/atv) or left at a permanent site. 

Adding a simple winch to either mill makes the whole process even easier and smoother, giving better finished cuts too. I've never milled anything as soft as spruce or pine, but if I have a 14" birch trunk to mill it's like butter compared to the oak that I'm used to! So the winch is really nice especially with the alaskan.

 

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I also agree with Dave Budd. I would add that it’s worth running your fuel mix a little heavy on the oil. Milling is hard on the motor and it will appreciate the extra lubricant. The chainsaw mills do take a much thicker cut than a band mill but they are also cheaper. And they don’t take up nearly as much storage space. If money is tight, you can make your own rip chain. There are lots of places on the internet that will walk you through it. If you are buying them, get the thinnest one you can. It saves wood and it’s less work for the saw. 

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Ive never looked into building a band mill. There's actully two problems. Lifting onto a table and moving the table thru the mill. Ive got an old 10' tall bandsaw with 4' wheels that ive thought of using as a band mill, but both the above problems mean no bueno for me. 

Ive seen pics and a few vids of the logosol mills but never used them.

Last month i brought in (30)-40' ponderosa for my shop project. I'll peel them thru the winter and start next spring.  Some will be swedish coped stack logs, others will be turned into timbers and whatever else I need.. I live in the southwest and permits are avalable for these ugly ole cedars. They are tough to cut because their bark is full of grit, but its a beautiful and a very smell good wood. Ive not milled any yet, but am looking forward to doing it. No deadline on the shop,,, just a labor of love, and another go around with stone, iron and log.

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There are much smaller bandsaw mills that move the mill on tracks. Having the log on a moving track is a couple steps up than rolling the saw itself back and forth. I owned interest in a "Mobile Dimension Saw". We actually managed to fly it to the lake in one load but it was a close thing. We carried the tracks externally and managed to get the carriage and engine in the cabin with the two of us. It was a complete max load for a 170 on floats. 

The saw on the other hand wasn't a bad hand load up the hill from the lake AFTER we made steps in the bank. Once assembled and set, loading logs is easy peasy. We used a chainsaw winch and the supplied loading ramp. Deadman the winch above the "rails" one rap of the cable around the log and hook next to the winch and it rolls logs onto the stand easy as gravy.

The scariest thing about running the Mobile Dimension Saw after discovering how easy it is to pull start a Volkswagon engine is how fast it cuts and edges 20' lumber and pushes lumber out at you, the mill advances itself for the next cut and waits for the operator to double check the next cut and flip the lever.  It'll turn a 36" x 20' (large spruce for tree Bear lake) log into lumber in 2 levels. 60" by 20 cottonwood logs in 2 layers, in a couple minutes. Bitch is actual hard wood and it takes about 5 minutes for 24" - 30" x 20' logs.

Darn expensive mill and really helps to have a couple  helpers and customers to defray the cost.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I have a mini mill from Grainger. It is great for a little DIY milling but it is a pita, you have to nail  a 2x12 to the log for the chainsaw to have a track then for the next cut you have to pull the nails measure again and renail. I would love to have an alaskan mill or a good portable bandsaw mill. I saw plans for a bandsaw mill once that used tires as the rollers, the most expensove thing was the motor. It seemed a bit dicey though.

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