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Author Topic: Advice for a beginner sawyer  (Read 1085 times)

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Offline retogkoch

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Advice for a beginner sawyer
« on: June 03, 2018, 09:33:27 PM »
I am very interested in milling my own lumber with an Alaskan style mill, but am feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the choices and suggestions on the web.  I am going to be starting from scratch and would love advice on what to invest in.  My property is about 80% western red cedar, ranging from about 42" to 18" diameter tress, majority of them in the 30" range.  I am more leaning towards making slabs.  I am wondering what size saw and bar I should be looking at to accommodate my tree size.  I was looking at the stihl ms 880 magnum but maybe that's overkill?  Also the style of Alaskan mill that would work best for my circumstance ( Granberg mk-IV? seems like there's a lot of different options)  Which guide bars do i need? One to start the log? or does that same bar work for the slab milling as well?  Finally, is there any special type of ripping chain that would work best? or just any ripping chain? I know its a lot of questions but this seemed like the place to ask.

Thanks from a very eager beginner sawyer!

Offline Oliver05262

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Re: Advice for a beginner sawyer
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2018, 09:37:22 PM »
Welcome, and good luck with your mill. You  have come to the right place to learn. 
"You can't do wrong by doing good"

It's OK to cry.

Offline Bigsticks

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Re: Advice for a beginner sawyer
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2018, 11:08:21 PM »
I'd advise looking for a used Lucas, or fab a bar and build one similar. I've done a bit of Alaskan style slabbing with a 5' bar and a still 660. It's slow go and has to be hard on a 1100 dollar saw. I used only full chisel skip tooth sequence chain. And it better be sharp. It does produce some fantastic pieces, but the time, wear, tear, energy required to do just a few is so much so, that one really has to pay me well to even consider it.
Browning Sawmill~Woodmizer LT50 super hydraulic

Offline fotokemist

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Re: Advice for a beginner sawyer
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2018, 11:10:53 PM »
I also am a relative newcomer, so evaluate my comments with that in mind.

I started with an Grandberg Alaskan style mill using a Husqvarner 460 chainsaw with 20" blade and skip tooth chain.  I used it to cut 2" - 4" slabs from pine in the 14" - 16" range which is close the limits with a 20" blade.  I used the same bar and chain for all milling cuts.

The results were not the same quality that is produced by a band saw mill.  To be fair, I did not stick with the Alaskan long enough to really learn how to use it and the 460 is minimal for the task.  Your chainsaw cannot have too much power. 

I was discouraged by the time for each cut and the ~ tank of gas to make one cut in a 16' log.  Maybe someone with more experience can comment on the cutting time for a 30" log.  The bar will need to be a couple on inches longer than the thickest cut.  You also may want auxiliary oiling for the chain.  After this experience, I decided to get a band saw mill.  Started by looking at Harbor Freight.

Since the saw mill supports a hobby, not my family, the wife would not go a big mill.  After a lot of research, I ended up purchasing a Woodlands HM126 as providing best value within my budget (well, almost.).  The saw mill has performed as advertised.  The company was very responsive to my one warranted claim.  I've had the mill more than two years now and am satisfied.  However, I would not want to try to make my living sawing with it.  It does not have the productivity of the next class higher mills although its productivity far exceeds the chain saw based mill.

Sounds like you have some really nice wood.

Woodland HM126, Bobcat 863, Norwood Skidlite

Offline CX3

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Re: Advice for a beginner sawyer
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2018, 07:44:36 AM »
Before I'd throw $2000 at a chainsaw to mill with I'd figure out a way to throw a little more with it and get a real sawmill. Those chainsaw mills have to be a joke.
John 3:16
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Offline SawyerTed

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Re: Advice for a beginner sawyer
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2018, 08:20:34 AM »
The leap from a chainsaw mill to a base model manual bandsaw or real slabber mill really isn't that big.  I started chainsaw milling and did so for 3 years.  It got old because the production was slow for the effort.  Working on my knees or bent over and pushing the chainsaw through the log was hard on my knees and back.  

Since you are starting out from scratch you will need the power head for the chainsaw OR two, the chainsaw mill, bar, ripping chain, frame for starting the opening cut, auxiliary the time you are done you could easily have $2,500 invested.  You can buy any one of several bandsaw mills for that or less.
Woodmizer LT35HD25, Kubota MX5100, IH McCormick Farmall 140, Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill, Husqvarna 372XP, Husqvarna 455 Rancher, Ram 3500 6.7 Cummins

Offline Upstatewoodchuc

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Re: Advice for a beginner sawyer
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2018, 09:32:51 AM »
These guys have wise words, if you're milling alot and time counts, then a bandmill would be smarter, however if you have trees up to 42" as you said, you're still going to need a chainsaw mill. A bandmill that big is gonna not be cheap, so you'll have to break them down into smaller sections with a chainsaw mill to fit whatever bandmill you can afford. Chainsaw mill wise, go big or go home, I thought there would only be a bit of a difference between a 95cc class saw and a 120cc class saw because on paper there was only a bit over a horsepower. I was wrong. A 94cc saw ripping down the grain of anything over 24" is just plain hard on the saw, where as a 120cc saw just cuts faster the harder you can lean on it, barely even laboring. Be it a stihl ms880, or husky 3120, you're gonna want to go big, it'll save you money in the long run. My 2 cents.   --upstate
Current collection: Husky 3120xp,  394xp, 365, 345, stihl 017, homelite xl12.  Ford 8n with loader and forks. 1968 Chevy C50 dump truck

Offline bwstout

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Re: Advice for a beginner sawyer
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2018, 10:48:31 AM »
I started out with the Alaskan saw mill on ERC and was not too bad built my daughter a chest out of it. I want to build a small coffee table out of black walnut that when it went down hill. I was using a husky 560xp with a 20 inch bar and ripping chain. Only had to mill one log about 8ft long and 16inchs. Well by the time I go through 3 tanks of fuel and quit tired and a brand new 600.00 saw that got too hot and warp the piston(spent another 300.00 getting it fixed) i knew it was not for me. So I built my band saw mill. I have cut hundreds of BF built chest, tables and have a large supply of walnut ERC and pecan. As all other have said i would save my money and buy or build a band saw mill you will be much happier and less work.
home built mill

Offline Savannahdan

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Re: Advice for a beginner sawyer
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2018, 11:15:46 AM »
I use a Husky 3120xp with either a 30" or 56" bar with a Granberg Alaskan Mill with either 30" and 56" rails. I also use an older Makita DCS7901 at times.  It's a lot of work and you spend about as much for that outfit which could go for a small bandsaw mill.  I agree that for a little more you can get into one of the nice bandsaw mills and make lumber quickly, with less wear and tear on your body and equipment, and not have to spend a lot to finish the lumber after it's cut.  If you are after real wide boards/slabs you can probably find a used CSM and use it.  Don't get me wrong the Granberg is a well built piece of equipment and will last a long time.  Another thought to consider is it is easier to resaw slabs using a bandsaw mill than a CSM.  I use mine to help cope with my Krispy Kreme habit.  It doesn't help that I have one of their stores about a mile away.  Good luck.
Husqvarna 3120XP, Makita DCS7901 Chainsaw, 30" & 56" Granberg Chain Saw Mill, Logosol M8 Farmers Mill

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Advice for a beginner sawyer
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2018, 10:40:46 AM »
I already had a 395xp and 36" bar as my biggest logging saw, and made a basic alaskan mill for nothing. Id be disappointed if i spent money on it.

It will produce the most expensive, labor intensive rough lumber you ever own.  Its the step above hand hewing.  Expends almost as much energy and a lot of fuel, noise and dust.  Produces the least board foot per gallon of fuel and the least board foot per log diameter with the slowest possible output.  Commercially its place is in big fat live edge table tops being sold rough where flatness matters to the buyer.  Or for people who want to work really hard at getting lumber out of the woods without any other equipment.  

If you have the equipment to bring logs to a site, a chainsaw mill is going the wrong direction.  If you want square lumber instead of live edge, it is also the wrong direction.  Ladder work is a pain. If you want to make money at it, mostly wrong direction.

You can however make huge beams from whole trees out in the woods if you are able to turn them and keep moving your ladder down the line. The neighbors will hate it, and its extremely hard on a saw.  Run 40:1 mix, tuned fat on the H screw, and give the saw tons of idle breaks. Never shut it off without idling.  If it runs out of fuel mid cut itll be smoking the oil off the jug..  Keep that tank full!
Revelation 3:20

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