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Author Topic: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw  (Read 1438 times)

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Offline Solar_HoneyBee0

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New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« on: August 09, 2018, 09:41:43 PM »
Hey everyone. I was hoping you could lend me your insights on a new sawmill.

So, I've been doing quite a bit of research and have come to three companies (there may be others out there that I never even considered, but these are the three) Woodmizer, Hudson, and Peterson. I am also seriously considering building my own. Although there seem to be plenty of hurdles with building your own, my greatest worry is figuring out some sort of hydraulic system. I honestly have no interest in manually negotiating logs. Maybe adding a system is easier than i'm thinking. If anyone has any pointers for building a sawmill please let me know.

As far as the companies go they seem to be a horse a piece. I really liked the Hudson H360 saw mill because of the hydraulics and the price was around $20,000. However, after doing a little research it seems that this price doesn't include all of the hydraulics and when the rest are factored in the price is around $25,000. 

I was leaning towards the Hudson because of the price over the Woodmizer, but now that the Hudson price is around $25,000 I'm thinking a LT40 with a wide head would be best. I want the wide head because I have a unique relationship with several people and mills and I tend to get very large diameter logs for a very good price. I have been saving them for slabbing, but am reconsidering this in favor of making actual lumber from the logs.

Finally, I mentioned Peterson mills. I find their mill operation really unique and love how the blade cuts going down and then coming back. I have two concerns with this mill. The first is that they are from New Zealand. I worry that customer service will be lacking. Also, if there is an issue who will help me fix it if it gets to that point? And the only dealer is in California, which isn't too ideal for me. Secondly, how much wood are you losing each cut with a blade vs a bandsaw? I have never crunched the numbers so can only assume. I use to deliver logs to a local mill back in the day and they were still running a circular saw. The mill owner finally switched to a band saw system and said he was getting 2 more boards per log. I guess per month that was adding over $75,000 to his pocket. Now, I take this story with a grain of salt, but understand that it could be true.

Could people with these mills chime in and give me their advice and thoughts, pros and cons etc? Heck, even people without them feel free to give your 2 cents. All of the advice from everyone is appreciated! Sorry about the novel.

Online Ianab

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2018, 10:08:27 PM »
I wouldn't worry too much about the distance for support. Get a blade retipping jig and "remote service kit" that has a handful of common wear parts, and you should have most problems covered. Electronics and hydraulics can't fail if you don't have any. Swing blade mills get sent to locations all over the world, much more off the beaten track the the US. If some guy in a village in the Solomon Islands or Papua New Guinea can keep a mill running, so can you.  ;)   You can contact the folks at the factory direct if you need help, just need to account for the time zones (they will be ~20 hours into tomorrow if you call)

It's true you will make a bit more sawdust with a circle blade, but offset losing (maybe) 2 boards, against the cheaper blade costs and simple sharpening. I bet you come out ahead. The mills come with the sharpener included (extra with a bandmill or you have to send them out). You sharpen the swingblade on the mill in about 5 mins, and if you buy the re-tipping jig you can re-tip when they wear out. (or send the blades out to be retipped as needed)

Larger logs is where the swing blade mills really shine, and you can also add a clip on chainsaw slabber for a reasonable cost. It's not as fast as a bandsaw, and again has a bit more kerf, but you have a wider cut capacity. Makes for a very versatile mill when you can slab / flat or quarter saw at will, and even change method 1/2 way though a log. 

What I've said applies to the Peterson mills, and equally to the Lucas and Turbo Sawmill. Same swing blade principle, just some slightly different design ideas. 
Weekend warrior, Peterson JP test pilot, Dolmar 7900 and Stihl MS310 saws and  the usual collection of power tools :)

Offline longtime lurker

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2018, 07:59:15 AM »
I work my way through the blade vs band question about every other month: hard not to when you've got cubic yards of sawdust leaving a day that might have made boards selling at $10 BF. IMHO theres a whole lot of if's, but's and maybe attached to any answer.

The simple answer is that a band has less kerf. The problem is that's the right answer to the wrong question, and the question you/me/every other person that looks at this needs to ask is "which will be more profitable?"  Hence all the if's, but's and maybe's.

For mine the number we all need to look at applied to kerf isn't how much the actual kerf of the cutting instrument is... it's whats the "real" loss of wood, because real loss is the theoretical "my band/blade has teeth this wide PLUS the allowance for hit and miss/wander. ALL saws wander, thats just how it is. Sharp ones wander less, well set up sharp ones wander even less, saws buried in deep cuts wander more. Saws buried in harder woods wander more. The strength of a column is mostly influenced by its depth...  these are just some of the factors that influence real world recovery and profitability against the paper number.

Simply put - given that we have professionally set up and maintained equipment  and the sawyer is smart enough to keep it that way- a circular saw will cut a straighter line then a narrow band hands down, and will normally cut a straighter line then a wide band.

A circle also tends to have lower maintenance costs in terms of running cost per MMBF.

And in a apples vs apples comparison of similar levels of equipment a circle will cut a whole lot more lumber in a day too. But that may also require additional equipment/staff to keep up so thats not necessarily an advantage if you want to keep it small/part time.... it just means that production/man/day is higher.

But a band will get more lumber from a log... so the real question is does the extra lumber cover the extra expense of running a band?

FOR MINE - and remembering i crunch this out a couple times a year because even in an operation as small as mine a 1% increase in recovery is roughly a $10k increase in taxable profit per annum - it all comes down to what you're going to mostly cut. If you save lets say 1/8" of wood in every cut with a band you need to make 7 cuts to get an extra 3/4 board for something like panelling, 9 cuts to get an extra 4/4 board suit 3/4" flooring stock, or 11 cuts to get an extra 5/4 board suit a 7/8" cabinetmaking board. Forget 8/4, and thicker because at the size of log you need to get a real world extra board you aint fitting into a portable bandmill.

Generally speaking: If you expect to mostly cut thinner stock sizes in higher value species a bandmill will win but a circle will recover the same number of boards from a given log at a lower cost as soon as your production is mostly 6/4 and thicker.


And all of this is irrelevant anyway, given that you've said you have a resource comprising mostly larger logs - you need to factor in the throat size vs handling tradeoffs more then the circle vs band one in that case because as soon as you need to rip a log in half with your chainsaw to get him on the deck the whole recovery and cost of production numbers go out the window. 



On the list of things you probably shouldnt be worried about is parts and service backup from manufacturers as reputable as Peterson or Lucas, regardless of the fact they're made on the other side of the world.



The quickest way to make a million dollars with a sawmill is to start with two million.

Offline TKehl

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2018, 10:12:57 AM »
Can't add much more to this other than a swing mill is it's own edger.  Don't need a separate edger.

If you want to cut curved logs for benches, a wide band saw will do that better.  High value stuff is better on a bandsaw due to recovery as is veneer.  Most logs and lumber on a small scale production you are talking 6 of one or half dozen of the other.

Ultimately it boils down to preference and what you are comfortable with.  All three you mentioned make good mills.
Lucas 6-13+slabber, Mr. Sawmill bandmill, orange chainsaws, JD SSL, Case Backhoe, farm tractors, trailers, and 150ish acres of trees.  Fledgling woodshop with CNC router, laser engraver, Woodmaster 712, and a Berlin 108 moulder (project).  Oh, and a lovely (patient) wife and four offbearers.

Offline mike_belben

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2018, 10:37:02 AM »
I love your long answers Mr. Lurker.  They always ring the bell i never considered.  


OP-  hydraulics is a big mystery until you really get the whole picture then once you do its fairly easy.  If you want to build your own, regardless of which type, keep your eyes peeled for a a scrapped/dead/parts machine tennant sweeper or old fairway mower such as toro reelmaster. 

Both of these machines are a big conglomerate of all sorts of hydraulic componentry, both cylinders and motors and their controls, that are well suited to running a sawmill.  Hydraulic clamping and turning, sawdust blower, debarker etc.   Building your own is the long frusterating cheap way to get sawing.  Youll learn alot along the way.  

If you want to make money just buy one and get to work paying it off while the pay is good.   
Revelation 3:20

Offline SawyerTed

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2018, 11:25:31 AM »
After reading the posts above, my take away is this- youíve got to decide your sawing goals before deciding on mill configuration.  

Picking the right tool for the job is important. Think about what you want out of the saw then pick the saw to match.  

Remember to look at manufacturers claims on board feet per hour as ideal with perfect logs and a crew of experienced tail gunners.
Woodmizer LT35HD25, Kubota MX5100, IH McCormick Farmall 140, Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill, Husqvarna 372XP, Husqvarna 455 Rancher

Offline Solar_HoneyBee0

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2018, 12:38:26 PM »
Hey guys,

Man, you guys just bestowed some great knowledge in your replys. Ianab, great summary on the Peterson. You make an excellent point about how if the mill can run in remote locations than by all rights I shouldn't have really any issues in the US. You also make a good point about larger logs. As I mentioned i have access to some pretty big logs (42'' - 50+'') and the ability to switch between either cutting them for lumber OR turning them to slabs is a pretty nice feature. I mean no other mill that I can think of can do the same, that is saw lumber or slabs from the same mill. Also, you mention the sharper coming with the mill. That to me is a big advantage because I know that bandsaw sharpening by me is typically around $10 - $15/bandsaw depending on where you go. So being able to sharpen your own should definitely help out on cost savings.

LL, man you gave a great answer, thanks for that. A lot of information you mentioned is exactly what i've been mind crunching. One minute i'm so sure that a bandsaw is the way to go because of it should limit the amount of waste, but then I remember, like you said, that there are a lot of variables that lead to waste. Then I think about how practical a bandsaw is for my particular situation and the Peterson becomes more appealing. And the truth is like you mentioned, how many boards (in a perfect world) could I be making extra with a bandsaw. There's a lot to think about for sure. I appreciate the long in-depth answer as it hit on a lot of my concerns. Thanks for that.

As for everyone else you have great answers and i appreciate it. The short answer seems that I really need to figure out what is best for me and go from there. Definitely easier said than done. You've all given me a lot to think about. Thanks again!

Offline mike_belben

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2018, 12:46:40 PM »
Maybe the first question should be, do i have a market for lumber?  

If you have the raw material on one side and the finished material buyer on the other, then you have a business awaiting proper equipment in the middle.   If you lack the input material or the market accesss then youre barking up the hobby tree of wasted time and money.  Thats fine if you have the time and money.

For example.. Plenty of people on FF sell bundled firewood.. Some people sell thousands of bundles, not that far from me either.  Wrappers cost a few grand and thankfully i dabbled before buying one.  

I was just barely able to sell 30 nice quality hand wrapped bundles at wholesale price to 3 gas stations.  They didnt sell, even during a perfect weather 4th of july.   So ive got the material .. But theres no need for the machine as there is no market.  I dont need any more tax deductions.. I need more income to deduct them against. 

Do your market research too if making money is the plan. 
Revelation 3:20

Offline Magicman

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2018, 01:04:12 PM »
I personally have no experience whatsoever with a "swing blade" other than watching a Lucas saw one time but there is another:  http://www.turbosawmillusa.com/cover-page/
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Offline maple flats

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2018, 08:19:46 AM »
I choose a swing blade for one main reason, no blade wave in the cut. At the time I was getting lumber sawed by a band mill and every time he hit a knot the blade danced rather than go straight. This may well have been because he used blades far too long and they were not sharp, but I bought a Peterson and I like it.
Decide what you will be mainly cutting, and then get what best suits that purpose best.
If I was looking for a saw now I would buy a used one that had not been abused (but mine is not for sale). Then learn to cut with it and if you wear that one out or outgrow it, then consider buying a new one, when you will better know what you really want.
On my swing blade I can sharpen it on the mill in about 8-10 minutes, I only have 4 blades and they are 14 yrs old. I sharpen them maybe 8-10 times then I take them to a saw doctor to re-tension and re-tooth as needed.
logging small time for years but just learning how,  2012 36 HP Mahindra tractor, 3point log arch, 8000# class excavator, lifts 2500# and sets logs on mill precisely where needed,  Peterson ATS upgraded to WPF mill, maple syrup a hobby that consumes my time. looking to learn blacksmithing.

Offline longtime lurker

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2018, 10:46:53 AM »
Maybe the first question should be, do i have a market for lumber?  

If you have the raw material on one side and the finished material buyer on the other, then you have a business awaiting proper equipment in the middle.   If you lack the input material or the market accesss then youre barking up the hobby tree of wasted time and money.  Thats fine if you have the time and money.

For example.. Plenty of people on FF sell bundled firewood.. Some people sell thousands of bundles, not that far from me either.  Wrappers cost a few grand and thankfully i dabbled before buying one.  

I was just barely able to sell 30 nice quality hand wrapped bundles at wholesale price to 3 gas stations.  They didnt sell, even during a perfect weather 4th of july.   So ive got the material .. But theres no need for the machine as there is no market.  I dont need any more tax deductions.. I need more income to deduct them against.

Do your market research too if making money is the plan.
Yeahhhhhhhhhhh... dunno if I agree or not Mike.
I can't argue with what you're saying as a sound, low risk approach to business. Thats the traditional way of looking at it - secure a resource, find a market, then put the bits in the middle to make it all work.
But I dont know if its always the smartest course. Good lumber always sells in my experience. And the only way to find a ready made market/customer base is to buy out an existing operation... regular buyers of finished material already have a supply chain for the most part and breaking into that can be difficult and/or only achieved by undercutting the market.
My thought is that sometimes you got to stick your neck out, and take the resource you can get and turn it into a product... and then make a market for it. The only people interested in trees are sawmillers... you got to turn them into boards or slabs to appeal to a wider group. One of the biggest failings of small sawmillers - and I include me in this - is that we spend too much time making boards and not enough marketing them and wonder why we dont get sales, or the sales we get fail to garner the premium our product deserves. Some guys figure that out quick and some never do
Of course the problem with sticking your neck out is that sometimes you get it chopped off... and I've had that happen to me a time or two also. It's that whole risk vs reward thing, and yeah I've made a living out of sawmilling,  but I've learnt a lot of lessons the hard way too. That old never risk more then you can afford to lose thing shouldnt be forgotten ever. Its one thing to maybe have to get a day job to help pay off the sawmill thats sitting idle for a few months, its another to bet the house on it.
One thing I wouldnt do is compare the market for the products you might get out of OP's 42-50" logs with the firewood market. Those bigger slabs and wide boards tend to freight pretty well, and the market for them is often a long way from where the tree grew. Thats been one of my hard lessons: dont be trying to sell premium products in a broke regional economy. If you want good money for your good product you have to advertise it where the people who can afford to pay what you want live, and tack a bit extra on for the freight. I got one customer that sells mediocre tables at 20k a pop to the other end of the country while his highly skilled competitors are still starving to death trying to sell to their local market. The internet is your friend if you want it to be
The quickest way to make a million dollars with a sawmill is to start with two million.

Offline mike_belben

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2018, 10:39:15 PM »
I am with you LL cool Sawyer.  

Its a balancing act.  The more free time or money/security you have, the more you can dabble and recover from a loss or failure to launch without issue.  

If ya got 2 kids screaming at home and a 3 month overdue mortgage, risky business is just that, regardless of what type of venture. 

We all have to evaluate our individual resilience and do our best with the hand were dealt.  I hate to admit it but sometimes plain old luck plays a bigger role than we'd like too. If youre putting in 80hrs a week and losing money hand over fist its time to hang it up and move on.  BTDT. 
Revelation 3:20

Offline mad murdock

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2018, 12:00:12 PM »
I chose the Turbosawmill ultralightweight Warrior powered by my Husqvarna 395 as I wanted ultra portability and versatility. The circle cut is way faster than a band and dust are always real straight. Working around a single beam of the Turbosawmill configuration is super easy. The biggest advantage to swing blade vs band IMO, is the ability to quartersqw a lot without ever moving the log. Once you are indexed to the mill head, you cut whatever you want with no need to move the log. I have cut logs well over 6í in dŪa with my mill. Swing blades are hard to get a feel for without seeing one live in color. If anyone is within an hours drive of you with one, go get a look at it and offer to off Bear a bit so you get a feel for it. You will be convinced. 
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Offline Runningalucas

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2018, 05:22:58 PM »
I bought my Lucas 8-27 used at about half price; it had 95 hours on it.  Those hours though were put on by the original purchaser's friends; who managed to lose 2 blades, and warp the last.  They also didn't use any antiseize on the 5 bolts holding the warped blade, so had to cut the heads off, to get the blade out, and release the 'rusted/seized' bolts. 

So even though half price, and a few hours, it was abused... lol

Overall, I'm glad with my purchase, I've learned what to look for somewhat in logs; what'll cut, what won't cut as nice. 

There's definitely different applications where I could see a bandsaw working better than a swing mill, but at the same time, the swing mill has the same application differences.  It would be nice to switch between heads/carriages; one set up for slabbing, then the regular fast swing blade for standard sized lumber. 

I doubt I'll buy the lucas dedicated slabber, and I don't want huge money out on a bandsaw; I may just build a band saw carriage that'll fit the Lucas rails at some point.  Maybe the best of both worlds.

One thing I don't like about both the Lucas, and Peterson, is walking to both ends of the track just to adjust the blade height; a micro adjustment of say up to 1 foot up, and down right on the saw carriage would be optimal. 

Offline Crossroads

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2018, 08:33:55 PM »
I kicked that can around for a while and ended up buying the band mill simply because I had experience with one and the one I had experience with was over 30 years old and still going strong. I donít regret buying a band mill, but there are times when Iím looking at a 50Ē spruce log and think, I wish I had a swing mill today. Iím sure if I had bought a swing mill, there would be days where I could use a band mill. With the wide head Iíve milled 43Ē logs with support equipment, but it was a lot of work and Iíve gotten to the point where I just say no to anything over 36Ē. As mentioned above, it all boils down to what fits you and what you do. I canít imagine youíll regret purchasing any youíve listed. Good luck and enjoy the view 😁
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Offline Magicman

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #15 on: August 12, 2018, 10:10:34 PM »
With my sawing market, I would be "dead in the water" without a bandmill.
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Offline Solar_HoneyBee0

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2018, 10:53:34 PM »
Hey guys.

A lot of great information you guys laid out. Mike, I agree with you on a lot, but that first question I have to disagree with you on, well to a point. I agree that if you don't have a market for your product you're barking up the wrong tree. You have to definitely do your market research. On the other hand, with that being said, i'm with LL on the market. By me the market is so hit and miss it's crazy. I have a lot of business from word of mouth and just random people calling me for products. It has been a challenge to find people that want to buy from me, because they already have their suppliers. I don't blame them, but just wish they could give me a chance.

So, I've learned to look "outside". What I mean by that, you have to be willing to reach out far outside your comfort zones. I have reached across country with some unique lumber that I have milled and have been lucky to find interested parties. I posted about transporting lumber in another post because I needed to decide if I should hire someone or travel to deliver the product. I ended up traveling myself this time and was able to secure a sale and a future repeat customer. I also have the unique ability to take on large trees. So, if I can find a market for Maple, Ash, and especially Red Oak slabs 40'' wide + x 8' long x 12/4 thick I'll be set. But if i'm being honest I haven't found that market yet and so the search continues.

So, it's hard to talk to the nature of the market, at least for me since it's so hit and miss. I do agree that with you and LL that you have to make sure you're not refinancing your house for a venture that isn't paying any bills.

On a side note, I happen to sell firewood too. Plenty of cheap wood by me. The example you used with the firewood bundles is a unique experience with me to say the least. I have had such bizarre up and down luck with firewood bundles I have just stopped selling them. There were holiday weekends where I sold 5 bundles and then a Tuesday in September I sold out of all of my supply. The one thing I learned in life so far is that life is a fickle mistress and you have to learn to love her either way.

Thanks everyone for the advice. It is always appreciated when you take time out of your schedules and give me some of your knowledge! 

Offline mike_belben

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Re: New sawmill - Blade vs Bandsaw
« Reply #17 on: August 13, 2018, 10:27:46 PM »
Oh shes fickle alright.   Business good?  Business bad? So what.  Be happy anyhow.  

'May your line be always cast.  In the pool where you least expect it, will be fish.'
Revelation 3:20


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