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What is your opinion on chainsaw mills

Started by Jackrabbit2009, December 04, 2023, 08:20:31 PM

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I want to start milling my own lumber for my family's homestead. I want to buy a frontier mills bandsaw but can't drop 2.5k on a saw right now.

I was wondering what y'all thought of chainsaw mills. I have an .044 i can run it with. I personally hate the idea but wanted some outside input.



Welcome aboard! Chainsaw mills are alright for small jobs but are very labor intensive, the novelty will wear off rather quickly. Maybe you can find a used band mill in your area or a sawyer that can supply what you need. Where are you located? There might be  an FF member close by you can work with.
old age and treachery will always overcome youth and enthusiasm


Welcome to the forum!

Sorry to be blunt, save your money buy the bandsaw mill.  

Production is slow and the work is hard for the return using a chainsaw mill. 

Chainsaw mills have a place but producing lumber for a homestead is not its strong suit.  A CSM is better for slabs and beams.  Framing lumber not so much. 

I started with a CSM.  It failed to meet my expectations and needs. 
Woodmizer LT50, WM BMS 250, WM BMT 250, Kubota MX5100, IH McCormick Farmall 140, Husqvarna 372XP, Husqvarna 455 Rancher


The woodlands mill is a better option. You'll burn a little 44 up if you used it to cut any decent amount of lumber and the woodland will make better quality boards if assembled and maintained correctly. I have a 4 and 6' csm with the 880 for making longer or wider cuts but there's quite a bit to making quality cuts with it.


Not sure what .044 is? Stihl 044? You might get away with that for small boards like 6-8" and smaller. That might be good enough to cut studs, maybe not beams.

I own a Timber Harvester 30" band mill with 24 HP, 26" band wheels, and hydraulics. I own a Stihl 090 with an Alaskan 42" steel frame. And I also have a Stihl 661 M-Tronic and an Alaskan 36" aluminum frame, with a hand winch. I consider the 661 setup I have the minimum to run a CSM effectively. But I pulled that apart and run the 661 crosscut these days, as the 090 is better overall as a big slab saw.

I hate running either of the chainsaw mills. I love my bandsaw mill. I used to saw slabs out of big logs with the CSM, but it's hell and pain. Now, I only use the CSM to break down big logs that won't go on the bandmill directly. It's back-breaking. Pushing a dull saw through a log is not fun, but neither is stopping mid-cut to pull it out and file. Something about big butt logs seems to dull blades fast.

Sharpening fun: my 155 drive link chains take about 30 minutes to file both sides and the guides. I have to sharpen more often than i would like. In many cases after every cut. I don't like filing chainsaw chain in the hot sun, and doing so over a hot saw, at odd angles and with sweat and grime dripping into my eyes... and occasionally burning my forearm on hot exhaust parts. Nope, chain-sawmilling is absolutely not a fun time. I really feel that a second pair of hands is required to saw with a chainsaw mill. (The guy on the other side should have good health insurance ;))

Running the chainsaw mill is fine if you have all kinds of time and space and love sharpening chains after every cut and you enjoy lifting 40-60 lbs of chainsaw and frame and then breaking your back pushing it through the wood. Also, you have an unlimited supply of bar oil. And a breather or air supply of some kind because saws run like this are putting carcinogens into your lungs for halves-of, and hour lengths at a time. Cutting lumber with a CSM is not as much fun as it looks like on the videos they show.

Adjusting your mill on cuts will be required in many cases. The videos don't show the setup time to put rails or a ladder onto a log (and, well, to set the logs up in the first place). They edit that time out, but that time is a lot of time. Each time you reset a CSM depth of cut, you will be spending many minutes to get your measurements right across the length of your bar. You will cut oblong trapezoidal lumber if you skip this step. And you have to set up the braces for crosscuts each time you rotate the logs. This takes many minutes. Is the saw running while you do this? Its eating fuel during that time. Bah.

Well, even so, you can cut lumber with a CSM and the Chainsaw part of the Forestry Forum has more on Chainsaw mills, with good advice and tips. Lots of posts there to read thru. If you do invest in a mill, I highly recommend a bandsaw mill - even the cheapest one. If you can't drop 2500 for a the mill you have in mind, you probably won't be able to CSM effectively either, because honestly, if you need to homestead, you need far more board feet than your 044 CSM is capable of producing effectively in a reasonable timeframe. You'll probably have to buy a bigger saw, and then you're into a couple hundred more. You'll need more chains, as they wear on the mud and dirt on the logs. And more files; those wear out actually.

Best of Luck,


Oh... Do you have log handling equipment? Peavey or cant hooks? Winches? Chains? Binders? Cables? etc?


Hard work for what you get. In my experience a gateway drug for a sawmill.... ;)

Unless you are somehow homesteading on a remote Alaskan spot where shipping a mill in is nearly impossible, you will be better off with a band mill.
There are entry level mills made by forum sponsors all will do the trick. I had an EZ Boardwalk  Jr mill first and was very happy. Be patient and save. Welcome to the forum.


 You'll end up spending more on a chainsaw mill in the long run and get a lot less lumber. Steve
Timberking B20  18000  hours +  Case75xt grapple + forks+8" snow bucket + dirt bucket   770 Oliver   Lots(too many) of chainsaws, Like the Echo saws and the Stihl and Husky     W5  Case loader   1  trailers  Wright sharpener     Suffolk  setter Volvo MCT125c skid loader



I think I probably have been in your position. 
You have an enthusiastic idea of doing something productive and hopefully monetarily rewarding. 
You start asking for feedback...and here comes the clouds and rain on your parade. The tendency, at least in my case, would be to have a bit of a letdown and do it anyway. 

Great folks and advice here on FF. 
As was mentioned earlier, we are interested in your location. 
When I first became interested in a BSM a local guy let me test drive his. 

I've never used a CSM but was actually mildly interested lately for breaking down large logs. Well, based on the information I've read here in your thread, I no longer am interested. 
A lot more to consider than meets the eye, so to speak. 

From your username, I'm curious if 2009 is your birth year?
If that is the case I applaud you for having the stuff it takes to even WANT to be productive/helpful etc. 

You take care and hang with us!

WoodMizer LT35HD

JD 3720 w/loader. 1983 Chevrolet C30 dump. 1973 Ford F600 w/stickloader. 35,000 chickens.

Digger Don

I've never used a true CSM, but I have used a Lumber Maker. Yes, it will cut boards with a chain saw, but as others have said, it's a lot of work, for a little lumber, of rather low quality.

I think I was in a similar position as you, when I bought my little track loader. I finally decided to go with the bigger one (which is still pretty small), because I decided that I'd rather pay a little more for something than I was satisfied with, than to save a few bucks and be disappointed. My suggestion to you, would be to do the same. Get a small band mill.
Timberking B20, Magnatrac 5000, Case 36B mini excavator


Welcome to the FF. Lots of us have been down the CSM route. I burned out my chainsaw on the second day. Bought a bigger CS and lasted 2 days on my hands and knees pushing a CSM. I went on line and bought a broken down inexpensive 1993 Norwood bandsaw mill on a trailer,  that I brought home and spent a few hours fixing it up. I used that to Finnish my log cabin and now I am on my 3 sawmill. The sawdust bug will get you, like it did most of us on here.   
IDRY Vacum Kiln, LT40HDWide, BMS250 sharpener/setter 742b Bobcat, TCM forklift, Sthil 026,038, 461. 1952 TEA Fergusan Tractor


Wow! I did not expect so many replies!

I was kind of figuring that the .044 would be a little small. Our "homestead" is in Clayton, NC. We will likely be milling about 10 logs a year, mostly hardwood. 

I guess I will start saving for a bandsaw. I am open to working with someone in my area in the meantime.  Sorry for a late response. 


Quote from: Jackrabbit2009 on December 05, 2023, 08:44:39 AM
Wow! I did not expect so many replies!

I was kind of figuring that the .044 would be a little small. Our "homestead" is in Clayton, NC. We will likely be milling about 10 logs a year, mostly hardwood.

I guess I will start saving for a bandsaw. I am open to working with someone in my area in the meantime.  Sorry for a late response.
I started with a chainsaw mill about 19 years ago.  Didn't take long to figure out it was not the best option.
Do you have a way to load and transport logs?  If so my sawmill operation is in New Hill, NC - around 45 minutes from Clayton NC.  If you want to off-bear I'll discount the normal milling price.
Peterson 10" WPF with 65' of track
Smith - Gallagher dedicated slabber
Tom's 3638D Baker band mill
and a mix of log handling heavy equipment.


For what a hobby mill or even a minimal chainsaw mill will cost, you can get a lot of lumber milled.

But the sawdust addiction can be difficult to overcome. 
Woodmizer LT50, WM BMS 250, WM BMT 250, Kubota MX5100, IH McCormick Farmall 140, Husqvarna 372XP, Husqvarna 455 Rancher


Like most guys here, I started with a chainsaw mill ( a beefy and thirsty Jonsered). It worked okay, but I'm now on my second woodmizer, an LT 40 super wide, and even then I'm thinking at some point I'll outgrow that.  I initially needed a mill for milling specialty and boat lumber, so i was in a sort of unique position, so involving a mill owner wasn't as feasible.  My four least favorite words are when I get an unsolicited "I think you should...", but if I were in your shoes I can't agree more with the consensus here that you're way ahead paying for milling until if/when you decide to pull the trigger.  Honestly, once you collaborate with someone with a setup with hydraulics and support equipment, you may find that there is real value in the division of labor, and either coming home with a pile of lumber, or having a big pile at your home milled make the most sense.   Folks often get jealous that i can make my own lumber for "free".  In my head all I can think is that all you gotta do is start with a 50k mill, a 40k skid steer, and a never ending pile of of consumables and sundries. Kinda like doing your own mechanic work.  Sure, you could replace that radiator for less than the $500 a mechanic will charge, but the first thing you need to do is go and buy a $600 tool set.   Anyhow, good luck.  You're in some nice country for making lumber.    take care-Josh 
Keep 'em guessin'.

WV Sawmiller

   I think a CSM is great for what it was intended - making a few boards or beams in very remote area where you cannot get another type mill.

  I love my larger hydraulic WM mill but I saw the little Frontier mills at a demo at the Paul Bunyan show back in October and was very impressed and I still wonder why every local farmer doesn't have one or something similar around here for salvaging fallen trees to make shed and fences and such.

See picture #5 on Reply #7.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2011 4WD F150 Ford Lariat PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Stihl 440 Chainsaw, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once


It may seem like guys are being negative about CSM's. What Howard said above is spot on - good for very remote or a log or two.
The smallest band mill will surpass a CSM on the first log. I'd try to be patient and save for a band mill and/or hire out what needs to be sawn right now.
Good luck.
LT15 W/Trailer, Log Turner, Power Feed & up/down
CAT 416 Backhoe W/ Self Built Hydraulic Thumb and Forks
Husky 372XP, 550XPG, 60, 50,   WM CBN Sharpener & Setter
40K # Excavator, Bobcat 763, Kubota RTV 900
Orlan Wood Gasification Boiler -Slab Disposer


So, I started with a Woodmizer LT15 bandsaw mill.  I'd recommend saving for that if you can, new or used.  I also bought a used Stihl 090 with Grandberg mill that will mill about 48-50 inches wide.  Chain Saw milling is a alot of work.  I don't like doing it in the heat of summer.  I only used it for slabbing wide logs that are too big for the LT15.  I've done maybe 12-15 big logs.  Now I've found somebody about 45 minutes away with a Lucas slabbing mill.  It's a dedicated wide chainsaw type slabbing mill.  I'm happy to pay him to slab any big logs I get now.  It's worth it with how fast he can do it, versus all my set up time and hard work.  Been thinking about selling my CSM.
Anything someone can design, I can sure figure out how to fix!
If I say it\\\\\\\'s going to take so long, multiply that by at least 3!


Get a band mill. Even the local Ag store sells small no frills band mills.
"No amount of belief makes something a fact." James Randi

1 Thessalonians 5:21

2020 Polaris Ranger 570 to forward firewood, Husqvarna 555 XT Pro, Stihl FS560 clearing saw and continuously thinning my ground, on the side. Grow them trees. (((o)))


National Stihl Timbersports Champion Costa Rica 2018


I have to agree with Nebraska's post, especially if you're getting up in age. I own two chainsaw mills. I bought one and inherited the other. I made a few boards with them but it was hard work and very slow. Even a cheap band mill will out produce a chainsaw mill. The only benefit I see to a chainsaw mill is portability if you have to take the mill to the tree instead of the other way around. Mine have not been used in a couple years now. I'm building a band mill. I hope I never need them again, but they are here if for some reason I do.
Philippians 4:8

Branson 4520R, EA Wicked Root Grapple, Dirt Dog Pallet Forks
Echo cs-450 & cs-620p , Husqvarna 136, Poulan Pro, and Black Max Chainsaws
Partially built bandsaw mill


For full disclosure, here are a couple of relatively recent threads of successful chainsaw milling.

One thread chronicles some chainsaw breakdowns.

One of these guys mentions 7 minutes to cut a slab from an 9' long oak. 

If cutting takes 7 minutes for each of 8 slabs in a 20" log, that's 56 minutes of saw time.   Add 15 minutes between slabs for sharpening, fueling and moving slabs, that's another 120 minutes.   Round figures that's 3 hours to break a 20" log into 8 slabs.  That's probably being optimistic.   There's setup time, personal breaks and 15 minutes to move the slab and everything else without equipment may be optimistic.

Let's assume that log makes all 155 board feet in 2" slabs.  On a manual band mill, it wouldn't be far fetched to make 155 board feet of slabs in 1/3 that time including loading the log. On a hydraulic mill, 30 minutes at most. On a Super Hydraulic or similar maybe 15 minutes. 

Can't build much around a homestead with slabs.  So additional cuts of some sort are needed for square edge lumber. Additional cuts equals added time and labor.

It has been 8 years ago since I ran a chainsaw mill.  My recollections are of lots of filing between cuts, sawdust coating my sweat soaked face and arms, chips in my shirt and pants,  sucking lots of exhaust fumes and feeling like hammered poop for days afterward.  Mostly I vividly remember the disappointment looking at 12 2x6x8 after spending hours making them. 

Monday afternoon, working by myself, I cut two logs into 2x6x10 and a few 1x boards in 45 minutes on a bandsaw mill.  I spent more time stacking and stickering than sawing.  I lived to be productive later that day. 
Woodmizer LT50, WM BMS 250, WM BMT 250, Kubota MX5100, IH McCormick Farmall 140, Husqvarna 372XP, Husqvarna 455 Rancher


I have never owned a chainsaw mill. I have only owned bandsaw mills so although I can't speak from experience, based on everything I have ever read here on the forum, the only time I would consider a csm would be for use in a remote area where I couldn't bring a bsm to the site, or if the log could not be moved.
There may be a few other places where a csm is the answer, but not many.
As far as cost, I bet if one really compared closely, the difference is not that great. You mention $2500 for the entry bsm. What's a big cc professional grade chainsaw cost?
If your going to cut more than the occasional board, you will probably end up investing in one and then your well on your way to the cost of the bsm.
Change is hard....
Especially when a jar full of it falls off the top shelf and hits your head!


I follow a guy in ND, an old hermit, that uses a chainsaw mill. He's not sawing a lot, mostly bigger stock 2 x's and 6x6 and up. He'll saw a small batch of boards for something like a table project. I'm not sure if he sawed out lumber for his home, but he's in a camp. I don't recall him saying that he sawed out his camp lumber. He comes up with ideas, one was a root cellar. I don't think that was followed through on, since I seen him burying potatoes and carrots in a pile of mud for winter a few years after he mentioned it. :D
"No amount of belief makes something a fact." James Randi

1 Thessalonians 5:21

2020 Polaris Ranger 570 to forward firewood, Husqvarna 555 XT Pro, Stihl FS560 clearing saw and continuously thinning my ground, on the side. Grow them trees. (((o)))


I have a chainsaw mill and an OS31... Pay someone to saw the wood that you need right now until you have saved enough to get a bandsaw mill.
Unafraid to use my chainsaw, JD 2640, Frontier OS31


Costs about $2K to set yourself up for reliable chainsaw milling and then you still have to do the work. The nature of this work will probably lead to deciding that if you like milling this route is not optimal. IMO neither is buying a $2.5K bandmill.  Maybe define your wood needs precisely at the beginning and hire someone once or twice to fulfill that need. Then take it from there. Many people could hire several years worth of project wood sawn for the cost of several boxes of blades or the sales tax on a new mill.
DJ Hoover, Terrific Timbers LLC,  Mystic CT Woodmizer Million Board Foot Club member. 2019 LT70 Super Wide 55 Yanmar,  LogRite fetching arch, WM BMS250 sharpener/BMT250 setter.  2001 F350 7.3L PSD 6 spd manual ZF 4x4 Crew Cab Long Bed

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