Getting Serious About Chainsaw Milling

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walhondingnashua

Feeling the Heat
Jul 23, 2016
402
ohio
I have started a few other threads that are related to this topic, but they have just been general information gathering thoughts. It's time to get more serious about it and pull the trigger on the project.

My desire comes from 1. having plenty of trees to choose from, 2. wanting to save some money and 3. maybe make a little money in return (cutting slabs to sell or making some rough furniture/ products to sell myself. My nephew (I trust him; he will take care of it and would take responsibility for anything that went wrong) has interest in splitting the set up with me for some projects of his own.

I found a 3 year old, lightly used ms661 with I believe a 25" bar. The guy wants $900 for it. Is this a fair price? The plan will be to just get a ripping chain and see how the 25" bar works and upgrade if needed. From my research, it should be enough saw. It will dedicated to the mill only.

We are also going to need a rail system for our first cut. I have seen things from a straight 2x6, to a ladder, to making 2 brackets that hold square tubing. We are leaning towards the last idea there, but would like opinions.

Not sure what the best mill to get is (for the money). I know we can buy a granberg, but are the cheaper alternatives just as good? Should we buy one that mounts at the saw and has another mount at the tip or are the single attached mills ok? There seems to be a mixture of people on YouTube using both.

Finally, I would like to hear about what and when to mill. We are going to mill some softer woods (tulip poplar, pines, soft maples) but is it crazy to do some chainsaw milling of oaks, cherrys, walnuts and ash? Is it better to mill green or dry (like the dead standing ash I have that are not rotten)?

I know I asked a lot here, but any advice and/or opinions would be greatly appreciated.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,597
Northern NH
My brother has had a Alaskan mill set up for 20 plus years. He has a Adirondack Shelter made entirely out of chainsaw milled wood and he did his barn beams. He also has a stack of thick live edged slabs. Its a very inefficient process with lot of safety exposure as the operators body is quite close to operating chainsaw and the engine exhaust. Cant do much about breathing two stroke exhaust fumes but I did buy him chainsaw chaps which subsequently had a few near misses.

The inefficiency comes down to a very wide kerf. It will be at least 1/4" wide and possible 3/8" wide. That means for every 3 or 4 boards you are putting one in the sawdust pile. Its really more than that as the resultant finish means another 1/8" minimum to plane up both sides.

No doubt its interesting to do a couple of times but generally most people tire of it. Look in the background of various TV shows and there usually is a gas powered bandsaw mill versus a chainsaw mill. The TV shoes are usually showing folks cutting up northern spruce/fir. It cuts quick compared to hardwoods. Plan on sharpening a blade often, on clean wood you may make through a log. In general do it for 3 or 4 hours and unless you no other options it gets old quick.

I think most folks who want to get serious give up on chainsaw mill fairly quickly and move up to one of the homeowner 3rd world manual bandsaw mills. I think they are in the 3 K range. The eat far less fuel and the kerf is far thinner. Generally the finish is smoother so less planing.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,259
Downeast Maine
If you don't want to go with a Chinese bandsaw mill you can also go with a Logosol F2/F2+ for similar money. Still a chainsaw mill, but much smoother and 1/4" kerf with the right chain.
 

walhondingnashua

Feeling the Heat
Jul 23, 2016
402
ohio
If you don't want to go with a Chinese bandsaw mill you can also go with a Logosol F2/F2+ for similar money. Still a chainsaw mill, but much smoother and 1/4" kerf with the right chain.
Does anyone make a thinner chain/bar just for milling? I don't want to buy a huge set up for the amount of work we will do with it. I know it seems a little crazy, but the 1/4" kerf on my ms170 seems like it would be perfect for milling. Less chain to pull and oil.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,465
SE North Carolina
I’m $1200 in on Chinese 660 milling setup to mill up to 44” It’s been fun. Lots of work. Learned lots. Mostly slabs for fun things. tried lumber it’s hard. Nothing is true and straight. If I wanted to build I’d be looking for potable bandsaw mill. If I wanted wide slabs chainsaw mill. 900$ if it’s truly lightly used isn’t a great deal IMO. But given supply chains right now I’m sure someone will pay that. I am happy with my cheap Chinese saw could not have justified the cost if a pro level saw. $1500 buys a good bit of lumber. I could only get 2-3 slabs for that in the size I was milling.

Evan

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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,259
Downeast Maine
Does anyone make a thinner chain/bar just for milling? I don't want to buy a huge set up for the amount of work we will do with it. I know it seems a little crazy, but the 1/4" kerf on my ms170 seems like it would be perfect for milling. Less chain to pull and oil.
There are two chains I know of that can yield a 1/4" kerf and still work on a big saw. The Archer 3/8 lp Ripping chain and the Stihl 63PMX low profile ripping chain. Unfortunately every time I run the Archer LP ripping chain on my 24" bar it breaks at the cutter straps. It seems fine on my Husqvarna 16" bar and positively rips. For my 24" bar I ordered a pair of the expensive 63PMX loops and some spare cutters/tie straps.

The Archer chain is not durable and not great at holding an edge, but I got a 25' roll for the price of both of those Stihl loops. I should be set for chain for a few years at least.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,465
SE North Carolina
Does anyone make a thinner chain/bar just for milling? I don't want to buy a huge set up for the amount of work we will do with it. I know it seems a little crazy, but the 1/4" kerf on my ms170 seems like it would be perfect for milling. Less chain to pull and oil.
I have found a 660 pulled 3/8 fine. 3/8 low pro would be faster but means you will get fewer sharpening as the cutters are shorter. If you want minimal investment keep with 3/8 and match your chain gauge. I filed a regular chain to a 10 degree ripping chain my self. Sharp chain with consistent raker height is more important than what type of chain.