Playing around with Bandsaw Mill

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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,597
Northern NH
A friend of mine picked up a used bandsaw mill in near new condition. Its a Norland 36 with close to all the options. He has been using it to go through a pile of logs left over from a building project and learning how to use it. He offered to saw up a few logs for me so I picked a big beech and a Popple last week and dropped them. The beech had a big crown so I will get plenty of firewood. The popple has a big crown but expect it will stay in the woods. I sealed up the ends with a wax sealant and let them sit for a few days. We hauled the logs over to his place and had a chance to run a few logs.

The concept is pretty simple but there definitely is lot of moving parts and adjustments to be made. Logs may look straight in the woods but when they are on the "bunks" (the cross rails that hold the log), its a different story. The logs are not cylindrical, they have a taper so the diameter on either end varies so there is slight taper to even a straight log. Add in some slight bows, curves and crooks and they all need to be compensated for in the initial cuts. He has the hydraulic options so there are lot of "degrees of freedom" to learn and there is some slop in the system. What makes things more interesting is that there are a lot of internal stresses in the log so as the log is sliced it tends to curl a bit. Its easy to want to crank out the boards but if we didnt keep an eye on it the changes add up. I think its inevitable that the last board ends up being odd.

Once the four sides are parallel, then it goes quicker. I did get him a box of new blades set up for wet hardwood as he was handed an assortment by the prior owner. He is still figuring out feed rates but 10" wide cuts on wet beech definitely loaded it up a bit. The popple was wider but it definitely chewed through it faster despite being wider. I cut several popple boards but sawed a lot of it into "stickers" Stickers need to be uniform and are used to stack the boards. Ideally they would be dry so I may get some black stains where the boards are stacked but I use what I have. I cut 5/4 which is fine for rough cut wood but expect its real generous for bandsaw cut wood.

I had cut four logs but one stayed at my wood lot as we maxed out the trailer we were using. I don't have a major use currently for the wood so expect it may be awhile before we do the last log. Its wet today but expect its going to be quite a grunt getting the wood into the attic of my garage to stack it. I have dried wood in there over the years and its a pretty good solar kiln. Its got a black asphalt roof with good sun exposure and full soffit vents and vent a ridge along the ridgepole. My guess is I have 2000 pounds of wood I need to load it in the attic and stack it. Give it a few months and its going to be bit lighter.

I have had past experience helping someone who uses a chainsaw mill. Its a totally different experience. The setup for the squaring cuts is a lot more tedious and the process is lot louder with far more sawdust. The mill has a 23 HP Vanguard engine with a quiet muffler. The optional hydraulic pump that runs the hydraulic tools is a lot louder but thankfully its only used occasionally.

Contrary to popular belief, its not a one man operation, yes there are a lot of options to reduce the work but it still takes 2 preferably 3 folks working steady to support the mill. We were cutting hardwood so the feed was slow but my past experience is softwood feeds faster. When we did a load of pine close to 25 years ago two us were busy moving logs into place and then hauling them off the mill and stacking it. The individual who sold this mill appears to be have been doing a lot of solo milling and ended up needing his shoulder to be rebuilt. His prognosis was a year minimum recovery so he sold the mill.

Over the years I have run into several bandsaw mill owners. Some are bought on impulse while many are bought by folks listening to advertising that convinces them that its a good home business. There is also the concept that the owner can rent out sawing service to pay it off. Its all good concepts but many owners end up selling in a few years when they realize its a lot of work. Others soon realize that an entry level mill usually requires too much manual labor and is undersized, they end up selling it and buying a higher end more automated mill. At that point, they stop hauling it around and setting up a fixed location. What started out as a low cost hobby turns into a 20K to 100K investment once someone picks up a kiln and support equipment to increase the value of the lumber produced. In a couple of years I may have a surplus is logs and free time so I may want one but in the meantime I expect I will have access to my friends rig. Used mills do tend to keep their value so the original owners do not lose a lot. FYI there are some low cost hobby mills out there, some are made in the US and several are off shore. The off shore ones are low cost but the quality control is suspect. My guess is setting up takes longer due to greater tolerances.

In the meantime my friend ends up with a lot of slab wood for firewood. It dries quick and burns quick but the price is right.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,521
South Puget Sound, WA
That's a very interesting experience and summary. Did you get any pictures? My very limited experience with chainsaw milling of a big spruce is that it's a fairly slow process. And yes, quite noisy.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,597
Northern NH
No pictures, my ancient cellphone has decided that I cant download photos.
 

jebatty

Minister of Fire
Jan 1, 2008
5,792
Northern MN
I bought (or I should say, my wife bought for me) a used Woodmizer LT40 Hydraulic mill about 15 years ago. Price was around $14,000. When a storm snapped off a big White Pine, leaving a 35 ft stump, I hired a Woodmizer saw miller to cut the tree into boards. With all the trees we have on our property, my wife said "you need a sawmill yourself," hence the mill purchase.

The Woodmizer is "easy" to operate once a person gets a little experience. After using it for awhile I attended a Woodmizer training class in Indiana and learned how to fine tune and maintain the Woodmizer plus some skills of the trade. I've sawed White Pine, Jack Pine, Red Pine, White Birch, Butternut, Red Oak, White Oak, Aspen, and Cherry into boards of varying thickness, lengths up to 12 ft, and cants for posts and beams up to 12" x 12," and board widths up to 22". Almost all of my sawing has been of storm damaged or diseased trees. However, I did take down 5 Jack PInes to provide 2 x 6 stud lumber for a house addition. Also, I put in new floor boards for three rooms in our house, 18" wide for out bedroom, 16" and 12" wide for two other rooms. Almost all of my sawing has been just myself.

Over time I accumulated so much lumber I quit sawing, as I found it difficult to find a market for non-graded wood. I finally found two cabinet makers who have purchased most of the White Pine boards greater than 12" width. I've cut the slabs and edge trimmings into kindling for the wood stove that heats our house plus the Tarm Wood Gasification boiler that heats my shop.

This summer I took down three large ash trees and sawed these into 1" boards of varying width. Very beautiful lumber. I dried this in a solar kiln I constructed shortly after buying the sawmill, and this all now is in storage awaiting sale or use.

I remain somewhat in awe of how a tree can be turned into lumber and a purpose that will last for many years. Magical.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,597
Northern NH
One special application for ash as there is a small but steady market for air dried long ash boards for canoe and boat gunnels. Most home mills do not have a long enough carriage but some folks do have them. I bought some 24 footers years ago for one of my canoes and the rest turned into bannisters.

I am a bit of "woodaholic" stashing large pieces of wood away for future projects that rarely get done as I dont have the time or are worried about wasting a nice piece of wood for a project and not having it for the next project. A new house may be on the drawing board in a year or two and I am intrigued with using poplar (aspen) planking for the various roofs. if kept dry its quite similar to white pine for strength and great for interior trim. I have lots of poplars that need cutting as they are getting mature. I have a few old pasture pines but they are way to big for a portable mill so the plan is use what I need to thin out. I think the approach is to use the mill to displace buying wood as there really is not much of market for air dried wood be it hardwood or softwood.

it is quite process and reading the drying forums its a whole other process to kiln dry wood. The other very intriguing use for poplar is thermally treated wood but expect that is not a home project ;) https://cambiawood.com/
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,259
Downeast Maine
One special application for ash as there is a small but steady market for air dried long ash boards for canoe and boat gunnels. Most home mills do not have a long enough carriage but some folks do have them. I bought some 24 footers years ago for one of my canoes and the rest turned into bannisters.

I am a bit of "woodaholic" stashing large pieces of wood away for future projects that rarely get done as I dont have the time or are worried about wasting a nice piece of wood for a project and not having it for the next project. A new house may be on the drawing board in a year or two and I am intrigued with using poplar (aspen) planking for the various roofs. if kept dry its quite similar to white pine for strength and great for interior trim. I have lots of poplars that need cutting as they are getting mature. I have a few old pasture pines but they are way to big for a portable mill so the plan is use what I need to thin out. I think the approach is to use the mill to displace buying wood as there really is not much of market for air dried wood be it hardwood or softwood.

it is quite process and reading the drying forums its a whole other process to kiln dry wood. The other very intriguing use for poplar is thermally treated wood but expect that is not a home project ;) https://cambiawood.com/

I have a Logosol F2+, but am under no impression it will turn me into a for profit sawyer. That's not to say I wouldn't take some work milling for other people. My mill so far has been used to build raised beds and a chicken coop. Basically exactly what you said about displacing lumber costs. Once we have some more space cleared I'll build a nice lumber shed and air drying setup. With the air dried lumber we would like to build nicer more permanent structures.
 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,809
Nova Scotia
We have a Woodmizer. They can be a 1 man show if set up for it. (Also depends how you might judge the efficiency of the show). Ours is under cover in a big open shed thing. Has a set of rails leading to the log feed so you can stage a few logs. Has a long roller table on the outfeed end so you can roll slabs and product out. There is a 12" electric chop saw at the end of the rollers so you can chop stuff to length right there, then throw the chopped slab wood right onto a pallet to be moved away later. A FEL is a great help, feeding and moving stuff away. Handling sawdust can be the biggest challenge. And the wind depending which way it's coming. Sometimes it seems to keep the dust in the air around you rather than carrying it out.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,259
Downeast Maine
We have a Woodmizer. They can be a 1 man show if set up for it. (Also depends how you might judge the efficiency of the show). Ours is under cover in a big open shed thing. Has a set of rails leading to the log feed so you can stage a few logs. Has a long roller table on the outfeed end so you can roll slabs and product out. There is a 12" electric chop saw at the end of the rollers so you can chop stuff to length right there, then throw the chopped slab wood right onto a pallet to be moved away later. A FEL is a great help, feeding and moving stuff away. Handling sawdust can be the biggest challenge. And the wind depending which way it's coming. Sometimes it seems to keep the dust in the air around you rather than carrying it out.
After the first few passes on my mill I started wearing a half mask respirator. Your method for handling the slabs is really nice, I'll shamelessly copy it when I build our saw shed. Depending on the tree species the sawdust can be great bedding for the right kind of animals. The spruce dust we have works great for keeping the smell of chickens to a minimum and absorbs their waste, kind of like cat litter. The dirty sawdust makes perfect compost since it is mostly carbon and nitrogen with some added minerals (mostly calcium I think). We are also planning on building a wooden floor for our alpaca barn and then using sawdust for a bedding instead of straw over a dirt floor. Should be a similar result to the chickens since they have now begun to use their barn as an outhouse.
 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,809
Nova Scotia
Got one a few days ago.

20200907_155011.jpg
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,259
Downeast Maine
Do you prefer to slab the logs on the top and bottom, flat saw the log, and then edge the boards? I usually turn the log into a can't before cutting off boards. You have a nice mill and a nice saw shed.
 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,809
Nova Scotia
That's mainly my dads toy - I have not actually used it myself yet. (Too many circles going on in my life, so far). Have helped a few times though. Think he usually cants 90° at a time after taking a slab or 2 off. Milling in his blood. His first real job was as a lumber grader, all over the Atlantic provinces. Built his own Oxford mill, way back in the early 70's. This rig is kind of underutilized - he's getting up there (87 now) but still likes doing it. When he can. He just sawed around 1000ft the last month or so for someones decking project. Did it all completely by himself (picked away at it a couple hours or so at a time), from the staged logs thru to a big stack of stickered lumber & couple pallets full of slabs ready to move away. (He's kinda stubborn too at times :) )
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,259
Downeast Maine
That's mainly my dads toy - I have not actually used it myself yet. (Too many circles going on in my life, so far). Have helped a few times though. Think he usually cants 90° at a time after taking a slab or 2 off. Milling in his blood. His first real job was as a lumber grader, all over the Atlantic provinces. Built his own Oxford mill, way back in the early 70's. This rig is kind of underutilized - he's getting up there (87 now) but still likes doing it. When he can. He just sawed around 1000ft the last month or so for someones decking project. Did it all completely by himself (picked away at it a couple hours or so at a time), from the staged logs thru to a big stack of stickered lumber & couple pallets full of slabs ready to move away. (He's kinda stubborn too at times :) )
Wow, I might have sawn 1000 board feet since I got my mill. I've seen some posts by folks with LT30's and 40's that can mill 1000 bdft per day, I can't even imagine getting that many logs together! My wife helps me with fell trees by operating the skidding winch, but it's mostly a one man operation here.
 

jebatty

Minister of Fire
Jan 1, 2008
5,792
Northern MN
1,000 board feet, particularly 1 x's, is a lot for a single person to saw in a day. What induced me to get my WoodMizer LT40 hydraulic was seeing a hired sawyer get 1,000 board feet of 1x's from a single large white pine that lost its top in a windstorm, leaving a "stump" about 35 feet high. Turning that log into stove wood did not seem to be a good choice.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,259
Downeast Maine
1,000 board feet, particularly 1 x's, is a lot for a single person to saw in a day. What induced me to get my WoodMizer LT40 hydraulic was seeing a hired sawyer get 1,000 board feet of 1x's from a single large white pine that lost its top in a windstorm, leaving a "stump" about 35 feet high. Turning that log into stove wood did not seem to be a good choice.
I like the smaller kerf of a band mill for sure, but If you have to plane the wood after you mill it's about the same waste as a chainsaw mill. My "rough sawn" lumber is almost finish grade wood when it comes off the Logosol, a light sanding and it would be perfect. Well, if my guide rail and bunks are square that is true. The clay under my mill keeps compacting as I put larger and larger logs on it meaning I have to constantly make everything square again. I'm hoping to avoid this issue after I build a saw shed. When everything is squared up and working properly I'm within 1/32" tolerance.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,597
Northern NH
One of the things I learned while milling green wood was that we could get the cant flat and straight initially but as we sawed off boards the log would lift up off the bunks.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,259
Downeast Maine
One of the things I learned while milling green wood was that we could get the cant flat and straight initially but as we sawed off boards the log would lift up off the bunks.
This does happen to me sometimes. I sawed the top of a recently felled fir into two 2x4's and once the saw exited the cut the top board jumped right off the mill and the bottom one sprung up in the middle. Managed to cut them into several pieces for various blocking and framing stuff, but it was interesting.