Chainsaw mill slab cutModern portable chainsaws are an extremely useful and versatile tool to have if you are ever going to be working with timber. Chainsaws can be used for a large variety of jobs such as; removing branches from trees, felling trees, removing stumps, cutting firewood, limbing trees, carving sculptures and many more. How about turning logs into boards or posts though? A job like this most often requires a specialized mill like a Wood-Mizer or Lucas Mill. While these machines are still required for a lot of milling jobs, your own personal chainsaw can be used too, with the aid of a chainsaw mill.

Chainsaw mills are essentially an attachment or framework mechanism that allows you to fix your chainsaw in a position (typically horizontal) to cut logs into boards in a uniform way. It uses the chainsaw blade and engine to do the work of cutting while you control feed wood through or move the saw on a rail in a safe efficient way. Chainsaw mills are a great cost effective way to turn large branches or logs into, slabs, boards or posts. They are very portable and don’t require the serious space or investment of a fully dedicated mill, once you are done milling, simply detach your chainsaw and use it for any of your other tasks. 

How to Mill Lumber with a Chainsaw

A chainsaw mill is a great tool for builders, outdoorsmen, and woodworkers. It offers them an inexpensive way of converting their chainsaw into lumber making machines. There are several designs of chainsaw mills available, and that include rail mills, frame mills, and carriage mills. Every design is a little different from the other. However, most of them will require you to follow three crucial steps when milling lumber. These steps are briefly discussed here:

First Cut

The initial step when preparing a log for cutting is setting up the chainsaw mill slabbing rails. Slabbing rails are where the mill rides on as it makes the first cut. Because the top of the logs is round and also uneven, rails provide a flat and smooth surface which guides the mill. For the mill to begin and end a cut with support, the rails must extend beyond the log’s ends.

When you are setting up the slabbing rails, it is essential to consider any unique features that you wish to highlight or avoid.

Once the cut has begun, you may consider installing small wedges in the kerf behind the chainsaw. This may be helpful in keeping the cut from collapsing on the chain and bar. When the first cut is done, the slabbing rails can now be removed.

Second Cut

On the second cut, the mill uses the surface you just created to support and guide it. If the log is to be sawed into lumber or beams, the second cut is taken on the bottom of the log. This will produce a second flat surface that is parallel to the first cut.

If the log is going to be made into partially finished lumber, the second cut may be made below the first at any depth the user desires. Often woodworkers, who are cutting material for furniture or instruments, prefer to cut partially finished lumber with their saw mill. This allows them to mill a tree where it fell, then easily move portions that can easily be moved or handled. Often partially finished lumber is seasoned before it is cut into boards. This gives the woodworker the ability to select and control the quality of the final product. It also gives him the ability to make final cuts with a band saw or some other saw that takes a thinner kerf than a chainsaw.  This is important when working with figured or other high-value wood. A chainsaw can produce a lot of expensive wood chips!

Third Cut

If the log is going to be milled into finished lumber with the saw mill, the next step is to turn the log 90º. Once turned, the slabbing rails are again placed on the top of the log. The rails are squared with a carpenter’s square to ensure the sides will be at right angles to each other.

Once this is set up and checked, the third cut can begin. When this cut is finished, remove the slabbing rails from the top “round” and set them to the side. You now have a partially square log with three flat surfaces.

If you are going to cut planks at this width, your mill will be guided by the surface of the cut you just made. All you have to do is set the depth to the thickness you desire. The log may now be cut into boards.

What are the Advantages of Using a Chainsaw to Mill?

Granberg Chainsaw Mill

Chainsaw mills are relatively inexpensive and can sometimes serve almost all your milling needs. Some of the many benefits of these type of mills are that they are their extreme portability and low cost. These features make them more preferable for working in remote areas. With chainsaw mills, the bar length can be easily and quickly changed thereby limiting the number of cuts. As a result, the mill can cut larger and wider lumber as compare to the band and circular mills. Also, some models such as the Alaskan chainsaw mill allow for quarter sawing. This is particularly useful when you need wide wooden slabs for making musical instruments, huge table tops, or any other custom furniture items. Basically, a chainsaw mill lets you carve out usable lumber from otherwise wasted wood.

Some chainsaw mills are capable of producing very long pieces of wood not usually possible by other ways. These may be desirable for particular uses such as the construction of large building or bridges. Also, single curved pieces of timber are used for wooden boat sections, or for other unique requirements in furniture or house construction, and can be easily made, particularly with frame chainsaw mills. In addition, some models of chainsaw rail mills available allow for cutting of grooves, notches, and various wood joints required in the making of log cabins and wood-frame housing.

Chainsaw mills are ideal for homeowners who mill lumber occasionally. Also, it can be used by professionals who seek to maximize productivity while reducing expenses. Chainsaw mill from popular brands can cost as low as $200.

With a chainsaw mill, you have the option to choose either a gas or electric engine. Also, depending on your use, you can customize the chainsaw mill by adding on many other features such as log rollers, track/rail extension, ramp package, log loading, lap siding, or even a package that will allow you to haul the mill as a trailer.

Other than the inexpensive cost of the chainsaw, you could also sell board after milling lumber, and you can use the money to cover the cost of extra chainsaw guide bars and chains as well as gas if you choose a gas engine.

After harvesting, you have to decide where to saw the logs. That could either be at the harvesting site or transport the log to a fixed sawmill. If you choose to transport the logs, you will have to consider the cost of stronger vehicles and equipment to tow and haul bulky logs. Chainsaw mills, however, are light and portable and allow for great flexibility.

Portable sawmills such as chainsaw mills can be carried to logged places, allowing lumbering to be done in remote places. The sawed lumber can also be kept where the wood is going to be dried. Dried wood is much easier to transport, unlike the bulky logs, and especially if the trees were felled at very remote areas or very deep in the forest.