The chain saw mill

When you have access to a bit of forest, lumber grows on trees. You just have to cut away the firewood first. Adding a bit of “le quincaillerie” to the humble chain saw is one way to go about doing just that.

My lumberjack career started with a heeuge oak I felled and made into timber. I rented a band saw sawmill, which was the only sane thing to do with that amount of lumber. For the occasional tree however, a band saw sawmill is way too expensive. The upkeep and square footage needed is two other important factors that made me say nay-nay.

There is a limit to how much lumber I’m going to need for the foreseeable future. There is absolutely no need for me to have thousands of board feet lying about just because. If I have a few hundred board feet in different drying stages, I’d be all set. Especially if I could do so with some maple, beech, birch and what ever else I fancy. As for oak, I’m all set for the foreseeable future.

The answer for me is a chain saw sawmill, or Alaskan sawmill – so I went ahead and bought one. It should fit my bill perfectly: up to 24’’ bar (I have a 21’’ one), meaning my 50ccm Husqvarna 450 e-series should just about manage.

The weapon of choice.

Add to the mix the fact that my planer/thicknesser is 10’’, there really is no need to go any bigger. Any trunks above 18-20’’, and I’ll rent the band saw sawmill or get a sawmill to slab it for me.

The chain saw mill is dead simple – the bar is clamped to the bottom of two vertical posts, which in turn are secured to a sturdy frame. The distance between the bar and the frame is adjustable, and determines the thickness of the material you are cutting. The initial cut is done with the frame sliding on top of a ladder or some sort of frame, creating a flat surface on the log. The frame is then adjusted to the desired thickness of the material you are going to cut. The frame is then registered on the flat surface you just cut, and off you go slicing the log into planks and slabs.

I ordered a kit and spent a few days eagerly waiting for my new toy to arrive. A flat box arrived, and I was like a hungry kid at Willy Wonka’s!

Unboxing time!

No golden ticket, but all the parts needed. A zipper bag with hardware and your average piece of dirt spanner that is YY and ZZ mm –ish. That’ll be swapped out quick enough!

A bit of part knolling later, and it is assembly time!

The assembly instructions are not great. The main steps are shown, but it is sort of like “take two scoops of flour, three eggs and mix. Then whip the cream and smear it on the cake”. What happened between the mixing of flour and eggs, and decorating the cake?? On second thought – let’s get directly to the eating of said cake. I’m all for that!

Thankfully, it is a simple construction and there are pictures. And an exploded drawing. After shuffling some parts, I got the thing together.

I love step 3 in the manual (image below): “If you want to learn how to use this thing, go on Youtube – but don’t be a boneheaded safety third moron like most of’em are!” I am paraphrasing a bit here..

I do happen to agree on that one! I cringe every time I see someone waving a grinder about without ear protection. Using a chain saw without protecting your hearing is a sure way to end up screaming “WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY, SONNY? I CAN’T QUITE HEAR YA!!!!” during Sunday mass communion. It’s just embarassing.

“Do not adopt the lack of safety”….

Now, don’t get me wrong! Safety can be a stupid thing too. Requiring adults to wear life jackets and hard hats when working on a beach is STUPID! The same thing when the men and women in the high castle assemble in the middle of a pasture or field to take the “we’ll build the thing here” photograph. Without exceptions, they all wear squeaky clean work clothes, safety glasses and hard hats. There’s no heavy equipment, scaffolding – nothing. Just the soft-pawed individuals in the middle of an empty area. Like the chance of getting splashed by a seagull is such a huge threat…

Safety should be duly considered and PPE should be worn mindfully. Do not operate a chain saw without – as a minimum – ear protection and safety glasses. I got smacked in the eye by a twig, which resulted in a trip to the doctor and a popeye experience for a week. And that was just walking past a small tree while doing some grooming of the forest floor – the chain saw was not even running! Stupid.
A set of “chain saw pants” and boots is not a bad thing to wear around chain saws. You know, those protective thingamabobs that stops the chain leaving you with just a bruise and a dent in your ego. My brother in law once worked at a shop where they sold such things. One day he stood there with a pair of pants in his hand, contemplating whether to buy it or not. It was an expensive piece of kit, but he came to the conclusion that it was stupid standing there pestering the customers to buy PPE and then go out in the forest without wearing any himself. So he got one, and guess what was the FIRST thing he did that afternoon? He got a practical demonstration on how those pants worked. Without them, he would’ve run his chain saw at full throttle right through his left knee. He got the bruise of a lifetime and had to use crutches for a few days. But he walked it off. Hard to do that with a cleaved knee…

Take safety serious. You are not manly flailing a chain saw about without anything to protect you. You are just a potential Darwin Award candidate and a straight moron! There, I said it. Now go get a band-aid for the owie on your hurt feelings.

After a bit of fiddling around, I got the thing assembled. Spot one error?

Aaaaalmost correct…

The thickness post on the left hand side had to do a 180, as the “skids” should rest against the log. A bit of a brainfart on my part there. Quick and easy to remedy, though.

I got the saw mounted, and my chain saw mill was ready for action! About 34cm (13 3/8”) capacity using my 21” (50cm) bar – should be plenty for most of my needs.

It might not seem like much at first, but the capacity is more than adequate. My planer / thicknesser is 10” / 25cm wide, thus there is really no need to cut planks much wider than that. Some to compensate for drying defects and cracks and to have a bit of width to play with when squaring off a plank (especially cutting off sapwood), and I’d be all set.

Should a huge tree fall my way (phun intended), I’d outsource the slabbing to someone with a band saw sawmill. For smaller stuff – which is mainly what I have access to – this setup is more than adequate. On the next page, we’re going to do a test drive.

2 thoughts on “The chain saw mill

  1. “Thankfully, it is a simple construction and there are pictures. And an exploded drawing.”

    People should really be more careful around dynamite.

    (I’ll see myself out)

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