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Chainsaw Mill vs. Bandsaw Mill: Which Is Better?

When it comes to using a portable sawmill, your decision comes down to either of these two options: a bandsaw mill or a chainsaw mill. But before you decide on any of these milling saws, you must have figured out if it meets your specific needs. The market is populated with both of these products and more, it is not surprising that the demand for them is actually high. You must carefully consider the features peculiar to both the chainsaw mill and the bandsaw mill before you choose either of them.

Chainsaw Mill vs. Bandsaw Mill: Which Is Better?

Both a chainsaw mill and a bandsaw mill are used to turn logs into lumber. A chainsaw mill is cheaper, more portable, but not meant for a larger production. It also has a thicker cut. A bandsaw mill is a more efficient way to turn logs into lumber. It uses a more complex setup and is more expensive, but it can handle larger volumes.

Do you further want to know the difference between a chainsaw mill and a bandsaw mill? Do you need to know which option best suits your task? This article will guide you through the basics, answer your questions, and provide you with the necessary insights you need for the best milling experience.

What’s a Chainsaw Mill?

A chainsaw mill is a small sawmill designed to be used by one or two people to mill logs into lumber. There are different types of chainsaw mills on the market, but the basic type typically consists of a steel guide that is mounted to the chainsaw bar and follows a straight edge. Other elaborate chainsaw mills usually consist of a track and frame system where the chainsaw is mounted. They are much similar to the portable bandsaw mills.

What’s a Bandsaw Mill?

Bandsaw mills are certainly very good sawmills, but, they are quite expensive compared to other sawmills. This is because of the engine size responsible for driving the band. There are higher-priced bandsaw mills that have 20 horsepower or more, it is possible to install a wider and slightly thicker band blade which will allow a higher tension, cutting the log precisely, effectively, and smoothly. The only issue is that not many people can afford to have such a high-priced sawmill just to cut their own trees in their backyards when they can easily use the same amount of money to buy as much wood as they need to build just about anything they want to.

For those bandsaw mills with lower prices, the drive engine is usually between 12 and 15 horsepower, the band wheels are often narrower than their counterparts (due to the cost). Hence, the band blade is also narrower and thinner. Although the bandsaw mill can cut lumber quickly, the tension on the band blade is not as high as the blades on the highly-priced bandsaw mills.

Chainsaw Mill vs. Bandsaw Mill: Which Is Better?

If you’re considering different types of mills to cut your own wood or want to start a sawmilling business and you are not entirely sure about the type of mill to choose, don’t fret. We have put together some features you should consider to help you make the right choice according to necessity.

● Production Capacity

The level of productivity of sawmills and milling techniques vary. They also depend on the manufacturers and models. The level of productivity here refers to the amount of sawn lumber that can be produced on average within a day. If the number of wood available for processing is more, logically a more productive sawmill should be the ideal option.

However, many other factors may affect this decision. They include the level of output required as well as the availability of capital and labor. The availability of technology, spare parts, operational means, and other social and environmental factors can affect the decision-making process too.

With a chainsaw mill, production is quite limited. This is because it is not a tool designed to produce large numbers of lumber. However, if you are looking to make a few boards or planks and have other options, then a chainsaw mill can be the difference between wasted logs and marketable wood. A chainsaw also has a saw kerf around 3/8 inches, making it very inefficient. It also produces a lot of sawdust in the process.

Due to these, a chainsaw mill is not recommended for use if you’re looking to optimize the number of wood that a log can yield. A large kerf on the chainsaw mill requires a lot of time and energy to cut your wood.

On the other hand, with a bandsaw mill, it becomes economically possible to manage logs for sustainable and adequate wood production.  For commercial loggers, about 20 to 60 acres would be required to make bringing in the equipment feasible. You will need a lot of space to house all the good lumber. Also, a bandsaw tends to utilize more log because of the blade kerf, as the cutting band is very thin. A bandsaw mill significantly increases the value of the harvested trees, this makes it easy to selectively harvest trees at their peak value, removing the cull trees and salvaging the dead and dying ones.

● Portability

A portable sawmill will typically produce good income and lead to subsequent business growth. It might surprise you that even when the housing market and the standard lumber prices are down, the market demand for wood products remains the same.  That being said, portable sawmills are flexible enough to mill profitable wood at any point in time, be it for flooring, construction, railroad ties, or custom lumber for area farmers and woodworkers.  If you need a sawmill that you can take with you anywhere you go, then a chainsaw mill is the best option for you. Do you need to build a log cabin deep in the woods? Then a chainsaw mill is an ideal sawmill for you. Even where roads don’t go, you can easily pack a chainsaw mill in a bush, plane, or helicopter and take it with you. You will find that it is very portable. You can even cut your logs wherever they lie. The one great advantage of chainsaw sawmills is the extreme portability and low cost.

● Cutting Capacities

A chainsaw mill is an excellent machine for cutting wide slabs and planks out of large trees. The only limitation you may encounter when using a chainsaw would be the length of the chainsaw bar. In as much as the bar can conveniently reach across the log, you can easily cut it into lumber. If you plan to build, for instance, a table with a single slab top, a chainsaw mill would be the ideal option for you. If you have a portable sawmill that has limited cutting capacities in terms of length, you can add a chainsaw mill to your arsenal, use it to cut down larger logs into manageable sizes, before fitting the smaller log onto your portable chainsaw mill.

Compared to the chainsaw mill, a bandsaw mill is undeniably the most efficient way to turn logs into lumber. A portable bandsaw mill can yield about eight 1-inch boards for every seven produced on other sawmills. So if you are buying logs or you’re cutting them by yourself, an increase in yield would mean a better return on your investment.

● Cutting Blades

Because a bandsaw blade is usually thinner than a chassis, bandsaw mills are effective in their low kerf rating. Kerf refers to the amount of wood lost on each cut due to the thickness of the blade. A chainsaw blade generally produces a rougher cut and an extra amount of wood.

This extra amount of wood might not seem very significant during the process, but it could add up to a substantial amount of lost wood and potential loss of revenue when it is multiplied over an entire day’s work. Regardless of the size of the wood or the blade kerf, one important thing to remember when dealing with a bandsaw or chainsaw sawmill is that the blades need to be sharpened regularly.  This is because a dull blade will relatively reduce productivity and damage the wood in the process.

A bandsaw mill blade also needs to be sharpened and maintained regularly. If it happens to hit a rock or any hard matter in the log, you will need to take out the mill and change the band. Not all logs are clean, in fact, there is usually some amount of abrasive material or little stones present in the log, as well as a certain amount of pitch which can be a huge problem for the blades.

As you know, the blade is very thin and the tooth set is quite narrow, so when the pitch attaches to the band, the band blade is bound to get thicker and the tooth set will no longer be able to provide clearance to the band, causing it to bind in the cut. If the wood is denser, it becomes harder for the blade to move, and you may not get a precise cut. The bottom line is to always sharpen the blades frequently if you want to achieve precise cuts.

Final Remarks

In short, the nature of the work determines the optimal machine choice. For woodworks that involve more variety but lack volume, a chainsaw is your go-to equipment. For larger volumes that hardly differ in terms of variety, bandsaws have to be the ideal pick. Make sure the equipment you use is properly maintained and well-sharpened so that its performance stands out.