A chainsaw mill is a modified version of a chainsaw that is primarily used to obtain lumber from logs. A chainsaw can be employed to precisely cut fallen logs into lumbers of the desired dimensions through the attachment of a special jig system. This blog post will explain everything you need to know to transform your chainsaw into a milling machine for woodworking.
- Chainsaw mills are used to machine wooden logs into usable lumber. They are available commercially and can be built domestically.
- They are cheap, portable, and offer variety in terms of wood sizes.
- They are quite labor-intensive and lead to material wastage too.
- While purchasing a sawmill, make sure it is compact and has a large cutting depth.
To comprehensively understand how a chainsaw sawmill works, I will dive into the pros and cons. I will also look at the size of chainsaw you need and what I think is the best chainsaw sawmill, and even how you can build one.
- 1 How does a Chainsaw Mill Work?
- 2 Do chainsaw mills work?
- 3 How to choose a chainsaw sawmill?
- 4 What is the best chainsaw sawmill?
- 5 What size chainsaw do I need for milling?
How does a Chainsaw Mill Work?
To start, I will lay a brief introduction to the chainsaw mill and its construction. We’ll also discuss the step-by-step build process.
● Introduction to Chainsaw Mills:
Chainsaw mills, also known as sawmills, were initially introduced to obtain an allrounder cutting device that offered a great deal of adjustability and decent accuracy to machine wooden logs. It uses a chainsaw positioning and guiding system to cut logs into pieces used as lumber accurately. It comprises three main components. A straight edge reference, a chainsaw, and a jig attachment. Also known as a chainsaw mill (CS).
The straight edge reference is a horizontally leveled surface across which the chainsaw is fed. It can be a rectangular bar or a ladder placed horizontally. To feed the log with the cutting tool (chainsaw), a jig attachment is prepared. It keeps the chainsaw perfectly leveled with the straight edge and feeds it horizontally across it. Furthermore, it also adjusts the chainsaw vertically to determine the position of the cut accurately.
● Building a Sawmill:
Various sawmills are commercially available to be used as chainsaw attachments. These mills, however, can be expensive and may not be customizable. If you have good DIY skills and have access to a mini-workshop, then I’d recommend you to go for fabricating a sawmill attachment.
If you’re not an expert, you don’t have to go after building one. If you have a good bit of experience with DIY projects, then a self-made chainsaw attachment would be better for you due to its adjustable and customizable nature. Also, you have the liberty to modify your sawmill according to your needs and applications.
If you’re looking to design a sawmill for your chainsaw and don’t know where to start from, I have summarized the fundamental step-by-step approach you should follow for your DIY project.
– Step 1: Create a basic design:
The first thing for you is to visualize the design you would want your sawmill to have. Start by drawing an initial sketch of the sawmill on paper. Go for simple and basic designs like using bars to construct the railing. You can find some designs online to brainstorm ideas.
After that, choose the dimensions that would suit your type of work. I wouldn’t go after the nitty-gritty design specifics as they are subjective to your budget and expertise. You can also use some beginner-friendly CAD software like Tinker CAD or Solidworks (if you’re slightly advanced) for creating a 3D model of your design.
– Step 2: Gather the parts:
Once you have a basic design ready, you should now create a list of all the necessary parts required for the design. You can order some metal parts online. But It is better if your design reuses some scrap metal or wood if available. This will be cheaper. Please make sure all the parts are machined to their appropriate dimensions.
– Step 3: Assemble everything:
Now comes the part which requires the most time and skill. You will need to join all the parts to make sure your final design is achieved. You can either choose welding or use fasteners, whichever suits your budget and expertise. Personally, I would advise you to use temporary fasteners like bolts and screws as much as possible as this adds to the flexibility. But where structural strength is desired, you should go for welds.
Please note that your sawmill frame needs to be perfectly horizontal, so you should ensure that the welds are perfect. Ensure that the bracket where the chainsaw is mounted is kept robust and its height is made adjustable. When the sawmill is ready, fix the chainsaw in its bracket.
– Step 4: Go for a test run:
It’s time to test the chainsaw-sawmill attachment on a log. For this, you need to place a perfectly leveled wooden slab on the log on which the sawmill attachment would slide. This wooden slab would act as the straight edge reference.
Adjust the chainsaw’s vertical position depending on the cut’s location. Turn on the chainsaw and feed the sawmill forward along with the straight edge surface until the other end of the log is reached. After the test run, check the cut’s quality and the surface finish. This completes the successful design and testing of a chainsaw sawmill attachment.
Do chainsaw mills work?
If you are interested in getting wood for your home projects frequently, a chainsaw mill would be worth it. However, if you are a bulk manufacturer or if you seldom need wood for beams and other objects, a chainsaw mill may not be ideal for you.
To answer if a chainsaw mill works for you, I would say that buying a chainsaw mill depends on your objective as a woodworker. Most homeowners like doing their home projects by themselves and need wood for it time and time again. For these individuals with logs available, I would say that it’s profitable to invest in a good quality sawmill. On the other hand, using a chainsaw mill could also consume a great deal of your time and energy. That is the reason I wouldn’t find it ideal to recommend a chainsaw mill to large-scale manufacturers. In those cases, I’d say that a bandsaw mill may be ideal.
I’ll list down some pros and cons of getting a chainsaw mill. After reading these, you will be in a better position to decide whether to buy a chainsaw mill or not.
● Pros of a Chainsaw Mill:
Chainsaw mills are quite lucrative in the following aspects:
Most chainsaw mills are pretty cost-effective and can start from 30$-70$. Sawmills that are built at home by reusing metal parts may be even cheaper. There are expensive versions as well, but they will probably not exceed 1000$. This is quite cost-effective compared to bandsaw mills which usually start from 2000$.
Chainsaw mills are available in a variety of sizes and shapes. Homemade ones can be customized to suit the needs of the job. It also offers you considerable variety in terms of the shape and size of the wooden beams.
With a chainsaw mill, you have the luxury of carrying it away to anywhere you’d like. Suppose you find a fallen log somewhere. In that case, it wouldn’t be possible for you to carry the log back to your place for sawing it to lumber. But you can instead bring your sawmill to where the log is and still do the job.
● Cons of a Chainsaw Mill:
The aspects in which a chainsaw mill wouldn’t be ideal are listed as follows:
1. Labor Intensive:
From my observation, I have found most sawmill users complain about the effort required to slice wood using it. It is best if you fed your chainsaw slowly across it while cutting, which is quite laborious. Moreover, you need to manually switch the position of your chainsaw and sawmill after each cut. This entire ordeal can be quite taxing for some.
2. Production Capability:
It’s relatively time-consuming to operate a sawmill. Plus, due to their labor intensiveness, you can only saw a limited number of wooden logs at a given time. This limits their production capability. Hence, if you’re looking to saw a large number of wooden logs and sell them in the market, a chainsaw mill would not be the best piece of equipment you should invest in.
Also, while using a chainsaw mill, you are bound by the bar length of your chainsaw and can only cut logs whose dia is less than or equal to that of the guide bar.
3. Material wastage:
I’d say that this is by far the most significant drawback sawmills have material waste. Chainsaw mills lead to greater material wastage in the form of sawdust. Let me tell you that chainsaw blades’ thickness determines the width of the cut. Most chainsaw blades are 0.25 inches thick. This means cutting down a 4×4 beam into 1-inch-thick boards. You lose an entire 1×1 board in the form of sawdust.
My perspective: I have listed all the possible pros and cons of using a chainsaw mill. In short, I would say that a chainsaw mill is for DIY hobbyists who like doing their home projects for fun and for saving a few pennies. But if you’re interested in long-term milling and building work, you need a much more reliable, robust, and productive tool to ease the job for you.
How to choose a chainsaw sawmill?
While choosing a sawmill, make sure you keep the following factors in mind:
- Bar length: This is crucial as chainsaws with larger bar lengths may not fit into some sawmills. Similarly, saws with too small a guide bar wouldn’t be effective against larger diameter logs. As a rule of thumb, always get a chainsaw whose guide bar length is at least 20 inches.
- Cutting depth: This is the maximum depth to which the chainsaw can be lowered and adjusted on a sawmill. It generally ranges from 0.5 inches to 12 inches in some sawmills.
- Length: The overall size of the sawmill is also important. Larger sawmills would have increased effectiveness on larger woods. But with size, their portability would also decrease.
- Chainsaw fitting: While buying a sawmill, it is always better to see if it provides a robust platform for the chainsaw.
What is the best chainsaw sawmill?
Based on the above metrics, these are the best-selling chainsaw sawmills in the market.
My opinion: From my observation and working with some of them, I have found the Alaskan Granberg chainsaw mill as the best sawmill in the market as of now. This is primarily because it’s quite compact and lightweight. Unlike some other models, it still offers the same cutting depth. The zinc coating also protects the structure against corrosion. Moreover, it is very easy to set up. You could use it even if you have no prior experience of dealing with a chainsaw mill. For best results, I would recommend using a 20” bar and a ripping chain.
What size chainsaw do I need for milling?
For milling, your chainsaw engine should be at least 50cc and must be able to support a 20-inch chain. This is the bare minimum requirement. If you want the work to be done more effectively, consider investing in a larger chainsaw.
Chainsaw’s engine size would determine the ease with which you’ll be able to saw down the logs. The larger the engine, the quicker, smoother, and effective would be the wood cutting process. But it would be best if you kept in mind that a chainsaw with a larger engine would be difficult to carry around.
The bar and chain length depends on what type of wood you are used to cutting. Generally, for most logs, a 20-inch bar would be fine. But if the logs you deal with are larger, a bar length of as much as 30-inches would be suitable.