Last night I typed a long response to (I think) Phoenix666 about his inquiry into the "gotchas" of milling your own lumber using a chainsaw mill. Unfortunately, when the SN DB shit the bed my post was lost, so I figured putting what I typed into a journal entry would be a good idea. I think I can recall most of what I typed even though I was pretty tired last night.
I have three Stihl saws, an MS310, MS441C and an MS462. The 310 has a 20" bar and is my go-to saw for cutting everything it can handle. I've had it about 15 years and it's been rock solid. The 441 has a 32" bar and is strictly used for cutting down and bucking up big trees the 310 can't handle. The 462 is what I use in my mill.
One big "gotcha" is the price of saws. Before Covid the saw I wanted ran about $900. After Covid the price shot up to $1300 and I had to wait 5 month to get one. The price of Granberg mills went up too but not as much.
I bought Granberg's medium-sized mill. It's supposed to be used w/ a 30" bar max but I use it w/ a 32" bar in my 462 and it works fine. I've tried milling saw chains from several different manufacturers and the ones Granberg sells work the best for me. Since milling more planes the wood (instead of cutting it) you need to use specialized chains. I have both a 28" bar and a 32" bar and several chains for both that are used only for milling.
Another thing you'll want to invest in is a grinder for sharpening your chains. I think mine was made by Oregon and it was around $300 when I bought it years ago. Depending on what kind of tree I'm milling I can usually get 3-5 passes before a chain needs sharpened. If you rely on someplace local to sharpen your saw chains you'll be spending a lot of money plus there's the downtime waiting to get them back. I sharpen my regular chains at 31 degrees and the milling chains at 10 degrees. After sharpening, always check your cleanouts b/c if they're too high the chain will never cut correctly.
I use a 20' ladder to make the first pass then run the mill on the flat surface for the rest of the cuts. I made the brackets to hold the ladder out of a 2x8. Granberg's medium-sized mill has a clamp that holds the bar on the end and this helps avoid the problem where the bar wants to dip and make an uneven cut.
There's a bit of a learning curve to using a chainsaw mill so be sure to practice on a rotten log or something you don't care about. Screwing up a nice walnut log while learning how to use a mill is definitely not desirable.
I made two stout horses out of ash to hold the log I'm milling up off the ground so I can stand while running the mill. It can be done while kneeling but to me this is not desirable. If you use horses you'll need something to lift the logs. I use the front loader on my tractor, but there's ways to do this w/ a "log lifter" device too.
Of course, it's recommended you dry your lumber before using it. I have several stacks in my barn and a few in my basement. You'll need a lot of stickers to stack the lumber and I make mine on my band saw out of the cutoffs from using my circular saw to dimension the lumber. I use ratchet straps around the ends of a stack to keep the lumber from bowing up while drying.
Two good YT channels I recommend are Guilty of Treeson for learning the different notches to use on the hinge cut (I assume you'll be felling your own trees), and I like watching Surviving Ringworm b/c that guy is a master when it comes to making stuff using just a chainsaw. He also has a video about the log lifting device he came up w/ for moving heavy logs up onto the horses. Have fun!
Just saw this older journal--either it was written when new journals were not on the front page, or I just missed it. Thanks for putting down your thoughts.
Never used a chainsaw mill, but have done re-sawing on a big bandsaw (making thin pieces from a thick board/slab).
What was surprising to me is the limited life of your chains, before they need to be resharpened. Do you think this is just due to all the wood being cut, or is there some other reason that makes this service hard on chain teeth?
Do you think this is just due to all the wood being cut, or is there some other reason that makes this service hard on chain teeth?
There are several reasons. Most often, it's because I sawed through a nail or piece of barbed wire that I wasn't aware was in there (I don't go over my logs w/ a metal detector before milling). Sometimes it's because I didn't or couldn't remove all the bark, and if I've dragged the log through a muddy field, dirt and debris gets packed into the bark. Other times it's b/c the log is a hard wood (like oak) that just seems to dull the chain much faster. Keep in mind that when milling, you're running the chain through the entire length of the log, not making quick cross cuts like you'd be doing when bucking. What happens is eventually I get to a point where I'm pushing the saw through instead of letting it do the work and pull itself along. When it gets to that point I switch out chains.
Makes sense, thanks for checking back. Yes, I realize that cutting a log lengthwise is a _lot_ of cutting.
Dirt is one of the worst things for abrasive wear, full of very hard minerals. If you have water nearby, it might be worth rinsing (powerwashing) the mud out of the bark first?
If you have water nearby
I do have water in my barn, however messing around w/ logs and firewood is something I do in the winter. Stripping off the bark w/ a draw knife is just as effective.
Yep, a draw knife is a neat tool.