Chainsaw Lumber Milling

Discussion in 'Homesteading' started by stillman, Sep 23, 2018.

  1. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    We just bought a house in the mountains and are in preparations to move there. That's the topic of a different thread. The preps involve building a workshop, which I hope to do with all self-milled lumber.

    I'd like to talk about milling lumber with chainsaws. There are several different kinds of mills, all with strengths and weaknesses. What kind do you use and why?

    I'm using a couple of Alaskan mills with Stihl chainsaws. I chose them primarily because I can go to the tree without needing any heavy equipment to move it. Heavy equipment is too expensive for me to maintain, much less buy.

    I have a couple of milling projects going right now. A huge oak fell at my parent's homeplace and a friend had some straight pines dropped in his yard.

    The pines are 24" across. I'm planning to make my new workshop floors with this. Boards are 1.25" thick.

    20180921_111721.jpg

    20180921_141106.jpg

    20180923_115424.jpg

    I should get about 600 sq ft. Going to sticker them under a shed roof to dry.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
  2. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    The oak is a much more interesting tree. Probably over 100 years old. Some limbs are over 24" in diameter. I'm sure there'll be a lot of movement as the wood dries so I'm cutting thick slabs to account for it.

    The trunk is a 5 foot wide mystery. It'll stand for a while, until the limbs are finished sometime after deer season. Some of it is rotten but there should be some nice tabletops in it. I'll have to get my cousin to help load the slabs with his tractor.

    20180707_182405.jpg

    20180616_171400.jpg
     
  3. Vanitas

    Vanitas Supporter Supporter

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    Rip chains for the win! There are a few small mills around so I don't need to own one but for the money I think the Alaskan mills are a good buy
     
  4. KFF

    KFF Scout

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    I'm dreaming of one of those Alaskan mills. Maybe one day.

    The planks and plans are great, especially the gorgeus oak. I can see a glass top table with a hollow trunk as a foot, or even several trunk sections to make a long table.
     
  5. sweet trav

    sweet trav Supporter Supporter

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    Im staying tuned to this thread...good stuff.
     
  6. whtshdwwz

    whtshdwwz Supporter Supporter

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    You want to paint the ends to avoid severe cracking and if possible go a bit thicker on the decking...what spacing are you giving to use for the floor juices? Depending on what cut you use can make a difference in the pine as it dries.
     
  7. 1066vik

    1066vik Guide

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    I have a Sperber mill - similar to the alaskan mill, but uses rollers on top instead of square tubing as a riding surface, so less friction.
    also uses a dual threaded spindle to raise and lower the rollers, so I can theoretically cut up to a 35x16 beam.
    using a Stihl 076 on each end of the bar for power.
     
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  8. carpenter

    carpenter AXE MOB Supporter

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    Never used a chainsaw mill. I have access to a Woodmizer. But there is a great satisfaction milling your own lumber. Nice looking boards you have there.
     
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  9. sweet trav

    sweet trav Supporter Supporter

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  10. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Paint the ends of the sawn boards or the logs?

    I'm not sure about the joists. A friend who builds houses is going to help me get started, and we're still working inside the house right now. The shop is waiting for the lumber to be gathered and dried.
     
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  11. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    That's quite a set up. I'd love to go with double power heads.

    I'm running a single 661. I looked for a larger, used saw but couldn't find anything within a reasonable distance. This will cut about a foot/ minute in this 24" pine so it's not bad for the small amount of milling I do.
     
  12. ozarkhunter

    ozarkhunter Guide Vendor

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    Paint the ends of the logs, but since you have cut boards, yes, paint the ends to help reduce checking (cracking). You can use old latex paint sitting around from a previous project, or you can buy a product called Anchor Seal. This is made specifically for painting the ends or surfaces of freshly cut wood. It dries with a waxy feel. The latex paint will help. Use several coats as they dry. This will reduce checking, but not completely stop it. You can expect checking to go several inches into the ends of the logs as they dry.
     
  13. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I've painted logs that were going to sit for a while but never thought about painting plank ends.
     
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  14. ozarkhunter

    ozarkhunter Guide Vendor

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    As I understand, moisture escapes most quickly from the end grain, thus checking being worst on the ends. Once you cut into planks, it does evaporate from all sides without bark, but still most quickly from the ends.
     
  15. RI Chevy

    RI Chevy Scout

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    I know a few guys that mill with an Alaskan Granberg mill. They both use Anchor Seal as soon as they are done cutting on both ends.
     
  16. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I went back to this job yesterday and learned a couple things.

    First, my new MS661c was not running well at the end of the day last time I was using it. The saw ran fine without a bar but was hard to crank and then wouldn't idle. I pulled the clutch drum and saw that two of the springs were broken. I called every Stihl dealer in the area and couldn't find replacements so I just put the drum back on and went to work. Yeah, I know it's not safe but life is a gamble sometimes. This site is 50 miles from home and my old truck gets 10mpg. Can't afford to come home empty handed. Nobody had the springs in stock so I ordered a Chinese clutch assembly from Amazon. I'll rob the springs from it and save the rest for emergency parts.

    My aunt-in-law gave me an old US made, 2.8hp, 7.25" Skilsaw. I used it to pre-rip the edges of the boards, which removed all the bark and some of the live edge I would be removing anyhow. Slabbing was easier with a smooth surface for the mill "skis" to run against.

    The first log, the one stacked on top in the first picture, was more difficult to cut than the other two logs. It was the butt of a large tree and the pith was off-center. I'm working under the assumption that it was due to the grain not being as straight as the other two, which are from further up the tree and the pith is in the center. There's only one inch of taper in 10 feet.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
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  17. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter

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    Another thing I seldom see mentioned is to frequently clean the air filter. I don't recall much mention of that in the limited research I did before I built my mill.

    I'm also running Stihl. I run 40:1 instead of the recommended 50:1 too, and only premium fuel.
     
  18. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter

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    It's a lot of fun milling. A lot of hard work too, but very satisfying. :)
     
  19. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    That's good advice on the air filter. I milled some cypress a couple of weeks ago. That stuff turns to a fine powder and does a number on the air filter and really cakes with excess bar oil.
     
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  20. RI Chevy

    RI Chevy Scout

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    For milling you might want to go 32:1 or 36:1 with your fuel mix.
     
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  21. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I ran this gas a little "oilier" than the specs but not quite 36:1. Is there any downside to these ratios?
     
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  22. tristndad

    tristndad Supporter Supporter

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    I use the alaskan mark iii with my Husqvarna 372xp.

    Got a ton of white ash dying off from the emerald ash borer. Been trying to mill about every 4th tree I harvest, the others go into my firewood pile.

    It is defiantly a slow process on the hardwoods, but it sure feels good when I get to mill spruce or pine. I feel like I'm moving thru the logs like lighting.

    My only complaint is being bent over the muffler having to breath the exaust. 20170711_182745.jpg
     
  23. tristndad

    tristndad Supporter Supporter

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    I use a 24in bar without a sprocket and file my chains at a 15 deg angle. I also use an old fashioned oil can filled with bar and chain oil to hit the tip off the bar. 20161012_163028.jpg
     
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  24. tristndad

    tristndad Supporter Supporter

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    Milling a red maple tree, found some really cool curls in this batch. Ended up making a dinner table out of it for my lean to. 20161012_163415.jpg
     
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  25. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I'd like to take a swing at milling ash. We don't have muchof that down this way.

    I wear a washable dust mask. It helps with the dust and exhaust fumes. I'm allergic to the dust and would never finish a big job without the mask. I didn't expect it to help with the fumes but it does.

    http://www.dustbeegone.com/
     
  26. RI Chevy

    RI Chevy Scout

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    Not really. As long as your more "oilier" than 50:1 you should be ok. Milling makes saw work harder, creates a bit more heat and stress.
    You also have to make sure the tune on the saw is correct as well.
     
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  27. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter

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    I wear a good quality paint respirator when I saw. A dust mask may mask the dust and some of the odor, but you are still inhaling fumes. With my respirator I can't smell exhaust at all.
     
  28. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Stihl no call from my dealer about the replacement clutch springs. The complete clutch I ordered from Amazon arrived. It gave up its springs, the saw is back in business, and I have a few spare parts.
     
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  29. Muleman77

    Muleman77 Hobbyist Hobbyist

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    I've used an Alaskan mill quite a bit. It's a great way to get lumber out of the woods.

    Ive got a Peterson as well, a higher production circle machine. But there are still times I put the Alaskan to work. I use my 660 with it.

    I use about 40:1 for milling. I've heard arguments both ways in oilier mix. What I know for sure is that I've put a lot of 40:1 through mine with no ill effects.

    Hard work, but very satisfying.
     
  30. tristndad

    tristndad Supporter Supporter

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    Still milling the pine, or busy with hunting season? Can't wait to hear how the oak goes for you. Guessing it's going to be an extremely slow and back breaking process with an awesome reward.
     
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  31. marbleman

    marbleman Supporter Supporter

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    I know an old man in Midwest USA (not myself) with 100 year old sawmill hardware for sale cheap. Cheap, as in the price of scrap iron. It's all potentially working, but he is in his 80's, and hopes to get it together. Honestly, it is not going to happen.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
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  32. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I had carpal tunnel surgery this Friday instead of milling. I'm hoping to get back on the pine next Friday.

    Rifle season starts October 20. I need to have my other hand fixed so the start of hunting may be delayed for me. I guess it's ok, since it's bucks only until Nov 2 and I usually take does.

    I wasat my folks' place this weekend and looked at the oak. Its going to be a big job with some interesting crooks and bends. Hoping to make some furniture from it.
     
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  33. RI Chevy

    RI Chevy Scout

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    Anyone try freehand milling?
     
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  34. Muleman77

    Muleman77 Hobbyist Hobbyist

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    I have somewhat done this, cutting cedar posts for ranch fencing. Ive made thousands of them. I just freehand rip a lot of my cuts instead of trying to split everything. It gets me more uniform posts, with less waste. Taking the sapwood off, necessary for good posts, it's a big timesaver too. Knots are no issue with splitting out. A lot of times I rip partially, or through a knot, and hit it a swing with an axe to pop it free. That's a very fast way to make posts.

    Compared to any kind of mill accuracy is wildly haphazard, but thats not important at all for posts.

    I haven't done it this way, but if a person used a stringline and square for layout, similar to hewing, it could be much more accurate and would probably do for post and beam or timberframe work.
     
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  35. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I watched a video of some Central American guys freehand milling. It looks like a fast way to go once you get good at it.
     
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  36. RI Chevy

    RI Chevy Scout

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    Yes. I saw that video too. Pretty good job done by them. I have done some small 4 foot pieces. Not too bad. But not like using a mill. LOL
     
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  37. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    It looks like a good, fast way to make rough lumber. There would be lots of uses for it on a farm or ranch. I kind of wish I lived on a farm or ranch.
     
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  38. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter

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    I have done a fair amount of freehand work building cabins. When you spend a fair amount of time with a chainsaw in your hands, you get pretty darn good with it. I got so good cutting stuff with my stihl, that I could make better cuts in framing lumber than the other guys could do with circular saw. :)

    We used to finish off most of our basements. In MI, the basement beam has to be supported by a steel post. I used to rip a log in half, cut a channel in it, and put it together around the steel post, so the home had the appearance of log structure throughout. On inspection day, our building inspector told me i had to take the logs out and replace them with a steel post. :) Fortunately by that time i had my film developed. ( It was awhile ago :) )

    I saw a video of a guy who was ripping boards freehand, but would stand the log upright. Seemed to be easier doing it that way for shorter pieces.
     
  39. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    No milling this week, either. I have to attend a work meeting over an hour in the opposite direction from the milling job. Hard to chainsaw mill in the morning, then travel 2 hours to a big corporate meeting. Maybe, if I showed up smelling of chainsaw exhaust and sweat, covered in oil and sawdust, they'd quit "asking" me to attend meetings on my day off.
     
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  40. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I found myself with a few free hours this afternoon so I headed out to the job to mill for a while. I had some truck trouble (the truck is 50 years old and temperamental) so I lost an hour of work time.

    Thankfully, the saws ran perfectly and I was able to cut 6 slabs before I ran out of daylight. I should be able to finish the job if I could get full day of cutting. That's not likely to happen, so maybe 2-3 partial days will be enough.
     
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