We have a choice of two mills to accomplish our task.
Which we bring depends on your particular requirements.
Our usual mill of choice is a WoodMizer LT50 hydraulic
bandmill, towed behind my truck. It is capable of cutting logs up to 36" diameter and
20' long, and producing boards up to more than 22" wide. Since it uses a thin kerf
band blade ("kerf" is the thickness of wood removed by the blade in the act of
sawing) you end up with less waste and more useable lumber.
Our "go to" mill when things are more difficult
is a Lucas model 10-30 swingblade mill. It utilizes one circular blade that alternates
between a horizontal or vertical plane. It is transported to the jobsite in components and
assembled on site. (About a 30 min job.) In some circumstances this can be a distinct
advantage. If you have a log too big for you to move and in a location unreachable with
the LT50, we can bring this mill through a 4' gate. In it's normal configuration it is
capable of milling logs up to 60" diameter, (Yes, that's 5' wide!!!) producing boards
or timbers up to 10"X10" and up to 20' long.
Our Lucas Mill can also be configured as a
"slabber" by removing the circular blade and installing a slabbing attachment.
In this configuration it is capable of producing slabs up to 60" wide and 20' long.
More often than not we use it for one-off jobs when
there's one really big log. In that case, we assemble the Lucas around the log and start
Milling with the WoodMizer
The following diagram is a
good general layout for milling. My truck will be detached from the sawmill during milling
and will be reattached at the end of the job. Therefore, the exit route must be kept
clear. With the exception of rolling logs onto the loading arms, most of the off-bearer's
work will be performed at the front of the mill, near the sawyer.
Logs should be stacked on
runners (small logs work well) spaced about 6' apart. The smaller ends of the stacked logs
should be facing the sawyer. All branch stubs must be trimmed flush with the log. If you
have a log you don't think will make useable lumber, don't put it in the stack! We can
look at it together and make a determination about it later in the job. Once it's in the
middle of the pile, the only way out is through the sawmill and it will get sliced up
whether it's any good or not.
Cut list: If you have a particular
project you're planning such as a deck, shed, etc. it's a good idea to develop a list of
what materials you need, called a cut list, and give it to me at the beginning of the job.
Off-bearer: The off-bearer is an
integral part of the sawmilling operation. It's his job to position logs on the loader
using a peavey. (I supply the peavey and instructions in it's safe use.) He removes and
disposes of slabs and edgings. He removes lumber and stacks it. He helps position cants
and boards on the sawmill. If the sawdust pile gets big enough to require removal, he's in
charge of operating the shovel to fix that too. He also drinks lots of water and sleeps
really well at night.
Sawyer: The sawyer (Me) operates the
sawmill. It is my responsibility to get the best possible lumber available, in the
dimensions you require, from the logs provided.
Stacking your new lumber: Lumber coming
off the saw is normally "flat stacked" i.e. stacked without preparing it for air
drying. This is the fastest way to do it. If you wish to clean the sawdust off your boards
and sticker-stack them as they come off the saw, you will need more than one off-bearer.
Two at least, and probably three to keep from working them to death.
Stickers: You will need a lot of
stickers. These are the spacers used between layers of boards in a stack to allow air flow
during drying. Usually about 1x1. If you have enough logs, it's not uncommon to cut
stickers as we're cutting lumber. That's not always advisable. If you don't have
many logs, you're wasting wood you could be using for your end project. If your logs are a
particularly valuable wood, it might not make sense either. And lastly, stickers cut from
your fresh wood are just as wet as the lumber you're trying to dry. That can lead to
mold or staining your lumber. If you have the means, you can cut stickers ahead of time
from a neutral dry wood, such as construction grade pine. They can even be cut from
- Hearing protection is necessary close to the sawmill
- Gloves are usually a good idea, and absolutely required
when working with pine.
- Safety glasses or a faceshield are a smart thing to have,
mostly due to windblown sawdust.
- Boots, preferably steel toed, are good protection from a
- Although I seldom wear one a dust mask isn't a bad idea
Other safety issues:
- Horseplay around a running sawmill is very bad form and I
will not tolerate it.
- There will be absolutely no consumption of alcohol or any
illicit substance anywhere in the vicinity of my sawmill during operations. I will,
without warning shut down, pack up, demand payment, and leave.
Leave the adult beverages on ice
until after the day is done.
Spectators: Sawmills often draw a crowd.
The property owner is responsible for keeping spectators at a safe distance.
End of the job: I expect payment in
either cash or check upon completion of the job unless other arrangements were made before
the job began. When I leave you will have a stack of lumber, a pile of sawdust and a pile
Milling with the Lucas
The Lucas 10-30 is a manual mill,
meaning there are no hydraulics involved. The sawyer raises and lowers the sawhead by
hand, as well as physically controlling all blade movement through and around the log. If
the log is from a tree that was blown down, the root ball must be sawn free from the
trunk. The trunk should be cut into sections no longer than 20'; shorter is okay. 8' is a
fine length. The Lucas mill requires a clear space at least 20' long and 9'
wide to set up around a log. The log must be separated from the trunk or root ball by at
least 4'. Stacks of logs can also be sawn with the Lucas. In that case we set the mill up
next to the stack and roll the logs into the mill.
We've found that the jobs
we do with this mill are almost always one of a kind. Therefore there really is no way we
can further suggest how to prep for the big day without actually looking at the situation
with you and developing a game plan.
Mill Configuration: The mill will be set
up with either the circle blade or the slabbing attachment. The configuration is set up at
home and not changed during the job; it's one or the other.
Safety Equipment: In addition to the
safety equipment listed for the WoodMizer, long pants are a really good idea around the
Points about other safety issues, spectators,etc are
pretty much the same as for the WoodMizer.
Off-bearer: Duties are roughly the same
as for the WoodMizer. Particularly when slabbing, more than one off-bearer will be needed.
Slabs are very heavy and can easily weigh several hundred lbs. For larger slabs mechanical
handling equipment may become necessary.