In this instructable we will see how to make a chainsaw mill, how to use it, and discuss some tips and tricks to the hidden and mystical art of planking up fallen trees. Welcome aboard!
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We have recently had some crazy stormage here in the UK, and the number of wind felled trees about is fairly distressing. Much of these trees have fantastic timber that could be used in any number of woodworking projects, but are destined to be firewood, chipped or simply rot where they lay. A chainsaw mill is the relatively cheap and portable way to turn them into some beautiful planks.
If you know you want to build one, you can skip the rest of this intro and get stuck in to step1, or even step 2 if your quite familiar with how chainsaw mills work .
Chainsaw Mill vs Bandsaw mill?
For a long time I didn't want anything to do with chainsaw mills, seeing them as hugely inferior to a bandsaw mill. Chainsaw mills cut with a big fat chain running on a stiff metal guide bar; that gives us a number of disadvantages:
1. the kerf left by the chain (that is the amount of material removed to make a cut) is much greater for a chainsaw mill.
2. Thus it produces far more waste,
3. Cuts are much slower.
4. Chainsaw milling can be (is) hard on the saw. I use an ms440 which has a 70cc engine, this is really on the limit of what you can get away with - bigger is better, though thinner softer wood is obviously easier going. If you love your saw and hate chainsaw maintenance, this may not be for you.
But it has some plus points as well: because the chainsaw's guide bar is relatively rigid, with good technique it can be used to make very accurate, straight cuts, even on huge slabs.
So that's a like for like comparison, and in general the bandsaw wins out for sure. But like most tool choices, the circumstances, and intended use are key. So when is a Chainsaw mill better?
1. It requires much less time and money to build a chainsaw mill, so it is a good choice for hobbyists, DIY woodworkers, and people who might own a little bit of woodland.
2. They are far more mobile than a bandsaw. This means you can take your sawmill to the fallen tree almost anywhere, plank up and carry out... So ideal for restricted access, and steep hilly areas where fallen trees would otherwise be left to rot.
3. Related to that, they don't require expensive heavy duty skidding machinery, and are thus less environmentally damaging (although illegal logging with chainsaws is a different sad story). The waste timber from chainsaw milling can be easily left in situ to nourish the soil.
4. They can be used on odd shaped timber - curved logs and ones with other funky non-conforming features can be planked more easily.
The chainsaw mill, or Alaskan mill as it is sometimes called, is pretty simple. You start with a straight reference edge atop the log you want to plank up (a ladder makes a good straight edge). The 'CS mill", that is the chainsaw mill, which is the jig attachment you build, holds the chainsaw's guide bar (GB) below and in alignment with this straight reference edge. That way you can cut a nice flat surface parallel to the straight edge. Once you have a flat cut into the log you can do the same thing but using the straight edge you just cut, rather than the ladder.
The idea for this mill was to have it very adjustable. Obviously it will be necessary to adjust the distance between the CS guidebar and the guide rails of the CS Mill, as this determines the thickness of the slabs (or in some cases beams, or posts, or whatever) you will cut.
I also wanted to be able to easily adjust the outboard end of the mill to accommodate different sized guide bars. This is a kinda future proofing - especially if your current saw isn't running the biggest guide bar it could, you are likely to want to run a bigger one in the future.