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!

If you like this guide of find it useful please go like the Flowering Elbow facebook page, where I post creations as they unfold.

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.

Step 1: Concept

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.

Where did you get the aluminum from?
<p>Atlanta, Ga- Could you mount a fixed splitter on the guide behind the cut instead of using wedges? Similar to a splitter on a table saw. </p>
<p>Hi, great video. I<br>have been searching for a video like this almost 4 months and seen allot of different<br>thing but non as detailed as this!</p><p>I got a couple of question about the bar and the extra<br>oiler. as I see it you made the bar with the extra oiler for one side only. do<br>you not turn over the bar as you proceed with abrasion? and how exactly did you<br>made that oiler. I see allot of it but bow did you attached the hose to the<br>bar?</p><p>would like to hear from you</p>
<p>Hi. Yep I can and do turn the bar over from time to time. The hose of the oiler just exits onto the bar near the chain (on the cut side) From there it finds its way onto the chain, because there isn't anywhere else for it to go. It's very low-tech, but seems to work. </p>
Hi, thanks for the quick response. Ah oke I already thought I see that on the picture but wasn't sure. That is excellent. And the bearing of the sprocket must be hollow right otherwise you could not drill the hole there. Or did you just drilled through the bearing?<br><br>Like to hear from you again
<p>Yep the bearing is hollow, as long as you drill in just the right place it doesn't change it at all, depending on what bar you have of course. You will probably need a carbide bit to get through the bar. </p>
<p>nice that is great that saves allot of space if you can do it ike that. yeah i will buy me one. and can i ask you about the sawchain you use? what are you experiances with that? what works best: grandberg ripping chain, home made chain? semi skipp full skip? could you share some experiance?</p><p>would like to hear from you again</p>
can I use the wood month or two after I cut it.
<p>You can use wood as soon as you cut it - It just depends what you are using it for, moisture content when you cut it, how it is stored, species, thickness, etc. etc. </p><p>A million variables as to whether you SHOULD use it or not...</p>
<p>Great job great idea just I need one now.... </p><p>Paolo</p>
<p>You can find them at chainsawsdirect. There are even portable band sawmills.</p>
Well that's very interesting; here's my input/idea(s): <br>1. I almost immediately wondered how much better a band saw might actually work as I read this; probably in large part because you had alluded to the band saw a number of times. I am not very familiar with band saws, so I was wondering a few things about band saws; such as (a) since band saws aren't really as popular/common as CSaws, are they approximately the same price range or ar they way more than Csaws. (b) would it be a gas powered band saw, like the Csaw? or would it be an electric motor, band saw requiring a portable generator? In either case I would assume the band saw would be similarly portable as the CS is. At any rate as you can see, if such portable band saws exist, I know nothing of them. <br>2. and more importantly; I would be interested in your plans/group funding, etc... Here's what I'm thinking. I know someone who used amazon 'kickstarter' to crowd fund a book publishing, I think 'kickstarter' can also be used to start a busness...there may be other ways; but Amazon is pretty well trusted. I think they take 5% admin fee but I'm not too sure...here's the link and facebook info for the person I know who published a book using kickstarter: <br>Dianne Strong shared a link via Kickstarter. <br>March 5.Thanks to the 180 backers who forked over $23,406 to make Kimiuo Aisek's biography a book you can hold in your hand, read and enjoy. You are part of a billion dollars changing hands on Kickstarter's web site. <br>One Billion Dollars <br>www.kickstarter.com <br>Whoa! Over $1 billion has been pledged to projects on Kickstarter
<p>Hi Grapenut (saying that makes me chuckle), Thanks a lot for your imput/thoughts. Points addressed in order:</p><p>1.Like I mention in the intro, bandsaw mills have a lot to advertise them: they are way faster than chainsaw mills, they can waste less wood when working well, and they can be less setup time and effort in general (all these points vary quite a lot depending on the quality of the bandmill).</p><p>1(a) To buy bandsaw mills, in general, are more expensive &ndash; they vary in price a lot (depending on country and quality), from about $4,000 to $40,000 for ones with hydraulic feed and log management (rolling and lifting onto the mill bed).</p><p>1(b) I like the idea of having a reasonably easily interchangeable drive unit &ndash; electric motors are great when using on-site (much less noise &ndash; not working in a cloud of engine fumes, possibility of using battery banks with renewables to charge etc.), IC engine is good for mobility, so some form of quick &amp; easy change would be ideal. Using a generator may be a solution for mobile applications &ndash; more research needed &ndash; but I doubt it as it would need to be quite big (hard to move about and expensive).</p><p>Bandsaw mills are not anything like as portable as CS mills. In general they run on a fixed steel track, which the log to be cut is mounted on. Mobile bandsaws, use a sota heavy duty trailer frame as the track and can be towed by a vehicle, but require flat ground and good access. This is probably THE key advantage of the CS mill over a bandmill.</p><p>The point of the project would be 1. to give good impartial information on all the options and designs, and 2. Come up with a relatively cheap way to construct a bandsaw mill that works very well, clicks into a matching log arch (becomes a mobile mill) when needed, and is reasonably easy to make.</p><p>2. Kickstarter is a very impressive development. I have had a lazy eye on it for a while. What I am not sure of is if people would be willing to fund research projects whose output would be open and free for all. I could think up some special set of rewards &ndash; like a special edition hardback copy for backers, and other stuff, but essentially I would like it to be free to anyone. I would work through various designs and prototypes while devising and documenting a build methodology &ndash; which would be the output, probably in the form of a book (with lots of vids and things to go with).</p><p>Anyway, thanks again for your interest. Judging by the silence here, it's not looking likely, at least at the moment. In some ways I think this project missed the boat as the bulk of the views seem to be in the first week of publishing. Unsure.</p>
<p>There are portable bandsaw mills available that conveniently run on a propane tank, so they're cleaner and easier to power and operate than with gas or a generator. </p><p>http://www.chainsawsdirect.com/Timber-Tuff-Tools-TMW-2020SMBS/p68667.html</p><p>They're not AS portable as chainsaw mills, but they are convenient for hauling into a wooded clearing near the felling site to mill large quantities of lumber from several fallen trees.</p>
If you were to publish this via G Play/Amazzon, given the quality of the final product, I'm pretty sure it would move well. You have linked a supplier here... maybe they, and others, would stump up for advertising space and promotion. In Wales alone I would think people like Aalco and Swansea Fasteners would be interested. Possibly Express Metals.<br>You seem to share my philosophy on sustainability so why not alot the proceeds to replanting projects?<br><br>I'm going this route myself right now on a woodturning book to raise funds for lung cancer research.<br><br>Thanks for an awesome instructable by the way.
I think 'open and free' is definitely the way to go. I'm no expert, but I think there is actually a fair bit of historical precedent that suggests 'open and free' or atleast 'open and cheap' works out for the best for everyone (eg- band members, authors, etc..) <br>My 2cents here (just off the top of my head) is why not do both? 'open and free' and 'open and cheap?' <br>Maybe it is possible to self publish the whole thing on all the popular Ereader formats for say $1.99 USD/ 1.2 GBP <br>The whole thing could still be available elswhere in PDF or such for free. Many people (like myself) would prefer the convenience of Ereader ready format for such a low fee. Backers can be given multiple (5 or 6) Ecopies to share/gift to family, and neighbors... <br>I think kickstarter will allow many interested parties to pre-purchase their copies (FYI- I think this is one of the ways kickstarter helps you get your initial capital; however, if you don't reach your intended goal (target $ amount) by a specified time; kickstarter cancells the whole project and refunds everyone's money...) I see many possibilities however; and since you can be your own publisher, I am guessing you are the one who can authorize a free and open format to be out there...
This is incredibly well done. Truly phenomenal. I'm printing it out to tuck it away as a guidebook for how to do this the right way. Not having much experience working with raw metal, I'd be concerned to use something attached to a chainsaw that my inexperienced hands had made, though. I've noticed there are a number of chainsaw mill attachments that can be purchased online and would be curious to know if you have any opinions on those, particularly as it relates to safety features you would insist on one having if you were to purchase one. Thanks so much. Also, whatever became of your Kickstarter idea?
<p>Hi Esecrist. Thanks for the comment. Actually I think a lot of the 'off the shelf' ones are quite good as quick start CS Mills. Although you still need to spend time assembling them correctly, with locktite, etc.</p><p>My main complaint with them is that they tend to clamp to the guide bar rather than bolt through. In my mind the bolt through method is far superior, for reasons I outline in the instructable (Step 7).</p><p>Whichever kit you get, the technique you use is at least as important in getting nice flat smooth boards. Check out the tips for use ;) Good luck, and let us know how it goes if you take the plunge.</p>
<p>It's amazing how much your design looks like the Timber Tuff design shown here - http://www.chainsawsdirect.com/Timber-Tuff-Tools-TMS-24/p68666.html They're almost the same, aside from a few extra comfort and safety features.</p>
<p>It is useful. Interesting. Chainsaw<br>attachments - 35 types (descriptions, photos, video): <a href="http://chainsaws-portal.ru/do/a-list-of-attachments-for-chainsaw.html" rel="nofollow">http://chainsaws-portal.ru/do/a-list-of-attachments-for-chainsaw.html</a></p>
<p>Thanks for this great Instructable...</p>
<p>Nice article. Tips and tricks are very useful. thanks for sharing this post.</p><p>http://www.adithyaconstruction.co.in/</p>
Hi bongodrummer, <br><br>This instructable is excellent but I have difficulty seeing how you fix the verticals 'C' to the small verticals 'D' to allow for adjustment, perhaps you would elaborate.
<p>How many monies did you have to exchange for the Al. sections?</p>
<p>i added it all up at &pound;68.78 on the website</p>
<p>It was a while ago - roughly &pound;100, after tax and delivery. About 70 before. </p>
<p>That is awesome well done</p>
<p>I could write a nice comment if my mind wasn't blown with this instructable. so i am just gonna say Thank you</p>
<p>Awww, go on, I love nice comments. Maybe when your mind reintegrates :-P</p>
Well; I have been trying for days to tell you what an amazing instructable this is. I would have never thought this type of thing was within my grasp; now that I have read your amazing (really one of the best I've ever read) ible, I feel this is a bit of a possibility. Your CS is a serious saw compared to most I've seen for firewood (in my circles), etc...but still; in the true spirit of the Instructable; you've taken the seemingly out-of-reach, and broken it down for us, in order to expand each of our possibilities to beyond...previous possibilities... <br>Anyway, as for why I couldn't comment earlier; all comments and commenting abilities dissappeared AFTER I logged into Insructables on this computer. (so I had to follow you, and reply to a comment you made to someone else, in order to tell you what an amazing job I thought you did with this instructable. I voted for all 3??? contests you were in; hope you win something)
<p>Wow, thanks Grapenut! That really means a lot to me, I&rsquo;m grinning wildly.</p><p>A speculative question open to all: I am toying with the idea of doing a similar, but more comprehensive research and build project, based on a bandsaw mill. What I really want to do is create an affordable, super effective and somewhat unique build method for a bandsaw mill, and publish an open source guide. It would probably take the formatt of a book (both printed and epub) or similar, and be a really complete reference/build guide/plans for milling with a bandmill. The question is, would anyone reading this be <br>willing to help crowd fund such an undertaking?</p><p>In the week or so this instructable has been up it has been viewed just over 70k times, so I guess it is at least interesting to people. If half a percent of those viewers (350 people) were willing to pledge say $10, to make such a research/build project happen, it might be a possibility...</p><p>Anyone have any comments or thoughts on how viable such a <br>project might be? I would really love to here them...</p>
OK... I seem to be commenting here more than could be considered healthy. My excuse... this is an awesome instructable that has got my brain into overdrive. lol<br><br>Crowd funding is great and can work. However... you could get a big boost to funding through advertising suppliers products within the publication. Especially on ebooks where you could include a promo code for discount... negotiated with suppliers of course.<br><br>In addition... the people wanting to mill their own timber are probably interested in a few other areas associated; green woodworking, hand tools, construction materials etc. Given how expensive advertising space is I would say offering cheap advertising to the likes of Classic Hand Tools, Kirjes, Robert Sorby etc would definitely be worth a shot.<br><br>Not going to trawl through all the comments here... but I would say this is a pretty good example of your ability to get an idea across to the target market. That is key in selling the viability of an idea to potential advertisers.<br><br>Consider your target markets... include the current interest in sustainability and &quot;amazing spaces&quot; and I'm sure it would have legs.<br><br>Good luck and let me know if you need and thoughts... I have a background in both marketing and education.
<p>Wow, like, literally I am impressed. I've been cutting wood for 15+ years and have just thought about buying a portable CS Mill, though I don't have the tools and supplies for making one, looks very straightforward though. I am very impressed with the write up but feel you could have mentioned legal issues. I know I cant really build a garage or anything with the milled product for legal reasons. someone should look into this, making it possible for us me &amp; women to get certified somehow that we can in fact one day build a house or garage with our own milled wood.</p>
Hi William. Thanks for the comment. So far as I know, here in Wales you could use the wood for some construction, certainly a garage... I don't mention this legal issue because I haven't a clue on the specifics ? I imagine they will be quite different depending on where abouts in the world you are. <br>Good luck if you do try milling.
Your in Wales.... me too! Would be awesome to come and lend a hand someday if ever you need it. Relatively green behind the ears when ut comes to green woodworking so always up for exchanging some blisters for learning! I'm based near Carmarthen. Be good to hear from you.
<p>So what exactly is the difference between a chainsaw mill and a bansaw mill? Are they both structures of some sort? I am looking for a way to store some wood that I have cut for building a garden shed, I had thought of using a type of mill. Which one would be better for cutting construction wood?</p><p>Yvon Lebras | http://www.k-indu.com</p>
To put it simply...<br>1. Chainsaw mills are cheap. You can pick up a ready made one one eBay for around &pound;140. &gt; Bandsaw mills are not cheap.<br>2. Bandsaw mills are often large and difficult to manoeuvre. &gt; Chainsaw mills aren't.<br>3. If you wanted to fill a post hole with concrete... you would probably use a spade to mix the concrete and not go out and by a cement mixer. Ergo... if you have 1 tree to mill you would use a chainsaw mill not a bandsaw mill.<br>4. Chainsaw mills... despite using one of the most &quot;potentially&quot; dangerous tools you can get... are a lot safer to use than a bandsaw mill.<br>5. Building your own bansaw mill... unless you are proficient at welding, electronicis, mechanics and engines is a none starter. Chainsaw mills are pretty easy... especially given the no-weld model in thus Instructable.<br><br>Hope thst helps.<br><br>Hint: given your description of the task... go for the chainsaw mill.
<p>nice. will be saving this for consideration. have a tree in the yard that needs to come down and think it would make some nice furniture. </p>
<p>Well done!</p>
<p>This is quite nicely done! I'm wondering if you could briefly explain the most important part of the project - how to lock the verticals in place, and how to make sure they are even/parallel to the sled (e.g. did you add a scale and marker to both verticals?)</p><p>My idea would be thru-drilling two holes on the centerline of each of your small 100mm pieces, then getting 2 long FBHSCS with the head in the vertical and a washer/locknut/nut on the protruding end (I'm suggesting this arrangement because the sled needs to support the weight of the powerhead and I could readily see the allen heads stripping as you tightened the bolts holding the verticals)</p><p>That being said, how did you solve this problem?</p>
Totally cool!
<p>This is Good one... congrats bongodrummer... u did a Good Job :)</p>
<p>Hi bongodrummer,</p><p>First off let me say that this is a fantastic Instructable, it's smart, well documented, and like others have said, pays attention to the important safety issues related to chain saw use. I'm curious, do you have a rough idea of the build cost for your chainsaw mill? (not including the cost of the saw of course). </p>
<p>Hi Matt, thanks for the comment. I would estimate about &pound;70 for the alu extrusion, &pound;100 when you add up bits n bobs, tax and delivery. Though obviously it will vary depending on what you have already in terms of nuts n bolts and whatnot.</p>
<p>Thanks Bongodrummer,</p><p>All together that works out to roughly 230 USD if anyone else was wondering about the price. Thanks again for posting, My dad worked as a logger for many years in his younger days and I do a considerable bit of wood working so this project is right up our ally.</p>
<p>oh wait, it occurs to me that I may have mix understood you. did you mean 70+100, or 70 for extrusions plus another 30 for bits and bobs to equal a grand total of 100? If you meant the 100 total then the USD cost of the build would be roughly $140.</p>
Yep, grand total closer to $140 :)
<p>Yeah, I've been worried about material loss due to kerf width alone. I've got a few acres with some really juicy looking specimens just dying to be milled.</p><p>Definitely going to give this another serious look. Thanks o/</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: BongoDrummer is co-founder and member of Flowering Elbow. He loves to learn about, invent, and make things, particularly from waste materials.
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