So I set out to build a timber framed barn just over a year ago and found myself with the choice of either trying to buy the timbers from some local Amish mills and hoping that the timbers were square and of good quality or buying the logs myself to mill.
At the time I was using a chainsaw mill to cut lumber and I soon realized that that was not going to work if I wanted to make any kind of time on the project. So I started shopping around for bandsaw mills and finally settled on a Hudson HFE 30 Homesteader mill.
Now this mill is not a professional mill and it is not a bottom of the barrel mill, it fits in the land in between that is just right for me and my own use. So far I have milled several thousand board feet through this mill without any issues of any kind.
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Step 1: Setting Up the Mill
It is important on this style mill, or any mill for that matter, to make sure that the mill tracks are perfectly level and well supported. This mill is not a portable model so it does not ride on a trailer with leveling jacks. This is the most important part of setting the mill up if you are looking to get perfectly square cuts. A base that is not well supported or level will leave you frustrated in short order.
Step 2: Sharp Blades
Probably the most important thing after making sure that the mill is level and setup properly is going to be sharp blades. If you are running dull blades on your mill then your cuts will come out terrible to the point that you may ruin otherwise great boards.
Debark the logs, this is a lesson that I learned the hard way. You can see in the above photo that I did not do this step at first when I was in a hurry to just get moving. This was a poor choice and one that is not made now. I can get twice the cuts out of my blades when I debark the logs.
As the wind blows around the trees while they are growing sand and dirt tend to get blown into the bark throughout the years. This is like sending tiny rocks through your mill and no amount of pressure washing is going to get the bark clean of all of this debris. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP, you will thank yourself later.
Step 3: Save Your Body
If you have a tractor around it is a major plus. I would not be able to do what I do alone without equipment. You do not need to go out and spend fifty thousand dollars on a brand new tractor to carry logs to your mill, an old piece of antique aggravation will do just fine.
Running a mill is not easy on your body without a little help. I use a tractor that is almost fifty years old and as you can see from the picture it handles some very large logs just fine. A tractor like that usually runs well under ten grand. I will not say that it is a must to have, but you should really consider your back.
Step 4: A Little Video
I can sit here and try to explain all day about the operation of a band mill but I think the best way is to just show it being used. Here is a video of just that, there will be many more on the saw mill as I get into different situations with the mill and different logs.
If you guys like the video and are interested in the barn project or any of the many projects I cover here you can follow along on my YouTube channel TheTradesmanChannel 2017. I will also include the trailer to the channel here as well to give you a taste of what we are doing here.