Milling Short Logs on the Bandsaw

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I’ve wanted to try milling small logs on the bandsaw for a while now, so after our neighbors had a couple of poplar trees taken down (and were nice enough to give us a few logs to experiment with) it was finally time!

Step 1: Quartering and Sealing the Logs

These logs were around 16-18” in diameter and about 2’ long and had been cut about two months before. To make them a little more manageable, we used a wedge and sledgehammer to split them roughly into quarters.

Once they were all split, I sealed the pieces that were worth keeping with some latex paint to help prevent checking at the ends. I then decided to build a small sled from some scrap MDF and a spare miter bar.

Step 2: Marking the Miter Bar Location

The sled is very simple to make. It's just a piece of 3/4" MDF roughly 2' long by 10" wide. I started by measuring the distance from the miter track to the blade (minus about 1/8”) and then transferred that to the MDF.

I then laid the piece of 18” miter bar on the line and marked the hole locations from the miter bar.

Step 3: Attaching the Miter Bar

Next, I drilled countersunk holes in the MDF and attached the miter bar with 1/4 x 20 - 1” flat-headed machine screws from the top.

To keep the logs from sliding around on the sled, I cut a piece of drawer liner and used a little spray adhesive to keep it in place on the MDF.

Step 4: Making the First Cut

For the first cut on each log, I also used wooden shims where they were needed to prevent the log from rocking. Then I simply eyeballed what needed to be cut off to leave a flat surface. I did find that it was easiest to gently pull the log the last few inches to help support its weight.

For these cuts, I used a 3/4" 2-3 TPI Timberwolf blade on the bandsaw which did a good job.

Step 5: The Second Cut

The second cut was much easier since the bottom face was now flat. For this cut, I tried to take off the minimal amount possible that would leave a smooth face.

I did learn fairly quickly how important it is to check each log thoroughly with a metal detector. I got in a hurry on the 3rd log and hit a nail, so be sure to always check each log!

Step 6: Cutting Boards

I decided to mill most of the boards to roughly 1" thick, so after making the first two cuts, I removed the sled and set up the fence on the bandsaw.

To produce mostly quartersawn boards, I rotated the log after each cut so that the face that was previously facing down was now against the fence.

Step 7: Drying the Boards

After several more cuts, I had a nice pile going. And once I finished making all the cuts, I stickered the boards in the attic to dry. I left them unstacked in the photo to show just how many boards 4 whole logs produced.

Step 8: Surfacing the Boards

After leaving the boards to dry for six to seven months (and checking them with a moisture meter), they were ready to be used for drawers, boxes, and several other small projects.

To prepare the boards, I started by ripping off the outer edge at the table saw.

I then ran them through my jointer and planer similar to any other store-bought rough lumber.

Step 9: Results

And finally, they were ready to be used!

Other than the nail incident, the experiment turned out pretty well. Next time I might try to remove some of the bark first and make a sled to accommodate logs that have only been split in half. This should save a little wear on the blade and waste a bit less material.

If you have any comments or suggestions on how to improve the process I'd love to hear them!

Step 10: Sled Parts

  • 3/4" MDF - 2' x 1'
  • 18"-24" Miter Bar
  • 3 - 1/4 x 20 - 1” Flat Head Screws

Step 11: Tools Used

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    29 Discussions

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    BeachsideHank

    1 year ago

    I always liked working with Poplar, easy to machine, nice smooth paintable finish, and cheap- back in Illinois anyway (Tulip Poplar). ☺

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    AroundHomeBeachsideHank

    Reply 1 year ago

    Yeah, I wasn't sure if it was "cheating" to use Poplar, but it was certainly easy to split and work with. I'll be testing out some chalk paint recipes on it shortly.

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    KellyCraigAroundHome

    Reply 7 months ago

    I find it nothing less than comical that people bad math certain woods. It was even worse, years back. Today, many know they just didn't know (there is no bad wood (see note)).
    ___________________________
    NOTE: If you can't make furniture from it, try turning it. If you can't turn it, cast it in epoxy and play with it.

    . . . .

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    KellyCraiglouis.m

    Reply 7 months ago

    Sorry, but after several decades of sawdust making, Wikipedia loses and milling remains cutting, surfacing and shaping wood.

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    ed-romeslouis.m

    Reply 1 year ago

    There's more than one kind of milling and you are referring to metallurgy not woodmilling !!

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    SherpaDouglouis.m

    Reply 1 year ago

    A basic sawmill operation uses bandsaws for ripping and often chainsaws for crosscut. Turning logs into boards is often referred to a milling.

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    cccjdc

    1 year ago

    Great job, do you think it would work with 4' to 5' ash? I was thinking about setting up my saw out feed bench and using a 1" blade.

    2 replies
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    AroundHomecccjdc

    Reply 1 year ago

    I don't see why not. From what I've read about it, it should (?) split similar to the poplar logs. If you try longer logs, you'd probably need an assistant and an out feed table like you mentioned or maybe a fancier sled. If you want to do a *lot* of logs, you'd probably want to look into the "portable" bandsaw mills. I've helped a friend with his and they're pretty nice.

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    ed-romesAroundHome

    Reply 1 year ago

    Lumber mills are nice big bandsaws that do a great job of turning trees into both boards and beams without all the extra work of cutting it up and quartering !! As for other woods if you have the right sized band saw and blade you can cut them all ! I've cut ceaderwood on a 6inch unit that had no guide rails ! But it did cut it flat and thick or thin ! But without a guide not straight or even ?

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    Kris82

    1 year ago

    Simple and not overly complicated like other DIY's. Great Job.

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    Chuck666

    1 year ago

    I too used a shop bandsaw for making boards out of logs. I ended up using a Lennox carbide 1" blade and had great blade life and very clean cuts with no drift. Your idea of short rounds is a great way to use material that would have burned otherwise. Kudos for a clear explanation and a good idea.

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    AroundHomeChuck666

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks! I did end up buying a 3/4" Lenox (just carbon steel) blade that also worked well. I'd love to pick up a carbine one soon!

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    marksstudio

    1 year ago

    Good job man. Poplar is an excellent secondary wood for drawer sides and such. I have been using Titebond mixed 50% with water to seal the end grain and have had good results on turning blanks.

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    AroundHomemarksstudio

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks! I really like the poplar so far. That's a great tip on the Titebond mixture to seal the ends. I should have done a test with a few boards to see how much it was actually needed when air-drying, but since the boards were short to begin with (and the attic gets pretty hot), I didn't want to lose any to checking.

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    sandalwood1

    1 year ago

    Very interesting, and practical instructable. As a woodworker/wooden boat builder, I occasionally attempt similar endeavors. Just recently, attempted to mill some wild cherry that had been cut about a year ago on the bandsaw, but it was hard as a brick-bat; no go. Probably should have run it when green.

    Louis.m's comment that "I see no milling here", is mistaken. He, and his wikipedia reference are referring to metal-working. "Milling" with regards to wood is a contraction of "sawmilling". A quick visit to wikipedia reveals that "A sawmill or lumber mill is a facility where logs are cut into lumber." Also from wikipedia: "Millwork
    building materials are historically any woodmill-produced building
    construction interior-finish, exterior-finish, or decorative components".

    Keep up the good work!

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    AroundHomesandalwood1

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for the great response. I usually think of "milling" as the first step (going from log to boards) and "surfacing" as the final step to produce the flat / parallel / squared faces, but I also have a habit of calling the whole thing "milling" sometimes as well as do other people it seems.

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    Peter MC1

    1 year ago

    Nice work. It has given me something to try. Other methods always seem too complicated.

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    AroundHomePeter MC1

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks! It was actually easier than I thought it would be. The main goal is to just stabilize the log for the first cut.