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