Much of early civilization relied on using materials that were available in the immediate surroundings. Man’s conquering of the frontier zones needed machinery that could cut through tons and tons of wood that went into making sturdy shelters and the furniture inside. Even early transportation units, like carriages and ships, needed timber in large quantities. Over time, these shelters, carriages and furniture became refined and the demand for precisely cut wood emerged. Logs needed to be cut into symmetrical beams and slabs. Sawmills were a significant development that revolutionized the timber industry.
Of the various kinds of sawmills, chainsaw mills gained popularity among hobbyists and those looking to operate in difficult terrains. Larger lumber production units preferred more conventionally efficient bandsaw mills.
A chainsaw mill, or an Alaskan mill, comprises a pair of rails that can be attached to the chainsaw bar to mill felled logs. The mill attachment is used to guide the chainsaw blade to produce lumber of predetermined thickness. This lumber is generally utilized by the construction and furniture industries.
These sawmills can be operated by one or two persons. While the smaller sawmills feature one chainsaw, and therefore, need one operator, the large mills have two chainsaws and need two people to handle them.
Why A Chainsaw Mill Might Be Right For You
Chainsaw mills, though slower and more physically demanding in comparison to bandsaw mills, have a few aces up their sleeves, which may make them ideal lumber milling tools for you.
A Chainsaw Mill is Budget Friendly
First, they are relatively inexpensive. So, if you are just a hobbyist or need to cut lumber only for household requirements, you may not want to make a large investment that traditional bandsaw mills require. Portable chainsaw mills from reputed brands can cost between $200 and $300. Some cost even less. Of course, the actual chainsaw is an additional investment. There are chainsaw mills in the market that cross even the $1500 mark as they come with a track and a frame. A bandsaw mill, however, can easily set you back by a few thousand dollars.
You Can Carry a Chainsaw Mill Anywhere
Portability is the biggest plus of a chainsaw mill. If your lumbering activity is in an area that is difficult to access, then a chainsaw mill is right for you. In fact, the mills perhaps got their “Alaskan” tag from the fact that they were successfully used to lumber in remote areas in Alaska.
You can produce lumber right where the trees are felled. For instance, if you intend to build a log cabin, you can use your chainsaw mill at the site. This will save you the cost of lumber transportation. A chainsaw mill can accompany you even on rugged, and/or steep terrain.
Chainsaw Mill Helps You Cut Large Wooden Slabs
You get the freedom to cut large-sized lumber using chainsaw mills. In case you are interested in cutting wide wooden slabs to make giant table-tops, musical instruments or other custom furniture, then you will find a chainsaw mill up to the task. Alaskan mills also allow for quarter sawing. Chainsaw mills basically let you carve out usable lumber from otherwise wasted wood.
Limitations of a Chainsaw Mill
Do remember that large-scale lumbering is not what a chainsaw mill is made for. Moreover, be prepared for more wood wastage and a lot of sawdust. This is because the kerf of a chainsaw can be about ⅜th of an inch, which means the lumber yield from the log is not always optimal.
Moreover, a big kerf ensures that you spend a lot more energy to log the lumber using a chainsaw mill. So be prepared for hard physical activity. However, for limited-quantity wood craftsmen and for those salvaging lumbers from inaccessible areas, the benefits of a chainsaw mill cannot be overstated.
Choose the Right Chainsaw Mill
Even after you have established that you do need a chainsaw mill, you might still need to spend time figuring out which chainsaw mill meets all your requirements.
First, decide on the size of logs you are mostly to work with. Chainsaw mills are generally available in 24-inch, 30-inch, 36-inch, 48-inch and 56-inch variants. About 2 to 4 inches are lost while attaching the mill contraption to the chainsaw. Therefore, if you want to cut 44-inch slabs of wood, you must buy the 48-inch chainsaw mill. The cost of going a size up is not significantly high, and since the mills can easily shrink to a smaller configuration, it makes sense to invest in a larger variant of chainsaw mill.
Now, let us talk about the chainsaw itself. It is easy to understand why bigger is better here. The bigger saws are better able to handle the work without overheating and they provide more power. In fact, even the small chainsaw mills should ideally look at a minimum of 60cc of chainsaw engine capacity. Some people like to use two power heads for bigger mills. Additionally, if you are planning on using the chainsaw mill very often to process dry wood, getting an auxiliary oil kit might be a very good idea too.
Be Safe When Using a Chainsaw Mill
All power tools can be dangerous if not used properly and can cause grave injuries. Also, in the case of chainsaw mills, you need to factor in the slow lumbering process, which means you will be exposed to extremely fine sawdust, loud noise, vibrations and fumes for a long time. Always wear safety goggles, a dust mask and ear muffs. Sturdy gloves will protect your hands as well. Invest in good quality apron chaps that can prevent, or at least reduce the severity of an injury in case of accidental contact with the moving saw chain. A hard helmet is a must too. It’s also important to keep a first aid kit always at hand.
If you are working in a remote area, do not forget to carry adequate drinking water, food and fuel with you. Grease, engine oil and a portable fire extinguisher should also be part of your kit.
Positioning of the log is of utmost importance as it can easily roll over and crush you. Use chocks to make them sturdy. Ideally, the log must be raised off the surface, so that you do not have to bend too much. Also, do be careful while moving and shifting the cut slabs and beams, which can be very heavy.
Finally, be mindful of people, especially children, and pets around you when you are milling the logs.