Learning to use my new sawmill

It's another frosty morning here on the homestead, so rather than going outside to hammer on frozen logs, I thought I would spend some time to post an update about the (very popular) new sawmill.


After finishing my madman's assembly, I discovered that everything on the saw assembly had already been perfectly adjusted, so it was time to get cutting! I did some test runs to get a feel for the equipment, which I talked about in previous posts. With those out of the way, I finally loaded on the first of about 2 dozen logs that have been waiting for years for this moment.

Everything is going wonderfully, like a hot knife through butter, and then I hear it... a distinct metal-on-metal screech. I feel the resistance in the cut, but it's too late now, the damage is done, and I'm only about 14" from the end of the cut. I have to just press on and then survey the catastrophe.


Not one, but TWO, right next to each other. This pile is supposed to be clear of nails... all of these logs are from over 12' above the ground, a height that most people won't bother climbing just to hammer a couple nails. Apparently, I should have raised my limit to 15'.


I don't want to have to cut through them more than once, so I grab my very professional nail removal tools and dig them out. Because the wood is spalted, and we've had so many freeze-thaw cycles recently, they come out pretty easily. Now, I have to check 12' of bandsaw blade...


I definitely lost the tips of a few teeth, but only about 15 or so seem to have taken any damage at all. That's less than 7% of the teeth, so I figure I'm good to keep cutting for a while.


Some of the logs have very uneven surfaces, but the cut scale on the saw makes it very easy find how deep I should do an edge cut without doing any measuring. I just eyeball the height at the end of the cut, shown in the picture above...


...and set the scale to 0 (or whatever number I want, as long as I remember it).


I have to raise the blade up quite a bit to get over the big knot on this log, but then I just lower it back to 0 at the other end. This one lines up nicely, so I'm all set to throttle up and cut. If the cut had been too high on this end, I would have lowered the blade a bit. If it had seemed too low, that's just where I would have cut it.


This log is perfectly spalted, and I should get quite a few good boards out of it. The cuts are a bit slower with the broken teeth, and you can see that they're leaving very distinct lines on the surface. I don't mind the lines... I'll keep this blade just for making boards that have a more 'rough cut' look. Before I broke the teeth, the cuts were so smooth that some people wouldn't have accepted it, if they were looking for rough cut boards.


Although it's slower going after cutting up some nails, it's still about 5X faster than cutting with the chainsaw mill. There's also a LOT less waste, which is why I've been waiting to cut these logs. I'm more aware to the danger of nails now, but apparently not as aware as I should be. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see where I stopped my cut because I heard another contact with metal. You can see that where I stopped the cut, there is what looks like a small knot above it. This is sign that there is probably a nail underneath, and I should have dug into it before starting my next cut.


This nail was much smaller, and also came out quite easily. That was the last one I found for the day, but I still think it's a good time for me to build a metal detector. It's an electronics project I've wanted to do for decades, but never got around to. Now, with a hillside full of questionable trees and sawmill blades costing $20 and up, I think I have the motivation to get around to it.


The nails may be detrimental to the blades, but they leave behind some wonderful patterns in the wood. Someday, years from now, I'll be sawing up the maple trees that I've been tapping over the years, and I have high hopes for the patterns that have been cause by all those holes being drilled and refilled over the years!

I've never really done a gallery post before, but, I mean, just look at this stuff!




I ended up with a dozen decent looking boards from that one smallish log. This should be enough to use some as test siding on my new chicken coop, which I'm hoping to do more work on today. We're moving the chickens much closer to the house, where it will be easier to keep them safe from predators, and much easier to take care of them in the winter, when the hillside is frozen.


I have ordered some new saw blades to try out. There are a lot of varieties out there, including some wood/metal cutting blades that I may try in the future. For now, I'm testing out a couple standard blades from Wood Mizer that people speak highly of. I'm trying different ones mostly just to expand my knowledge... I want to see and feel how different tooth angles, etc. affect the cutting. I think I just received my shipping confirmation while working on this post, so hopefully I will be able to let you know how those trials go soon!

In the meantime, I have some posts about potting up seedlings, repairing snowblowers, and more about working this hillside that I'm trying to finish, in between standard chores. I hope everyone enjoyed this, and I hope to see you all back for more!

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