Chainsaw Milling

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Blog entry by Monte Pittman posted 09-04-2012 01:44 AM 8475 reads 3 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I invite any LJ to comment on things I miss or correct me if I am wrong. Yes this is a long article.

I have an odd life. My “real” job I spend in an air conditioned, very sterile enviroment (hospital). My favorite job is sweat and sawdust, at mother natures mercy for temperature and weather. If you can’t handle sweating or getting dirty, stop here and do something else. I am happy to say that this is my part time shop -

First remember that your “purpose” for being there is to get wood for whatever you need it for. Your “priority” is to leave with all body parts still properly arranged and the same blood supply you came with. Logging can be extremely dangerous if you aren’t careful.

This size log does not take a 16” home owner saw. Commercial grade only. Mine is a Stihl MS660 with a 36” bar. There are others to choose from but adequate power is neccessary. I am actually considering the next size bigger, I have found trees that still give me trouble with this. Never go logging with only one saw. even the best loggers will pinch the blade occasionally. A second chainsaw should be with you.

There are other places you can read proper felling proceedures for making the cuts so I won’t go through that. Regaurdless what direction you THINK the tree is going to go, park all vehicles, equipment and spectators at LEAST TWICE THE DISTANCE THE TREE IS TALL from you. There are various videos on internet showing the penalty for failing to follow this rule. Green trees can bounce. this is where most people get injured or killed. Next equally important thing, plan an escape route if mother nature chooses a diffrent direction for the tree to go than you did. Clear all trip hazards. falling with a running chainsaw is considered dangerous. Proper safety gear also. Goggles, hard hat (I have ahd stitches from falling branches), gloves etc.. I wear steel toe high top boots. Steel toes because I might might drop something heavey like a tree on them, and high tops because I am in areas where there may be snakes. I HATE SNAKES.

I will assume at this point you have the tree laying on the ground. Using the chainsaw, you will need to trim all branches from the trunk. Again clear trip hazards. Remember you just dropped a tree. broken branches may have caused new trip hazards. Cut the trunk into whatever lengths you want to work with. Since I am working on the stair project, the following pictures are from cutting a beam for it.

Start at the smallest end of the log. I am cutting oversized so I can plane and clean it up later. I need a beam 8-1/2” x 8-1/2” x 14-1/2’ long. I normally only cut 8-10 foot sections so this takes a lot more setup to get right. Since the small end of the log is only marginally big enough for my beam I can’t be off on the cuts. I use 2×4’s for slabbing rails. This is not the best way to do it. I considered buying the real aluminum rails, but I am in the process of trying to get a bandsaw mill so I don’t have to do this part at all.

After connecting the ends, THEY HAVE TO BE STRAIGHT FROM ONE END TO THE OTHER. everything you do from here on out is based off the first cut. A little off here is a lot off later. I do use nails along the log to secure it level. Make sure the nails do not got deep enough to make contact with the chain. Those who run chainsaws know that saws and metal objects don’t make for a good day. Now it is a matter of adjusting the depth of cut on the mill and sliding it down the rail. Don’t force the saw too hard. Although they are durable, chainsaws still don’t really like this kind of work. Burning up the piston and cylinder is $328.68 plus tax. :-( It can take an easy half hour per slab to cut. Longer on hardwoods.

The second cut is easy. Set depth at 8-1/2” and slide down the previous cut. The Third cut is the most anal cut to make. Besides setting the rails the same as you did for the first cut, you MUST make sure that your cut line is as close to perfectly perpendicular to cuts 1 and 2 as you possibly can. Cutting a trapazoid doesn’t sell products. The 4th cut is like the second. Set your depth and make the cut.

On a good day you”l end up with one of these (minus the dogs and the deer target). About 2 to 2-1/2 hours per beam in the field. Now just throw all 92 board feet of it in the truck and go home and clean it up.

Comments welcome

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

10 comments so far

View joewilliams's profile


89 posts in 2725 days

#1 posted 09-04-2012 01:55 AM

makes my back hurt just to think about it…..

-- Joe - - - something witty should go here - - -

View rance's profile


4271 posts in 3761 days

#2 posted 09-04-2012 01:59 AM

Monte, An initeresting post. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I am ashamed to say I can’t tell many trees apart whilest ‘On The Hoof’. Although I’m getting better once I see them rough sawn. I think it would be good for ALL woodworkers to at least be involved with this at one time or another. Sort of a homage(sounds like something you eat). I have purchased the plans for the Bandmill from woodgears. I can’t wait to get started on that.

If/when you switch to a bandsaw mill, will you still be cutting in the field or dragging them home and cutting there?

I find it interesting that you cut with the Top of the bar. Most I’ve seen seem to cut the other way. Although your method makes perfect sense to me.

Oh, and nice score with the deer. Did the dogs do him in or was it you with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3920 days

#3 posted 09-04-2012 02:06 AM

That was just cool to see. I doubt I will EVER be in the place to do this myself (I’m with Joe, very bad back!), but I’m always thrilled to see other’s milling their on wood.

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3290 days

#4 posted 09-04-2012 02:13 AM

Thanks for posting this Monte. I have a smaller saw and mill but do it very much like you do with one exception: I can’t mill on the ground like you do so all my logs are up on sawhorses. I would love to have a saw that big as I assume it cuts faster than my antique Jonserad. Took me a whole afternoon to cut up a 14” elm log that was only 7 feet long.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30505 posts in 2938 days

#5 posted 09-04-2012 02:17 AM

I am getting set up to be able to bring most home to saw. Can work a little more at my convenience. I won’t give up this setup however. There are just some times that this is the way it needs to be done.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Bluepine38's profile


3387 posts in 3686 days

#6 posted 09-04-2012 01:18 PM

I prefer the cut them in the woods method, mainly because that leaves the worst of the mess where it can
decay and give a return to the soil while keeping it out of my shop. It is fun as well as work and it does
cut down on the price of wood. Thank you for sharing.

-- As ever, Gus-the 80 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Shanem's profile


130 posts in 3067 days

#7 posted 09-04-2012 01:35 PM

Hey Monte,
All looks good. I mill my own wood also.
I have two separate setups. I have an Alaskan mill and a Beam Machine. I use the beam machine first to square up the logs and then use the Alaskan to slab it up. I find that the easiest way to do it and then your sides are almost exactly perpendicular. Also, I found I can never have enough ripping chains!

View bowtie's profile


990 posts in 2946 days

#8 posted 09-04-2012 02:04 PM

lots of good info here monte.
i saved my chainsawmill instead of selling it in case of a hard to reach log or too big for my mill.

-- bowtie,.....jus passin thru....

View junipercanyon's profile


198 posts in 3294 days

#9 posted 09-04-2012 09:40 PM

Great post Monte….a few alternatives/considerations to add:
1. a sharp chain with the teeth filed to the correct angle for milling is very important. A typical cross cut tooth is filed back at about 30deg, but for milling, filing the tooth between 0-5deg and taking down your rakers makes a much cleaner cut, and is a lot less work on your saw. They do sell special milling chains, but I have never tried one. Mine cuts really good with the modified angle.
2. If you can extend the rails for the first cut past the log on both ends it helps keep the entry/exit of the bar from the log nice and straight. Every time I have short rails I end up with a slight slope on the ends from the lack of support on the mill.
3. An aluminum ladder makes a great rail system…might be worth a try.

-- Juniper Canyon Design

View dartzt's profile


62 posts in 2682 days

#10 posted 09-24-2012 09:38 PM

Great post Monte! Thanks for the info and detailed pics! I just got the alaskan small log mill myself and used it last weekend on an Elm tree trunk from my neighbors yard. I highly advise getting some sort of metal detector! I hit a nail buried deep in the wood and ruined a good chain…. maybe I can salvage it but not sure yet. I love the mill though!

-- Darren A. - Bosque County, Texas "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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