Shop Notes #16: Milling Around

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Blog entry by Steve posted 04-07-2018 04:59 PM 1732 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 15: Four Done, Three . . . for Later Part 16 of Shop Notes series Part 17: Experimenting with Black Acacia »

For Christmas last year, I received an Alaskan Lumber Mill from my wife. I think she gave it to me as a form of self-defense; over the past couple of years, the neighbors have identified me as they guy to call when a tree falls and they need help hauling it away. I’ve accumulated a stash of California live oak, avocado and juniper (cedar).

There are not a lot of lumber mills in my area, and those we have charge more to cut logs into lumber than the resulting boards are worth, especially for something like oak. As a result, these logs have been stacking up around the yard.

I didn’t have a chainsaw, so I picked up a cheap 20” model with decent reviews from Amazon to go with the mill. (For those of you not familiar, the Alaska Mill is basically a guide fence attached to the blade of a chainsaw to make cuts of a more-or-less even depth.)

I haven’t used a chainsaw much, and the videos I saw online proved the process to be slow and arduous. Still, I had logs to cut and the weather turned nice enough last week to eliminate any last excuse to procrastinate.

I set up the rig and picked out a couple of smaller logs, one of juniper, the others avocado. I geared up with noise protection and safety goggles, but next time I’ll use a full respirator—this setup blows both engine exhaust and sawdust directly into my face. Tasty.

Consistency, I found, is highly dependant on the first cut. I picked out fairly symmetrical logs with few irregularities, but still found that a slight taper or small bump could lead to the saw hanging up or cutting a “J” shaped board. When I do this next (and there’s lots more to do), I’ll used a couple of two by fours as guides for the initial cut.

As promised, the work is exhausting, and it certainly doesn’t help that most of it is done on the ground. I did try milling with the log resting on a couple of sawhorses, but pushing the saw forward through the cut moves the log forward as well. I didn’t care for the mental image I had of the log flipping off the horse, saw—and me—running, so I got back down on the ground.

I milled up two avocado logs. Both revealed some nice spalting in what is otherwise a pretty plain fruitwood. I cut up the juniper as well, which I already knew would be beautiful. I’ve already put some of the juniper to use, turned as this whimsical bottle stopper:

-- ~Steve

4 comments so far

View BobAnderton's profile


314 posts in 4034 days

#1 posted 04-07-2018 08:40 PM

I screw a straight 2×10 to the top of the log before making the first cut which ensures that the first cut will be straight. I have 3.5” setup blocks that ensure the mill will be set to clear the screws and I have another set of 2” setup blocks because that’s the thickness I most often mill to. Enjoy your mill. It’s good clean fun.

-- Bob Anderton - Austin, TX - Nova 3000 lathe, Alaskan Mark III mill, Husqavarna Saw

View Jacksdad's profile


259 posts in 1668 days

#2 posted 04-08-2018 10:48 AM

I have heard of people attaching an aluminium ladder to the log to make the first cut

View Andre's profile


4741 posts in 3050 days

#3 posted 04-08-2018 02:59 PM

LOL! That was a lot of wood for 1 bottle stopper? The type of chain you use will make a huge difference, find a Rip style if possible.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Steve's profile


82 posts in 2254 days

#4 posted 04-10-2018 03:38 PM

The type of chain you use will make a huge difference, find a Rip style if possible.

- Andre

Thanks, Andre—I didn’t know such a thing existed. I’ll pick one up; anything to make this job easier.

-- ~Steve

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