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Turning Trees Into Lumber

How to Cut Your Own Lumber With a Portable SawMill

By  | Chain Saw Product Expert

Have you ever wished you could turn trees into your very own lumber? Maybe you've got some unsightly dead trees on your lot, and you'd like to make better use of them.

Whether you're looking to clear out an overgrown lot or a pile of old logs, you can turn that wood into lumber with your very own portable sawmill.

There are some different kinds, depending on how many logs you're thinking of milling. From small milling guides that attach to your chainsaw bar for hand-held milling to full-sized portable sawmills with their own dedicated engine, there are options for any project - big or small.


Using the Right Sawmill for the Job

Portable Band SawChoosing the right one will depend on your purpose for it. Sawmills are traditionally large stationary band saws or circular saws with dedicated frames designed to guide logs to the blade in order to cut smooth, flat, even boards. However, there are now various styles of saw mills designed to be portable for milling lumber in the field.

Here, we'll focus more on portable sawmills and small, portable chainsaw mills. If you're clearing trees from a heavily wooded lot, and would like a way to turn those felled trees into lumber that can be neatly and easily transported by truck or trailer to another location, a portable sawmill is the perfect solution.

Chainsaw MillUnlike with larger, stationary sawmills, you don't have to transport entire trees prior to milling. Transporting full trees is much more difficult, and therefore costly. Milling your lumber on-site will save you time, money, and mess. Any sawdust produced during the milling process can be left outside, and the resulting lumber is much easier and more cost-efficient to transport. 

If you've only got one or two trees to mill, you may be able to get away with a less-expensive and more compact portable chainsaw mill. However, if you plan to mill an entire lot of trees into lumber, you'll need something larger and more productive. 


Quality Cuts with Portable Bandsaw Mills

Quality Lumber Cuts with SawmillsFor larger jobs, there are larger portable sawmills. These sawmills have their own dedicated engine and saw blade. Though circular sawmills were once popular, the industry has begun to set its focus more on band sawmills.

Band sawmills create smoother cuts with a better finish, produce less waste, and the blades (though they do wear and break more easily) are much more affordable to replace.

Portable band sawmills work very much like a stationary sawmill, except they are lighter-weight and portable. Unlike stationary sawmills, most portable models don't have hydraulics to help move things along. They are instead manually operated, requiring that you guide the saw along the tracks by hand to cut through the log. However, while they're more labor-intensive than a stationary sawmill, they still allow you to mill lumber on-site.


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Exclusive Benefit of Portable Chainsaw Mills

Benefits of Saw MillsPortable chainsaw mills, not to be confused with portable band-sawmills, are small enough to carry in your hand. They attach to your chainsaw bar to guide your cut and produce planks from trees.

The greatest advantage these have over other larger sawmills is that you can effectively carry them through dense forest and rough terrain. You can use them in smaller spaces, not requiring you to find or create a clearing to set up your mill. 

When large storms sweep through, felling trees everywhere, there are bound to be quite a few good quality trees that most loggers and millers would never touch due to accessibility. Having a portable chainsaw mill allows you to trek on foot to reach those trees, mill them on the spot, and carry the lumber out with you.


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What Chain Do I Use?

When you're felling trees and limbs, you're cutting against the grain. With a saw mill, you are cutting with the grain to create lumber. The quality of your saw cuts will depend on the type and sharpness of your chain. Standard saw chain is designed for speed and cross-cutting, but when used with a mill, cuts will be jagged and rough.

For the best quality cuts that will save you hours of finishing labor, get what's called a ripping chain. Although they may look like regular chains, a ripping chain is able to produce finer cuts due to the less aggressive angle and pitch of their teeth. You can find ripping chains in the same pitch, gauge and drive link count as your standard chain.


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