Processing Big Wood

I was by Lesley Caudle’s sawmill last week and observed his latest Alaskan sawmill setup in action.

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Lesley was our source for the workbench kit Chris and I used in Roubo Workbench: by Hand & Power. He is also the source for the materials for the Moravian workbench classes I teach. Lesley sells Roubo workbench kits and will ship them as well (lesley27011@yahoo.com).

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Lesley processes a lot of big logs that most mills can’t handle; the better ones become workbench tops and parts. The lesser quality logs will be sawn into railroad ties and pallet lumber. Some are live sawn into slabs for customers.

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Lesley uses a band saw mill that does most of the work but for the really big logs to fit on the band mill he has to first saw them in half with an Alaskan mill powered by two chainsaws. This ain’t a kiddy set up either, the two power heads are Stihl MS 880’s, the largest saws Stihl makes (9 hp each). A 66″ double end saw bar connects the two.

I shot this short video of mill in action on a 48″ white oak, it’s quite a trick.

 

— Will Myers

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8 Responses to Processing Big Wood

  1. grizg says:

    Putting together an Alaskan Chainsaw Mill opened up new possibilities for me… At first it was a “necessity” to recover three large ash logs as boards, instead of firewood, due to a site access problem. After that it allowed me to recover and mill dead or storm felled cherry, walnut, and other logs from difficult to reach places like the rail trails I maintain. (No, I don’t need any help thank you!)

    Despite the cost of the large chainsaw, rip chain, mill fixture, and winch* I recovered the expense in the value of the 900+ bf in those first three logs. The next project after that yielded 275+ bf of cherry so I was way ahead by then. It’s very satisfying to make things from trees I felled and milled and it’s a fun new hobby.

    *I mounted a winch so I can winch the mill through the log rather than pushing it by hand. It’s use results in less fatigue and back ache and yields a smoother cut.

    • DR_Woodshop says:

      Would you mind sharing any information on the winch attachment? I have sen that on bandsaw mills but never a chainsaw mill. I can’t even begin to imagine how that would work.

      • grizg says:

        My setup is very similar to the one shown in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6pUOBS00oo In case the URL doesn’t work search for “Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill 31 Foot Oak Beam Side 4″ on YouTube.

        I use a Granberg mill with a Stihl chainsaw and a 36″ bar. The winch mounting bracket bolts to the mill much as the on/off guides mount using carriage bolts. I happened to make the mount out of a piece of cherry… the one in the video is aluminum. Even on 28-30” ash I can turn the winch with a finger and feed the saw steadily through the log. The only wedging needed is for the last few inches so that the bar isn’t pinched as it exits.

  2. manitario says:

    I drool at these posts. I have 40 acres of forest but it is mostly second growth trees so small diameter trunks of mostly softwood and the occasional maple. I’ll continue to dream that one day I’ll stumble into an old growth hardwood forest.

    • Will Myers says:

      Most of these large logs don’t come from the forest but rather peoples yards, big shade trees. None are first growth timber. I have seen red oaks 4′ in diameter less than 70 years old. If the tree is growing in a place where it catches extra water, even oaks can get big relatively fast.

  3. trader4300 says:

    Hey guys, where is this sawmill located? I drive by the Covington KY area at least once a year. Would love to stop by and pick out a slab or 2. Is he close by?

  4. smkindem says:

    Awesome!

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