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Author Topic: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.  (Read 1518 times)

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Offline diyguy

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Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« on: January 01, 2017, 01:53:06 pm »
Hello folks!

First, I want to thank the forum for all the great info I've been reading over the past few weeks. VERY helpful. But the time has come for some initial questions.  A little background, I'm a ex-pro, now strictly hobbyist woodworker / weekend warrior type that has a dream. I'd like to build a decorative 16x16 pavilion on my property using traditional timber frame construction. Of course, for this - I need beams. Lots of them. My saw experience is limited to an MS260 w/16 & 20" bar. I live on 5 wooded ac, and have  a good selection of sacrificial trees to choose from but I'm leaning towards limiting it to black walnut since this is what i have the most of in large "useful" trees. Most of the trees I've identified are the 16" - 20" in diameter.

My plan is to ONLY mill beams, limiting the cuts to oversized 6x6, 8x8, 10x10 and 12x12.  I won't be doing boards. From these large beams, I'll use my band saw for milling dimensional lumber (6x8, 4x6, 4x8, etc).

That said:

- Using a Granberg mini-mill, would a (rebuilt) MS440 w/rip chain be enough saw for black walnut? I'm not opposed to picking up a ms660, but i'm not sure I need it. I've worked with dry walnut several times. it's not that "hard" of a hardwood, but I "might" include some black oak for this project as well. I need to keep my options open. I've read some dated posts that claim a 440 would be on the low end, but a husky 372xp would be fine. ??? This never made sense since they are basically the same size engine. Can someone explain that reasoning?

- Bar size. I've read many posts that suggest limiting bar length to 20-24" max. I'm fine with this recommendation, but a bit confused. From strictly a wood working machine perspective, the amount of power needed is determined by the size and density of the work (wood type), and how many teeth are engaged at the same time. Teeth not engaged doesn't reduce power output. Why is a chainsaw different? For example, if only 20 teeth are engaged in the cut, why would it matter if the bar length was 20" or 28" for that matter? The load is the same...20 teeth engaged. isn't it? Is chain drag that significant?

- Ripping chains -- How many would you recommend having? 2? 3? Yes, they will be sharpened of course (i'm anal about tooling being scary sharp), but nothing wrecks my motivation more then not having the right tooling on-hand - when i need it. It's easy to swap chains and sharpen later. 

- For those that have built timber-frame... thoughts on mixing dissimilar species?? Specifically black walnut and black oak into the same structure? I'm concerned about different movement rates on the joints themselves. 

Please feel free to include anything else you feel is relevant.
Thanks again.

Offline richhiway

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2017, 05:04:23 pm »
I used a 044 and now a 046 magnum on a logosol mill with 18 and 30 inch bars. I cut mostly pine and these saws get the job done. Of course you could go faster with a 066.

I use 3/8 ths 10* ripping chains, I have six and rotate them. I keep them touched up with a ez lap diamond on the mill. I use a grinder or file guide to true them up. Tooth angle and even cutters are important when milling.

I just received and tried out a granberg modified ripping chain. It does seem to take less power. If it lasts and is easy to maintain, I might switch to these. Check out my post for some more chainsaw milling experiences.
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Offline IndianaJoe

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2017, 06:01:54 pm »
I would be willing to bet that the people who said that a 440 would be on the low end but said that a 372 is fine, are probably husky owners and stihl haters.  I have always been told that a 64cc saw of any flavor is about the minimum for a chainsaw mill. I purchased an ms 390 with a 20" bar at an auction over the summer. I am going to try to mill some logs with it. Wish me luck!

Offline Darrel

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2017, 06:37:30 pm »
Diyguy, welcome to the forum.

I love timber framing and it is my dream to one day build a timber frame cabin nestled away in the woods for my lady and I to live in.  I wish you the best in this project, and please post lots of pics.

I'm curious though, if you have a band mill, why would you want to mill beams with a chainsaw?  Is it the rougher finish you're looking for? ???
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Offline TKehl

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2017, 06:53:25 pm »
I think he said band saw to mill beams.  I'm guessing we're talking a vertical shop band saw that he would push the beams through.

My jaw drops on using black walnut for this.  It's like making hamburger helper with filet mignon! 

If you are after the look, great.  More power to you.  Otherwise I bet there are people in your area who would gladly trade for different species.  Maybe even do the milling for you as part of the deal.
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Offline Savannahdan

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2017, 07:08:35 pm »
I use a Makita DCS 7901 which is a tad bigger than the Stihl MS440 and don't have problems slabbing with a 32" bar and will be trying a 56" bar in a few weeks.  I do recommend a ripping chain.  At first when I read your post I wasn't too crazy about using the Granberg mini-mill for it but realized it's made for this type of cutting - width is a big factor.  If you run the saw rich and take your time you'll get the job done. 
Follow-up by posting pictures.  Thank you.
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Offline diyguy

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2017, 11:36:01 pm »
I think he said band saw to mill beams.  I'm guessing we're talking a vertical shop band saw that he would push the beams through.

My jaw drops on using black walnut for this.  It's like making hamburger helper with filet mignon! 

If you are after the look, great.  More power to you.

Correct. I already have a Laguna 16HD vertical bandsaw which I'll use for making curves and rip dimensional lumber. I had thought about figuring out a jig to "repurpose" the bandsaw into a mill without altering it... but not going to do it.

I think I answered my own question about saw selection. I'm just going to pick up a rebuild MS660 and use it strictly for milling. I may even figure out a way to use a winch for safety and consistency.  I'll NEVER need that kind of power for bucking. Nor do I feel comfortable using it for that purpose. Those who do have all my respect!

Walnut is a nice lumber... and I have enough large trees to do the job. That's the main thing.  The other benefit of course is it's a nice wood to work and has great visual appeal when finished. My other choices are black oak, cottonwood (yuck!), and eastern red cedar (juniper). I figure... if I have it... use it. Right? Would you pay for a hamburger when you have filet mignon for free? :)

Offline TKehl

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2017, 09:21:03 am »
It will have tremendous visual!  I can visualize Maple/sheet of faux Jade/etc. inlaid for contrast if you want to get fancy.  It would really make it pop.

Please share pictures of your progress. 

BTW, where are you located?
Lucas 6-13, a blue cant hook, a few orange chainsaws, and a bunch of trees.

Offline paul case

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2017, 10:54:41 am »
I just recently bought my 3rd Stihl 660. I had the first one lifted about 4 years ago and the second one I use with a 36'' bar to cut off bundles of 3x4 that are 40'' across. This third one is the first one I bought used. It was at a reputable saw shop(not stolen) and had some motor work done. The first 2 were new and over$1k each but the used one was one of 4 that were priced from $675 to $550. I am using it as a cut off saw for smaller bundles with a beam machine attachment. It works well. I have used one in the woods felling and bucking and I really like it. I took the beam machine off the other day and used the 660 to cut off the ends on about 45 tie logs. It must have been 2x as fast ass the 290, probably weighs 2x as much too.

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Offline YellowHammer

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2017, 09:59:48 pm »
I used a 044 with an a Alaskan mill for awhile.  Although I milled a fair amount of wood with it, I considered it marginal.  Actually, I upgraded to a 660 and also considered it marginal.  From my limited experience, (I only wore out one saw) when considering chainsaw milling, any saw is marginal.... ;D
Go big. 

I used home made ripping chain, it cut better for me than standard chain, and was a lot less hard on the saw.  It was less "grabby" and was smoother, so was easier on the chain drive and didn't rattle my teeth as much. 
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Offline ToddsPoint

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2017, 03:44:13 am »
I have a logosol M7 and a Stihl 660.  They work great together.  I can mill standing up and save my back.  The M7 (discontinued, now upgraded to M8) will handle logs up to 17' I believe.   Gary 
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Offline Hard12find

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2017, 06:29:44 pm »
I am running an 044 with 32 inch bar in maple, so far with standard cross cut chain, with good results, I have some ripping chains now, but weather hasn't cooperated...think you can do it...

Offline wiersy111

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2017, 03:46:29 pm »
In my opinion I would go with the biggest saw you can afford/ justify. I run a Stihl 660 on my Granberg MKIII mill I use the Mini Mill strictly for edging after I have taken the top and bottom slab off. I fund it tough to keep the 660 plumb to the track with a big saw. I think you will be much more satisfied with a 660 alaskan mill combo. It will be far more versatile. I have tried regular chain, ripping chains and the Granberg ripping chain and have found the Granberg chain to give me the best results.   
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Offline Brad_bb

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2017, 11:02:48 pm »
Couple things...
While you can do it with a chainsaw mill, it's not fast at all.  Expect at least 10 minutes per cut plus a half hour to an hour of set up and putting away and cleanup (per cut).  So you have 4 posts, 4 ties, maybe 4 principle rafters and maybe 16 common rafters or some purlins, and 8 braces.  I'm just assuming a basic design.  You can do it, but at 4 cuts per beam at least it will add up.  I plan to use my Alaskan mill for table top slabbing and to break down large logs so I can get them on my band mill. 

Using Walnut...
You can do it, but I wouldn't.  You are not making the best use of walnut this way.  It will look amazing when you raise it, but as it grays over time it eventually won't even look like walnut.  It will just gray like beech or oak or anything else.  I would not use walnut for outdoor use for that reason.  Walnut is far more valuable than most other framing species like Oak.  Probably 2-4x the value.  You'd be better off selling some walnut and buying White Oak.  White oak without sapwood is going to be more rot resistant for outdoor use.  If you sell some walnut, it could get you on your way to paying for a small band mill like an LT10.  With a band mill, you could use all the wood from your logs or logs you purchase.  If you cut just beams from your logs, you leave a lot of good lumber as firewood.  If you mill any walnut for beams only, you're letting a lot of money go to waste.  I'd save Walnut for interior use or to sell for more money. 

If it were me...
Do you have any plans to timberframe beyond the pavilion?  If so, that's even more of a reason to work for a small band mill.  Additionally if it were me, I'd try to not use my own trees except Ash that are already on their way out and similar trees like standing dead or storm damaged trees.  If you worked with a skilled forrester on a timber management plan for your property and you selectively harvested some trees to improve the quality of your woods, that would be good trees for you to use too.  Otherwise, I'd try to procure logs from elsewhere.  I've developed relationships with a firewood guy who has relationships with tree removal companies.  I get logs through there, logs that would other wise end up as firewood or shredded into mulch.  Those are trees that are coming down anyway.  I'd rather put those to good use than strip my own property.  You have to consider what is best for your woods.  One other good viable option is to hire a bandmill sawyer.  You be his off bearer and learn throughout the job.  If you are only doing one or two timber framed projects, that would definitely be more cost and time efficient.  You'd maximize your lumber production, benefit from the experience of the sawyer and get it done in a timely fashion.  It would be lower cost than buying a band mill and selling it later, and far more efficient than chainsaw mill.   

Do the chainsaw mill....   if that is want you want to do and would enjoy.
Buy a bandmill... if you think you'd enjoy it, and if you think you'd have enough use for it.
Hire a bandmill sawyer... if you want to do one or two projects efficiently and focus on the timber framing as opposed to milling.  Timberframing and bandmilling and chainsaw milling each respectively have a learning curve, and take a good amount of time each.
Decide what YOU want to do.
Just my 2 cents.
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Offline Brad_bb

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2017, 11:06:47 pm »
By the way, putting a finish on exterior wood to keep the color is not something I ever want to do.  Permachink makes good products, but I don't ever want to maintain it down the road, or re-sand it etc.  It's too much work.  Some exterior finish can also trap moisture.  I'd rather let exterior wood gray naturally and make sure that when it gets wet, it can dry out.  That way it will last a long time like barn siding.  I also don't use wood near the ground because it's harder for it to dry out and rain will splash mud onto siding or posts.   I try to keep the wood up like on a pier, or have stone on the building for the first 18 inches.
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Offline Jemclimber

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2017, 09:03:26 am »
Not much to add other than using a 70cc class saw with a longer than intended bar is that the oil pump is not big enough to provide the needed lubrication. An additional oiler should be used if that route is taken and even on a 90cc saw if the bar is longer than 36".   

Brad has some very valid points you should consider.
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Offline RPF2509

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2017, 06:45:43 pm »
Brad raised some great points esp chainsaw milling takes a long time per cut.  I've got an Alaska mill and have cut 16" to 48" wide logs.  I've used a Stihl 90,  a Husky 372 and a Husky 51.  Go as big as you can whenever you can. Get or rig up a supplemental oiler, the stock oiler will never keep up.  The 372 did the job but was slow, even in the smaller logs.  The 48" taxed the 90.  On average I'd say I could cut a foot a minute so a 16' cut takes about a quarter hour.  I run the 51 in my beam machine, never really cutting more than 8" or so.  It works fairly well at it and frees the big saw up for staying in the mill.  If you can, cut the slabs with the mill and then edge them with the beam machine, quicker and less handling of the material.  Slabs are enormously heavy, a peavey helps moving them but its best to break them down in place.  I could not imagine standing a slab on edge to make a second cut with the mill. I've tried ripping chain and I don't think it goes any faster but leaves a smoother cut.  I've only cut softwood - redwood and cedar.  Walnut probably wouldn't cut much different as it is fairly soft but I think it would have a higher better use indoors.  Good luck!

Offline wiersy111

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2017, 07:12:24 pm »
I'm confused about the cut times that I am hearing. The longest cut was about 6 minutes for me cutting 27" wide frozen elm. Cutting pine is much quicker 2x10's at maybe 2 minutes for 8 footers. Setting up for the cut is the most time consuming as I get my logs up off the ground, put the ladder on it, shim where necessary to level, screw it down and start cutting. I bought a 36" loop of Granberg chain right away and a 25" loop of I think Carlton regular ripping chain for smaller jobs. I have never cared for the regular tipping chain compared to the Granberg chain. The chain must be sharp sharp sharp.
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Offline kensfarm

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2017, 10:51:43 pm »
Hire someone w/ a portable mill.. you will get better beams & lumber for your project.. cost may be less then a new power head.. if you have a lot of black walnut.. you could barter the cost down w/ a share.  I use a 460 magnum on a Alaskan w/ 28 in bar.  Your back will thank you too! 

Offline Jesper Jepsen

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2017, 11:47:07 pm »
Cutting time is a tricky one it depends on the type of wood, the with how notty the sharpness of the chain and so on.

Here are a small video I made to show what milling with a chainsaw is.

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Offline Brad_bb

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #20 on: January 12, 2017, 01:37:14 am »
Cutting 23" Locust I averaged about 8 feet in 10 minutes.  But it took longer than 10 minutes fiddling around with wedges, moving my blocking on the last cut, re-positioning, refueling, etc.   It is relatively slow.
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Offline wiersy111

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2017, 10:09:35 am »
It is definitely not a fast process like a bandsaw mill. What saw and chain are you using? I have never seen Locus so I don't know how hard it is, but up here in the frozen north Red and White Oak, Ash and Elm are pretty hard especially in the winter when it freezes the moisture in the wood. I guess I don't include the setup and other mechanical processes in my cutting times as I am strictly concerned with the time it takes to get from one end of the log to the other. My main concern is how long the saw is running wide open vs idling. Of course there are always good days vs bad days. Some days I end up drinking beer and sharpening more than I do actual cutting. I usually chalk those days up to Murphy's law.   
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Offline Brad_bb

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #22 on: January 12, 2017, 11:37:58 am »
First locust and first log I milled.  It didn't seem that much harder than other hardwoods, though it might be slightly.  Wiersy111, I hope you are using the granberg grind N' Joint sharpener.  Sharpening by hand would take forever with a milling chain.  Their sharpener is fast and consistently repeatable, which is what you really want in a chainsaw chain- consistency from one tooth to the next.
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Offline wiersy111

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2017, 04:32:57 pm »
The Granberg sharpener is nice when I have to stop and sharpen in the field especially when I am running the 36" bar. If it just needs a touch up I will give it a couple swipes with the file to bring the edge back but that isn't necessary to often. Usually if I have to sharpen in the field it is because I found an unexpected trophy in the log.
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Offline RPF2509

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #24 on: January 12, 2017, 07:03:50 pm »
Jespers video was good.  I've never cut anything that short and rarely cut that small diameter.  I looked slightly speeded up too but you could tell by the chips his chain was sharp.  As others have said you spend a lot of time fiddling about with making the first cut, adjusting depth, wedges, moving slabs fueling, oiling and more.

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #25 on: January 13, 2017, 12:43:47 am »
Yes RPF2509 I had speed up some part of it. Normally this is as small as I go with exceptions if I get my hands on some very special species as thorn and fruit tree. This wood is for woodworking, cabinets and so. I prefer to mill above 22" in diameter logs and around 9' long into 2,5" boards.
One thing I have found out is to set the depth gauge a little deeper that on a normal crosscut chain especially when cutting everything else than oak and beech it speeds the milling up and the dust is coarser and don't fly around as much as the finer dust do. On the bigger logs I use the hand winch to get a uniform speed (and a better surface on the board) and to get the strain of my back.
The chain I use for milling is the Granberg ripping chain.

Offline RPF2509

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #26 on: January 13, 2017, 12:30:47 pm »
 I was wondering what the winch was for and yes it would allow a smoother cut.  Here are some pictures of my setup.
A big cedar down, bar on the Stihl just cleared the opposite side bark, there is a lot of taper in this tree.

I use a ladder to set a straight level surface for my first cut

Lots of wedges to keep it level, plumbers tape to keep it all in place - just remember to pull the nail loose before the blade gets there

Once the slab is cut I use my Husky 51 mounted on the Beam machine to edge or cut out beams.  I'm making fence posts here and one run down, flip the saw around back the other way gets you a six inch wide post. I cut the slab six inches thick so I get a 6x6 post. Need it sturdy to handle the snow.

Offline RPF2509

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Re: Advice needed on chainsaw milling.
« Reply #27 on: January 13, 2017, 12:47:06 pm »
Here is the complete setup.  Mill has the factory oiler but it did not last long mounted up on the post due to vibration.  A bunch of zip ties hold it in place.  Foam pad on the bar helps keep vibration off the hands.  Still a loud, dusty, physically hard job but it works and I get fenceposts from what would be firewood.  The mill paid for itself when I slabbed up a 48" x 16' redwood log - think the pig roast table.  Since then it cut 2x's and 4x's for my shed foundation and has sliced burl into boards. Here the trusty 51 edges the swell off the butt so the mill will fit.