Keeping the sawmill fed

in Homesteading2 months ago (edited)

If you're a regular reader, you've probably seen this post I made about acquiring and assembling my sawmill. If not, and that sounds interesting to you, go ahead and click that link now, we'll be here when you get back.

Was that fun? Well, then you might want to read about me learning how to use the thing, or the adjustments and maintenance it has required so far (there's a gallery of some fine looking cut lumber in that last one!)


Now that I've cut through all the 'easy' logs I had piled up, it's time to get to some of the less accessible wood. It's hard to tell in the pictures, but these logs were kept off the ground, which means the boards I cut from them will have more strength than most of what I've cut so far. Siding boards cut from the log I move in this post were used on the new chicken tractor.

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This pile of logs is around 15'-20' away from the sawmill, and they need to be pulled uphill. Before even beginning to tackle that task, though, the weeds and brush around the logs needed to be cleared. It took a few hours with the string trimmer and brush cutter attachments, as well as some time with the small chainsaw, just to even get at the logs.

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Since I was cleaning up in the area, I also gathered up all the old logs from my 'pioneer village', where I built my first kiln. The kiln has long since been reclaimed by nature, but as I get this pile of old logs used up, I'd like to begin rebuilding out here.

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Once everything was cleaned up, I gathered what I thought I would need for chains, as well as the come-along, and of course things came up about 2' short. This meant dragging up another 20' length of chain, but this wasn't so bad, since it meant I wouldn't have to operate the come-along from within the middle of the sawmill frame.

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I was very fortunate that everything worked out where I could run my chains underneath the sawmill, so I didn't have to move it.

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I did have to put some logs under the chains and cables, so they wouldn't dig into the ground. I don't know what the total weight of this log was, but my come-along is rated for 5000 lbs., and it pulled the log out easily.

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The cheap locking clip in the picture below won't hold enough weight to be good for much, but it is handy for making little loops like this in the chain. I pull the log as far as can, then run the cable for the come-along back out, and make a new loop in the chain wherever the cable hook ends up.

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After resetting the come-along 3 times, I finally have the log out to where I want it... in this direction. That's far enough that I can cut it to length for the sawmill, which will drop a couple hundred pounds off the total weight before I have to set up another anchor chain...

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...and drag it another 10', this time directly up the hill. I used some smaller logs as rollers for this part of the adventure. Once the front of the log was up where it needed to be, I was able to swing the back around by hand.

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The picture below shows the view from just above my second anchor stump, which is the tall stump in the foreground with all the slender new branches growing out of it. Just to the left of the sawmill head, you can see the log I've been pulling into position. To the right of the sawmill is the remains of my first pile of logs, which is now just scrap, sawdust, and lumber.

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Once I get the log pulled into position, the battle is still only half over. This monster is WAY too heavy for me to just pick it up and throw it on the sawmill frame. Using some slab cuts for ramps, and my handy log jack, I was able to roll the log up onto the frame.

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Below is a picture of the reason we have so many dead ash trees around here... the emerald ash borer. These nasty looking larvae eat tunnels underneath the bark, effectively de-barking the whole tree, and usually killing it within 3 years. Ash trees grow back pretty fast, and the invasive beetles don't seem to bother the saplings, so I don't think we'll completely lose our ash trees, but it will be a long time before we have full forests of mature ones again.

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Once my log is on the sawmill frame, it takes me less time to cut the whole log than it took to move it here, which was about 2 hours. This definitely slows my board-making pace down quite a bit, and I may end up building a frame over the sawmill that allows me to drag logs over quickly with the chain hoist.

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We'll see if time allows for that project, or if perhaps I just try moving the sawmill to a location where I could load this second log pile more easily, which was my original plan. I'm sure that I don't want to drag all dozen of these logs over this way, so this is a problem I'll tackle before I cut too many more boards. Whatever happens, I'll be sure to share it with all of you!

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Having done way too much pulling of logs with a come-a-long I gotta say its brutally slow but gets the job done. I was gonna mention snatch-blocks also but I see both you and @johndoer123 already beat me to it!

My personal tricks involve a small device I came up with that has two wheels on it that I fasten with timberloks (landscape screws) to the log at the rear so it can move easier. It is terrain dependent but works well when applicable.

The other trick is using a zip-line with a pulley on it to hang the front of the log on so it does not drag on the ground when being pulled by the come-a-long.

Both approaches require a little extra work but whoa when the conditions are right for it they make a world of difference on the load and dramatically decreases the energy (calories) it takes to move it.

I'm loving these sawmill posts. Bummer about the ash borer...

Looks like you could benefit from a tractor of some kind to help move these logs around. Seeing as you live on a hillside, I highly recommend that if you do get a tractor, ponying up the extra cash to get something that's 4x4. Also, the higher horse compact tractors won't typically do more work than the sub-30hp tractors of the same size, they're just a bit faster, so they're not usually worth the extra money depending on what you're doing with them. I'm sure you're budget limited but something to think about.

I've thought about it quite a bit, my main problem right now is that I don't have access to get a tractor to the places I would need it. My efforts to build usable roads on the property will be shown in a future 'Gardening on a slope...' post.

The paths I have right now are just big enough for my 3 wheeler, but my 3 wheeler isn't nearly big enough to pull any of these logs.

That's exactly the catalyst that prompted me to get a tractor. Couldn't move some medium sized logs I had on the property with my zero turn mower. I had other reasons to want one but that was the last straw for me. Love my little Kioti now that it's running. Thing punches way above its weight.

Snatchblocks dear freind. If you can keep them near 30 degrees to the load, you can cut the pull weight needed in half...for every block you add!
I used my suzuki300 2x4 four wheeler to move a lot of my logs. I moved logs that weighed 1000 pounds or so with it. Two snatchblocks alone make a 1000 pound log pull into a 250 pound pull. Add a third and all your pulling is around 125. They are amazing peices of old technology. I wish you the best.
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*Some of the logs moved(all pulled up a steep hill). They are oak posts, all 156 inches long and from 14-20 thick...and all heavy as heck.😂😂

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*The four wheeler that pulled them.(being used as a concrete mix station in this picture 😁) i apparently dont have any pictures of actually pulling the logs though.😞😁

I've been wanting to acquire some snatch blocks and good cable for a long time. They will be first on my shopping list, once my Tractor Supply Co. credit is paid back down a bit.

Using the come along to pull logs....man have I done a lot of that.😁😁 Its slow work, but sometimes there's just not really any other choice.y cousin has a saw mill like yours that afteri finish up the dam,i eill be retrieving from him and rebuilding. This post gets me excited about it,but i have to limit myself to one major project at atime....or i get everything into a state of massive disorganization.😁😁
A log lift frame to compliment the mill would be pretty amazing especially for your back. Have a wonderful day!🤗

Awesome stuff man, that looks like a heck of a project to do! Glad that you’re able to use ingenuity and some gumption to get those things moved to where you need it! Would love to see some of the slices you cut off that thing.

Those damn borer bugs!

Looking at that wood pile and where it was at, I’d be more worried about mass amounts of ticks lol

Oh I'm coming to this post a little late! I loved reading it though. And I have to eead your other posts on setting up the sawmill and all that

We just got ours and I'm excited to get started with it.

2 hours to move a log!!! Yeah that's what I've been wondering about... we have a tractor with which we can pull trees close to the mill, but than I have to build ramps too... Following you for sure now! And I'm in NY too bh the way.

If you can get them close to the mill quickly, they usually load onto the mill pretty fast. My problem is that my terrain is too steep to be able to use a tractor to drag the logs with. I'm hoping to pick up an electric winch soon that will significantly decrease my time for moving these logs.

You may also want to check out @thebigsweed, another sawyer in NY with some very informative posts.

Yes, I was thinking of a winch too, as I have some downed ash at the bottom and the sides of a valley I don't have tractor access to. Brought it up to a rigger friend of mine and we just couldn't figure out if it would be strong enough because we don't know the approximate weight of an ash tree!!! But I want to try with a massive one for sure.

Thanks for the suggestion on another New Yorker sawyer!

Just realized I'm already following @thebigsweed