Learning to use my new sawmill

in Homesteading5 months ago

It's another frosty morning here on the homestead, so rather than going outside to hammer on frozen logs, I thought I would spend some time to post an update about the (very popular) new sawmill.


After finishing my madman's assembly, I discovered that everything on the saw assembly had already been perfectly adjusted, so it was time to get cutting! I did some test runs to get a feel for the equipment, which I talked about in previous posts. With those out of the way, I finally loaded on the first of about 2 dozen logs that have been waiting for years for this moment.

Everything is going wonderfully, like a hot knife through butter, and then I hear it... a distinct metal-on-metal screech. I feel the resistance in the cut, but it's too late now, the damage is done, and I'm only about 14" from the end of the cut. I have to just press on and then survey the catastrophe.


Not one, but TWO, right next to each other. This pile is supposed to be clear of nails... all of these logs are from over 12' above the ground, a height that most people won't bother climbing just to hammer a couple nails. Apparently, I should have raised my limit to 15'.


I don't want to have to cut through them more than once, so I grab my very professional nail removal tools and dig them out. Because the wood is spalted, and we've had so many freeze-thaw cycles recently, they come out pretty easily. Now, I have to check 12' of bandsaw blade...


I definitely lost the tips of a few teeth, but only about 15 or so seem to have taken any damage at all. That's less than 7% of the teeth, so I figure I'm good to keep cutting for a while.


Some of the logs have very uneven surfaces, but the cut scale on the saw makes it very easy find how deep I should do an edge cut without doing any measuring. I just eyeball the height at the end of the cut, shown in the picture above...


...and set the scale to 0 (or whatever number I want, as long as I remember it).


I have to raise the blade up quite a bit to get over the big knot on this log, but then I just lower it back to 0 at the other end. This one lines up nicely, so I'm all set to throttle up and cut. If the cut had been too high on this end, I would have lowered the blade a bit. If it had seemed too low, that's just where I would have cut it.


This log is perfectly spalted, and I should get quite a few good boards out of it. The cuts are a bit slower with the broken teeth, and you can see that they're leaving very distinct lines on the surface. I don't mind the lines... I'll keep this blade just for making boards that have a more 'rough cut' look. Before I broke the teeth, the cuts were so smooth that some people wouldn't have accepted it, if they were looking for rough cut boards.


Although it's slower going after cutting up some nails, it's still about 5X faster than cutting with the chainsaw mill. There's also a LOT less waste, which is why I've been waiting to cut these logs. I'm more aware to the danger of nails now, but apparently not as aware as I should be. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see where I stopped my cut because I heard another contact with metal. You can see that where I stopped the cut, there is what looks like a small knot above it. This is sign that there is probably a nail underneath, and I should have dug into it before starting my next cut.


This nail was much smaller, and also came out quite easily. That was the last one I found for the day, but I still think it's a good time for me to build a metal detector. It's an electronics project I've wanted to do for decades, but never got around to. Now, with a hillside full of questionable trees and sawmill blades costing $20 and up, I think I have the motivation to get around to it.


The nails may be detrimental to the blades, but they leave behind some wonderful patterns in the wood. Someday, years from now, I'll be sawing up the maple trees that I've been tapping over the years, and I have high hopes for the patterns that have been cause by all those holes being drilled and refilled over the years!

I've never really done a gallery post before, but, I mean, just look at this stuff!




I ended up with a dozen decent looking boards from that one smallish log. This should be enough to use some as test siding on my new chicken coop, which I'm hoping to do more work on today. We're moving the chickens much closer to the house, where it will be easier to keep them safe from predators, and much easier to take care of them in the winter, when the hillside is frozen.


I have ordered some new saw blades to try out. There are a lot of varieties out there, including some wood/metal cutting blades that I may try in the future. For now, I'm testing out a couple standard blades from Wood Mizer that people speak highly of. I'm trying different ones mostly just to expand my knowledge... I want to see and feel how different tooth angles, etc. affect the cutting. I think I just received my shipping confirmation while working on this post, so hopefully I will be able to let you know how those trials go soon!

In the meantime, I have some posts about potting up seedlings, repairing snowblowers, and more about working this hillside that I'm trying to finish, in between standard chores. I hope everyone enjoyed this, and I hope to see you all back for more!


I was going to say 'you need a metal detector' but then I got to the part where you said you were going to build one!

The wand style ones seem to be pretty popular for finding nails and old fencing but it seems like any kind of metal detector would work.

I think that pretty much any metal detector will indeed work. I've used the 'beachcomber' style ones to find nails in logs before, but they're a little awkward. Wand style is what I would like to build, and I'm pretty sure I have all the stuff I need. All my electronics skills are a bit rusty, though, so I'm going to have to do some research first. Hopefully, I won't find any more nails and I can worry about it more next winter!

Yeah I have not looked at building one for a long time. They seemed pretty straightforward though. Alternatively looking at buying some damaged ones and then effecting repairs is a good option.

It would be pretty cool if a metal detector was mounted on the mill or the power-head in front of the blade.

I guess a workaround for now is maybe to make the edge cuts with the damaged blade and then swap for a better one afterwards.

I feel pretty confident going forward without checking them too thoroughly. I saved these logs for the bandsaw mill because they are thinner, and the reason they are thinner is that most of them are from the upper upper parts of the trees... over 30' above ground. The only metal I'm likely to encounter that high up in the tree is lead :D

Good point, I'll need one too.

This is badass dude! Love the look of it, I'm sure it works like a dream.

It's funny, I didn't think about nails in the tree until you hit one. I first thought it was a bullet but I know people do all kinds of stuff to trees so a nail isn't surprising.

A metal detector sounds like a fun build, I wonder how you'd get that accomplished. I don't know enough about electronics to think of how to do it but would be cool to learn!

 5 months ago (edited) 

A lot of kids have lived at this property over the decades, and built a LOT of tree forts in the trees.

The metal detector is a pretty easy build, if I remember right... one of those things that electronics magazines used to have as a 'starter project'. Basically, a few loops of wire, an oscillator, and an amplifier. I was thinking that it could probably wait until next winter, but all the talk about it now has me kind of excited to get it built!

Yeah true, we built our own fair share of tree forts back in the day! Was a lot of fun lol and we built them pretty high. Our best one was in a crab apple tree, had 2 floors and a lookout post. We threw crab apples on unsuspecting passers by lol

One of my first was in a crab apple tree. I actually have a crab apple on the property that I should have cut down by now, but I keep trying to nurse it back to life because it reminds me of that tree. My best one was in a spruce, and it made my momma cry just to look at it. I couldn't tell you how much stuff my brothers and I hauled up that tree... I know at the end it looked more like an Ewok village than a tree house!

Bummer about the nails. At least the damage wasn't too bad. The patterns are so cool!

Thanks! The nails are unfortunately just part of cutting up trees around here. I've gotten dozens of them with the chainsaws over the years!

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A metal detector would be a good investment I reckon.

Oh so cool! Bummer about the nails and busting up a few teeth here and there, but yes it makes some pretty patterns in the wood for sure.