Field Expedient Bandsaw Mill Deals With Leftover Logs

When a questionable tree threatened his house, [John Heisz] did the sensible thing and called in a professional to bring it down. But with a flair for homebrew tools, [John] followed up with a seemingly non-sensible act and built a quick and dirty DIY bandsaw mill to turn the resulting pile of maple logs into usable lumber.

A proper bandsaw mill is an expensive tool. Prices start in the mid-four figures for a stripped down version and can easily head into the multiple tens of thousands for the serious mills. [John] makes it clear that his mill is purpose-built to deal with his leftover logs, and so he made no attempt at essentials like a way to index the blade vertically. His intention was to shim the logs up an inch after each cut, or trim the legs to move the blade down. He also acknowledges that the 2-HP electric motor is too anemic for the hard maple logs – you can clearly see the blade bogging down in the video below. But the important point here is that [John] was able to hack a quick tool together to deal with an issue, and in the process he learned a lot about the limitations of his design and his choice of materials. That’s not to say that wood is never the right choice for tooling – get a load of all the shop-built tools and jigs in his build videos. A wooden vise? We’d like to see the build log on that.

We’ve featured a surprising number of wooden bandsaws before, from benchtop to full size. We’re pretty sure this is the first one purpose built to mill logs that we’ve featured, although there is this chainsaw mill that looks pretty handy too.

22 thoughts on “Field Expedient Bandsaw Mill Deals With Leftover Logs

  1. Not to take anything away from this build, but there are jigs for cutting planks from logs using a chainsaw that are far less costly than ‘mid four figures’ and any rate can be rented from some tool outlets in rural areas as needed.

        1. The cheapest bandsaw mill I’ve seen is $2200, still substantially more than a chainsaw with a milling attachment.
          The chainsaw will chew up a quarter inch more wood per pass, yielding fewer boards and more sawdust.

    1. John did mention in the video that he doesn’t own a chainsaw. Speaking from experience, not just any chainsaw will do for ripping planks. You need a pretty beefy saw like a Stihl MS461 or bigger, which will run close to a grand new.

    1. Looks like for rigidity of the setup. If you’ve had a chance to watch Mathias Wandel’s build (youtube), you’ll notice that he did exactly what you suggest, and had difficulties with the saw rig shifting during cutting.

      In this setup, it looks like he’s got the tram for the log set up so it rides rails connected to the frame of the saw. I’d be willing to bet that the weight is helping him out in terms of stability..

      1. I think t-bone was wondering why place the mill so far from the log pile instead of right next to it. :)

        I’m guessing he wanted to get it in the backyard away from nosy neighbors.

  2. He really needs to add guards around the blade, if they snap on high speed saws like this they can go anywhere. It wouldn’t take long to do it. And with that narrow of a blade and almost no support across the throat they are not going to last long. Look at most resaw blades, for a throat that large you are looking at a 2″ wide blade.

  3. Why not do the following to improve the design:

    1) Put the mill on wheels (hell have two wheels in he back, and put a trailer tongue on the front, then pull it with a car or lawn-mower)
    2) Use a hand cranked ratcheting crane to pick up the logs for placement on the platform
    3) Build a square super structure and suspend the band saw mill from high-strength steel cable and pulleys
    with a hand crank to raise and lower the height of the mill

    — this is how my dad’s band saw mill is setup

    1. Haha. Wouldn’t take much work to do that!
      Then again, this is how most ‘homemade contraption’ videos go. Few wear any safety gear at all and like to show off how much they can lift with one hand.
      I guess they like to visit the doctors.

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