I've had it in my shop for a few months now, and the Hud-Son HFE 21 bandsaw mill is a real performer, but I wanted to report on my initial experiences receiving and setting up the saw. When the tractor-trailer driver called to let me know that my Hud-Son HFE 21 was minutes away, I jumped in my pickup to meet it at our off site storage facility, which comes equipped with a forklift and a certified operator. Within minutes we had the 500 pound pallet transferred to the back of my truck and I was headed south to the farm. Unloading the pallet from my pickup was as easy as attaching forks to our tractor-mounted loader and conveying it to the shop. If you don't have the means to lift a 500 pound pallet, no problem because the individual pieces to the Homesteader saw are not so unwieldy that you and a buddy or two can't get them from the bed of the truck to the ground safely.
Once I had the pallet in the shop, I went about putting the Hud-Son HFE 21 saw together. The first step was to grab the manual from its conveniently located storage tube and then I proceeded to identify all the parts and unpack them from the pallet. The next step was to locate a nice level spot in my shop where I could set up the sawmill's track. My Hud-Son came with a bolt together track system -- it took me about an hour to get it all together the right way with the rails parallel, but I am pretty meticulous when it comes to squaring things up or getting them plumb.
The next step was to mount the saw and carriage to the track. I managed to do this alone, but it would have been a little easier with a partner. When rolling the saw back and forth on the track, I noticed that a couple of joints between rails were a little wider than they should be. So I loosened a few bolts and tapped things closer with a hammer. Getting it all square again was a breeze with the saw already on the track and within no time I was ready to install the blade. After removing a couple of guards and releasing tension from the drive wheel, I was able to slip the blade into place and position the blade guides as outlined in the manual. I torqued the tension nut to the specified amount, reattached the guards and went to work on the engine. My saw is equipped with the 6.5 horsepower gasoline engine. I checked the crankcase oil and to my delight found that it was clean and full. Next I filled the tank with unleaded regular and fired it up. Modern small engines are so easy to start.
Next I added a very dilute soap solution to the blade cooling tank and operated the valve to be sure I understood how it worked. I just happened to have a nice American Black Walnut log in the shop -- it was 20-inches in diameter at its butt end. The HFE 21 is equipped to saw logs up to 21-inches in diameter. I rolled the log onto the track and pinned it in place with the log dogs that were included as part of the kit. I checked and rechecked and then just went for it. I adjusted the depth of my first cut, fired up the engine, turned on the cooling water and adjusted the throttle to full-speed, which engaged the centrifugal clutch. Wow, I was sawing.
The first couple of passes, I just cut flitches off the log but then rotated it so that I'd have at least one fairly straight edge to plane true before ripping the planks into dimensioned boards. I was astonished at how easy it was to create stock anywhere from 1/2 inch thick to several inches thick with the Hud-Son Homesteader. I was also astonished that I was so easily able to convert several pine and walnut logs into usable lumber that very first day, especially considering that I have never milled wood with a bandsaw mill before. And when I was finished for the weekend, I was able to move the entire setup to the side so I could park the tractor indoors. For those of you wondering why I didn't asphyxiate, my shop building is voluminous with full-height doors on two sides that make it quite airy inside.
I've used some of the lumber created with the Hud-Son mill to finish some furniture projects and will stockpile more from the standing dead pine trees to frame and side the new pig shed we plan to build this spring. Stay tuned.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.