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Milling Your Own Lumber: Granberg's Alaskan Mill Makes It Easy

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: lumber, chainsaws, tools,

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.Ever since my boat building days I've wanted to mill my own lumber from trees on hand but I could never quite justify the expense, until recently that is. A couple of weeks ago I purchased a Granberg Small Alaskan Chainsaw Mill with slabbing bars, a new 20-inch bar and ripping chains from Bailey's Outdoor Power Equipment  (for my trusty Husqvarna 357XP saw). I finally got to put the tool to use last Sunday after felling a 20-inch-diameter pine that died two summers ago. Since I promised to build my Partner In Culinary Crime a new kitchen island as part of our kitchen makeover, I wanted to make it special by using as many of the natural resources this farm has to offer as possible. So the island's framing and panels will utilize the pine and the top will give me a reason to mill some lovely American Black Walnut logs that I scavenged from trees we dozed off the pond dams.

 Granbergs Alaskan Chainsaw mill with slabbing brackets 

Once everything was assembled, the first part of my chainsaw milling adventure involved felling the big old pine tree. Luckily it was growing on the edge of the pine grove so I set it down in the open and avoided damaging an adjacent oak tree -- a wedge, driven into the back cut helped put the tree right where it needed to go. There were so many branches on the tree that the trunk was held off the ground. Since I needed material that was 6 feet long or shorter, I cut a 7-foot log off the butt end and rolled it into the open.

Granbergs Alaskan Chainsaw mill: leveling the slabbing bars 

Making the first cut with the Alaskan chainsaw mill is pretty straightforward once, you place and level the slabbing bars. This handy device makes it easy to get a nice flat and true first cut and makes it easy to cut down a log that's a bit wider than the chainsaw's bar.

Granbergs Alaskan Chainsaw mill: making the first cut 

Making the first cut was a breeze with the slabbing bars installed. I cut this slab thicker than normal because I want to use it to make a shaving horse. Note that after sawing a couple of feet, I installed a wedge into the end of the cut to keep the slab's weight from pinching the saw and causing it to bind.

Granbergs Alaskan chainsaw mill: removing the first slab.  

The saw's blade was just a tad short on the butt end of the log, so I removed that first slab hinge-like and trimmed down the slight ridge left on the cut surface's edge. The next step was to roll and brace the log 90 degrees to prepare for removing the second slab and in the process, I also managed to strip most of the bark.

Granbergs Alaskan Sawmill: making the money cuts. 

After repositioning the slabbing bars 90 degrees to the first cut, I cut a much thinner slab and proceeded to slice the log into several 4-inch-thick and 2-inch-thick pieces that I will resaw and plane into 3.75-inch square cross section legs and 1.75-inch thick framing boards. I will cut the paneling from another section of the pine tree.

Timbers sased with a Granberg Small Alaskan Chainsaw mill 

The money cuts created these timber-sized planks and many more thinner boards. the Alaskan mill worked flawlessly and the Husqvarna 357XP powerhead was able to drive the ripping chain no problem. It took about 4 - 6 minutes to make the widest cuts at 7-feet long. You certainly won't go into the lumber milling business with this setup, but you surely will be willing and able to saw logs that you wouldn't even think of dragging off to the mill. That and the fact that you can easily bring the Alaskan chainsaw mill to the logs instead of having to grub them out of the bush makes the tool indispensable for me. As the kitchen project progresses, I will have many more opportunities to put my latest purchase through its paces. Stay Tuned.

Photos courtesy Karen Keb.


12/24/2015 1:08:31 PM

Spell checkers are not your friend!

12/24/2015 1:04:38 PM

I have the exact same setup, saw and mill! I love it and have milled a lot of lumber with it till recently. I noticed that the distance from the guide to the dog end of the bar was 3/4" less than the other end. I got a regular Alaskan mill with the depth guides on both ends. I'm not sure how the variation happened, but I definitely want to fix it. One difference I do is that I'll make the first cut and then continue making slabs clear down. I take my extension ladder and sue as a guide for my circular saw to get the most out of each slab. Once I get a straight edge, the table saw does the rest. Happy stabbing!

hank will
11/8/2012 6:52:40 PM

I hope it worked out for you, Kevin.

hank will
11/8/2012 6:51:49 PM

Hey Karen -- Yes, absolutely. It would be easier for anyone if they already have some chainsaw experience, however. Thanks, Hank

karen bruno
11/8/2012 3:10:41 PM

Do you think a woman could do this?

bugy alcocer
4/19/2012 3:32:11 PM

i have sthil 076 chainsaw, can i use alaskan mill in my machine?.. please i nedd more informacion ( thanks.

kevin kennedy
1/17/2012 4:48:55 PM

Wow great article, you just answered all my questions. I own and have been considering buying a portable mill for some time now. More and more people are wanting to utilize the trees i cut down for them. I was a tad skeptical about how this type of mill would perform on the job. This is great, now i can offer another service for less than it costs to have someone haul a mill to the job. I make a little more money they save a little more money, its a win win. Thanks a bunch.

chiot's run
4/5/2011 9:18:05 AM

Just what I was looking for, I'll be looking into this for sure to make good use of the maple & oak trees that we'll be taking down soon.

hank will_2
3/23/2011 11:47:16 AM

Dave -- I can't explain how great it feels to have the trees from the farm contribute material to farmhouse projects. I have so many projects in my head that making the lumber is also useful to get me to pace myself. It helps with the budget alot too. :)

hank will_2
3/23/2011 11:44:58 AM

Hey TA -- I think that completely depends on the wood species and how wet you are at your location. I've seen lots of 3 year-old wood sawed into boards and even older stuff when it was stored under cover. I think you could just do some test sawing to see if the logs are badly rotten or not and then go from there.

3/23/2011 11:40:52 AM

I have a couple of trees that I downed a year ago... how long can they stay down before I need to worry about rot? Thanks

nebraska dave
3/21/2011 6:35:15 PM

Hank, Wow what an awesome tool to have around the farm. I think it would be quite inspiring to actually know the tree that the lumber came from that resides in your kitchen island. You always have the most interesting toys to play with. I certainly wish I lived a little closer to be able to watch the action. I have no need for such a tool but it sure would be cool to be able to try it out. I guess I'm just a typical guy in that anything with a motor on it fascinates me. Have a great lumber cutting day.