Home Lumber Mill: Crafting Dimensional Sawed Timbers

Incorporate your own home lumber mill with a portable sawmill — Hank Will shares the joy of using lumber from your land.

| November/December 2012

DIY Kitchen Island

This beautiful kitchen island was built with lumber from Hank's land.

Photo By Karen Keb

Many folks rely on their woodlots for a ready supply of firewood or a combination of firewood and fence posts. Others might even add rustic building materials to that list. But if you make frequent trips to the lumberyard in support of all those workshop projects, you might consider adding another perspective to your view of those lovely wooded acres. Wherever trees grow, you can harvest them and use them directly as building timbers for small structures, or you can saw them into timbers and lumber in support of all kinds of construction projects. And you don’t need to be a fine carpenter to make it all happen.

Tale of two lumber mills

While pondering a kitchen island project one day, an urgent need for material led us to investigate small portable sawmills instead of the lumber prices at the local home improvement store. In fairly short order, we had a small Granberg Alaskan chainsaw mill in hand — the entire package cost less than $200 in 2010 — and within about an hour’s worth of cutting, we had a large accumulation of hard pine timbers and boards — enough to build the carcass, doors, drawers and legs of a kitchen island.

In the meantime, Hud-Son sent us a Homestead model bandsaw mill to demo. This machine is lightweight, easy to set up, easy to use, and capable of handling 21-inch-diameter logs — including the American black walnut we intended for the kitchen island’s top (See “Hud-Son’s HFE 21 Homesteader Bandsaw Mill” further along in this article). The bandsaw mill is a little faster and wastes less wood in the form of sawdust, but it costs about 10 times the price of the Alaskan mill.

Woodlot to lumber mill to DIY kitchen island

Access to sawmills makes it possible to create dimensioned lumber for all kinds of projects, including basic cabinetmaking. In our case, we also had a garage-sale thickness planer to do some initial sizing and smoothing of the boards as needed. Building with homemade lumber takes a little more time, but the payoff is huge in satisfaction, price, and the fact that you precisely control the dimensions of the boards.

The first step in the process was to generate a rough design. We decided on a 34-inch-wide by 42-inch-long base footprint that would be 2 1/2 inches short of the other countertops in the kitchen. The top would be 2 1/2-inch-thick solid walnut, 46 inches wide and 44 inches long. The extra width allowed for an overhang. The base and top put together would match the height of the other countertops in the kitchen.

The project began with sawing heavy 3 1/4-inch-square leg material and 1 3/4-inch-thick rail material using the table saw. I next ran the pieces through the thickness planer to bring the dimensions down to 3 inches square for the legs and 1 1/2 inches thick for the rails.

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