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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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+.