Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cutting Logs on the Portable Band Saw Mill

I went to Monroe today to saw an 8' Elm log and an 8' White Oak log into boards on the band saw. Albert bought a used Wood-Mizer portable band saw mill many years ago. Occasionally, I've had the opportunity to mill my own logs. It's quite remarkable to turn a log into boards.

I cut the Elm first and all went well until I tried to lower stops. I couldn't remember which control moved them and opted for the "Toe board" control. This was not correct as the toe board control moved the "toe board" up which moved the log up and pinched the blade. I tried to move the toe-board down, but moving the control lever down only moved the front toe-board up. This was worse. Luckily, I had stopped the blade and there was enough give that it was not snapping. While I was trying to find a way to lower the toe boards, Steve stopped by and I explained the problem. He showed me where there was a toe-board release valve the removed the pressure from the toe-boards and they lowered, FINALLY. Then, we wedged the partially cut top board from the rest of the log and moved the saw blade back out of the log. It took some trial and error with the controls to find the one that did lower the stops. Steve finally got it with the turning control. Once the turning arm is all the way lowered the control moves the stops down also. Finally, I could move the stops and the clamp out of the way of the blade and I had not ruined the blade.

I finished the Elm and started on the White Oak. Steve asked if I wanted to cut some Basswood too while I was there. I said no, but later changed my mind and cut a Basswood log, too. The White Oak log went well, but White Oak is noticeably harder wood based on how slowly I needed to move the saw while cutting these boards.

Just as I was getting good, the saw stopped. I was out of gas! Jason had said there should be enough gas to finish. But, he hadn't accounted for how much time the saw was running while I was considering my options and turning the log to a new side and playing with the controls, etc. Anyway, I went to lunch while I waited for Jason to return to confirm which gas I should use to refill the tank.

After lunch, Jason returned and we filled the gas tank. I told him I might get to cutting the Basswood log. So, he and his kids got the tractor and brought the log over. I continued to cut the White Oak and all went well until I forgot to put the clamp down. I ran the blade (luckily not a sharp blade by this point) into the metal of the clamp and saw sparks fly. I stopped immediately, but it was too late the blade would not cut wood any longer. At least Jason had walked me through changing the blade before he left and I was able to do this without too much hassle. Getting the huge blade into three small loops was the hardest part.

After the blade change, I finished cutting the White Oak log and then moved the Basswood log on to the loader legs. Lifted it on to the cutting deck and after a simple turn, I set the clamp and was ready to cut. Cutting the Basswood boards was a breeze as compared to the White Oak boards. They cut like "butter". Once again, the difference between hard wood and soft wood is obvious. I cut the basswood into very small boards as I intend to give it to kids to build with and they like the smaller easy to handle pieces.

After a little air drying, I'll pick up the Basswood boards. As for the White Oak and Elm, I'll let them dry a little longer. Maybe, get the Elm milled into tongue and groove paneling. Or, make some shelves, or other.