In the days of lumber price instability and even shortages, many find themselves asking “How can I mill my own lumber?” This is a very good question and it can make a lot of sense. It not only makes sense for some but it’s also very doable.
While those that wish to produce lumber in bulk would benefit from a portable sawmill, it’s also very doable on a smaller scale using an Alaskan chainsaw mill. Even with a portable sawmill, some trees are too large to mill down an a chainsaw mill is the perfect too for the job.
In this post we will show you how to take a log and easily turn it into dimensional lumber.
Tools You Will Need
First thing’s first… the tools you will need. Aside from the chainsaw mill these can all be purchased online, at your local hardware supply store or maybe you already have them in your toolshed.
- Alaskan chainsaw mill
- A powerful chainsaw (STIHL MS660 a great option)
- Refillable chalk line reel
- Circular saw
- Table saw
- Plunge router
- Draw shave
- Tape measure
- Ear protection
- Safety glasses
Step 1: Mill slabs out of the tree to your desired thickness using an Alaskan chainsaw mill.
The first step to making lumber is to mill slabs out of the tree. As you are milling your own lumber you get to decide which thickness you want. Some choose to go with a genuine 2″ but others prefer the standard lumber size of 1.5″ thickness.
If you choose to try to make your own chainsaw mill then you will likely have inconsistencies in your thickness but any professional chainsaw mill should be pretty precise.
Step 2: Use a chalk line and circular saw to cut one edge of your slab.
The first thing to do is make a straight cut on each board so that you can easily run the other side through a table saw. Unfortunately, to get the first straight edge you have to cut by hand.
This is extremely simple to do with a chalk line. You want to place the ends of your chalk line so that you can maximize the lumber. If you are okay with a little wane then you can push the boundaries of your slab size, but that depends what you will be using the lumber for.
Be sure to have plenty of chalk on hand for refills, and you should be good to go for numerous boards!
Once you have your chalk line snapped, simply make a straight cut with a circular saw.
TIP: Be sure to inspect both sides of the board and make the chalk line on the side of the board with the least amount of available lumber (further from the center of the tree, or the widest part of the tree). Make the cut as close as possible to the bark. Keep in mind that bark can be taken off with a draw knife post-cut. This does result in a bit of wane in the board, but that is okay depending on what you are using it for. Make your own judgement call.
Step 3: Run the board through a table saw to make the second cut.
Before running the board through the table saw, use a measuring tape to determine what the maximum amount of board width is that you can get out of the slab. Take bark and wane into consideration.
Once you determine the maximum board width, set the table saw width appropriately and run your board through.
Depending on your project such as decking, you may even be okay with varying lumber widths. After all, YOU are now the boss and get to make the calls! This may not be a look preferred by all but it’s an option to further maximize the material available to you.
If you need to mill to a specific width, then still do some basic math to see how you can maximize each slab.
TIP: A benefit to milling your own lumber is that you get to decide what to do with the scraps. Just because they’re scraps doesn’t mean they can’t be utilized down the road!
Step 4: De-bark the lumber.
If you chose to be liberal with your cuts, be sure to de-bark the board using a draw knife or even a handsaw. A draw knife will get the job done much more smoothly but if you only have a handsaw then make do what you have.
Step 5: Use a router on the sharp edges.
At this point, your lumber will have very sharp edges which is okay for some uses, but not ideal for all. For things such as decking, sharp edges can be a tripping hazard and it’s best to take the edge off.
A plunge router and 1/8″ router bit works great for this. If you want an edge that’s even more rounded then you can size up to a 1/4″ bit, but it’s not necessary.
Wrapping it Up
Turning slabs into lumber is extremely straightforward and is a very satisfying activity. While cutting down trees and getting them into a position to mill can be time-consuming, milling lumber goes quite quickly. It’s very satisfying to watch your pile of slabs grow.
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