2012 Portable Sawmill Roundup

Mills that make the cut
By Curt Harler

Nothing gives quite the sense of pride, accomplishment and economic benefit of cutting homegrown logs into lumber. For most farmers, a portable sawmill is just the thing. There is no big, behemoth piece of equipment sitting around. They do the job most people want. They allow great off-season projects.

Start shopping for a sawmill by knowing what size logs, both diameter and length, you will be cutting. Portability is key. Know whether the mill will go to the logs or the logs will come to the mill.

If you will be cutting softwoods, use a more aggressive blade with a .75-inch tooth set. Hardwoods require a .5-inch set. Keep saw blades sharp.

Whatever model you choose from among those below, remember that safety equipment is essential: boots, chaps, eye and ear protection.

Cook's Saw Mfg., 800-473-4804

The AC-36 portable sawmill is a high-production bandsaw mill from Cook's Saw Mfg. in Newton, Ala. It has a two-speed up/down switch on the hand control box that allows the operator to raise or lower the head quickly. The saw has 26-inch all-metal band wheels. Its roller guide system rolls with the blade, reducing friction. Guides are depth-hardened and ground for long life and smooth running. The log clamps, or dogs, use a combination of 2-by-.25-inch thick wall tubing for the body and .5-inch thick plate head for solid clamping. The BC jaw acts as a safety net with blades that want to dive. The optional computerized setworks system allows the operator the ease of cutting consistent wood. With nine presets and an infinite amount of adjustment, the cut drops down, automatically, the same distance every time. The company has built its line of hydraulic portable sawmills and stationary sawmills since 1994.

Granberg International, 800-233-6499

Standard Alaskan mills from Granberg International of Vallejo, Calif., come in 24, 30, 36, 48 and 56-inch sizes. In the G776 series, like the G776-24, the final two numbers represent the length of the rail and handle set. With a large enough saw bar, the width of cut will be two inches less than the 24. For much bigger jobs, the company also has a special order G776-72 and can go larger. The Mini Mill is a good companion to the Alaskan, allowing one to make a first cut with the Alaskan and then edge the log, getting rid of the bark and sapwood and sizing it to fit the Alaskan's width of cut.

Hud-Son Forest Equipment, 800-765-7297

The Homesteader sawmill from Hud-Son Forest Equipment of Barneveld, N.Y., is a great combination of functionality and affordability. Whether your land offers large or small-diameter logs, hard or soft woods, the Homesteader mill will turn them into beautiful boards. The mill is available in two models: the HFE-21 (21-inch diameter) or the HFE-36 (36-inch diameter). The company's guide system will keep your cuts true and efficient. while the easy-to-use cam-style log dogs hold your log or cant in place. The saw's dual measuring system allows the operator to measure boards using a quarter scale or inches. The HFE is built with 1.5-inch pillow block bearings and sturdy design. These sawmills come with a double hard blade that handles both hard and soft woods well.

Lumber Smith, 804-577-8613

Saw logs up to 24 inches in diameter and unlimited length with the Lumber Smith portable mill. At just 105 pounds, this mill is truly portable. It produces lumber in thicknesses from .25 to 8-inch slabs. The mill's cast aluminum case and stainless steel components mean no rust and low maintenance requirements. The mill uses the Briggs 6.5 hp engine, a commercial grade engine with a 6:1 gear reduction ratio. Manufacturer recommends either a bimetal or carbon steel blade. All saws are shipped with a .75-inch utility blade. Also available is a .5-inch blade that leaves a cleaner surface on the material but cuts about 10 to 20 percent slower than the .75-inch. The Lumber Smith Sawmill can use blades from 1.125 to 1.25 inches deep. Blade length must be 92.75 to 94.5 inches. The tooth set, space from the tooth point to the next tooth point, can be anywhere from .375 to .875 inch.

Norwood Mills, 800-567-0404

The Norwood LumberMate Pro MX34 from Norwood Mills of Buffalo, N.Y., is a high-capacity portable sawmill. Among the features are its auto-locking saw head, auto-on/off blade lube, quick-set log rests, auto-clutch/blade-brake and auto-locking adjustable guide. It provides sawyers large-dimension log capacity and can cut hardwood and softwood logs up to 34 inches in diameter and 13 feet long. A selection of optional attachments is available. The large-capacity, manual MX34 mill expands to a fully hydraulic, fully powered machine with hydraulic or manual log loaders, log turner, toe boards, power feed/power setworks, etc. at any time. The saw is built in the U.S.A. and Canada and designed to accurately cut hundreds of thousands of board-feet of valuable lumber day in and day out.

<h3>Wood-Mizer Products, Inc.</h3> - <a target="_blank" href=""></a>

Wood-Mizer Products, Inc., 800-553-0182

Wood-Mizer's entry-level mills without hydraulics or a trailer package (LT10 to LT15GO) are economical and saw as well as larger mills. Woodworkers, furniture makers and farmers may find these mills a perfect fit. They can tackle larger logs than one person can move alone. The LT28 to LT40 hydraulic mills still offer good portability and hydraulics. They allow milling lumber wherever the logs are. Having hydraulic log loading, log turning, log taper leveling and log clamping capabilities makes it easier on the operator. The company also offers high-production portable mills (LT40 Super to LT70) targeted to those who produce and sell lumber full time. Wood-Mizer makes its own blades and has several ReSharp locations throughout the country so that users can get their blades sharpened without having to own their own sharpening equipment.