Chainsaw Mill Madness (Blog)
This was written in 2015 and I intended to post it, but time gets away. I’m posting this in memory of a fellow Lumberjock who’s avatar was “Dallas.” His work is still here although he passed away in late fall /early winter. He and I shared a crazy idea, but he made it work for him. Using a 50 cc Poulan ProChainsaw on a Panther Pro Alaskan chainsaw mill. This is my story of Murphy,Dallas, and ignorant me.
Hey lumberjock’s! Some of you may have noticed I have not posted anything in my blogs or projects for some time now. Why? You may or may not ask, LOL.
Against the advice of some well-known and well respected lumberjock’s, I proceeded to purchase a chainsaw. It was a Poulan Pro 2050 AV, 20 inch, which I purchased in November of 2013. Mind you, I was totally ignorant and thought I had a great idea. According to some reviews on Amazon I could run a longer chain and bar which supported my thinking. Where I live in St. James, Minnesota, there is a compost site for the community/County. I have found on my trips there, freshly cut logs and thought this “was a terrible waste of nature’s abundance.” “Maybe I could harvest some of these logs with a chainsaw mill?” I had been watching YouTube and technique did not seem beyond my reach having worked with power tools/and tools since I was eight years old.
At the time, I was also working full-time as a therapist/psychologist for the County Mental Health Center and I had a steady income. At that time I made a decision to buy the 50 cc Poulan Pro 5020 AV, which I purchased from Amazon for $189. The chainsaw was well rated, though identified as underpowered. It is intended as a homeowners saw for moderate use.
Around that time I also purchased a 24 inch chainsaw mill for about the same price off of eBay.
It is identified as a Panther Pro and I had to wait for it to be built and sent. This is not the case at present, and there are a number of sellers of chainsaw mills. In addition, I bought ripping chains as I had done some reading regarding what would be the best type of chain for slabbing logs.
The chainsaw had to wait until spring of this year before I was ready to do what I was told “can’t be done by me”, LOL. (Maybe I should’ve listened to them?)
This project was in the back of my mind for some time now as are many of my projects. I had discussions on Lumberjock’s regarding my endeavor. A fellow Lumberjock named “Dallas” had also gone in this direction. So he was supportive of my use of this underpowered saw as he had done so himself. (He’d been using chainsaws for years.) Over time, my yard has become a refuge for large branch cutoffs from my Maple and my Walnut tree. I also have collected the occasional stump that I was able to put on the back of my truck from the compost site. These were to be my practice pieces.
Clever boy that I am and a user of YouTube, I searched for information regarding applications of the chainsaw mill. I found one YouTube video particularly interesting, which was put out by the Woodworkers Guild of America. George was using a chainsaw mill that was on tracks. He also had harvested a number of logs and was showing how to move logs up a ramp by use of a timber Jack/Kant Hook.
He was able to move the logs on to his chainsaw mill, allowing him to work while standing versus many of the YouTube videos which show milling of logs on the ground. Harder the older we get!
Since this was a challenge for me, I decided to use my brain instead of my brawn. I designed and built a bench so that I could work with my chainsaw mill at waist high level. I have posted this as a project and a blog should any of my fellow Lumberjock’s be interested in building one as I have not seen one like it. Although it’s heavy-duty, it is built so that it can be disassembled and moved should I want to take it to the compost site.
This past June Dallas, my fellow Lumberjock, asked me if I was interested in his modified Poulan Pro 2050 AV and his modified 24 inch Panther Pro chainsaw mill. In addition, Dallas included A Pro Match 28 inch, Oregon bar and chain as well as a 20 inch Pro match, Oregon bar. Dallas ( who recently passed away) as you may know had a heart condition, which limited what he could do physically, and the money would go towards repairing is oxygen support machine. Although I spent more than $400 already, I agreed to purchase his equipment as it would go towards helping him and adding more tools which would probably better than mine to my chainsaw arsenal.
I had been watching Donnie Boy on YouTube and his turning up of Poulan Pro chainsaw’s to become more familiar with what I was preparing to do.
Well my Lumberjock buddies, this is where Murphy my hands on mentor returned and stayed from May to December. What I thought would be learning “how to use a chainsaw mill to slab logs,” turned out to be a course in chainsaw repair taught by Murphy and backfilled by Dallas through e-mail which for me, at times, was a very painful journey.
Although Dallas had checked the compression on the saw, which was hundred and 45 pounds he had not run the saw recently, and me being totally ignorant, began my trial and error learning as taught by Murphy and Dallas and my YouTube instructors such as Donnie boy.
The first thing I learned is I had the wrong idea about the chainsaw bar on the Poulan Pro 2050 AV. What was required was the Oregon Pro Match 20 inch bar, which is designed is a heavy-duty bar for logging purposes. This type of bar is designed to be used daily.
I had acquired an aluminum ladder when my neighbor moved away to live in apartment. It needed cleaning, cutting to size, and setting up to anchor on the logs to be milled. I cleaned up the ladder to my satisfaction and waxed that, so that the chainsaw mill would run smooth on top of the ladder. There was some difficulty setting it up due to the fact that the branches/logs from my Walnut tree were not straight, but varied at growth points. This made attaching the ladder to the log somewhat difficult. Especially since I had never done this before, but only observed YouTube videos of others doing it.
I went about setting up the chainsaw that I received from Dallas and found that it would not stay running. This required troubleshooting and problem solving. I had not worked with two-stroke engines before, but mostly on automobile engines and occasionally working on my lawnmower. As it turns out I was about to embark on learning how a chainsaw operates with its particular kind of carburetor as well as the lubrication system, which comes from adding oil to the gas in a particular ratio. In addition, lubricant is also required to oil the chain.
I used Husqvarna high-grade oil but it appears I mixed it a little too lean in the ratio. This is something I was totally ignorant about. I also did not have a good technique for running the saw on the mill. I did not know where to set the sawmill clamps on the bar. I also would end up locking up the clutch with the clutch brake and trying to run the saw. (This is where you Lumberjock’s who have been using a chainsaw for half your life can chuckle indulgently at the newbies ignorance.)
What I ended up doing is putting an extra heavy load on my 50 cc chainsaw because I also was ignorant of how much slack there should be in the chain.
Now, fellow Lumberjock’s yours truly has two chainsaws that are not functioning properly and using my anger management techniques to keep myself in check. What is interesting is I learned how to replace the two cycle chainsaw carburetor. As I had never done this before, it was, to say the least an uncomfortable learning experience, especially since it didn’t work when I was finished. I had bought an adjustment tool and watched how to adjust carburetors on YouTube, and thought I could do this. It must’ve been Murphy talking in my ear, because I never got it right. Dallas used to say I should give the tool to my wife and tell her “don’t let me have it!”
I found “Phil” a really great local certified chainsaw mechanic who took time while working on my saw and educated me, in spite of Murphy, on my chainsaw. I found out that there was not an airtight seal in the carburetor mount which caused an erratic gas feed. In addition, the gas lines were backwards. He modified and corrected my errors, and we get the chainsaw running, albeit not totally smooth.
Emboldened by a running chainsaw, I went back to attempt slabbing some of my Walnut logs. As it turns out the chainsaw would run okay in the vertical position but not in the horizontal position mounted in the chainsaw sawmill. This is where my anger management training (I teach and I am my best student, anger management) was definitely needed.
I was attempting to slab a walnut stump and I had been somewhat successful until the saw quit. I called Phil , my certified chainsaw mechanic and asked if I could bring saw back. Yep! And we proceeded again because I had attempted to adjust the running speed and idle and it really mucked it up.
As it turns out, on closer examination the mechanic determined that the feed line from the gas tank was the size used in smaller chainsaws. The second thing we determined was the clutch was totally screwed up, clanging as it operated. The third thing was an erratic RPM at the high-speed, which suggested the carburetor was not functioning correctly.
Okay! Now I have some goals and objectives on fixing my saw (that still works) as the compression is good. On my other chainsaw that I first purchased, I will have to rebuild the piston and cylinder. This would be prohibitive costwise for the mechanic to do it. Consequently, albeit difficult, it is up to me to do that.(Sigh)
All things went to neutral.
One day, in the recent (prewinter) days, I found to my amazement, a 460 Husqvarna Rancher that was reconditioned and within my price range. I talked to my wife because I needed her support in going any further financially. I ordered the saw from CPO and much to my amazement it looked almost new. There were a few minor scratches but it came with a new bar and chain. The bar is made by Oregon and a high-quality. It is a 24 inch bar.
We were fortunate in having a very mild, Minnesota winter. I took the new reconditioned saw to my certified Husqvarna mechanic and had him set it up so that I didn’t screw it up and check it out. So I did not void the warranty, which is only 90 days. He told me I had a great saw and that my concerns that it seemed of lesser quality in terms of the body compared to the Poulan Pro were misplaced in that it’s the same body that has been used for many years.
As I said, we had some warm days for me to complete my walnut stump milling, at least minimally milling my walnut stump, which I did so successfully. With the last of the dying light on the last warm day I pushed myself to slab in 4 inch thickness, one of my spalted Maple logs. I did that successfully!
Emboldened I went to the compost site only to find that with the recent rain, they had burned all of my precious logs!
The irony in all of this is not wasted on me, and it might be funny if it wasn’t me. And the positive part is I lost about 10 pounds of fat! Which my doctor wants me to do. LOL.
I now have to wait until next spring when the compost site reopens. The temperatures are in the single digits and below, and the Minnesota snow is covering all of my spalted logs.
I did not take the easy way, and I was lucky in the end. I also found a buyer who rehabs log cabins to purchase my original Panther Pro 24 inch chainsaw mill.
I have some really nice wide slabs of Walnut from the trunk. They’re too large to fit my lunchbox planer. I have used my straight cutting jig and cleaned up some of the walnut branch logs, which have really fantastic figure in them. Now I’m inside and returning to my bandsaw milling. I have some ideas for making walnut plywood as opposed to a veneer to make optimum use of my very precious few boards.
As always, your comments are welcome and thanks for reading along. Maybe it could be a sitcom? LOL
-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher