First stab at a small portable bandsaw mill

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Blog entry by RichardH posted 1525 days ago 7868 reads 3 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my first blog entry – up to now I’ve posted a few projects and thoroughly enjoyed all of your entries and great work.

This weekend, I finally put one of my latest toys together. It is a small 24” chainsaw mill from Panther Pros

I’ve never used an alaska type mill before, but I have seen a few related posts lately and keep thinking “Hey, I come across some pretty decent wood every now and then – wouldn’t one of these things be great to have around?” The mill itself is pretty inexpensive, and I picked up an old Husky saw with 28 inch bar on e-bay (even used, these high cc saws are pretty darned expensive)

Now, I have to say that practically speaking, there are quite a few shop tools that make a lot more sense for me to add or upgrade, but my favorite items tend to be ones that I actually found or salvaged myself…I like it when the work has a story behind it.

For my first test, I cut slabs out of the ~18 inch diameter trunk of a large bradford pear that blew over last year in my yard here in texas…nothing special and let me get the feel of the whole process. First observation – This is hard work! The saw and sled are heavy, and sawdust piles up like no tomorrow. But that said, once you get in the groove, it moves along rather well. I’m comfortable with chainsaws, but doing everything with the saw in the sled is a little clumsy (adding gas & oil, tightening the chain, even starting it)

Next up was this pretty walnut trunk that my 70 year old dad harvested for me dead on the stump from some of his land in South Carolina.

The stump is about 2.5 feet long by about 11 inch diameter at the thick end. I made this first cut with a 2×4 secured to the log and it worked well creating a nice surface for the next cuts.

I made two particularly thick slabs that I plan to turn into natural edge floating shelves after they finish drying. I plan to display some of my favorite turnings on these shelves.

And finally, two pictures of the final results. Cuts are quite nice and surface irregularities are between 1/16 and 1/8 of an inch or so at the worst. It is not a big log, but it’s quite pretty and I wound up with 3 real nice slabs, and a couple of end pieces that I’ll have to figure out something to do with.

Cant wait to take it back to the southeast this summer and bring back a couple of 6’ long spalted maple and Cherry slabs :-)

As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome!


-- "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it...It's the hard that makes it great."

13 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


112000 posts in 2176 days

#1 posted 1525 days ago

Looks like some work but very nice results

-- Custom furniture

View NormG's profile


3989 posts in 1603 days

#2 posted 1525 days ago

Great idea, appears to work very well, but I will leave it to the younger craftsman. Would love to have a mill though. Chain saws make me nervous as it is.

-- Norman

View FordMike's profile


155 posts in 2070 days

#3 posted 1525 days ago

great job. I run a small Alaskan Mill as well, and your off to a good start. Build a ladder to start the first cut, i made mine from some kiln dried fir 2×4. When you fall the tree or roll it over try to get the butt 8” to 10” higher the the small end of the log, if your milling down hill it goes much easier. If you can elevate the log so you don’t have to bend all the way to the ground it makes it easier. If you anchor seal both ends of the log before you mill it . If you use ripping chain it’s easier on the saw and leaves a smoother surface. Baileys logging supply is very cheap for loops of chain. Good job and keep after it.

View RichardH's profile


295 posts in 1601 days

#4 posted 1525 days ago

Thanks guys!

Mike, really appreciate the tips – All make a lot of sense and my back is already thanking you. :-)
Especially Like your idea of cutting downhill – and anxious to try some ripping chain.

-- "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it...It's the hard that makes it great."

View WoodArtbyJR's profile


428 posts in 1564 days

#5 posted 1524 days ago

That’s some nice looking walnut. How did the pear come out? Looking forward to seeing the stuff from the SE later this year. New toys, new fun. You have a good eye when purchasing a chain saw, GREAT brand and it will keep up with the load you place on it.

-- Jim Roberts, Port Orchard Washington

View RichardH's profile


295 posts in 1601 days

#6 posted 1524 days ago

Hi Jim,
The pear is nice. I always used to think that bradford pear was poor wood, but it really looks great- it’s got interesting color when finished and it takes a real nice polish and is pleasant to work with on the lathe. Here’s a quick snapshot of some slabs off a 12” log chunk. These are 1.5” thick.

So here’s the thing about my pear – it split badly in the storm and most every chunk that I’ve sawed up for lathe work has really tried to split as well…I’ve tried drying it as blanks, rough turning it and then drying several different ways and all the time it wants to split. I’ve taken care not to slab it near the pith, but even from these pics you can see it really wants to split…oh well – looks like I’ll wind up with some 6-8” wide project wood. :-)

On the chainsaw, I had narrowed my search down to Stihl MS660 and Husky 385/395 XP. I wasn’t in a hurry and lost out on several auctions before I finally landed this one. I have only owned Stihls in the past, but must say I really am pretty impressed with this Husky. Probably my favorite thing is that it has an adjustable oiler – that is really nice for work like this where you continually run the saw under pretty big load and lying on its side.

-- "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it...It's the hard that makes it great."

View WoodArtbyJR's profile


428 posts in 1564 days

#7 posted 1524 days ago

Like I said, “You have an eye for a good saw”. You knew exactly which S word I was talking about. If the pear will hold at about 2.5” square X 10” or so long, could possibly make so nice peppermill blanks. I’ve made them from 2” square stock but that is about the smallest I would try because the base skin gets REAL thin after being bored out for the mechanism. Looks like it might have some nice grain after sanding and oiled. What cha think?

-- Jim Roberts, Port Orchard Washington

View RichardH's profile


295 posts in 1601 days

#8 posted 1524 days ago

I’ve never done a peppermill before, but it sounds like fun. I left 2 slabs right at 2.5” thick, so I shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a few long square blanks out of it. Just have to remember it when this small stack eventually dries out.

-- "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it...It's the hard that makes it great."

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2654 posts in 2125 days

#9 posted 1524 days ago

Oh DROOL! great looking wood! It does look like hard work though…

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View jeepturner's profile


920 posts in 1391 days

#10 posted 1358 days ago

I just wanted to comment on the pear wood. Of all the wood that I have turned green, pear has had the most water in it. With the all that water in it, it really shrinks a bunch. If you can turn it green it has to be thinner than most other stuff to not crack.

-- Mel,

View tdv's profile


1114 posts in 1669 days

#11 posted 1175 days ago

That’s a real cool tool I like it.

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

View chuckyb's profile


5 posts in 1004 days

#12 posted 1004 days ago

There is a fella on youtube who makes a nice cheap sawmill and shows all of his measurements, if anyone is interested he gives free advice and has a 3d video plus much more on the thing it is at this link>>>

View jeffro's profile


155 posts in 1291 days

#13 posted 919 days ago

I just picked up a big panther mill I think its going to be a new best friend

-- Jeffro,knockonwood

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