Assessing an Old Circle Sawmill

A discussion about getting a rusty old circle mill up and running again, including thoughts about safety and about restoring the old blade. . September 5, 2011

I bought an old circular saw mill for a song; '50's International ud525 engine and all components, including the 44" blade. It's rusty, and I have no idea as to its past usage other than a pair of guys ran it for fun and shares for about ten years before one of them died. My question is based on my future planning of getting it going again; should I send in this blade and have it serviced (sharpen/replace teeth and re-hammer as needed) or look into a replacement one?

Also, is there a good source of info on which size of blade requires how much power? (I wouldn't mind getting a bigger one.) I'll cut mostly fir, black walnut, and maple. I have plenty to learn before pushing a log through, but this is where I'm starting. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor S:
You should be able to find all the information you need from Simonds International. They manufacture and service large blades for your machine.

From contributor Y:
Are there any markings at all on the husk frame or carriage? Can you put a picture in? A sawmill is no toy and a circular mill has caused serious injury and even death in the hands of experienced people. Many circle mills have holes in the metal roof where the teeth went through when they came loose. Many experienced sawyers I've met are missing fingers and I've heard stories of wood getting caught in a circle blade and violently thrown back towards the operator. My two cents: go find a small circle mill in your area and offer to work for free to learn the ropes. Try to find out how to sharpen the blade, keep it aligned and adjusted and how to deal with problems that frequently occur.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
My suggestion is that if this is an inserted tooth blade, send it in and get an estimate for repair, but the best option is to sell it to an artist who will paint it, and then you go and buy a brand new blade. You will find that 44" is better than bigger.

From the original questioner:
I do indeed have respect for the dangers of the mill, but I'm not going to not do it just for that; if that was my style I'd never drive a car on public highways. I am in the planning stages of how I'm going to put things together, and info like this is what I need to have for better planning. I have a friend with a similar set-up, but with a 56" blade (both do have removable teeth) and he has invited me to work with him. I'll be churning out some shavings for him for sure. Gene, that's about what I was thinking too but you never know what someone out there will say. I figure it's always worth the question.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I was in charge of a mill with a 56" and it never ran as well as a 52". So long as you do not plan to saw logs that are much over 15", your smaller blade will work well.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor G:
As far as the size of a log on a 44 inch blade you are not limited to 14 inch logs. 14 inch is a nice size on any manual mill when hand turning is done. I am not afraid to take on 24 inch logs, however turning a hardwood log that size is difficult and may require you to slab and turn more than on a smaller stick. Also, run Standall bits as the old engines may not deliver the power needed to hold the rpm’s in hardwood cuts causing the sawdust to be small. Small sawdust results in the finer grains getting beside the saw and the log face overheating the dish and making the saw wonder in the cut. Standall bits have a shoulder that helps hold in the sawdust.

Comment from contributor M:
I took on an adventure just like what you are describing, however my mill was in somewhat operating order when I got it. I've been around circle mills before so I wasn't completely green but still it took me a couple of years and some experimenting with what the mill was capable of.

My blade is 50" and I have cut some large fir and cedar logs, some over 40" and those sometimes had to be ripped down with a chainsaw to fit. Twenty three inches is as big as the blade will go through. It has been a great experience for me and I'm sure it will be for you too. It goes without saying that safety is very important. I found that learning about making the adjustments on your saw makes all the difference in a saw that cuts like butter and one that is giving you trouble. A saw that is cutting well is not near as apt to hurt you as trying to run a saw out of adjustment. Do your homework and start small and go slow till you get the hang of it, and have fun doing it.