Band mills versus circular mills

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Choosing the right sawmill for your unique operation. April 3, 2004

I'd like to clearly understand the advantages and disadvantages of bandmilling versus circular saw milling. I have noted with most of the portable circular saws that one cannot turn a log, and one is limited to the width of the cut.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor
You are dealing with two issues. One is the type of saw blade, the other is how the log is handled. These are pretty much separate items.

Your answers are scattered through past issues of Independant Sawmill and Woodlot Magazine.

I suggest that you take one good mill (for example, Wood-Mizer LT-40) and compare it to all the other mills, noting pros and cons. You will be less confused than if you try to compare all mills at once to each other.

From the original questioner:
The target species is New Zealand beech, quite large with minimum diameter class of 95cm. I looked at the Wood-Mizer and felt the construction of the bed (and lifting gear) was quite light. I saw a horizontal mill in Slovenia called a Mebor - very strong and relatively inexpensive. I have nothing against the Mizer (in-fact, it is a good setup), but rather light construction-wise.

If the logs are that large (ca. 40 in.), you might want to consider a swingmill, or quartering them before sawing.

I think you might be amazed at the strength and stability of the LT40, although a steady diet of trees in the 40-inch range would require a larger mill.

If you are impressed with amounts of steel and wide blades, you can shop for Paulsen's mills in BC and Heartwood Saw's bandmill, also a Canadian Company.

Gene's right about picking one saw to make your comparisons, though. If you don't keep it simple, you will end up with a lot of data and no education.

I cut 40" to 70" logs routinely, with an original budget of 10 grand for a mill.

From my experience, large logs limit you to Mobile Dimension, Peterson or Lucas - all circle mills. Ripping a log with a chainsaw to fit into small band mills is wasteful, and bigger band mills like Timberwolf are bigger bucks.

I suggest you check out a Mobile Dimension. The diameter of the log is basically unlimited if you use their board and batten method. My MD mill is mounted on a trailer, so I have to be able to load the log, but I have had several logs in the 40" range on the mill with no problems. Another good option would be a Peterson or Lucas swing blade mill.

Sounds like you need a swing mill. I'm a WM man. But it sounds like a swing mill would work better for your needs.

One thing not mentioned in the above posts is the value of the trees you want to saw. If they are high value, you want to have a band mill doing some of the sawing. Heartwood and select make mills that will cut 4 foot logs. If they are bigger than 4 feet, you could use a Mobile Dimension or Mighty Mite to cant the larger logs, then saw the cants up with a band mill.

What kind of production do you want? Have you got all the handling equipment?

Your strength issue is mute on the swing blade tech. The log is merely resting on support skids. The log rotation issue - not that necessary on a swinger. You get up to 10" wide boards in either horizontal or vertical face (which reduces the need for rotation). Also, this mill gives added bonus of up to 20" wide cuts in horizontal position by double cutting.

If you're after high production, consider using the Peterson ASM automated swing blade to cut your cants, 10"x20", and use maybe a Wood-Mizer to resaw the cants which makes for better recovery, less blade cost and more consistent, accurate boards off the band. Reason being, there is less chance of wavy boards. This happens time to time when attempting wide cuts. Also, hassles of pulling grit and dirt through with the band reduces the life of a band blade.

Depending on your budget, there are a lot of options out there.

I ran into a Povlsen mill that was in a bankruptcy sale here in Florida several years ago and called the company to find out about it. I talked to Mr. Povlsen himself, who suggested that I not mess with it unless we had a "jam-up" blade shop available.

This had a 5 inch band and the teeth were swaged. The band needed hammering when sharpened so it would track. If you hit metal while sawing, you lost big bucks.

It was fast when it worked, though.

If you are after production, go for the Mobile Dimension mill. I have seen them in action and donít think there is another mill in the price range that could touch them, with regard to production of lumber from large logs.