Bandmill horsepower

Will a higher horsepower diesel engine speed production? January 1, 2003

Most of the fully hydraulic mills that include log handling, etc. come standard with about a 25 HP gas engine. How much difference in productivity is there if that was increased to a higher HP diesel? Considering that there is a big initial price difference between them, does it make a lot of difference to go to 37 HP or 42 Turbo?

Forum Responses
From contributor B:
There is another choice available. Wood-Mizer offers a 36 hp gas engine on their LT40 Standard mill and their LT40 Super mill. If you want the power without the cost, this combination would save thousands over the diesel engine. Both should cut at the same rate but the Super would have faster hydraulics and faster head travel, board dragback, and a few other features. When we wanted to upgrade to a new mill, the LT40HD standard with 36 hp gas motor was our second choice if we couldn't work out 3 ph availability problems.

Here is a picture of one of the 36 hp gas (Nesson, I think) we looked at while in Indy last winter. It was well below freezing but it started right up.

From the original questioner:
What engine do you have on your mill? How much practical time would a Super WM 40 save over a Standard 40 hydraulic, say cutting 4/4 lumber? Also, how big a deal is setworks or computers on a WM or any other mill for that matter? Does it really add to production?

I would like to be realistic in the amount I spend but also would like to have a relatively high production mill. Sometimes you can keep upgrading and adding options on things without really making a difference in performance.

I have the 24 hp Onan on my mill. I went to a demo of the mill with the 36 hp engine. They cut about 4 or 5 small pine logs and the mill was started and stopped numerous times during the demo. I noticed the fuel tank level dropped drastically. According to what I observed the 36 hp would use about 3 to 4 times as much fuel as the 24 Onan in a day's milling. This may be something to consider. The engine was a 4 cylinder 36 hp Nissan.

From contributor B:
We had a 96 model LT40HDG35 Super with 35 hp 4 cyl Wisconsin gas engine. The 96 Supers didnt have the faster hydraulics, better clamping system or computer setworks of the newer models so Id expect it to perform more like a new Standard LT40 with the 36 hp gas engine. We also had a 94 model with an 18 hp B&S gas engine that I changed out to a 20 hp gas Onan.

Id say the 35 hp Wisconsin used about twice as much gas to produce maybe 1.5 times as much lumber as the 20 hp Onan. But you could really use the power with thicker blades with more set on larger logs. That is, wed run 5 gallons of gas through our 20 hp Onan to saw 1,000 bf. Wed run 10 gallons of gas through the 35 Wisconsin and saw 1,500-1,750 bf.

Our new mill is a 2002 model LT40HD25E Super with 25hp 3ph electric with Command Control and Accuset and Debarker set up stationary. The new mill with 25hp 3ph motor has plenty of power maybe 1.5 times as much power as the 35 hp gas engine. They say as much power as the 42 diesels but Ive not sawn on one so I cant say.

The Accuset is *great*! Helps you produce more accurate cuts and better yield out of a log. The Accuset makes your adjustments for the next cut very fast.

The new Super has larger motors for the cutting head that let it return twice as fast as the standard model. It also has a board drag back feature that will speed up things if you have someone there to grab the board. The double pump on the Super hydraulic system is also something like twice as fast. Faster loading, turning, clamping, etc. All this reduces cycle time.

Id guess the Super with the same engine as the standard would be something like 1.5 times faster overall, even if the actual time making the cut were the same. The limiting factor becomes how fast you can get the material away from the mill. Mary can keep me running and still have to wait on me or jump in to pull a slab herself. Three people and some good support equipment could really take advantage of the Supers speed.

If money is available, I would opt for more horses most any time. A 24 horse will drive a 1.25 or 1.5 band blade as fast as a man wants to work but will be working right on the verge of lugging in bigger logs. There will still be band capability left that a larger engine can take advantage of.

I have a 24 horse motor on an LT40 that has done a great job for over 10 years. My new mill has a 38 horse diesel and will keep on cutting when the 24 horse would have been backing off. Fast log handling is a plus too. Getting the log on the mill and turning it without having to wait keeps your pace up.

Setworks in a production atmosphere are great. You don't go to bed as mind weary as you do without them. When you are custom cutting a large variety of sizes and somebody is talking to you about what he wants out of the log while you are sawing, setworks lose their edge.

A light, maneuverable mill with a rigid bed is best for mobility, hands down. That's describing the LT30 through the LT80. The more flexible the frame, the more difficult it is to set up and keep leveled during work.

There is nothing wrong with 4 post mills if the logs are decent size and straight. When they are oversized, crooked, knotty, etc., a cantilever head is easier to use.

My mill has a 30 hp, 3 phase electric. When I first got it, I never could come close to using the power available. Now sometimes I wish that I had just a little more.

Before we improved the guide rollers I just had to slow the feed rate down to keep from cutting wavy lumber. Now the motor slows down before the blade starts to wander.

The setworks are the ticket on production. Flip a switch or push a button and the blade moves the same amount every time and does it faster than my poor brain can even begin to tell my hands what to do. The increase in accuracy alone is well worth the money. Some wholesale buyers will not buy from you if they know that you don't have setworks.

Go for the ponies if you can afford it - hydraulics, debarker and setworks, also. After watching a setworks mill in action, I see how important all those time-saving features are, as well as dragback. The supers are just way faster.

From contributor M:
I agree with everyone, but it really boils down to what size logs you are going to cut. Smaller logs don't warrant big engines that eat fuel, but if you need the HP for larger logs, there is no substitute. You could go through quite a few new 24 or 35 HP engines before you cover the cost of a large diesel. Plus, you need to treat the diesel with a little respect when it comes to starting and stopping the engine without cooling it, and cold temperatures bring a few problems with fuel freezing and what-not. Not to knock the bigger engines, but if you're not going to use it to its potential, why pay for it? You can always buy the smaller mill and sell it for almost what you paid and upgrade. Ask any WM owner if they have ever had a hard time getting a good price for a well-maintained mill.

From contributor B:
Good point. We had the manual LT40 with 20 hp Onan set up with skid blocks under the shed and had the LT40HDG35 Super set up in the log yard. We found that we could load the manual mill up with smaller logs, especially cedar, and it really did just as well as the Super. But when it came to big and long logs, the Super performed much better. Often we would split a custom sawing job up into bigger and smaller logs and use both mills.

We sold both mills the Super in December of last year and the manual in January of this year and recovered 90% on the Super and almost 80% on the manual. We didnt advertise nationally and this was after 9/11. I think under more normal economic conditions, we could have recovered 100%.

From the original questioner:
All the logs I have are hardwood, mostly 16-20", some up to 32" and mostly 8' and 10' long. I do, however, want to do custom milling for others and thought that if I have a mill that will do most logs quickly (high production) and accurately, that would at least allow me to compete, if not to have a competitive edge. I know that the experience and skills of a sawyer make a big difference, but also the quality and speed of the mill. If I try to compete as a newcomer with a slow, unreliable mill, I would be finished before I start. The decisions that are made on the go, such as what face to open and when to turn the log, will take me longer to make, and even then I will probably make more mistakes than a more experienced sawyer. For these reasons I would rather err on the side of too much (within reason).

Although I have some experience with diesel, I don't understand the comment about stopping and starting a diesel without cooling it. Also, gas (and diesel) is much more expensive here. That is not a huge issue but one that needs some consideration.

Being able to recover a large percentage of investment in a mill is a huge issue. The options then are endless and each decision far less critical, as I would have options to move up in power, etc, without getting killed.

From contributor B:

If youve already got so many mills in your area youll have to compete against, you may want to think about how much youll be depending on income to support the more powerful mill and bells and whistles, etc. I guess we are lucky in that we have very little of what Id call competition. We get all the work we can take care of by word of mouth. Even when there were two other mills in my neighborhood, we all had plenty of work.

Besides, there is a lot of cash in those little niche market projects and most would not require a big engine. In some areas, an LT15 with a couple of extra extensions to saw out long beams would do well.

If I was shopping for a new sawmill, I would decide first what size blade I would be using and what size material I would be sawing, then I would get enough HP to meet these requirements. The beam strength of the blade is the main limiting factor of how fast the blade will cut and how much HP is needed.

From the original questioner:
I don't think my area is overrun with mills, but your points are well taken. The timber I own and will saw and sell will eventually pay for the mill. I like the idea of custom sawing, which I have enjoyed in the past with a manual mill. There are fewer logistics such as stacking and stickering, etc., which is very time consuming even with extensive support equipment. I realize it all goes with the territory but think sawing is a higher value service than others. Drying, moulding, etc. takes time, money, management and maybe employees (more risk.) If I can realistically cut 2000 BF in a day with customer help, I should be able to make good income for the day and also offer good value, thereby leaving the customer satisfied and telling others of a good experience. If I'm struggling to get to 1000 BF per day, there is less room to satisfy both me and the customer. That's the way I see it.

Quite frankly, I would rather do without setworks and unreliable complications but think they may be desirable for the foregoing reasons. That is not to say that I think setworks is complicated or unreliable, as I have heard nothing negative about WM's setworks or Accuset. I sometimes have found simplicity in equipment can simplify life, repairs and maintenance.

From what I have learned by reading and listening, I would say averaging 2000 bd. ft. a day would be hard to do. That is a lot of logs staged for sawing and a lot to stack and sticker, not to mention moving slabs, travel and setup time.

From the original questioner:
That is my point - I would rather just custom saw and let someone else pre-stage the logs, stack, sticker and get rid of their slabs, so I would like to have a mill that is capable. I will have plenty of all that to do at my own place. This kind of preparation (or not) would decide if I would charge by the BF or by the hour.

From contributor M:
I was referring to the higher temperatures found in a diesel, and if it's turbocharged, you really have to let the turbo cool down before turning it off. Most man. recommend 5 minutes to cool it off, and you need to let it warm up a bit before starting the day out. Water cooled engines need more time to do this and most man. say you should let it run until the whole cooling system is up to operating temperatures. This is time and money if you don't do it. Not a big deal - you must do what you must do, but I though I'd clue you in on a few little tidbits about the bigger diesel engines. Also, every time you turn the engine off, the turbo continues to run without oil pressure to oil the bearing. That's why you always wait until the engine is cool and at an idle so as to minimize the time the turbo spins without oil pressure.

From contributor A:
I have a LT40HDG25 and an edger at home. Rodney and I can spit out 2,000 to 2,400 bdft a day of oak lumber with 12 to 20 inch average logs. That is with 6x8 ties from the middle and 4/4 side wood. A Super with a 42 diesel and 1.5 0.055 blades and we could hit 3,000 bdft. Before the edger I did 1,500 to 2,000 bdft a day. With the extra hp and speed of the Super you will need more experienced people tailing to use the speed. Most on-the-road custom jobs are around 1,000 bdft and are done in 5 hours, so you lose part of the day. We come home and drop the legs and saw out a bunch more before we lose interest. Size of logs and full time help will determine if the extra cost of more hp will pay. For me, 25 is just fine. Also, I figured that for the price difference in a gas and diesel, I could buy 2 more 25's when I wear them out.

From the original questioner:
By the sounds of your experience, I wouldn't often be able to use the power of a Super with a big diesel, as I wouldn't expect customers to be especially experienced or good at tailing, although you never know. Also, I will do a lot of sawing at home by myself, so maybe the extra power won't really make a big difference there either. I recall someone saying the big advantage of the extra speed, therefore time saving, of a Super with 42 diesel came in log handling, turning, etc. rather than the head sawing and return speed. Do you have an opinion on that?

With the edger being at home, it sounds like you still do 1500-2000 BF per day when you are custom sawing on the road. I'm assuming Rodney is an experienced tailer. Do you do the 1500-2000 BF per day with Rodney tailing on the road or is that usually just with the customer-supplied tailer? Do you charge by BF?

Someone above stated that some wholesale buyers won't buy if you don't have setworks. Any experience on this issue?

From contributor A:
The best advantage of the Super is the speed in which it can load and turn the log. Also its return speed is faster. You could increase your feed rate with 0.055's and thus increase production enough to offset the price of the blades as they break faster. I have never had a board rejected by the wholesalers because of not having setworks. In the 300,000 bdft sawn by "Wanda" for wholesalers, there has never been a reject.

I have taught Rodney to saw and I tail for him. It often is after I open it up and I tell him when to flip the log. We use sign language and speak very little. Most folks are very impressed by how we get it done. We get jobs of 2,000+ bdft on the road and often get them done in time. I charge by the bdft most of the time but if the logs are small or it is just timbers, I go by the hour.

From contributor B:
Ive long known a guy in my area that was one of the first to get a Wood-Mizer. He started out part time with a manual LT30 in the early-mid 80s. After retirement, he sawed full time and was generally booked out 6 months. He only did mobile sawing. At some point he sold his first mill and got an LT40HDG24 with 24 hp Onan. He put 6,000 hours on it in a few years then sold it for what he paid for it new. That was in '95 or '96. He already had a new LT40HDG24 with 24 hp Onan on order with some of the new features and debarker.

I got a chance to visit with him early this November. He still claimed to saw 2-2,500 bf a day and a few days much more. He told me recently he had one day where he sawed over 5,000 bf. Said he had 5 helpers and sawed 11 hours. Hes got to be in his 70s maybe late 70s, has had both knees operated on and has other health problems he has to maintain. He only runs the saw the customer must supply 3 men capable of doing the labor.

I have taken over sawing for some of his customers in my area and they say hell work you into the ground. He still does a lot of sawing and sure would like a new Super but I think his wife wants him to slow down and stay home more. But once it gets into your blood

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

Comment from contributor W:
I have a Baker 3638D. We average 5000' per day, which is 7 1/2 hours sawing. We have 3 people, including myself. Power has been an issue from the start. If you can afford it, go greater horsepower. The more power, the faster SFPM and the faster saw speed. Production is what it is all about. The fastest is what we are all after to be profitable. Electric power is the best. I am switching over very soon.