Blade Life when Sawing Old Utility Poles

A discussion of why treated power poles are death to bandmill blades. April 27, 2007

I only saw power poles when it is cold. Went back to a pile I was working on last spring, and they will not saw. I've tried a couple of different lubes (usually use diesel), flushing with water, but the blades are only lasting for maybe one log. These are the big heavy treated butt cuts. Using WM blades (the same as last year). I try to save nail damage blades to resharpen and saw treated. Anybody have another blade that would do a better job? I know all the cautions about the treated dust, and we aren't using the cutoffs for BBQ wood, so don't worry - just need help in moving these jobs out.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor T:
Are you cutting the bottom two inches of the butts off? There is lots of sand and dirt embedded in the bottom. Make sure to clean the dirt and tar off at the ground level spot. I've cut a lot of power poles over the years and using a lot of blades is just part of it.

From contributor W:
There is a wood preservative treatment process that the company I work for has discontinued because of serious safety concerns. It may be common practice for other utilities to employ the use of this product. I found no discussion of it on this forum and with some people sawing old poles, I thought it might be of interest.

Methyl Isothiocyanate (MITC) or MITC-Fume is applied in a closed delivery system where a hole is drilled into an existing pole and a porous aluminum tube (approximately ½” X 6 ½”) is inserted into the hole about ground level, then sealed with a dowel. The poles are tagged with a rounded corner triangle emblem with “MITC-FUME” stamped on it. This substance is toxic and a severe irritant. It is also highly toxic to fish.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
If the poles are treated with creosote, it will move in the pole. So, when you have the log sitting on the ground and do not rotate it once a month, the creosote will accumulate on the bottom section. When you try to saw it, this heavy accumulation will make it almost impossible to saw. (It is not easy to see this concentration, but it does happen.) Incidentally, any creosote sawdust on the ground will create a toxic waste site that will require expensive cleanup now or later. The creosote will also leach into the ground water.

From contributor B:
You know, that could be it. The poles we sawed last year were no problem... These are killing the blades. Thanks.

From contributor J:
I am set up in a construction debris landfill that accepts creosote treated pilings. I have been sawing them for 10 years now, only in the winter. All of our sawdust ends up over liner, along with dunnage. We cut off the end that the blade hits first - keeps from driving sand, mud, etc. throughout the log. We sharpen our blades once, use them, send them to factory for set and sharpen. Plenty of blade lubrication, metal detectors, visual inspection - still f.o.d. is largest expense. Nasty business, but farmers love the fencing!