Building a bandsaw sawmill

Recommendations on where to find parts and how to construct a mill from scratch.

I am going to build a bandsaw mill this winter, and am looking for recommendations from people who have built their own mills. I would like to build a system with hydraulic loaders, turners, etc. that would be able to cut at least a 32" diameter log. Any ideas on where I can get these parts?

Forum Responses
You can get a number of different hydraulic pumps from a local farm supply store. They should also sell the hydraulic rams. I believe you can also make a manual log turner from a heavy-duty boat-style winch.

My suggestions, in order, are: 1) buy a new mill, 2) buy a used mill, 3) buy just the saw carriage and build the rest, 4) design and build.

You will need a lathe, mill, drill press, power metal saw, welders. If you have to have machine work done, figure at least $50 per hour. Most materials will be bought at retail prices. It would be helpful if you have design experience, as mistakes can cost money and time.

Have you looked at the Linn mill? They will sell you all or part of a manual mill, then you can add the hydraulics. I bought a demonstrator manual mill and did just that.

From contributor M:
I built my saw mill as a winter project last year and this year I have milled enough wood for a solar kiln, and a 14 x 20 storage shed. I am sitting on a bunch more soft and hard wood. If you start with a sound design, think everything through and take your time, you can build a mill that cuts very straight.

If you can start with an old, large band saw or meat saw as a base, you can really save time. I converted an old Toledo meat saw. I built mine for under $1100 with mostly new metal. I didn't need a lathe, mill or any machine work. You must like to design and fabricate, because if you factor in the time it takes you to build it, it is probably not cost effective. My guess is that you will spend at least 40 hours on it. For band blades, I have been using some custom blades from a local re-saw band manufacture, but I have heard a lot about Wood-Mizer double hard blades.

To contributor M:
Can you give more details on how you built your mill using a meat saw? Is saw vertical or lying down? What did you use for power?

From contributor M:
It was vertical. I cut off all extraneous metal using an abrasive blade for my skill saw. I am using a 10hp Tecumseh engine to power it.

To contributor M:
What are you using for a clutch?

From contributor M:
I tried to keep it as simple as possible. For the clutch, there is a jack shaft above the drive pulley. One side has a pulley that is connected to the drive pulley with a belt. The other side has a pulley connected to the motor pulley with a belt. Between the jack shaft pulley and the motor pulley is a tensioning lever. You lift it and place it on a peg to engage. Push it off the peg to disengage.

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

Comment from contributor T:
I designed, engineered and built my own bandsaw sawmill from scratch along with a vacuum kiln and a hydrostatic skidder. The sawmill cuts 54" in diameter at 12 feet long for hardwood, mainly.

Blade guide rollers, bearings, v-belts and pulleys, hydraulic cylinders, valves, motors, 20hp electric motor and 3ph generator. I used a school bus frame and rear axle and built it up from there from scrap metal. It takes time.