Lubing Blades When Sawing Utility Poles

Old utility poles can be rough on blades. Here, sawmillers discuss why, and suggest blade lubricating fluids. August 21, 2006

I just finished cutting up about 30 old telephone poles for a customer. He had carefully removed all metal, and I didn't hit a thing. The poles had very little dirt on them, but my bandsaw blades seemed to dull after cutting only about 3-4 posts (average 18-20" x 16'). The poles were fairly old and hard. I used lots of water for lube, and even added some dishwashing soap - was that a good idea? Norwood specifically says not to use kerosene or diesel, and recommends only water. I don't know if the soap helped or hindered the cutting process. And can I get carbide blades (1 1/4", but don't know the length) for this kind of job that involves hard wood? Are they worth the money if I find some?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor P:
Try Suffolk Machinery - they have carbide blades, but only in 1" listed and .060 kerf, which is rather thick and probably will use more horsepower. They will also send you a free blade to try out in the regular steel. I don't know about carbide.

I have sawed a couple hundred poles, both southern yellow pine and western cedar with no quick dulling unless they are very dirty. I use a half and half mixture of diesel and bar chain oil for my Wood-Mizer, spraying both sides of the blade using an old windshield washer pump.

I do, however, use a respirator when sawing creosote or penta treated poles, as I suspect the dust may be a carcinogen. The cedar poles are very dry and I lube often.

From contributor T:
I definitely agree with contributor P. Try out Suffolk Machinery, maker of Timberwolf blades. I run a 13' 9"x .045 x 3/4" pitch blade. Without hitting any hard knots and just cutting straight clear lumber, I can cut a full 8 hour day on one blade if my mill is perfectly tuned and true (it's a small Timberking 1220 and I can only produce a max of 150-200 bf an hour).

I have been experimenting with lube. I was using water and dishwasher detergent for months, and Suffolk techs told me to try using a cap full of Pinesol (maybe 2 I forget) for every gallon of water. I tried it for a while (it was freezing conditions at the time) and I didn't find any noticeable difference, so I switched back to detergent because it's not as poisonous and the kind I use is biodegradable. Suffolk techs also told me about using diesel or kerosene (only tried diesel) mixed 50/50 with bar chain oil, used in a spray bottle every 4 minutes of sawing or as necessary. I love it! It lowers the noise of the band wheels and blade spinning tremendously, and instantly removes pitch from cutting pine or sappy woods. If you don't remove pitch or sap, you are increasing friction on blade to wood contact, decreasing horsepower, and increasing thickness of the blade, therefore lowering the set on your teeth.

From contributor A:
You will find poles that come from around dirt roads and fields that are plowed the be very bad about dulling blades. The dirt gets down in the checks of the pole and you saw through it the whole time. 400 bdft per blade is good sawing poles.

WD 40 or some spray will help keep the blade clean and the water will help keep it cool. I use dish soap and pine oil mixed in my water. Colbalt blades are better, but the cost is a bit higher and they can be wrecked by junk in the pole. 0.055 blades hold up better and last longer for a little more coin. I charge extra for milling poles and you for sure need to keep out of the dust and wear a mask.

From contributor S:
Rapidly dulling blades from cutting utility poles (when metal is removed) comes from the wood, not the lube. Most poles I know of are cedar. Cedar dulls blades whether they are from beside a road or fresh from the bush - cedar contains a lot of silica in its cells, which dulls blades very quickly. Add to that they are dry - all dry wood is harder on blades than green. I have found that I need to sharpen blades at least twice as often when cutting cedar compared to other conifer species.

As for lube, I've used both and prefer water and soap mix. Nothing against diesel/chain oil mixes - I just prefer not to deal with diesel. Sunlight dishsoap or Pinesol works fine for me, but I found I needed to use more Pinesol than dishsoap to get the same results.