Pitch Buildup on Drive Belts

Is pine pitch accumulating on the drive belts of a bandsaw mill a problem? And what can you do about it?February 27, 2013

We are sawing antique heart pine and we are getting pitch buildup on the drive belts. What’s a good way to deal with it? What is the best blade for antique heart pine? We have an LT35 with 25HP gas motor.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor P:
I assume you mean the V belts the band rides on. I have always experienced such build up when sawing pine. I just clean it off of the belts when I change blades. I did however get a lump of pitch and sawdust built up under one belt. I use ten degree bands.

From contributor K:
Unless it is compromising your cuts, let it go. I used to have a sawyer who thought the accumulation on the belt was the problem. I would give him a new belt and he was happy. I saved the old belts and still use them today. The issue was his perception. I think you will deal with the pitch on the blade and the belts are going to be ok. I mill ponderosa and Doug fir with much the same mill. The pitch building up on the blade is where I see the problem in the cut.

From contributor W:
I only have a few hours run time on an orange machine but I ran the belted wheels on my past two machines for a few thousand hours. I had a scraper on both wheels and for a long time I ran Pinesol and water to lube the blade and keep buildup off of them. That worked well for me unless I mixed too much soap with the water - that caused the drive wheel to slip inside the blade, leaving a black residue on the wood. I switched to diesel fuel for lube and then changed from belted to all steel wheels.

I get virtually no build up and the mist from the oil reduces buildup on other parts of the mill. I also keep Pam to spray the rails, bed, and other parts of the mill that I normally get buildup. After adding a dust collector to my list of toys it also helped to keep the mill cleaner especially the air filters and my lungs.

From contributor O:
I also use diesel fuel. A very slow drip will get rid of your pitch problem. On some woods I use only if necessary. It also keeps blades from rusting. Some will tell you that it is not right environmentally to use fuel. The tiny bit I use has never been a problem. It never shows up on the lumber either. I use my sawdust for cattle bedding and they seem quite happy laying it.

From contributor W:
Like Contributor O I used the drip method for a couple years. I studied most of the lube systems on all makes of mills and the wipe system seemed to be more efficient to me. So I set about designing my own and wanted to be able to cut it off and on with a flip of a switch. I purchased my wiper felt from Cook's Sawmill Co., the regulator valve from Grangers, 12v solenoid from Ebay, and the rest from Lowe's. It works so well that I have been using the same piece of felt for four years.

When you have any buildup on your wheels or guide rollers it is like having a knot on your car tire. It transfers the vibration into your mill, blades, and most of all the quality your work. If I get any buildup at all I stop and fix it. Usually the scraper has worn a little and I just trim the edge to make it new again or the log has more pitch and I turn the lube up a little. If your mill is plumed, level and set up right you can cut near planer quality lumber at times.

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