Upgrading a Manual Bandmill for Powered Control

Advice on taking muscle power out of the equation for operating a bandmill. April 10, 2007

I have a manual Timberking 1220 with a 20 hp engine. I bought the mill two years ago because of its rigid frame, and I felt it was the best bang for the buck for my needs at the time. Since them I have changed from sawing for my personal furniture work, to sawing full time working with a logger. I worked in cabinet shops for years just to be around wood and was miserable. Since I started sawing full time, I have never looked back!

I need to motorize the millís forward/reverse and up/down. I would like to have different speed settings for feed rate and a very fast return. I am open minded to hydraulics, electric/gas motors, pneumatics, hydraulic over pneumatics, or anything else possible - just not 220 or 3 phase. What is possible simply using my millís battery? The mill is stationary, in a well ventilated barn, right next to an 80 gallon compressor.

I just ordered Grainger and Enco catalogs and I have a very cheap local steel source, so Iím open to supplies. I am looking into books on hydraulics, and where to find information on dealing with ratios, motors, speeds, pulley sizesÖ Has anybody ever done this conversion?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor R:
I too have a 1220 purchased for personal use and possibly a small income when I retire in a few years. I am 50 years old and can relate to your situation. I would not try to engineer and fabricate what has already been done by the saw manufacturers. I would sell the 1220 and purchase a slightly used hydraulic mill. The time you are going to lose sawing while you are trying to modify the 1220 will quickly offset the money you have to spend for a more advanced mill.

From the original questioner:
Iím 20 and have my whole life to saw. I grew up around sawmills. My business (a partnership with a logger) pulls in more money than both my parents do in middle class. If I was 50 I donít believe I could run a manual mill 9+ hours every day 7 days a week the way I do now. A week or so of down time isn't going to hurt. Plus the knowledge I am gaining by researching, is knowledge I will have for life, making it invaluable. I can spend a thousand or so in parts to do this, but the longer term plan is to buy a double cut mill with the money earned off this one. If I can turn 1 week of sawing into a day or two, that leaves me with time to deal with other business. Hopefully this will happen within a few years.

From contributor S:

Simple electric stepping motors and screw drives. I would steer away from the saw as a power source, though. I don't think that you want to increase the work load on your engine, although slight modifications to the charging system might work out, and in theory the saw would not be under load in the return or adjustment stages. I would steer you towards electric because it is fairly simple, clean, low maintenance, and what I know a little about.

You could also go with a cable and drum set up for the feed/return system. A sprocket and a chain has been done before too (use the chain like a rack gear fixed at each end). Stepping motors would be good for height adjustments once you manually set the zero. But for feed and return, I would use a dead-man type switch or control.

From contributor A:
Contact Cooks Saw and Machine. I have upgraded both my manual mills to power feed, and power up and down. I needed to do this because of an accident I was involved in 3 years ago at my old job, not a sawmill accident. I almost lost my lower left leg.

I too had a 20 hp gas mill, and now have upgraded to a 28 hp FI. Turn the blade now, at 5300 ft per min. Itís scary how fast it will cut. Stephen Cook was working on the power feed system when I had the accident. They finished it and sold the first one to a local sawmiller. I received the second one that they had made. It can increase production by 25-40% when working by yourself. I just copied the 12 volt motor system and made changes to it for the 220 volt mill that is here at the house all the time.

From the original questioner:
Sorry to hear about your accident. I have a copy of the new Cooks mill catalog. I called them up after I saw the upgrade kit for u/d-f/r. They told me that they could sell the kit to me, but said it would be a great deal of experimentation on my behalf, and no returning the kit back if it doesn't work out. I would buy it and make it work, but I don't know the specs behind it and what their mil specs are to accept the kit. Was your sawmill made by Cooks?

From contributor A:
Both my mills were made by Cooks. The system that they came up with is very simple. It just attaches to the rail of the head. It all is bolted to the head; the hardest part was all the relays and speed controller, and where to mount it on the side of the head. I do not have it mounted where they show it in their pictures.

From contributor B:
I considered upgrading my old manual mill like you are doing. In my case it cost too much and would consume more time than I had to do it. I sold my old mill for 1K more than I paid for it and purchased a TK B-20. If your pocketbook can stand it, the TK 1600 may have what you are looking for. There are also a lot of other good mills out there and you may be able to upgrade for less than you think.

A little thought I had while going through the process was that I had heard of people complaining about buying too small of a mill, but never a complaint about buying a mill too large. I am really glad I borrowed the extra bucks for a larger mill.

From contributor Y:
Here is an example of variable hydraulic feed control and raising and lowering the head. I built this mill.

Hydraulics for a Bandsaw Mill

From contributor G:
I built my own electric drive for about $125.00. I used a 36 volt surplus right angle drive gear motor (run on 12volts), added a capstan drum on the output, a length of 1/8" A/C cable with a tension spring. I use a washing machine switch to reverse the current for return. I added an aftermarket remote power door lock kit and some relays. I don't have to breathe in sawdust anymore. My remote controls on and off as well cooling fluid. When the blade meets a knot, the cable slips on the capstan until it's through. I use a 20hp Honda; the charging system keeps up without modification. It takes less than 2 minutes to cut a 20' 2x10 (standing dead fir) and about 30 seconds to return the cutting head. I made a hydraulic mud saw and the up and down is hydraulic as well.