Bandsaws vs. Chainsaw Mills and Getting the Right Cut


When it comes to using a portable sawmill your choice comes down to one of two options: either a bandsaw mill or a chainsaw mill.  When considering a sawmill, you have to decide which is the best choice for your specific needs.

The denser the wood, the harder it is for the blade to move.  If a blade gets too slow or starts to bind, you won’t have a precise cut.  The blade has to fight to get through the wood.  Plus, you run the risk of burning up the motor.  The only way around this is to increase the power.  That’s why it is better to invest in full-sized portable sawmills if you plan on working with denser wood or larger logs.  Band sawmills work by means of a narrow-kerf band blade sliding horizontally through the log.  Because of the attributes of band sawmills, they can tackle larger logs more easily and precisely than chainsaw sawmills.

full-sized portable sawmill

If you choose to use a saw that is too small for the job, then you could end up with wavy cut wood.  If this happens, you will have to run all of your cut lumber through a planer to even it out.  This not only wastes material, but it doubles your man-hours, which in turn costs you money.  Matching the sawmill type with the density, size and type of wood means that you can have precision cuts each and every time. 

As long as the wood you are cutting is smaller or softer then you can go with a smaller portable sawmill or chainsaw mill.  A chainsaw sawmill is actually quite different in that it is effectively the enhancement of a standard chainsaw to produce a viable solution for milling lumber.  The one big advantage of chainsaw sawmills is their extreme portability and lower cost.










Bandsaw blades are much thinner than a chainsaw bar and chain.  Because of that, bandsaw mills are admired for their low kerf rating, or the small amount of wood lost in each cut due to the thickness of the blade versus a chainsaw blade, which generally produces a rougher cut.  This small amount of extra saved wood might not seem significant, but when it is multiplied over an entire day’s work, it can add up to a substantial amount of lost wood and potential revenue.

Regardless of the wood’s size and density, one very important thing to remember with a bandsaw or chainsaw sawmill is that the blades need to be sharpened regularly.  A dull blade will slow down productivity and damage the wood.  It is common to go through 3 to 6 blades in a day’s worth of cutting. 

Sharpening band blades is best left to an expert unless you want to invest in the specialty equipment necessary to do it yourself.  This consists of a tooth setter and a sawmill blade sharpener, which you can acquire for about $1,000. This investment actually pays off quickly if you are milling even a moderate amount of lumber. Sharpening services charge upwards of $10/blade plus shipping in some cases which, at 3 – 6 blades per day, can add up.  Maintaining your own blades with your own equipment saves you money and you know that the job is done right. 


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