Portable Sawmills – Built to Last in North America


In the market for a good portable sawmill?  With so many different makes and models available there is a lot to know and look for.  Knowing and understanding a few key areas will help the decision making process go much smoother.

The number one concern when it comes to a portable sawmill has to be its construction.  If the machine isn’t able to keep up with production then it is not only a bad initial investment, but the time that it is down will also cost you money in potential profit.

Since the portable sawmill will most likely spend considerable time exposed to the elements it should be made of rust-resistant materials.  The most favorable of these materials is high-grade, heavy-gauge steel.  This means durability and a portable sawmill built for years of faithful service.  It also means a sawmill that can handle anything that is thrown at it.

But the material is only as sturdy as the welding points.  While there are many people who can be classified as good welders, constructing sawmills using robotic welding is still a superior way to go.  It ensures consistent good quality and uniformity throughout the equipment.

The fashion in which the overall coating is applied is also crucial.  Spray-painting a finish on is the same as inviting rust in.  Sawmills will become dinged up and once a thin coat of paint is removed, it is an open invitation for corrosion to occur.  A much higher quality finish is obtained with powder coating

The process of powder coating first involves the coating being applied electrostatically to the material.  Since the coating is applied in a powder form there is no need for a solvent to keep the components held together in a liquid state.  Then it is placed under direct heat where it is allowed to “cure”.  While the coating heats up it flows over the surface, binding to it and forming a “skin”.  In essence, the coating is baked onto the surface instead of being sprayed.  This gives it a much thicker and stronger paint application overall.

It is also important to know where the parts for the portable sawmill have originated.  Some developing countries do not have the strength and durability guidelines and requirements for manufacturing materials that the U.S. and Canada does.  Weaker material means a weaker overall sawmill.  Sawmills must be built strong to withstand the abuse they take in the bush, particularly in harsh winter months, so it’s best to stick with North American-made portable sawmills.


  1. Ergonomics are also important. Adjusting the carriage height (board thickness) with one hand, while locking it down with the second, and setting the throttle with the third hand just doesn’t work. Spend some time watching people work (most mills have youtube videos if you can’t see a mill in person), and use the mill yourself, if possible. Look for the little things, like blowing sawdust away from you instead of in your face, an engine that idles and blade that stops when you take your hands off the controls, and a height gauge that you can read without a pair of binoculars are important, too.


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