Top Ten Reasons for Owning a Portable Bandsaw Mill


sawing a log

If you’re considering the purchase of a mill to cut your own lumber or to start a sawmilling business, we’ve come up with a list of ten good reasons to continue that train of thought (or perhaps to help you sell the notion to a spouse or business partner).

10.  A bandsaw mill is the most efficient way to convert logs into lumber.  Many band sawmills have a 1/8” thick kerf—half that of circle sawmills. Portable bandsaw mills yield eight 1” boards for every seven produced on circle sawmills. Whether you are buying logs or cutting them yourself, the 15{ecddf9adde44d27d9b15adaf662c1dc75823d7a27d1c0a3dca6c68c19970fb5c} increase in yield means better use of the resource and a better overall return your investment.

9.  The variety and options for mills make it possible to find a sawmill to meet any of a number of needs. There is no need to bet the farm on a sawmill business.  You can start small and run the bandsaw mill as a hobby or to provide lumber for your own building and woodworking projects. As you develop your skills and find a market niche, you can increase your output by adding a log deck, hydraulic log handling, support equipment and possibly hiring some help to move and load logs.

8.  Portable sawmills often make use of wood, which would otherwise go to waste and sawmilling is actually a green business making use of wood in a very sustainable way. One of the greenest parts of running a small sawmill is turning “trash” wood into useful lumber. Loggers leave behind anything they can’t sell to sawmills. This includes logs which are too short, too crooked or odd species—exactly the logs many custom woodworkers want for their creations. Urban trees are a particularly rich source of logs for small sawmills. Commercial mills won’t accept urban logs because they often have metal embedded in them. You may ruin a blade or two on nails, but the blades can usually be re-sharpened or economically replaced.  Even if the blade is ruined, the replacement cost is about $30. Furthermore, every board you produce is one less that will come from a clear-cut commercial harvest.

7.  Operating a bandsaw mill makes it economically possible to manage woodlands for sustainable lumber production.  Commercial loggers need between 20 and 60 acres to make it worthwhile to bring in their equipment and typically take all merchantable lumber. A portable sawmill increases the value of the trees you harvest, making it practical to selectively harvest trees at their peak value, remove cull trees and salvage dead and dying trees.

6.  In a rural area, a small sawmill business is a great way to get to know your neighbors. You are not the only one frustrated by the high price and low quality of wood available at the lumberyard. Local farmers and ranchers also need trailer decking, barn siding, building material and fencing. When word gets out you run a portable sawmill, they will contact you about lumber. Woodworkers are always on the lookout for unusual wood for their projects and will likely stop by from time-to-time just to see what you have new in your stacks of wood.

cutting hedge lumber5.  A sawmill gives you access to quality and species of wood, which would otherwise be unavailable.  Commercial sawmills can’t take time to cut odd species to sell to specialty markets and wide flitch cuts are out of the question for them. That’s where the bandsaw comes in. You can cut each log for its best use. Quarter-sawn sycamore, for example, has a beautiful pattern and sells at a premium as “American lacewood”. Flitch cut walnut crotches have a unique feather grain highly desirable for gun stocks and furniture. Sassafras, mulberry, Osage orange, persimmon and other minor species each have their unique qualities giving them their own special value, if you are willing to take the time to do the research.

4.  Portable sawmills provide the potential for good income and business growth. Even when the housing market and standard lumber prices are down, the demand for specialty wood products remains.  Small sawmills have the flexibility to mill the most profitable wood at any given time, whether it is flooring, railroad ties, dunnage, construction materials or custom lumber for area farmers or woodworkers. Selling your wood online via Craigslist or Kijiji is also now a very viable option, thereby significantly extending your market. With a good business plan and a willingness to work hard, you can build a thriving business.

3.  A portable sawmill is an excellent family project. Simply putting a sawmill together can provide entertainment. Whether your children just hand you nuts and bolts or are old enough to help read and interpret instructions, it can be a good personal and learning experience. Milling lumber is a great way for the family to work together, develop a work ethic and learn about mechanical systems. A number of band saw operators are third or fourth generation sawyers.  Bandsaw mills offer opportunities to span generations, whether continuing a family tradition or starting a new one.

2.  Running a mobile sawmill is a great way to get fresh air and exercise. Many agree there is no substitute for working outside with nature. The options available allow you to get as much exercise as you want. Loading and turning logs, cranking the head height, pushing the blade through the log and offbearing exercise the core muscles, plus a few you probably didn’t even know you had! If you are producing a lot of lumber and want to give those muscles a rest, some bandmills offer hydraulic log handling options to ease the workload. Of course you can still turn the logs with a cant hook to keep those biceps in shape.

1. You want to and enjoy sawmilling! For less money than many people spend on golf clubs, a fishing boat, hunting supplies, or ATVs, you can own a personal portable sawmill and have the satisfaction of producing your own lumber for fun and profit.

Do you have any others to add to the list?  We’d love to have you share them in the comments.


  1. Lindsay Flett of D&L Timber Technologies says
    The kerf saving In a resaw application yes. But not in a primary break down or just standard sawmilling! What is not being said here is the following.

    Cost of the bands, which in most cases can be whether the mill owner works the next day or not. The cost of bands because they are only good for 6 to 8 sharpening and need to be sharpened every hour to hour and a half. Even though the band is not dull little stress cracks form in the gullet of the band which requires the band to be sharpened to prevent breaking. The band must be changed or risk breaking. When the band is changed on this type of schedule then there is 5-8 bands a night to sharpen after getting home from a long days work usually 2-4 hours.

    Bands are a real expense that not many take in consideration when making a decision on a choice of mill they are buying. With the 180 degree circular swing blade it costs 2.00 a day for the saw teeth as the blade is with your for the rest of your life. The other is production. Most band mills will not keep up with a thin kerf circular saws production like the 180 degree swing blade.
    This mill has what is likened to a built in edger. The log need never be turned unless making large square cants but still all the lumber comes off edged. This option increases productions and accuracy. And who likes turning logs with out hydraulics which are costly.
    If the band mills blades dull which can happen in a single Cut from a variety of issues, the blade will start to wave in the cut. When this happens the board on top is now ruined as well as the board on the bottom. To prevent this The logs should be debarked or at least pressure washed which never usually happens.
    The 180 degree swing blade produces a straight and true cut every time. The blades sharpen on the mill and with only 6 teeth can be done in 5-6 minutes.

    Kerf and Recovery
    Using a bandsaw In the primary break down where a log is started 4 slabs are removed to break the log down into a square to start cutting the desired dimension. In just one slab there is usually more wastage in fiber than the entire kerf for a 180 degree circular swing blade mill. So where is the saving. The owners of a 180 degree circular swing blades are very proud of their slab piles.

    The 180 degree circular swing blade produces a shaving not dust which is a high value commodity that can be bagged and sold.
    These are facts not just thoughts!!!

    • Hi Lindsay

      It is fantastic that you are so proud of your swing mill. No question, they have their place depending on what you’re milling. They are especially good if you are milling large-diameter logs over 36” and are milling dimensional lumber. But bandmills are extremely effective in other areas. In fact, at the last Portable Sawmills Shoot-Out in 2011, one of the bandmills (the Norwood) got 30{ecddf9adde44d27d9b15adaf662c1dc75823d7a27d1c0a3dca6c68c19970fb5c} over yield whereas the Lucas and the Petersen came in at 16{ecddf9adde44d27d9b15adaf662c1dc75823d7a27d1c0a3dca6c68c19970fb5c} and 14{ecddf9adde44d27d9b15adaf662c1dc75823d7a27d1c0a3dca6c68c19970fb5c} respectively; it also clocked in at 10{ecddf9adde44d27d9b15adaf662c1dc75823d7a27d1c0a3dca6c68c19970fb5c} faster with fewer defects. So, to be fair, there are different types of sawmill styles out there for different purposes. It is not a matter of which is better or worse – they are just different with different strengths. Thanks again for your feedback and thoughts – this is exactly why we launched Trees 2 Money – to explore all the different ways to make money with your trees.


  2. Most of the reasons in the list apply to any portable sawmill. As I see it, swing blade mills are especially useful for the larger logs, and have better yield than commercial circle sawmills. I’d love to have one of each! Any chance of seeing the D&L at the Shoot-Out this Oct? The main thing is to enjoy running a profitable business!

  3. I Agree 100{ecddf9adde44d27d9b15adaf662c1dc75823d7a27d1c0a3dca6c68c19970fb5c} with what Lindsey has said. However there are other reasons to head to a swingblade as well…

    1) You can dissect real grade out of the log with out sawing through the log. You can actually cut around defects and knots. Recovering higher value boards.

    2) The big numbers touted at the shoot out by the likes of Woodmizer and Baker is simply brought about with the use of a secondary (very expensive) edger. The swingblade is the complete package and turns logs into lumber with out any other re handling effort. I’m sure one of our swing saws working in conjunction with a secondary edger (or bandsaw) will achieve some great results too. At the end of the day it’s two machines vs one. Maybe we need to rock up with our 12″ swingsaw and a small circular edger next shoot out… hmm

    Swing saw manufactures need to stick together on this one… there’s just too much marketing hype out there talking up things that just don’t stack up.

    Recovery is probably the biggest exaggeration. Everything changes when you start planing your timber flat. It takes a lot to plane out a wave.

    Jake Peterson

  4. Jake, in the interest of setting things straight, and since you referred to the Shoot-Out, let’s take a closer look at the performance data. There were ten band saw mills and three swing blade mills.

    Wavy boards: Overall, the band saw mills lost 2.6{ecddf9adde44d27d9b15adaf662c1dc75823d7a27d1c0a3dca6c68c19970fb5c} of their lumber to mis-cuts, while the swing blade mills lost 7.3{ecddf9adde44d27d9b15adaf662c1dc75823d7a27d1c0a3dca6c68c19970fb5c}. All lumber was required to be milled to the industry standard tolerance of +1/8″, -1/16″, and any waviness anywhere on the board outside that tolerance was rejected as a mis-cut.

    Edgers: The highest production of any mill not using an edger was a band mill.

    Production: Total band saw production was 10{ecddf9adde44d27d9b15adaf662c1dc75823d7a27d1c0a3dca6c68c19970fb5c} above the International 1/4″ scale, while the total swing blade production was 2{ecddf9adde44d27d9b15adaf662c1dc75823d7a27d1c0a3dca6c68c19970fb5c} below the International 1/4″ scale.

    A 12″ swing blade mill at the Shoot-Out would be awesome!

    Swing blade mills have some fascinating features. I like the idea of taking logs over 30″ diameter apart one board at a time, and the possibilities offered by the wide slabber are amazing. As far as swing blade manufacturers sticking together, why don’t ALL small sawmill manufacturers stick together to promote the industry and educate people on the benefits of owning a sawmill? The best way to do this is to promote each machine on its merits, with verifiable facts.

    • Howdy,
      I know this is an old thread but, the 2015 shoot out is upon us.
      We all agree different mills shine in different applications. When it comes to the shootouts, the application is slanted to the band mills. From the cut list, to being able to use a separate edger. Like Jake was saying it’s 1 machine against 2, and not only that it’s 2 operators against 4. If the swingblade mills were allowed to run 2 machines and 4 operators, they would blow the doors off of the band mill / edger set ups. Gauntlet anyone?

  5. So I have been noticing a lot of burning on the wood every time I use my band saw. I have been expecting that it was time to get a new band saw blade but I am just a novice and didn’t know which thickness of blade to get. Now all I have to do is decide what sort of work I want to use the blade for and then I can produce better quality. Thank you for sharing!


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