It’s that time of year again, when I go out into the freezing night with a flashlight to drain the radiator and block of the old Ford tractor. Once again, I had put off putting antifreeze in it until the last minute. The first freeze, which had only been in the forecast for the last week, took me by surprise. Fortunately, my sawmill is powered by an air-cooled Briggs and Stratton engine, so getting it ready for winter could wait for daylight.
There are several things you can do to prepare your portable sawmill for frigid weather.
- Change your engine oil to a lower viscosity, such as 5-30.
- While the oil is draining, change the spark plugs and check the drive belts.
- If you’ll be cutting frozen wood, consider using 3/4″ pitch band saw blades, which are designed for tough and frozen wood.
- Don’t forget your blade coolant. A mixture of windshield wiper antifreeze with the water will keep it flowing freely.
Even if you don’t plan to cut in the winter, there are a few things you can do to “mothball” the system until the spring.
- Drain the fuel line. If possible, run some ethanol-free gasoline through the system and run the engine until the fuel runs out. When ethanol in fuel dries out, it leaves a residue that can clog the carburetor.
- Remove the battery and bring it into the house or shop where it will stay warm.
- Drain the water lubrication system.
- Remove the blade.
- If the sawmill is not in a shed, put a tarp over the carriage and secure it so the wind doesn’t blow it off.
- Tie or lock down the carriage so it will not roll on the track.
- Cut up and split the slab pile for your winter supply of firewood
If anyone has any other tips about winterizing a sawmill, we’d love to hear about them!