Okay, maybe I’m not a logger persay.
But I was involved in a logging accident yesterday.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t a logging accident persay.
But it was still an accident, involving logs.
I mean, it was more like a bump, but it could have been a bad accident.
It could have broken my leg.
But it didn’t. Probably because I drank so much milk as a kid. Turns out I’m so tough my legs can stop logs.
You’re probably giving me the same look Mr. A gave me when I announced I had been involved in a logging accident (of which he was right there for). It was something similar to an eyebrow raise slash smirk slash eye roll.
Let’s back it up for a moment to explain what the heck was going on.
The day was actually about using our friends sawmill because we’re buying a sawmill. This in and of itself is very exciting. And sawing the lumber comprised of 99.9% of the time we were there. Only about 15 seconds comprised of my leg being pinned. Do you watch AxMen? No? Well you should. It’s a good show and funny because every fall becomes some dramatic commercial / wait for the next episode issue – and then it ends up being a tiny scrape. It’s hilarious. Andy has informed me I should be on AxMen because I’d fit right in.
So let’s get back to the sawmill thing.
Andy and I have been looking at these things for a while. I use the “we” because we’re married and that makes us a “we”. What it really means is that Andy has been looking at sawmills and mentioning them for as long as I can remember. He’s also been telling me we should get one and I’ve been alternating between telling him to buy one today, and being skeptical of if we really need one.
These photos might not look like using a sawmill is all that exciting, but it is. You’ll just need to trust me on this one. I wish Mr.A got photos of me using it because I was like a kid in a candy shop with my allowance. Except I was a girl with a sawmill and lumber. It’s a very appropriate analogy. Again, just trust me on this one.
After this weekend, I’m totally on board pun intended—even though we’re likely going with a different sawmill than above.
Wait, so what do you look for when you buy a sawmill? Here are my two cents, I’m sure Andy would have different and/or more but these are mine:
- Loadability/Useability: We really liked the sawmill above, but it was really hard to load logs without multiple people. Truth be told, there’s no way Andy could ever saw lumber on his own without having other guys around. It wrecked their backs. Part of the issue is that there are no log stops on one side you can roll against. The other loadability issue is that there was no spot for tractor forks under this one, so you had to choke the logs and then pull and place them onto the sawmill. Also, general useability. Are the blades easy to replace? Is there a good ruler built in so you can easily size your boards without having to constantly remeasure? Does it cut true? Is it portable or is it difficult to move once it’s down?
- Log size: Depending on what size logs you plan on using, you’ll need to account for this. Different sawmills can take different size logs in both width and length. You’ll need to check to see if the sawmill can take logs as wide as you expect your logs to be, and as long. Also, check out the pricing on how much additional segments will be to accommodate longer logs (and if additional segments are even available).
- Price: Sawmills go from cheap to expensive so you need to buy what you’ll actually use. We would love a sawmill with hydraulics, but we just can’t afford it—and it would beat the savings from sawing lumber ourselves. Other things would be to look at how much it costs to replace the blades—because you will go through them. How often are you going to have to fill the gas tank?
- Color: Color is very important. Okay, I’m kidding. This isn’t important at all.
Those are the biggest points for me at least. I’m sure Andy has about 100 more of them, but through everything I’ve seen—I’d want one that Andy can use by himself, and one I could even use if he was winching logs out of the woods and lumber needed to be cut.
As far as using them, these things are fun. Here’s my 101 overview of how you use a sawmill (minus all the technical mumbo jumbo of the different ways you can saw a log for different grain views).
Step 1: Load your logs. If you’re driving, watch where everyone is at all times. If you’re choking the logs onto the tractor (in the case below) watch the driver at all times, and the logs you’re on. If you’re not doing either, stay the hell out of the way. I really am serious here – as much as I’m dramatizing in a joking manner that my leg was pinched, it’s no joke how easy it is to get hurt and I really am lucky my leg didn’t snap.
Step 2: Put the log on the sawmill – carefully.
Step 3: Brush the log off. This is pretty important or else you dull your blade pretty quick on dirt, and you might even get off tiny rocks from gravel which will really dull your blade.
Step 4: Cut. Typically for plain sawing, you take the debark it on all four sides, get the timber down to the sizing you want (for example 8″ or 10″, which is what we were cutting yesterday) and then saw to the width you want accounting for the blade size. This is what they taught me yesterday—if you want a 3/4 inch board (or 12/16) you need to actually cut at 13/16 because the blade is about 1/16 of an inch thick and you need to account for this.
Fractions come back pretty quick when you’re cutting lumber.
Step 5: After you cut, have your buddy grab the boards and stack them. Make sure to stack your lumber neatly and use stickers in between to keep the airflow going. It’s all about airflow to make sure you have proper drying.
The second reason is there’s something to be said for a nice lumber pile. Simply put Mainer’s judge you by how neat or messy your firewood piles and your lumber piles are. Obviously not all Mainer’s do, but those who use firewood themselves or saw lumber do. Nice lumber pile? You probably have your shit together and I could have a beer with you. Firewood in a messy pile? What are you doing?! Firewood not even cut, still in tree length in your driveway and it’s October? I’ll drive by with my mouth gaping open and saying “WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?!”.
I have a firewood judgement problem. I’m working on it.
Step 6: Eat Italians for lunch. This has nothing to do with anything legitimately Italian and they are not Boston Italians. It’s a simple classic sandwich here in Maine best bought from a mom and pop store on the corner in some small town. I’ll post a recipe for these sometime. I’ll also remember to get a photo next time instead of wolfing it down like I haven’t eaten in 12 years
Step 7: Take a photo of your dogs in the truck.
Step 8: Give your dogs raw hides.
Step 9: Don’t get your leg pinched between two logs. Then hang out for a while. Then go in the truck to take a nap because you have a food coma and a throbbing leg. Wake up and take more photos of the boys sawing lumber. Oh, and what about all of that scrap? It gets used. Often it gets burned in wood stoves, or wood boilers, used for kindling, etc. Nothing goes to waste.
Step 10: Go home.
That is how you saw lumber at a friends house. Sort of. (That’s not his house in the background)
Oh, and by the way, Mother Nature was a day late on her April Fools joke this year. Now she’s just messing with Sasquatch. Which is me, in the morning. It’s April in New England so I truly expect nothing less. If we don’t get a snowstorm before May I’ll actually be surprised.
Now off to nurse my horrific logging injured leg. Pretty soon this story is going to morph into me having a wooden leg from a bear attack and running away from a 100 foot thousand pound log.
My grandkids will think I’m the best ever. I can’t wait to tell them how tough I am.