Alaskan Saw Mill FAQ

Jon Doyle
How do I make first the first cut?

Since most logs are round on top and rough, you need to create a smooth and flat surface for the mill to ride on. You can nail a 2X12 to the top of the log or buy a slabbing rail kit. Slabbing rail brackets are made of steel and attach to the ends of the log. You then attach two 2X4s to the brackets. For more information and a graphic, see our page on how a mill works.

How much production can I get from an Alaskan saw mill?

This is a tough question to answer. Generally, if you have a lot of logs that are easy to get to, and you want a bunch of 2X4s for a building project, it is probably best to spend your money on hiring a portable band saw mill to come in. The Alaskan mill will make 2X4s, but it would be a lot of work.  On the other hand, if you need large timbers or beams for a project, the Alaskan mill is very effective.

The Alaskan mill is also a good tool when working in a remote location. There are many places where it is necessary to mill the log where it lays. Many cabins owe their existence to an Alaskan saw mill. 

It is also a good tool for a woodworker or a person who likes special woods. Beautiful figured wood can sometimes be salvaged from logging sites. We've seen cuts of walnut and cherry salvaged from trees that grew in someone's yard. Craftsmen who turn bowls on a lathe, musical instrument makers, people who build custom furniture all love unique wood and an Alaskan saw mill gives them a tool for harvesting it.  

What size mill should I buy?

The answer to this depends on the size of the logs you want to mill. The mills are available in five sizes: 24", 30", 36", 48", and 56".  When attaching the mill to a chain saw, you will lose 2" to 4" of width.  So, if you need to be able to cut 24", you should buy the 30" mill.  To give yourself some extra room, even the 36" mill would be a good choice.

When you look at prices, you will see that stepping up to the next size mill doesn't cost much extra. This gives you the capability to run a little longer bar if you ever need to. Mills easily shrink down to smaller sizes, but can not expand beyond their stated width. Buy a little insurance by getting a mill that is a little larger than you think you need today.

How long should the saw's bar be?

Again, this depends on the size of your logs, but if you wish to set your mill at maximum width, the bar should be a little longer than the mill. The reason for this is the mill clamps onto the bar. Since the bar tip has a bearing in the end, the bar must be clamped behind the bar's nose. On the saw end, often the mill cannot be clamped next to the saw's case. If the saw has falling dawgs, it sometimes helps to remove them so the mill can clamp closer to the powerhead.

What kind of chain saw do I need? 

The bigger the saw, the better. If you have any amount of milling to do, you want power. Long ripping cuts are hard work for any saw and big saws run the longest without overheating. They also allow you to produce the most work. Even the small mills should be setup with a saw engine with a displacement of  60cc or more. The large mills work best with saw engines of 110cc or more. On the biggest mills, some operators use a double-ended bar fitted with two powerheads. 

If you are planning to do a lot of milling, consider getting a saw just for the mill. Often good used powerheads are fairly easy to find. Large pro saws usually sell for about half the price of a new one. If you are going to be milling in a remote location, an "extra" saw is always a good idea, anyway. In this case, consider buying a new saw.

Do I need an Auxiliary Oiler Kit? 

For small mills cutting green logs, probably not. With longer mills and dry logs, it is a good idea. Milling is hard work for all the saw's components. Having plenty of good lubrication helps all the parts last longer. 

Do I need a special chain for ripping? 

It is best if you do. You can resharpen a conventional chain to rip better by filing the angle more blunt, however if you are going to do much ripping, it is best to get a special chain. We recommend the Oregon ripping chain because it is not expensive and it is easy to sharpen.  Granberg, the manufacturer of Alaskan saw mills, also makes a good ripping chain. For more information, see our page on ripping chain.

Got questions about Alaskan saw mills? Call or stop in.