Chainsaw timber milling, off the grid.
If you have no electricity, no roads and human power is the only way to go, then this is my way of milling lumber using a chain saw. The process is laborious but can be very rewarding, especially considering the cost of sometimes mediocre lumber from the builders yard.
We are lucky to own property on a remote island off Canada’s west coast and built a cabin there over twenty years ago. It is a wonderful place to be, but everything has to be brought in by boat…or helicopter if you like to burn money. There is no regular vehicle ferry service and only a few rough, unmaintained logging roads. Human power and a little ingenuity is the order of the day if one is to undertake a construction project.
After building the cabin, for which I used mainly commercial lumber products, shipped in by barge, I was able to devote time to chain saw lumber making. We are fortunate to have lots of mainly Douglas Fir, lumber grade trees which provide lots of building material and firewood. The wood supply is sustainable for our own use.
I have made many mistakes, torn through a few chainsaws and ruined some equipment over the years but now have developed my own system for operating a Granberg Alaska Mill – your mileage may vary, if this is what you want to do. Have a look at my YouTube video, Making Lumber http://tinyurl.com/7q4j477 for a complete run through of the process.
I have always used Stihl chainsaws. Currently I use an MS 880 for the mill and an MS 660 Magnum for falling and bucking. The MS 880 is the largest (modern designed) saw that Stihl makes, developing around 9HP. The MS 660 is a great saw that will run a good size bar, big enough for most of the trees we encounter. I use Cannon bars, made in Langley BC http://www.cannonbar.com . Cannon makes a great bar due to high quality steel and a superior hardening process and they will even rebuild a worn bar (not too worn!) to as new condition, for a reasonable price. I modify my milling chain (skip tooth, not too aggressive) by filing the cutters at right angles to rip through the wood. I find it prudent to lightly re-sharpen the teeth after about every four slices of a 16′ log. It sounds like a lot of filing but it saves time and gas, in the long run. I buy my files in bulk and when one will not cut well after some use, I throw it away & reach for another new one. A dull file is nothing but frustration.
The winch used in this video was fabricated from an old bronze sailboat unit that I picked up at a used marine chandlery. I welded together a backing plate from recycled steel that can be temporarily attached to the nearest tree, using readily available truck tie down straps. As you can see. in combination with the blocks and tackle, the system is very portable and seems to work well.
I am very lucky to have a supportive wife and an equally supportive friend, Planer Boy/Trimmer Boy. Planer Boy & I built a timber frame workshop in the woods, using only chainsaw milled lumber http://tinyurl.com/7b6usox. We started in 2007 and while the building is largely finished now and in use, we are currently building an addition http://tinyurl.com/6smlp9r to make it more versatile. My grown sons are now very helpful, when they can take time off and I am eternally grateful to other friends who continue to donate time and material.
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