Bill's Wood Creations
  Mouse Bank

How To Make Quartersawn Lumber With a Chainsaw

Page 2

L-Shaped stickers shown to the left to provide air circulation between the boards until the wood surface is dry (one or 2 months minimum).

Peavey, crowbar, hammer, nails, and chain sharpener with 12 volt battery.

I use the Alaskan Mini Mill for 3 reasons.

1) I do not want to make flatsawn lumber only because, in my experience, it has an extremely high percentage of cracking and warping (more than 50% is my experience with hardwoods). The Alaskan Mill (horizontal cutting chainsaw attachment) cannot be made to cut Quartersawn lumber without a great deal of log manipulation. The earlier designed Alaskan Mini Mill makes quartersawing lumber very easy.

2) I have a 36" bar on my 076 Stihl chainsaw and with the Alaskan Mini Mill I can cut 33" diameter log in half, or a 36" diameter log to the point where I can split the log with wedges and sledge and only waste a small amount of sap wood. By rolling a 5' diameter oak log over I did (when I was younger) make a saw cut that split the log into 2 halves using the 36" bar. From that log I cut several 24"x11' Quartersawn planks. With the horizontal cutting Alaskan Mill I loose 2 or 3 additional inches from the chainsaw bar length further limiting the diameter of a log that I can handle.

3) Sawing is considerably easier with the Mini Mill. With the horizontal cutting Alaskan Mill, one has to saw bent over or squatting repeatedly for every plank made. That means for a large log the full chainsaw bar is cutting almost for every board made. That is a lot of work guiding and pushing while bent over or squatting. You can expect to loose a lot of sweat that way. With the Mini Mill, the log is sawed through the pith with the chain saw bar pointing vertically down for the first cut to create 2 half logs. Now the half logs are then sawed in the same fashion into then 4 quarter logs. Most of the pith, where much of the lumber cracking starts is destroyed. The first cut is through the whole log as can be done on small logs with the Alaskan Mill but the difference is it is done while standing up, a much more comfortable position (for us older folks). The cuts to make quarter logs only have half the wood to go through, even easier yet in a standing position. Finally to cut the quarter logs into lumber, all done in the standing position, is done without moving the quarter log once it is placed on stands.

Here are the steps with pictures to better illustrate what is being done.

Step 1 - The log must be positioned so that the chainsaw bar will not hit the ground or anything else while cutting the log in half. For logs of diameter larger than the chainsaw bar is long, the log can be left on the ground. However the sides of the log must be supported so that when the log is cut in half, the halves will not roll causing harm to the sawyer. Smaller diameter logs must be lifted onto supports or log cutoffs to keep the chainsaw bar out of the dirt. I have a tripod lifting hoist to get the logs off the ground and 2 metal sawing horses to support the log for the first lengthwise cut. The half logs are also placed on the sawing horse to cut the quarter logs. The metal sawing horses have adjustable side supports to prevent the half or quarter logs from rolling off until the sawyer is ready to move the cut wood.

Once the log is set for the 1st cut, guide supports are nailed to each end of the log. The guide supports are ¾" plywood with a 2x4 along the top edge of the plywood and are positioned so the top of the support is level (using a small level) and approximately 3/8" (the width of a chainsaw cut) to one-side of the pith. Both guide supports are to be on the same side of the pith. The top of the supports must be clear above the log so the log will not touch the guide that is nailed to the guide supports. The guide shown to the right, is a finished 2x6 or larger plank 10' long for making 8' long lumber. The Mini Mill will come as a kit with 24" sections of aluminum that is to be screwed to the 2x6 as the Mini Mill guide.

I have found that the 2x6 guide plank will start to bounce if it is not supported at least 3 places between the end guide supports. I use long nails hammered into the log about every 24". These nails are to be hammered in just so the 2x6 guide plank will rest on them and still allow solid nailing to the guide supports on each end of the log.

Step 2 - Mount the Mini Mill on the chain saw bar. Do not start the saw! Place the saw on the guide plank on both ends of the log and visually check to see that the chainsaw bar is lined up so it will not hit the dirt or any part of the sawing horses.

Step 3 - Put on your Safety equipment.

Step 4 - Start the chainsaw in a safe manner. Carefully put the chainsaw with motor running on the guide plank. Stand to the right side of the log and put the saw motor into full on speed and guide the saw through the full length of the log. Turn off the chainsaw motor and remove the saw from the guide plank to a safe position far enough away from the cut log so it will not be damaged when the half logs are allowed to fall to the ground. Remove the guide plank, guide supports and support nails. Now carefully push the half logs off the sawing horses. TIP - Before dumping the ½ logs to the ground place 2 chains on the ground, one on either side of the sawing horses so the ½ logs will fall on them. The chains can then be wrapped around the logs for lifting.

Step 5 - Raise one of the half logs back onto the sawing horses. Nail the guide plank to the cut side of the half log 3/8" to one side of the pith. Only 2 nails are needed close to the ends of the ½ log. The guide track is to be on the pith side of the guide plank. Again place the chainsaw on the guide plank and visually check to be sure the chainsaw bar will not hit the dirt or any part of the sawing horse as it cuts the half log into quarter logs. I usually change to a 25" bar at this point as the 36" bar is usually too long and will hit the dirt or the bottom frame of the sawing horse (wish I had 2 chainsaws so I wouldn't have to stop and change bars). Complete the 2nd cut to make the quarter logs. Remove the guide plank.

Step 6 - Set up the quarter log supports near the log sawing horses. Move one of the quarter logs to the quarter log supports. I often can do this by myself lifting one end of the quarter log at a time. Sometimes they are too heavy and must be pushed or lifted off the sawing horses and then raised with the tripod hoist and lowered to the quarter log supports, bark-side down.

Step 7 - Set the Mini Mill for the desired board thickness. (The new models of the Mini Mill do not come with this feature. The must be modified by adding the necessary parts of the earlier models. The modification is described in the Mini Mill Modification page.) Saw the quarter log by first sawing off one side and then the alternate side. All sawing is done in a standing position. As each board is sawed off the quarter log the subsequent boards get narrower and narrower. With each cut the sawyer must check to see that the saw will not hit the quarter log supports. The last triangular piece of the log may be used for spindle turning, sawed on a bandsaw or used for firewood. Continue sawing each quarter until all the worthwhile lumber is made.

Step 8 - Air Dry the lumber in a vertical position in the shade with air space between boards. To do this I cut L-shaped stickers for each board that I want to air dry. The L-shaped stickers are made from 2"x4"x3/4" blocks of wood on a bandsaw. They need not be perfect L-shaped and need not be all the same exact shape. Most commercial lumber storage is done by laying boards in horizontal stacks with accurately cut stickers placed evenly along the length of each board. Well as older gentleman (that was 20 plus years ago when I was younger) told me to stand my boards on end leaning the narrow edge against a wall or fence in the shade. I tried this and found it so successful I wonder why it isn't done this way commercially. I did have one problem early on with mold between the boards. Now with the L-shaped stickers place on the top end of the boards to allow air to circulate between them I get no more mold formation.

Storage in this vertical position has one other benefit. When I want one of the boards I don't have to un-stack the pile to get it. 2 or 3 months of drying with the L-shaped stickers is usually enough to dry the surface of the boards so the stickers can be removed allowing the boards to be stored closer. My shop tends to be over crowded with fresh cut lumber at times. From this point on you can use the lumber after about a year of drying for each inch of thickness.

Bill Tarleton is a hobby woodworker/woodturner and organizer of the Diablo Woodworkers ( in the East San Francisco Bay Area.

Dr. Mark Walter, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, The Ohio State University, used this lumber making method with success. See his photos below.

Picture 01

Picture 02

Picture 03

Picture 04