Owning a Sawmill, Why Not?

When I set out to get into timber framing and all things related to it I started out with the thought that I would mill my own timbers with my trusty old chainsaw mill. I had big plans, after all I had milled a ton of boards with my trusty old chainsaw mill. Milling boards for woodworking and milling timbers for timber work are not even close to the same thing.

After milling a couple of timbers I decided that this was just not going to do. So after about five minutes of contemplating I decided that I would figure out a way to get a bandsaw mill. I didn’t care if I had to build it or if I had to somehow scrounge up the money to get a used one. I started pricing out materials… The list started growing and all of a sudden a homemade bandsaw mill would not be much cheaper than buying a used mill, or even a new one.

I started pricing out mills and the sticker shock was a little much but I saw this as a tool that I had to have to do the project I wanted to do. I priced out Norwood mills, Woodmizer, Woodland Mills, you name it. Enter Hudson Sawmills. I had finally found a sawmill in my price range, width of cut I needed for cutting large timbers and length of track needed for cutting long timbers.

I was in business, sort of. I had to convince my wife that I had to have this thing, I couldn’t live without it. After minimal coaxing and a good sales pitch I had the blessing of the boss lady. A few days later I was on the road to Barnevelde, N.Y. with a trailer hooked to the truck and I was sawmill bound. After a quick sale and a ling ride home I finally had a sawmill, something I had been daydreaming about for years.

Setup was easy, the learning curve was even easier. I was amazed at how easy it was to set a log up for cuts and how square I could get my timbers. I was also amazed at how fast it was to cut timbers compared to the chainsaw mill. I could mill four or five logs on the bandmill to one on the chainsaw mill.

To make a long story short I was able to build a huge building for a fraction of the price of buying the timbers already sawn. I was able to have total quality control over my timbers and lumber. That is huge for having a large scale project go well. If somebody was to ask me if they should spring for a sawmill I wouldn’t hesitate to saw go for it.

TheTradesmanChannel Amazon Storefront: https://www.amazon.com/shop/thetradesmanchannel -a curated selection of tools and consumables for log and timber building. You pay nothing extra for your purchases and the channel gets a kickback from Amazon as long as you access Amazon through the above link, you do not have to buy any of the items in the store. This is a great way to support your favorite content creators.

Who Doesn’t Love The Fall

Who doesn’t love working outside in the fall. This is my favorite time of year by far, from the crisp mornings to the bug free evenings.

It has been a long time since I’ve added to this site and my plan is to become more active with this blog once again.

So here’s to another great fall season and I’ll catch you on the next video.

The Last of the Big Timbers

I’ve been terrible about updating folks away from YouTube on my big timber framed shop build so I thought I would share Sunday’s progress. It is the last of the monster timbers set in place by hand with no help or machinery.

To Template or Not to Template…

https://youtu.be/REx2yiXBMOc…That is the question. One of the comments I get quite often on the channel is “wouldn’t a template save time?”. It is a good question but as in many things in life there are pros and cons for using or not using a method.

On this build I have laid out every piece with no templates. The reason or excuse I use the most for not using a template is the nature of rough cut timbers. There are times when I need to make slight alterations to a timber in order to make things work. Those are situations where a template can be restrictive to the process.

In hindsight my best advice would be to make templates for the scarf joints as those require the most consistent layout every time. I did not do this and I probably would have had better results in the long run.

Choosing a Species for Timber Framing

In the last article we covered the issue of rafter thrust and how to cope with it when designing you timber frame.  In this article we will be covering timber species well suited for timber framing.

When you are planning your frame and you are trying to figure out your loads you cannot properly figure out the loads without first knowing what species of wood you will be using for the frame.  This is important because part of load calculations will be based on material weight (dead load).  So let’s go through some of the pros and cons of certain species choices.

My personal favorite: eastern white pine.  We have two species of wood in North America that are very stable and very well suited to use for timber framing.  White pine happens to be the second most stable choice and if you live in the east it can easily be had.  White pine is fairly light when it is green compared to some choices (average 3 pounds per board foot).  This means that your dead loads will not be quite as heavy as many other species.  The other attractive feature of white pine is that it is very stable and does not have a large amount of shrinkage or twisting.  This can be a good thing if like me it takes you awhile to put your frame up.

The draw backs to white pine are few but really need to be considered.  White pine will rot much faster than say oak or hemlock if left exposed for too long.  The sapwood in white pine is also favored by insects, and bugs can wreak havoc if not dealt with quickly.

The next species on the list is Douglas Fir.  Doug fir is rated the most stable species of wood in North America by many and is probably one of the best choices out there for timber framing.  Doug Fir comes in at 3.2 pounds per board foot.  Doug fir is a very strong species, seems to do well with insects and is very easy to work with.  Most barns and frames out west were made of Douglas Fir and they have stood the test of time.  There is also a large market for repurposed Doug Fir out there.  If I had access to this species I would be using it instead of white pine for my frame.

White oak…what can we say about white oak?  White oak is a very widespread species of many variations throughout the world and there have probably been more frames cut out of white oak than any other in the western world (this is an educated guess).  White oak weighs in at 5.3 pounds per board foot and has a high moisture content.  This high moisture content lends to a lot of movement in the timbers as well as a large amount of shrinkage.  White oak also checks very deeply.  Even with those issues white oak is a very strong wood, it also fairs well in the rot and insect department.  The pros of using white oak is that your timbers do not have to be as large as say white pine to support the same loads.  It is a straight grained wood and is fairly decent to work when it is green, cut your joinery quickly though because when it dries out it is a real bear to tool.

Hemlock…I do not like hemlock for timber framing or much of anything for that matter.  That is just my opinion and it would not be fair of me to not write what it is good at.  Hemlock weighs in at 4.2 pounds per board foot and is a very strong species even though it is a softwood.  Hemlock does well with rot resistance but the carpenter ants love hemlock.  The thing that makes hemlock very undesirable for me is that it is a crap shoot to get quality timbers when you mill it up.  You could get excellent timbers out of one log and have nothing but problems with another log.  Hemlock has a tendency for grain shake which is a condition that occurs when the growth ring separates within the tree.  Hemlock is also subject to large amounts of movement which can be very frustrating if you go to put your frame together if the timbers have had time to dry out.  Hemlock also checks very deeply but that does not seem to affect its strength.

These are just a few species to choose from but I believe they are the most common that can be obtained fairly easily in many places.  Your timber selection will count quite a bit on what you have available to you in your area.  Each species has its merits and its downfalls.  It will be up to you to decide which is most suitable for you to use.

Jim, The Tradesman

Designing Your Own Timber Frame: The Effects of Rafter Thrust


I recently put up a video on designing your own timber frame and what you need to know before you begin.  This will be a multiple part article that I hope you will find useful in trying to design your own frame.  I would also like to add that this process requires a lot of planning as well as a lot of attention to detail, if you are not comfortable with this process you need to consult with a timber framing engineer. Continue reading “Designing Your Own Timber Frame: The Effects of Rafter Thrust”

Captain Stupid Mistake

Another small mistake that led to hours of fixing it.  Showing the mistakes is part of the process, it would be easy to show just the good stuff but it wouldn’t bring an honest view of a project like this.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑