Blade Wear When Sawing Reclaimed Timbers

Crusty old barn beams wear blades out fast. Is there anything you can do about it? July 30, 2007

As a first time sawyer of reclaimed barn beams, I expected less bd feet per blade, but after metal removal, am running about 150 or less per blade on chestnut, which is not the hardest stuff around! I suspect most of the wear is abrasion related (sand, dirt, rust, etc.). Is this normal? Or is there some secret weapon, say Cook's Supersharp or Colbolt? I must say, though, cracking open a gorgeous piece of chestnut is like catching the big one every cast!

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor T:
I have sawn over 5,000 bf of reclaimed beams for past customers over two jobs. I run Timberwolf blades .045 thick 3/4 tooth spacing. I recommend using a Wizard metal detector. Your beams must be clean, not only to cut more with one blade, but to produce flat cuts. All metal must be removed to produce flat cuts. If you hit a nail half way through the cut, the blade will be dulled and wave up and down.

If the problem is related to the beams being dirty, you can either power wash the hell out of them (which I recommend), or use a debarker (which I use in colder weather). For 200 bucks you can buy a Log Wizard that Baileys sells. It bolts onto the end of a chainsaw, and works great. The debarker may be too much for your beams though, but is a nice compliment to a sawmill.

I average 250-300 BF while cutting beams as long as I don't hit any nails. You can get cobalt blades and not clean the beams, but cobalt dulls quicker, and is more expensive to resharpen.

From contributor W:
I saw mostly dead dry western juniper and get about 2-300 bdft per blade. I sawed an ash log that had been in a barn for 10 + years for a guy and it was 2 blades for 150 bdft, so I guess you're in the ballpark.

From contributor B:

Opening the beam on the cleanest face and turning that clean face towards the blade for the next cut extends the amount you can cut per blade.

From contributor L:
All good replies. Just want to add that I spent most of the summer sawing and waste cutting chestnut for a long time customer. While not so hard, chestnut is sort of fibrous. It will usually be fuzzy after sawn. That seems to dull the blades or something. I don't average as many feet sawing chestnut per blade as other species.

From contributor T:
Your method makes sense but requires more flipping and possibly even rotation (in an above view of the mill setting). I don't think it's practical to deal with so much flipping and spinning of the beam to just get as many exit cuts on dirty surfaces as possible, and minimize entry of dirty surfaces. Clean the beams well with as little as a compressor, run a good blade, and you shouldn't have to worry about this.

From contributor T:
Just finished my first reclaimed chestnut job. Was about 600 bf, done on two blades. Two because I hit one nail. Surprised I hit just one, after pulling about 5 pounds worth out (after someone else pulled the obvious ones out by eye) . I'm telling you - these blades are nice!