Hand-Powered Saws for Milling Logs

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A discussion of pit saws and an idea for adapting a bandmill blade for a hand-powered frame saw. May 11, 2005

I would like to saw a few logs every once in a while on a serious budget, and am not afraid of hard work. I was thinking about buying a band sawmill blade, cutting a three foot section, and stretching it in a rectangular wooden frame like an old frame saw. Something like an old pit saw, without spending $100 in an antique store for a rusty piece of crap. Does anyone have suggestions as to the best blade width/size/etc. and who sells individual cheap bands instead of a ten pack?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor B:
You might consider finding someone local with a band saw that does custom work - you could probably buy one there. I think you are biting off a great big job. The teeth on my WM are 7/8" tooth spacing. For hand application, that would be like driving a nail in the log and trying to rip it out. Closer tooth spacing would help. I can not even imagine the time involved. The old timers did not use the pit saw because of efficiency; it's all they had.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Most commercial bands will not actually be flat, but have a curve in them, edge to edge, to assist in keeping them cutting flat as they spin. This will be a problem for you. In your frame, you will need a very wide blade to keep it cutting straight, as you probably cannot get the tension on the blade that we would find in a commercial unit. Being real honest, I do not think that you will find this to work very well. Remember that for each blade, you will need probably 50 hp. You also need a way to hold the log stationary as it enters the cut, is in the cut, and is leaving the cut. A frame saw makes a great boat anchor because of all the steel required to keep it from bending or moving. Why not contact WM and ask for their listing of custom sawyers? It would be cheaper to pay someone a couple times a year than to pay the bank every month. I hope you feel that I am negative about your idea... I worry about safety and performance issues.

From contributor A:
Here is a picture of a frame resaw that I made to resaw crotches and boards that are too wide for my band saw. The blade is a wood cutting blade 3 tpi, 1 1/4" wide x 4' long. Unless I read your post wrong, I can't imagine anyone using this kind of saw to lumber a log! But I've seen prints of old timers cutting veneer out of a log with one of these saws.

Click here for full size image

From contributor M:
Re: Hand frame saw with band sawmill blade Mike Shenton 12/6
You can still buy new pit saws. I have a catalog from People Powered Saws (I think) that has them in it.

From contributor F:
Re: Hand frame saw with band sawmill blade fp-vt 12/6
How long did it take to saw that slab like that? At one time, maybe I'd consider trying my hand at it. I have even watched 2 man pit sawing at colonial Williamsburg. While it was partly exhibition and partly the way it was done, looked like it took a day to saw once through a 12' log.

From contributor A:
Surprisingly, not long. I believe it took less than an hour. The piece was an 8/4 walnut crotch that I resawed into four boards. Here is a closeup picture of the blade resawing a 4/4 butternut board. The saw cut the butternut a lot faster than the walnut, though. If anyone is interested in making one of these saws, the plans are in Bob Moran's book, "Woodworking: The Right Technique" published by Rodale Press, page 282.

Click here for full size image

Click here for full size image

Click here for full size image

From contributor F:
I'm very interested in purchasing a pit saw. Crosscut Saw Co. in NY used to sell them, but no longer. I've been unable to find a supplier.

From contributor J:
crosscutsaw.com still has a few unhandled pitsaw blades. These are unsharpened. My check for one has cleared and I'm waiting for it to arrive. I found instructions for sharpening it in The Woodwrights Companion, ISBN 0-8078-4095-5.