One-man swing milling

Running a one-man swing mill operation, loading and unloading mills and more. March 4, 2002

How do you swing millers work alone? Using the horizontal down and vertical back cuts the Peterson (and Lucas) mills both leave the miller on the other side of the carriage to where the board is. Do you run around there to get it and stack it, then walk back? If you start at the other end and come back vertical, you drop the board on the blade when you go forwards horizontal - probably bad. If you start at the other end and come back horizontal you're "climbing" the blade over the wood; same problem when you go forward vertical - this is probably bad, worse when there is bark and grit.

Forum Responses
From contributor M:
When sawing alone (most of the time), I make the vertical cut first, then walk forward with the horizontal cut. I am then standing next to the board, which I offbear onto the pile. I work at home mostly, so I sticker as I am stacking right from the mill, then I pick up the bundle with my forklift and move to the kiln area. Having the weight of the board on the blade is not a problem until you start cutting bigger timber sizes like 6x6 or 6x8. Then all you do is put a small plastic wedge in the end of the horizontal cut to keep the timber from pinching the blade. Both companies give free videos - if you watch them, you will see how simple it is. Better yet, find an operator in your area and go see!

From the original questioner:
I was thinking about a wedge, or even a flat bar to take the weight of a heavy one just as the saw exits. So I guess you've concluded that it's more important to maintain the cutting directions than to worry about dropping the boards on the blade?

From contributor M:
Actually I put the wedge in at the beginning of the horizontal cut on big beams, as the Lucas has what is called a "riving knife" which is a 3/16" plate attached right behind the blade which keeps the kerf open where the blade is cutting. This is the reason that the Lucas needs the mill to be rotated to make a double wide cut. I have been told that some Lucas guys are removing the riving knife with no ill effects and are able to make the wide cuts without rotating.

From contributor C:

Peterson has a riving knife, too. They can do the big double cut without turning the head around because the motor doesn't sit over the blade like the Lucas.

From contributor A:
Contributor C, how can the return cut be operated with a following riving knife attached? Personally I would never remove this attachment. For one thing, if there was any incident for which an insurance claim was made then it would immediately be voided by this tampering with essential safety equipment. And second I donít find the head rotation that difficult even with one man. Just put on the wheels, drop the ground, unhook and rotate, replace, wind up to original level. Iím nearly always with 1-3 mm of off side cut which I find acceptable. The whole process is about 45 seconds. This is only used for the 2 or maximum 4 boards either side of the heart to maintain quarter-sawn properties. Otherwise it's a waste of time and wood.

I must say to all the Peterson owners that I certainly donít like the idea of horizontal cutting towards you when walking backwards over uncertain terrain. You can fall and your legs can be thrown into the saw - massive injury if not permanent incapacity. Too much of a risk.

From contributor P:
What I have seen lately for big logs makes me think "Peterson, all-terrain". Comments? What is the cost of all-terrain over Lo-Lo?

Swingers, I don't have to put wedges under big timbers to keep from pinching my blade.

Contributor A is right - it would be more dangerous to walk the mill toward you in a horizontal cut. Not only for the reason mentioned, but because the blade would climb out of the cut. That's why you are instructed to saw ahead (pushing the mill) in the horizontal position.

Contributor P, even the standard lo-lo mills can be "all terrain", but in any case you'll want some help if you're going to carry it in very far. If you can wheel it (I am assuming not by your description), one-manning it is no problem.

From contributor D:
The same awful vision has clouded my head - of falling down while pulling the blade toward me. There's a good reason that I operate my Lucas as sold, with knife attached!

Contributor C, what am I missing? You can't have a riving knife fixed ahead of the blade and still make a double cut. Where is the riving knife located? Engine location seems irrelevant.

From the original questioner:
Re: Reversing the direction of cut - or "climb" milling as metal working machinists would call it.
I asked the same question at Peterson - basically, the answer is don't! Going down the log, it can climb over and run away from you; coming back it could run over you. And as others have pointed out, the blade is horizontal under the carriage and just about in line with where your feet are likely to kick up if you fall over backwards.

Re: Riving knives and cutting both ways without taking the carriage off. I suppose a moving knife could be contrived that would follow the blade and tuck in behind it whatever the cut - sort of like the blade guard that follows a skil saw?? Okay, I guess they're fixed on the Pete's and Luc's.

From contributor C:
You don't have to take the riving knife off when double cutting - the riving knife is on the right side half of the horizontal blade (following the blade as you push for the first left horizontal cut).

When you do your second horizontal cut for the double cut, you are coming back on the other side of the log, using the other side left half of the blade. There is no riving knife in the way on this side, and the fact you are using the left half of the blade while pulling, the blade is still rotating into the cut in exactly the same manner (not climbing or grabbing). Also, while pulling back in this cut, you can actually stand on the left of the log if you're worried, totally out of the way of the blade (which is still in the log anyway until you exit at the end).

Doing it the way Peterson says, you are not climb milling in any direction, in fact, you can't climb-mill where it would want to come towards you 'cause the riving knife is there!

From contributor A:
I believe you. I just need some visual to get my head around it. I bet that there are still some owners who 'pull' horizontal, though. The thought makes me shiver.

Have you had any difficulties with blade damage - specifically breaking off any of the seat after the tooth had departed? If so, do you rebuild the seat with a MIG or do you file it back? The latter was suggested by Lucas but I am unsure of the affect that this will have on the cut angle relative to the 4 remaining 'true' tooth angles. I have a lot of blades to repair and need to get a good system going.

From contributor C:
I have heard of this but have yet to experience it personally. I have a friend who is a good saw doc and said it's better to build it up with a MIG - you won't know the difference. Have you been hitting big chunks of metal?

With the Peterson you can pull through the horizontal but only when using the left side of the blade so not to climb mill. There is no danger in this, as it is much the same as pulling in the vertical, as you know, and the riving knife is there protecting the side of the blade that is exposed while double cutting. You should maybe also try using a thicker body blade for more strength.

What is the typical life (hours or BD FT) of a swing mill blade if you don't hit metal? I've heard typically 20,000 BD FT but also considerably more and less.

Another thing to watch out for... I just bought a new Lucas 8. I put in a hard day's sawing at a friend's place then came home to unload. My truck is a high 1 ton 4X4 so I used 10 foot long 2"X6" for ramps to wheel my saw down. Trouble came when I tripped just as the saw started down... I'll let you imagine what happened. My 9 year old had a hard time trying not to laugh and at the same time help get the saw off me. Can I put brakes on the mill to slow it down a bit when I take it off the truck?

From contributor C:
Check out Peterson's way of loading/unloading - no need for ramps even on a high 4x4.

From contributor A:
I use a boat winch to load/unload. The loading problem is to my mind the least resolved part of the whole concept. Contributor C has a point about Peterson's loading system. I want to make some collapsible jockey wheels for the 'off side' of the power head.

As for blade life, if you don't hit any metal and you don't overheat and you replace teeth with good welds and you don't leave it in the rain to rust and you read lots of Voltaire, blade should last as long as the mill.

From the original questioner:
About getting the mill out of a high 4x4 pick-up: I have had similar problems with a 600 lb log splitter. Unless I can back up to a mound and get the truck wheels in a gully, the 8ft boards I use are just too steep and the log-splitter threatens to run me over if I don't have helpers.

Here's a solution: get a 20/30 ft length of thick rope - it doesn't have to be strong, just thick so you can grip it. Tie one end to the carriage you're unloading, take a turn and a half of rope around an upright of the rack (I'm assuming a pipe rack on the truck) just behind the cab. Flake the rope out behind and beside the truck, not where you will be standing - you don't want to get caught up in it. You can figure the rest - just pay out the rope. The wraps around the rack will prevent runaway as soon as you pull on the free end. Be sure you have a wrap and a half, or maybe two and a half - a half wrap buys you almost nothing.