Organizing Logs and Flitches for Bandmill Operation

Here's a long thread on bandmill workflow: stacking and laying out logs and flitches for loading, edging, sawing, and off-loading efficiently. June 18, 2010

I build furniture and recently purchased a Timberking 1220 mill to allow me some options with wood varieties and cuts.

My question concerns how some of you have your mills set up with respect to stacking lumber, flitches (that will need to be edged), slabs, etc. I've only cut with mine twice so far, and both times I've thought of better ways to arrange things.

I'm stacking my lumber perpendicular to the mill on my trailer on the same side that I stand. My slabs are going into a pile next to the trailer (still perpendicular to the mill). The flitches that need to be edged seem to get in the way wherever I put them, though! It just makes sense to keep them off the ground but close to the mill - I'm thinking maybe a couple of roller beds where you could just roll them back onto the mill for edging?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor O:
My mill isn't too far from a TK design, and as far as the flitch goes, my tow hitch on the mill is removable, however I leave it on. It's a 3x3 square tubing about 4' long, and I built a rack that is about 6' long or so, made from 2x3" square tube and has a 2" ball welded about 1' from the end. It just hooks into the tongue, and the other end has about a 36" square tube of the same, welded, looks like a Tee except flat, with an adjustable support post. So once the jacket board is removed, which is thrown over and beside the flitch rack on the ground, then the second cut (flitch) gets drug/carried to the flitch rack, which is at the end of the mill there.

From contributor S:
When sawing with my TK1220, slabs go to the left, boards to the right, and flitches to the rear on the operating side of the mill. I keep the non-operating side clear for turning or leveling the log. Ideally if you have enough bed length, you can place your log on one end of the bed and flitches, as they come off the log, on the other end of bed. The best way Iíve found to be productive is establish a pattern and stay with it, and if someone is helping, make sure they know the procedure so you arenít running into each other.

From the original questioner:


Contributor O, it sounds like you essentially made an extension off the front of the mill to hold your flitches on. Is that correct? I like that idea. I've got some roller beds I could rig up. Do you slide the flitch over/under the blade, carry it around the head, or gig the head back before sliding it onto the rack?

Contributor S, my setup sounds like yours. It makes sense to move the flitches to the rear so you can offload each one before guiding the head back for the next cut, right? Again, maybe some rollers set up? I've noticed many of the mills offer board drag back fingers that would pull the board to the rear automatically (with power feed of course). I agree with the ideal setup (besides having an edger) being a longer bed to allow placing them at the end; then you wouldn't have to move them again (maybe one day I can get an extended bed!).

Any other setups you would care to show/describe? I've gotten some good ideas from the Knowledge Base, but figured there would be some updated systems.

How about add-ons, either purchased or home made? I already see that I need a toe board and some way to turn larger logs. I'm thinking a hydraulic floor jack with roller would work for a toe board, and possibly a large post with winch for turning logs. I plan to build a log deck with timbers as well to make loading easier.

I also like the way Turner mills have all the log stops linked together to make setting them quicker; I think I'll make that mod to mine.

Any other recommendations for a new bandmiller? Can you tell I've got sawmill fever? I love my furniture work, but I'm really excited about this, too! My father-in-law ran a larger Frick mill his entire life, and I was fortunate enough to help him some while he was still alive - talk about spittin' some wood out (but man was it fun!).

From contributor J:
I usually throw the flitches on the hydraulic lift arms when sawing logs. When done I usually put all the flitches on the mill and just start edging them at 2 inch intervals, flipping them and removing the ones that are edged. Usually works very well for me. I saw for other people about twice a month. I have a 40 Wood-Mizer.

From contributor V:
I also have a 1220 (three years now) and I back my pickup close to the end of the mill where you would begin your cut. The flitches needing edged go parallel to the mill a comfortable distance away so I can walk through while operating the mill. As I finish the cut on a board, the mill stays at the far end of the rails and the board goes right into the truck. I always stage my logs as close to the mill as I can. The staged logs are up on beams the same height as the mill so I don't have to fight them up the ramps. As far as tying the log stops together, it may or may not work too well on irregular shaped logs.

I saw a simple log turner at Sawlex this year and fashioned a simple and very effective one of my own from a railroad jack, chain and hook. While standing on the side of the log that you want to roll up and away from you, wrap the chain under the log and hook it on top of the log on the edge farthest from you. Attach the chain to the jack and jack it up. As the jack goes up, it lifts the side of the log closest to you while at the same time using the hook to roll it. Believe me, I saw alone most of the time and have rolled logs as big as 26 diameter red oak 10 feet long with minimal effort. I have also used a hydraulic jack before the current method.

Two tips I would like to pass along: When rolling big logs, slide a length of steel tubing over the stops taller than the log is to prevent the log from climbing over the stops, and don't try to use the pin and hole preset angles for the log stops - they only take up time. Start with the stops straight up, slam the middle log clamp against the log hard, and then bump the stops down to the angle you want them. Tighten the rest of the clamps and cut.

From the original questioner:

Contributor J, that makes a lot of sense; I don't have loaders, but I guess once I get my deck built I could just toss the flitches onto it for staging. I really like your edging technique; I've been spending too much time trying to maximize my yield during edging, and it really eats up my time; taking 2" at a whack and then flipping each board when needed makes a lot of sense.

Contributor V, so you put your flitches parallel to the mill a few feet away, and load your boards directly into your truck at the head (start) end of the mill - is that correct? Do you remove each board after every cut, or do you cut several boards and then offload them? I plan to do my deck just as you describe; the factory ramps are a bit of a hassle to get a log up!

I really like the idea for the log turner; that sounds simple, quick, effective, and inexpensive - perfect! Is a railroad jack like a bumper jack (HiLift-type)?

Also, thanks for the two tips on turning/locking the logs. The tubing is a great idea for use while turning. I've been fumbling around with those stops (they keep falling when I try to lock the dogs in), so I'll try your method - it sounds much better.

From contributor V:
Yes, that is correct - the flitches are parallel to the mill. I move the boards off the cant after each cut, otherwise I have to crank the head up and down too much. I should also mention that I sticker all my boards the same day I saw because I am not under roof and do not want any moldy boards. That is why the boards go straight into the truck, then drive over to the stack and stick them. A railroad jack is similar to an old style bumper jack. A farm jack like they sell at Tractor Supply would also work well. I just happened to have this one.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I thought that was what a RR jack was, but wasn't sure. I appreciate all the tips!

I was thinking of moving my mill closer to my shop so that I can run AC power to it; that would require the start end of the mill to be fairly close to the shop wall (too close for a truck or trailer to fit at that end). I think I may keep the boards and slabs going to the operator side of the mill, and maybe make some roller beds that sit at an angle right next to where the saw head stops. This way I can just slide the flitches off the cant onto the rollers, and then when I'm ready to edge I can just roll them back on the saw. What do you think?

Another gentleman emailed me and that is how he does it, only he has a front end loader on his tractor that he keeps 3-4 ft off the ground. The lumber goes on the forks and slabs go underneath. When full he takes the tractor and stacks his lumber, then returns and moves his slabs to his burn pile to keep his area clean. He also places the flitches on his hydraulic loader arms (which I don't have). I plan to make some forks for my 3 pt hitch (no front end loader); until then I'll keep using my truck/trailer.

What tools do you keep at your mill? Every time I cut it seems I need something else. So far I've got two cant hooks (small and large), an axe, pickeroon, and tape measure (not to mention safety glasses, gloves, and ear plugs).

From contributor P:
I too have an all manual mill. Mine will cut 16 ft but most logs I cut are shorter than that, so I slide my flitches back to the start end before I roll the head back. It's much easier to slide them than to pick them up. I have a tractor with a front end loader to load logs with. Slabs and other junk go on the forks on the operator's side. My slabs all get cut into firewood size and I have no trouble selling them for $100 a grain truckload. I cut the log into boards and move the stack off the mill with the loader. A chainsaw is a must around my mill. Someone is always bringing me a log that still needs a little dehorning. Also I run a 36 inch fan at my back when I'm sawing - it helps keep the sawdust going away from me.

My mill has a manual log turner. It is a 4 ft long 2x2 sq tube that stands up hooked to the log deck with a hand crank cable winch on top. It has a hook on the cable that you wrap around the log. It saves a lot of labor. Worth its weight in gold. The other tool I use a lot at my mill is a pencil.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I agree that having the long bed would be perfect. Maybe one day I can lengthen mine, too. I plan to cut my slabs up for firewood just as you do; why not recover some additional costs if you can? That's a good point about having a chainsaw to keep at the mill. So far I haven't needed one, but all my logs thus far are smaller ones that I cut myself. As I get more, I could see the need.

I've seen pictures of turners like you have, but it looks like it would get in the way during the cut (the post/winch) - do you have to remove it for the cut, or do you just step around/over it?

From contributor P:
The turner on my mill is hinged to the bottom of the 6 inch channel iron frame. It has a latch that holds the post straight up when in use and it lies down on the ground when sawing. Look at Norwood and Cooks. They have similar ones that stay upright. You mentioned a fork for your tractor. A round hay bale fork can handle a lot of stuff, especially if your logs aren't too big. They can even be made to dump by setting the fork down where you want to unload and unpinning the top link of your three point and lifting the draft arms up. Works real well in a pinch.

The mill length used to pile flitches on for later edging could be accomplished simply by placing pallets or junk lumber in a stack as tall as your log bed is so there is a table of sorts to accommodate your slabs. Just a thought - it all gets easier with experience and what seems to work well for me may not for you.

I also did my back a big favor by raising my mill up. The logdeck is almost knee high. This may be a little more trouble to someone loading logs by hand, but when edging and clamping, it makes for a lot less bending. I don't bend like I used to. The extra height also keeps sawdust and bark buildup under the mill from causing problems when clamping logs.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. Hinging the turner/loader makes a lot of sense. Hay forks are exactly what I had in mind to build; I can use them for hay and wood!

I have to agree with you on saving your back and raising the mill; I put mine right on the ground and definitely plan to raise it in the near future (when I build my log deck). I should get to saw some tomorrow, so I'll try out some of these great suggestions. Thanks!

From contributor P:
Does your mill have the cable feed hand crank? Mine is made to push by hand and I was wondering if the hand crank had much advantage, or do you just get tired of twisting that handle?

From the original questioner:
I only had time to saw a couple of logs, but it went well. The logs were only around 15-18" in diameter, so I just laid the flitches on the bunks beside the cant. I also edged them while cutting the cant rather than waiting until I was done with the log; it made it easier and was quicker.

My mill does have the hand crank, which provides a real smooth feed, but I don't know how much difference it really makes. Cranking does get old, especially during the gig back. On mine the handle will disengage, which allows you to just pull it back easier (Which I usually do) rather than cranking it.

From contributor P:
I wondered about that feed on the 1220. The video Timberking puts out only shows the sawyer cranking it back. Looked like some bad memories to me. Used to raise chickens. Had 4 40x400 houses that held 100,000 birds and all of our equipment went up and down on hand crank winches. 20 winches in each building. They would catch all 4 houses in one night sometimes, and I'd have to raise all those up in about 5 hours. Felt like my arm might fall off. Is it hard to crank? Some of those in the chicken houses were pretty heavy. My mill is very easy to push, but when the cuts get wider than 18" it's hard to keep the feed even. My saw will cut up to 36" and straddle up to 42". 20 hp Honda is plenty of power.

From the original questioner:
That's a lot of crankin'! The widest I've cut so far is about 22", but the crank did seem to allow for an even feed rate. If mine did not already have it, I don't know if I would go to the trouble to install it. One good thing about it is that it would be easy to convert to powered feed. Overall, I really like the mill so far. I think it will serve my needs, and it is paid for so no worrying about making the payments!

From contributor Y:

Thanks to contributor J for the tip about edging multiple flitches by flipping and dropping 2" each time. I tried it last week and it worked great (though I would drop 1" because I was making stickers).

Never did understand the crank thing on the smaller bandsaw mills. I just push mine through the cut and it's like pushing a shopping cart.

From contributor P:
I think they put a crank on so that it would look easy enough for a caveman to do it.

From the original questioner:
I'm hurt - what are you trying to say? Just kidding - I have to agree, but since it came with the crank, I do use it.

From contributor H:
To the original questioner: I would enjoy seeing some pictures of your setup. And, of course, all the other guys too. If there are more efficient ways to move lumber around, I'd like to see them. I don't have the fun toys like forklifts, grapples, etc.

From contributor R:
Around here you can buy an old log truck with a loader for around 5000 dollars. Below is a link that shows how I had my Turner mill set up.

Modifications and Tricks with Small Bandsaw Mills

From the original questioner:
I have seen/read all the posts in that article several times and it has been really helpful. I'm planning my log deck just as you had yours. I would like to have a truck/loader, but with my lower volume, I really can't justify it.

From contributor H:
I bought a 1220 right after Katrina because of all the available wood. I also built a solar kiln on a trailer because of all the available heat here in Covington, Louisiana.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From the original questioner:
I like your setup. How long of an extension do you have on your mill? I noticed your tent over your lumber; that's a really good idea. Any pics of your kiln? I've got plans to build one next year.

I know what you mean about hurricanes; when I first started dating my wife in '95 Opal had come through Alabama and there were trees everywhere. My father-in-law's 20 acre pasture was full of logs to saw!

Which blades do you use? I've got samples from TK, Timberwolf, and Wood-Mizer to try. Do you use water/soap or diesel for lubricant?

From contributor P:
I use Timberwolf on my EZ Boardwalk. I tried Cooks Supersharp. They were a little cheaper and were altogether different. Probably stayed sharp longer but were not dull-proof and didn't sharpen as well with my manual sharpener.

Diesel. Even though I usually am cutting hardwoods, just a few drops a minute while running keeps the blade clean and it won't freeze and bust the on/off valve or tank. What kind of wood are you sawing?

From the original questioner:
I'm in Alabama, and I plan to saw a variety of hardwoods mostly (white/red oak, walnut, poplar, sycamore, hickory, etc.) along with a fair amount of Eastern red cedar and some southern yellow pine.

It's funny that you mention the busted valve/tank; the top of my tank is busted from freezing with the previous owner. I've been using water/Pinesol but am really considering diesel, maybe even with a felt wick system.

I also plan to drill a grease hole in the guide bearing shields to allow greasing, as has been recommended by several TK owners. All the bearings on my mill needed replacing when I got it (from water damage on the inside).

From contributor H:
Here's a picture of the solar kiln. It is based on the Virginia Tech design. I highly recommend it. They've done all the research to make it work well. I adapted it for a trailer for portability.

I buy those carport covers when they are on sale at Autozone or Pepboys for $79. They last about 4 or 5 years. Can't beat that for the price.

I have a 6 foot extension for the mill. I use one cup Pinesol per gallon of water, but everyone has their personal choice. I'll probably try the diesel some day too.

I use the standard TK blades. Seem okay to me. I'd really like to try the Timberwolf in the future, though. Buy a bunch of bearings to keep on hand. They will be the first to go and they are relatively inexpensive.

Here's my frustration. I see beautiful logs just lying around during my travels. But I just don't have the tools to load up logs on a trailer to take them home. I'd love one of those self-contained trailers with a grapple on it, but no way I can afford that!

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor P:
I have a tractor and front end loader and log truck, trailers, etc., but I do go pick up some logs with my one ton pickup that has a bale bed on it. I have been thinking about building a self loader for a 16' flat trailer I have. No hydraulics. A swing arm and a big hand crank winch.

From the original questioner:
That kiln looks awesome! The VT design is what I plan to build, and I have another thread posted about placing a trailer in the kiln - I never thought about making the kiln on the trailer. Something for me to think about!

I've got a 16' trailer that I cut some ramps for on the side; I plan to parbuckle the logs up the ramps on the side of the trailer. Many of the guys here seem to like that method. We'll see how it goes, but I think it will work well. So far all my logs came off my land and my neighbor's, so I just skidded them with my truck to the mill.

From the original questioner:
I installed new guide bearings and realigned everything to get a fresh start with the mill, and I am very happy. It cuts like a dream and the quality is superb. I decided to move my mill (now in process), and in doing so plan to apply some of your suggestions. I'm raising the mill off the ground (about knee high), and I'm replacing the short factory steel ramps with a 12' cresoate log deck to assist in loading.

From the original questioner:
Here is a picture of my current setup. I got to saw on it yesterday and I love the raised height and the log deck. I cut my log loading time by 66%, not to mention helping my back! As far as tools at the mill, I've found a 4' heavy steel pry bar to be very handy for finessing logs in addition to the tools mentioned in the above posts.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor P:
Looks great! I like your dead deck - looks real handy. My setup in the chicken house won't let me do that. My lumber comes off the same side that the logs come in on. I cheat a lot. I almost always load logs with the tractor and unload the lumber in a stack with the same tractor. Less wear on my gloves that way.

From contributor P:
Things seem to be picking up here in Oklahoma. I'm back to sawing ties and pallet lumber and some custom work when it comes in. The ties are down to 2150 and the pallet boards pay 32 cents for a 5/8x4x40. Make firewood out of all the stuff that won't make slabs. Nothing wasted.

From the original questioner:
Things around here are slowly picking up. I've been doing some sawing, but mainly just to build some inventory to market to local hobby woodworkers (so no money coming in) or sawing on shares for the same reason. I've sawn some white and red oak, cedar, pine, and sweet gum. I did quartersaw three 10' red oak log sections that ranged from 28-42" on the small end (inside bark) that really broke me in on my mill!

I added a manual winch for turning/loading by cementing a steel pipe in the ground a few feet from the mill so it's out of my way. I also added a winch to my trailer to assist in loading logs which has proved useful in sliding the occasional log on the mill if need be as well.

Raising the mill and the log deck have both paid off handsomely for my back and time, so thank you! I had mentioned that I didn't bolt the mill down, but did have metal pieces to keep the mill from sliding off the posts - I'm glad I did it that way. I had one of those oak logs that would have either damaged something or flipped the mill, but by allowing some slide, both were prevented from happening.

My next goal (for this summer) is to get an extension built to extend my capacity to 22' so that my logs don't have to be perfectly centered, and so that on shorter logs I can just slide my flitches back onto the open section of bed for edging.

I will admit that I used to see large trees and think, "Man, I sure would like to saw that tree," but now I think, "Man, I'd hate to have to saw that big fella, but those 15-24" diameter babies next to it would be perfect." I guess that's the difference in manual and hydraulics!

From contributor P:
Those big ones do present some challenges, no doubt. I milled a pecan log (not the candy type) a month ago for a tree service. It was 38'' at the butt and 10' long. My guides are 36'' so I had to do some trimming. Not to forget that a log that big keeps my log dogs from coming up, so I had to wedge the log steady. Cut the whole log into 3'' thick live edge slabs for table tops. Several of the cuts were 36'', so that's pretty tough. Slow too. The wide cuts made more than 5 gallons of sawdust per cut and the log was a little dry (pecan is a lot like hickory), so I had to sharpen the blade 2 times on that log! And my loader wouldn't lift the log, so I had to skid it inside and roll it on the mill. They sure do present some challenges.

Most of my sawing for those ties and pallet material is post oak or red oak. Those are paying better now and you can sell them. Back when things were real tight, if you cut some of it they might buy it and they may not. They seem happy to get all you can saw now. The pallet stock I sell to a local company, so I deliver it right to them, but the ties are a different story. We deliver them to another mill where a buyer buys them and is usually there on a certain day of the week. The bundles of ties must be the same size as the mill makes. 20 or 25 in a bundle. My loader won't pick up that much (6000 lbs.) so I load them on my truck, band them together, and deliver them that way.

I did learn a new trick on those flitches. Many have one cut side already. So a person can put a bunch of those on and make one cut to edge many boards. The trick comes with the boards that have two live edges. I almost always have to cut one edge on each board one at a time. On my mill there is room to lay them on the deck and still have room to dog the next board, so I cut one edge on several boards and then cut the other all at once without having to move the boards back to one end or off the side. I don't know if it will work as well on a narrower mill. I do some of my edging while I'm sawing a cant if the cut comes out at the right space. Cutting ties, this doesn't work out right because the tie is 7x9 and the last cut would be odd for an inch board. has a poly strapping kit for under $100. They work well and a person smarter than me could make their own tightener and just buy the strap and buckles. They are cheap and durable. I think the strap only costs 8 cents a foot. A great deal compared to steel.

From contributor R:
Here is how I was set up. I had a 10hp electric motor on the mill. I'd cut about 500 feet a day and sell it for 40 cents a board foot.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

Here is a photo of a load of logs.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor P:
How do you get logs from the ramp to the mill, short loading boards? What do you cut, hard or softwood? I bet the saw was in use before that fancy shed was built! Looks good, and I bet you have a lot of fun cutting and less time loading than I do. I have to load every log with a tractor instead of a cant hook. I know I'm a cheater, but it's nice to set on the old case while loading and unloading. I don't want the old tractor to get all rusty and stiff.

From the original questioner:
Contributor P, I edge very similar to the method you describe; it seems to work the best for me as well. I will edge some boards with a cant, but will load a bunch at once and just start edging. I'll either flip (for two sided) or remove (for one sided) as I edge until all boards are done. A gentleman further up this post suggested this and it really is a good method for those of us without an edger.

I had to trim/slab some of those large logs, too. It wasn't as bad as I thought, though. The quartersawing was much more work, but I got some beautiful boards out of them. I can't wait to use some of them.

I'm looking forward to selling some wood; I've got several stacks of some nice wood just drying and waiting to be used. After the extension for the mill will come a solar kiln.

Thanks for the info on the strapper; I need to look into that for sure. I wish I had a larger tractor with a front end loader; my old 8N is a big help but has her limits.

Contributor R, I like your setup; I remember those pictures from my own research when setting up my mill.