Planning Cuts with a Swingmill

Thoughts on making the first cut when using a swing-blade mill. July 7, 2011

We started our new 7 23LucasMill for the first time yesterday and had a fantastic time. Having never seen a log being milled before, we were seriously impressed with its capabilities. Can someone please guide me to some online literature/films on how to go about planning the best cuts to be made?

I understand the basic theory behind quarter and plain sawing but actually applying that in reality to a lumber that isn't perfectly round, etc - is there a science to it? Yesterday we just played but I can see there is some art to getting the most out of the wood you have on the mill. Detailed and broad info would be good. We have lots of different type of wood to be milled and need timber for plenty of different jobs. I'm sure the best thing is to go out and get milling and learn on the job but any pointers would be greatly appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor M:
In addition to research and reading it would help you to visit as many mills as you can and talk with the sawyer while he is cutting. No better way to learn.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
You will find a book, Sawing, Trimming, and Edging Hardwood Lumber at the Forest Products Society that is loaded with info. Likewise, the magazine Sawmill And Woodlot Management has info just about every month. Finally, the archives here at WOODWEB have many suggestions too. For example use the words “Opening Face”.

From contributor G:
Having a swingmill you may also want to learn the best methods to cut wood.

Unlike bandmills the swingmills often approach the cutting of a log in a completely different way. Horizontal band sawmill sawyers that have good hydraulic tools can orient and level a log, make rotations and then other cuts to produce the boards they make. There are lots of cutting methods which improve the production rate and often the quality of the product.

A swingmill, mostly cut the log from one stationary position. That position is often "as is" or "as loaded". You can certainly read the literature and find out about how to read the outside of a log and picking the best side; assuming you can get that side setup on you mill. To my knowledge there isn't a swingmill how to book. But you may find techniques discussed on various forums.

Here is what I try and do with my 8 1/2" swingmill:

1. Plan for the majority of the cuts to be be around 6" deep.

2. Use the vertical cut as the primary cut.

3. Whenever possible, make a deep horizontal cut and then several vertical cuts in both directions making a board on each pass; in other word minimize the number of passes.

4. Try to always finish a board with the vertical cut so the board weight will not pinch the saw.

5. Pay attention and learn feed speeds versus cut depth range.

As to special safety considerations:

1. Do not turn your back on the mill.

2. Push the horizontal cut.

3. Keep the area clean and clear of trip points.

4. Keep folks (off bearer) away from the front of the saw.

Any of my recommendation are superseded by the manufactures of your mill. I own a Brand X mill and it has different recommendations than a Lucas.

From contributor I:
I have a twin blade saw but it's basically the same cutting pattern. Even more important than the first cut is the log position. As you will not be turning the log with this style of mill, all your cuts must be pre planned. You will learn over time. Orient the log (softwood) so the "egg" is standing up. You will find most logs are more oval than round and in this way your deepest cuts can be in the vertical position. I also always orient the log so I'm starting the cut at the big end of the log. This way you will not run out of clearance and jam the mill at the end of a cut. It is also done for safer operating. Catch a board or piece of slab in the saws and it becomes a missile. Never let anyone stand in front of the saw.

From contributor V:
You'll find with a swing mill that with a little practice it is fairly easy to maximize the amount of quartersawn lumber you get if that is what you're after, however you'll also find that since different species are used in different ways it's good if you have an idea ahead of time what you will be doing with the product. Quartersawn also dries differently that plain sawn and that is worth taking into consideration. Have fun, I love my Lucas mill.