Sawing Long Timbers on a Bandmill

Logs that are too long for your bandmill can still be sawn, but it takes some extra handling. Here are some ways that sawyers get it done. April 10, 2007

We have a request to saw timbers for a timber frame, but 6 - 8 timbers need to be 25 feet. We have a standard bed (20') and for a few timbers, don't want to spring for the table extension. Does anybody have ideas, or should we outsource the long timbers and do the rest?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor I:
What type of equipment do you have to handle the logs with? I have sawed timbers to 28 foot long and I also have a WM 20 foot long bed. I blocked up the end hanging off the mill and sawed the first 20 foot square, then I picked up the log and moved it down and leveled it with blocks on the hitch end of the mill and cut the one side the rest of the way. I then finished the rest of the log to the size needed. It is time consuming and you need the right support equipment to handle the logs and then the finished beam. I had an excavator, so I just pick the log up and would swing it to where it had to be. All of these beams were oak, so they were very heavy.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. We have a forklift, so handling the log/timber isn't too bad. I figured it would be a little time consuming, but for just a few beams may be tolerable. It'll be a whole lot easier than hand hewing!

From contributor J:
Saw a fellow use those roller tables to accomplish what you’re looking for. He had several of the roller tables with the log on them. He milled one side, then slid the log all the way down to complete the last 6 feet of the log, turn and complete.

From contributor I:
If you use stands as contributor J said, make sure they are sitting on something solid so they cannot tip. As far as moving the log to saw flat the full length, if you do this you have to re-level and re-square it because it will roll once you try to move it. If you do as I said in my earlier post, you only have to level it once and after the first two cuts it will be sitting on a flat surface for the rest of the cuts. I have sawed a lot of timbers this way and I think it works great.

From contributor J:
Contributor I, you’re so correct. The roller stands that I have seen in Harbor Freight are pretty slight. These tables were about 3 foot x 6 foot, and they were on a concrete slab. The dogging the log down was accomplished by the sawmill. The extra length of the log was the only part supported by the tables. He pushed the log around by hand. No equipment.

I have thought of building a carriage on a track, for using on my Lucas, drop the log in the carriage and slide it under the power head, to mill the larger logs. Plus I could load a log away from the mill setup, roll it under the mill and saw away. (Sometimes I can make more work than necessary, but DW thinks it keeps me out of trouble. She might be right.)

From contributor P:
I think the way I heard was to:
1) Saw open the first face as far as the head will go, then take a chainsaw, and carefully cut off the slab.

2) Rotate the log 90 degrees and repeat step 1, three times till you have a cant for the first 16 feet.

3) Now slide the whole log down the bed, re-level and finish making the cant.

From contributor B:
We do it a little differently. We place the log on the mill with the little end towards the hitch end and sticking out so that the big end can be sawn all the way out. We saw off slabs and flitches until we have a flat and can go no deeper – as the head can’t drop down past the little end. We turn the log and repeat on the other three faces. This is pretty much standard sawing.

With a squared cant with four faces, we use the roller toe boards to roll the log down so that the head can start into the little end. We saw in about 8 feet and pry the cut open. Run the head back and raise it about a half inch. Then raise the toe boards just a little and roll the cant back until it can be sawn out the big end. Lower and clamp. Lower the head back down to the saw mark and saw the flitch or board. Repeat until done. I think this works better than sawing in, cutting the slab method described above. Besides, we were not making beams but 28’ 2x10s. It was a little time consuming but not that hard. Mary sawed some by herself.