Sawmill horsepower: What's enough?

Are thirteen horses sufficient for cutting hard maple? January 31, 2001

Would a 13 HP sawmill motor be large enough for sawing 18" hard maple?

Forum Responses
I have a 16 HP motor on my mill and wish I had a lot more power. You can certainly saw with 13 HP, but you'll have to go slow and too little power can affect results and blade performance. Get as much power as you can afford, especially if you plan on sawing bigger logs.

I think the 13 HP Honda motor is the best small gas motor made. It has good power, it's quiet, starts easily every time, and is easy on fuel. I've milled a lot of hardwood over 18" in diameter. Unless you are in big production, you will like the 13 HP.

When I was sawing plum into pen blanks, my 10 HP Techumseh seemed powerful! But when it broke down endlessly, the Honda 13 HP became a dreamy reality. Now the Honda is constraining for lack of HP, used on its own.

Look at what your milling speed needs to be to make money doing your product. Balance the money difference in the HP against what the capital could do elsewhere (edger, kiln, and so on).

I have the 20 HP Honda. The electric start feature alone is worth the extra money and you can run other low power gadgets off the 12 V system (hour meter, laser, etc.).

I've got a 13 HP Honda and it is very easy to start. After setting a couple of days, I can put it on choke and give it a pull and it will start 99% of the time. It does fine, but I do think that more power would be better. I can make a pass through an 8" - 10", 16'-long oak cant in about 45 to 50 seconds with the 13 HP using the pressure that I normally apply when cutting. One tank of gas will run it all day, with heavy use. I got the largest engine I could afford at the time.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
This is a very common question. I am a mechanical engineer and have to size equipment fairly often. It depends on seven parameters. Bite, cant face width, saw kerf, saw speed, wood type, tooth style and saw feed rate. This information is available on page 33 of this pdf file: Circular Sawmills and Their Efficient Operation. I have a hard copy of this book and it is extremely helpful in all aspects of a sawmill.