Shopping for a Starter Bandmill

Advice on taking that first step down the road to sawdust addiction. October 4, 2011

I am going to purchase a personal manual bandmill on the 1st of February. I recently went and received a demo from Logmaster in TX on the 28th of Jan. I plan on receiving a demo on the Woodmizer and the Timberking in Kansas City. I was quite impressed with the Logmaster and the other two would be hard pressed to beat it out. Does anyone have any pros or cons to the machines mentioned? Any help would be appreciated as I would like to make my decision an educated one.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor E:
You didn't state what exactly you want to do with your sawmill. Do you want to make money? Square up logs for a cabin? Make boards for furniture projects? What kind of logs are you going to be working with? What is your budget? What are your goals?

From the original questioner:
Budget is $10,000.00 or less. Iíve looked used and there's not much in the OK area to pick from. It will be mainly for a hobby. I make reproduction furniture and I own 40 acres in MO that has about 10,000 bd ft of walnut on it that I wanted to harvest. I have completed my solar kiln.

I'm retired and piddle a lot in the woodworking field. I have a cousin in the excavation business and he always needs logs hauled off. I may sell a little but I'm not doing it to make a living. What I'm looking at is entry level manual mills with 25-30 hp. One of the bonuses of the Logmaster is that you can add some of the hydraulic features at a later date if desired. It will definitely be a trailer mount as well.

All that I will be cutting will be hardwoods. Maybe some dumptruck sides, trailer flooring, fencing, barn stall, and the best will go into reproduction furniture.

From contributor E:

By "manual mill" do you mean a mill you have to push through the log? Where in Oklahoma are you?

From the original questioner:
I'm just south of Tulsa. Yes, I would have to push or crank the carriage through the log.

From contributor Y:
Hereís a Knowledge Base article about bandsaw mill choices that may help you out.

Bandsaw Mill Choices

From contributor A:
There are lots of manual mills out there and each has it pros and cons. The first is service after the sale. Each of the manufacturers you listed are not far from you and provide good service. The best advice I can give you is to go to owners of the style mill you are looking at and see how it has done for them. You can call most makers and they will give you names of owners in your area that you can hook up with and see the mill. All new mills cut fine and the people running the demos are trained to make the mill look good. But once in the field it is a different ball game.

If you have never been around sawmills or seen many logs sawn then I would suggest that you go and tail for a spell. Also if you have never rolled a less then round 24 inch 8' log up a log ramp you may want to try it a few times. Also when you compare mills and prices you have to look at how well it is made. Putting a LT28 to a LM 3 may seem fair but the LT28 will set up twice as fast and the frame is very tough.

From the original questioner:
I am trying to make as educated decision as I can make. Hopefully I'm not making this harder than it is. I can only imagine rolling logs up on a mill and would love to have a hydraulic mill but I thought until I find out how much I will use it. I thought that it would be better to have fewer than $10,000.00 sitting unused out in the barn instead of 15,000-20,000 bd ft sitting unused out in the barn. I have tractor and front end loader to assist with logs. It will probably be quite the circus for a while till I figure things out.

From contributor L:
You've already received some great advice from folks with more experience than me, but I'll throw a couple of comments in here, too. I purchased a TK 1220 about 18 months ago and have been very pleased with it. I drilled a hole in the guide bearings as was recommended on here before to allow greasing and have had no issues. The mill cuts well, is accurate, and has not lost alignment. Mine has the 15 hp and cuts fine; 25 or 30 hp would be even better!

I built a log deck; rolling logs up the optional factory steel ramps by yourself is dangerous and difficult (that would be with any manual mill-not just TK's). The log deck makes it easier, safer, and quicker. I also raised mine about knee high as was recommended on here and it really saves your back. I added a winch on a post to help load/turn the really big logs, but I don't use it on normal sized stuff.

From the original questioner:
The 1220 is the Timberking that I'm looking at. I will probably go with a 25 hp if I get it from them. Almost everyone I've talked to has said that the extra hp is worth it. Also, are there enough logs over 26" to warrant buying the bigger throat saws? I do want to cut a lot of crotchwood and I know that it will be wider and need a little extra space. What do you think?

From contributor T:
Go by "max cut between the guides" not dia log it can handle when shopping/comparing to use for cutting crotches and live edges. Some mills are as much as nearly 6" difference.

From contributor A:
The throat on my LT40 is about 26 inches and the mill can saw a log that is 36 dia. You can get bigger through there but you will work at it. I was cutting 2x20's today in a SYP and the log was 28 dib at the little end. Even though I was cutting over 500 bdft an hour, stickering them is going to be hard work by myself. May wait till Monday when hired hand is at work.

From contributor V:
There are a lot of good mills out there with good service. As youíre doing itís best to see as many in action as you can. The heavier built the better. Those big logs can bend things if built too light. If you get into power feed and up and down I'd try and get a mill with hyd rather than troublesome electric and electric over hyd.

From contributor Y:
I saw a lot of walnut crotch wood. My old Kasco had a 30" throat which still wasnít enough. Any wider and there could be an issue with keeping 1-1/4" bands sawing flat.

From contributor W:
These sawyers have really given you some great advise. I would like to add a little of my experience in getting you started down the road to sawdust addiction. My first mill was a fairly large manual mill with extended bed, no log turner or loader. After about six months of loading 28 inch logs and turning them with a cant hook by hand, I realized I had made a mistake. I paid for my first mill out of my 401K funds and was trying to pinch dollars like everyone else.

I would suggest if at all possible you reconsider the features on the mill you are looking for. While purchasing my first mill I worried about payback and was surprised when friends and neighbors found out about the mill, the work started rolling in. So I would not hesitate now to even finance part of a new mill which I am going to do in the next year or so. My next mill will be a Log Master or Cooks. I will never own another mill unless it has steel band wheels and I converted my present mill to steel wheels a long time ago.