Are Portable Sawmills Worth It? Let’s Break It Down


Do you want to know if portable sawmills are worth it? Then, you’ve come to the right place. This article aims to explain to you when, how, and why a portable lumber sawmill is worth your every penny. 

If you own healthy chunks of a bush lot who use lumber for at least a semi-regular basis, then buying a portable sawmill is worth it. You can personally construct your furniture from scratch, without purchasing lumber to a hardware store. As a business investment, it’s good to have portable sawmills if you’re planning to earn extra cash on the Side. You can sell quality lumber or other top-notch finished items.

Don’t hesitate to read through this guide if you are interested to know more tips on choosing the right type of portable sawmills, and how to use it properly. We’ve added the latest and simplest explanation about portable sawmills. To begin with, let’s learn its basics.

What is a Portable Sawmill?

It is a portable machine used to cut or resize pieces of lumber. A Portable Sawmill is beneficial and useful for woodworkers who require complete finishing an entire process of woodworking. It allows you to move from one place to another at ease. Cutting lumber is a lot easier even without the help of anybody.

Today, Portable Sawmills come in different sizes, brands, and styles that offer various features. The most essential that a portable sawmill should have is accuracy in cutting lumber for final use as quick as possible. It will help you produce hardwood for your project under any condition.

Why Own a Portable Sawmill?

  1. If you own a land full of timberland and you want to manufacture your wooden products from scratch, you need to own a portable sawmill. Either for personal use or your woodworking business, this machine will help you cut lumber efficiently. Here are some other reasons why you should have a portable sawmill.
  2. Using a portable sawmill is the most effective and precise way of converting logs into lumber. It will help you increase the yield of your resources of up to 15% for better use of the timbers and return on investment.
  3. It is a good investment for starting a small lumber milling business or be your wood provider for your projects. 
  4. Portable sawmills can turn waste or trash lumber into useful ones. These include logs that are too short, too crooked or those that are too odd to sell. However, these timbers are precisely what most customer woodworkers would prefer their workpiece.
  5. Owning a portable sawmill makes it economically possible to have a sustainable lumber production. It can increase the value of the trees that you harvest to make it practical and salvage dead and dying trees.
  6. A portable sawmill will save you money from buying overpriced wood at the lumberyard, plus you can control the quality that you want.
  7. Portable sawmills have the versatility to mill the most profitable wood for various projects at any given time and cut it according to its best use.

How Does Portable Sawmill Works?

The fundamental operation of a portable sawmill is pretty much the same as those sawmills the world ever had hundreds of years ago. It is the process wherein one log enters on one end, then a saw blade runs through and cut the lumber. All Portable Sawmill must have a manual consisting of instructions on how to use the machine. For your knowledge, here’s how to operate the most modern Portable Sawmill of this generation.




  • Select Your Target. Select those matured trees that are ready for harvesting. Feel the trees and see if they have the qualities that you need for your project. Then, transport the logs once you have cut the trunks.
  • Preparation. Place the machine where you want to work. Check the overall setting of your portable Sawmill, and make sure that it is in 100% condition. Make sure that the supports are correctly in place and the blade should be sharp.
  • Check the Fuel Tank. The energy supply of a sawmill may differ from various machines. So, see if there’s enough fuel on your portable mill because a sudden stop may hamper the quality of the lumber.
  • Make the First Cut. The first cut should be at the top of the log. Then, flip it to 180 degrees or onto the flat Side and saw. The goal here is to the rough exterior and form a cuboid or a rectangular log.
  • Cut the 3rd Side. Not that you have cut two sides, up and down, make your third cut. Rotate the log at another 90 degrees and clamp the flat Side tightly to support the procedure.
  • Final Cut. Flip to another 180 degrees to cut the far and final unfinished Side.
  • Partition. It is the time when you’ll saw the log according to the length and thickness that you desire. Rotate the lumber several times as you saw to maximize the amount of lumber.

What are the Types of Portable Sawmills?

Portable sawmills have three general types that include chainsaw mills, circular mills, and band sawmills. They have their differences when it comes to styles, operating systems, and the price. It is a prerequisite to understanding how each kind of portable sawmills will help you determine the best suited for your needs.

  • Chainsaw Mills. This type of portable Sawmill appeals to most hobbyist woodworkers and farm use. Its price starts from $100, but it’s the lowest when it comes to yielding logs.
PROSCONS
Chainsaw mills are inexpensive, which makes it ideal for home and farm use that doesn’t require massive production. Chainsaw mills are relatively slow, so it’s ideal to use for small projects only if you have extra time.
It is powerful enough for small personal projects.It produces rough cuts and may require further milling for finished surfaces.
It uses a framework for better and more accurate cuts.Chainsaw mills have 20% more kerf, so it needs heavy-duty power-heads.
  • Circular Sawmills. They have circular blades, which is ideal for more extensive commercial use. Circular Sawmills cuts a lot faster than Chainsaw Mills, and more accurate for better cutting results.
PROSCONS
The primary benefit of using a Circular Sawmill is its speed in cutting while providing a more accurate result.Circular Sawmills are more costly than Chain Sawmills.
Circular Sawmill has various styles of blades for more versatility.Circular Sawmills have a larger kerf resulting in wasting more wood.
Circular Sawmills are relatively expensive, but they provide higher accuracy results.Since it has a large kerf, the quality of the cut is quite rough.

Using a Circular Sawmill may require three to five people to operate it efficiently and safely.
  • Band Sawmills. This kind of Sawmill dominates the market. They feature an array of configurations and operating systems to fit almost every need in a sawmill. It is a top-pick for most woodworkers.
PROSCONS
It may be slower than Circular Sawmills, but Band Sawmills are portable and accurate.Choosing from various configurations and processors may be misleading, especially if you are unfamiliar with it.
Most Band Sawmills have an integral trailer system, or inside a pickup truck for extra portability in cutting specialty lumber.Depending on the brand, Band Sawmills may be complicated to use at first.
Band Sawmills are safe and straightforward to operate that one person can use it swiftly.
Band Sawmills have a smaller kerf for creating smoother surfaces and less milling.
They are affordable, with a price starting at around $3,500.

How Much Does a Portable Sawmill Cost?

A high-quality Portable Sawmill may range from  $4,000 to over $100,000 depending on the manufacturer, design, style, and features. Other types of Sawmill may cost around $100, but these are super slow. As they say, you get the amount of production according to what you pay.




Accessories like Hydraulics incur the additional cost of as much as $5,000.00 to $8,000.00. Generally, less price means lowe production. Hence, you should think thrice what your purpose of using a sawmill is? The type of mill that you should get depends on the amount of stock you need.

  • Manual Sawmill. It is the cheapest type with a range of $4,000 to $9,000. Manual Sawmill doesn’t have a labor-saving hydraulic feature, which increases the amount of manual work that you have to do. If you’re a hobbyist woodworker, this type should be enough.
  • Power Feed Sawmill. It is more potent than the first type. It has a mechanically-powered blade, but you still have to load and turn the logs manually. A Power Feed Sawmill may cost about $9,000 to $14,000.
  • Fully Hydraulic Sawmill. This type of portable Sawmill offers the most labor-saving feature. It helps you minimize the workload while maximizing the value and production of your lumber. Hydraulic Sawmill price ranges from $16,000 to $32,000 depending on how big are its power units and other accessories.
  • High Production Sawmill. It is ideal for professionals because it requires a higher level of expertise to operate. They have specialized features for high sawing production, more full bands, and more lumber handling equipment. This type is perfect for massive production, and its complete package generally cost between $35,000 to over $100,000.

Are Portable Sawmills Worth It?

Now that we all know how much a portable sawmill roughly cost, is it worth it buying? If you own land with trees, purchasing a portable mill is a good investment. It will help you produce your logs and build your project without having to buy wood. Plus, you get more control of the cut style and quality. So, to avoid wasting your money, here are the key features to look out for a portable sawmill.

  • Power. Most portable sawmills use diesel, gas, or electric as their primary power supply. When it comes to portability, diesel or gas-powered mills is your best option. Just make sure that they are ultra-low emission and have low fuel consumption. On the other, electric-powered is also a great choice if you can use your car’s battery to operate it. It provides the best result, less expensive to purchase, quieter, cleaner, and have a longer life.
  • Size of Operation. It refers to the total mill production. Are you making logs for personal or commercial use? Take into consideration the frequency of using the portable Sawmill. The price that you pay for a mill has a direct proportion to the production of the mill, wherein less expensive the mill means lower production and vice versa.
  • The Feed of the Sawmill Operation. Feed System refers to how you move the sawmill head through the cut. A push feed system allows you to quickly move the head of the mill through the cut by pushing it manually. A crank feed system has a hand crank that you can turn so that the head travels quickly and smoothly through the cut. The advanced electronic feed system features an electric motor to power the head down the log automatically.
  • Operator Control Location. It is a kind of sawmill operation, which has a relation to the feed system. It refers to your position while operating the Sawmill. A Walk-along action gives you a broad overview of your material as you control the cutting speed and blade performance. A ride-along operation has a seat that travels with the sawmill head to give you the same visibility as to the walk-along, except that it requires no steps. Wireless Remote Head Controls are the most expensive, wherein it uses a wireless Command Control to cut through the log.
  • Use of Portable Sawmill. Are you going to use the mill for full-time or part-time? For commercial or for personal use? Always remember that milling commercially entails higher demand physically. Also, you have a higher exposure to uncontrollable factors like bad weather, maintenance, and repairs. Hence, it requires a higher quality sawmill.
  • The Product to Cut. Always determine the log size and product you want to cut before selecting a mill. A mismatch between the product that you have to cut and the capability of a portable sawmill can cause aggravation. It may lead to costing you money and wasted raw material.
  • The Diameter and Length of the Log. Identifying the length and diameter of the log will help you determine the size of the mill to purchase. It may vary depending on the tree, but you should at least have an approximate to compare. A portable sawmill designed for large logs may not handle small lumber well. On the other hand, a mill designed for small lumber can’t cut large timber and will only waste both your time and valuable wood.
  • Hydraulics. This feature of a portable sawmill makes sewing faster and easier. Having this feature may add thousands of dollars to the cost of a mill. However, Hydraulics is a necessity because it minimizes log handling time. It results in increased productivity while reducing manual labor and the need for extra equipment.
  • Accessories. Most portable sawmills come with some extra accessories like other bands and shanks with sharpening systems and a sawyer’s seat. However, these accessories also add to the total cost of the Sawmill. More often, they are not a necessity depending on your type of operation.
  • Portability. What is the essence of buying a portable sawmill if it’s not movable? Make sure that the model you’re going to purchase is easy to install. Each part should be easy to use or take off whenever required. It will ensure that the installation process is quicker and more accurate.
  • Size and Weight of the Portable Sawmill. Pick a sawmill that’s easy to carry and transport. It means that a portable mill shouldn’t be too heavy or too large.
  • Design. Choose between a monorail or twin rail sawmill design. A monorail sawmill only requires minimal leveling during set-up. It has easy off-bearing with the trapezoid bed, which makes it ideal for sawing odd-shaped logs. On the other hand, Twin Rail Sawmills feature a rigid frame head tower that holds the saw head, engine, and operator control console. They are broader and more in-depth, but leveling is not as simple.




Tips for Using a Portable Sawmill

  • Work in a suitable place with a big open space. It needs to be wide enough to drive and park your tow truck.
  • Generally, a 30-square feet place is ideal. Also, keep a flat spot to struck all-new milled logs.
  • Maintain the machine of your Portable Sawmill for better performance.
  • Always keep the blades of your mill sharp for every use.
  • Clean the logs properly before using it on your mill because stones and dust that adhere to the lumber can damage the blade.

How To Choose the Right Portable Sawmill Blade?

To choose the right blade for your portable Sawmill, you should first understand its main parts. Here are some essential things to consider when selecting a sharp edge for your mill to get the desired results.

  • Tooth Spacing. It refers to the distance between each tooth from one tip of the tooth to the other. Pitch is another term used in referencing tooth spacing. As a rule of thumb, shorter tooth spacing is ideal for resawing purposes while wider spacing is suitable for higher horsepower, approximately 25+ HP sawmills.
  • Gullet. It is the area between the blade teeth that captures and removes sawdust. Gullet also provides strength in the tooth. Make sure that it must be tall enough to carry out all of the sawdust from the cut.
  • Tooth Height. It refers to the distance between the lowest point of the Gullet to the tip of the tooth. Higher tooth height is especially for cutting softwood, while blades with shorter teeth are for sawing frozen logs or extreme hardwoods.
  • Hook Angle. It is the angle that the tooth face leans forward forming a hook shape. The hook angle should depend on the type of wood you are going to cut. 4-degree sawmill blades are ideal for sawing frozen, dense hardwoods and knotty softwoods. 7-degree sawmill blades are for all-around use. 9-degree sawmill blades are suitable for sawing frozen wood, tree, and small diameter logs. 13-degree Sawmill Blades is the highest hook angle for cutting softwood.
  • Tooth Set. It refers to the distance that the tooth bends beyond the body of the blade. A higher tooth set means more bending capacity, which makes the sharp edge flexible and versatile.
  • Blade Width. It is the distance between the tip and base of the blade. Broader blade width is perfect for higher horsepower sawmills resulting in a  resulting to a faster feed rate. Meanwhile, the narrow blade width is only suitable for lower horsepower sawmills.
  • Blade Thickness. It merely refers to the thickness of the blade. Thicker blades have faster and better-cutting speed rate even in most challenging sawing conditions. On the other hand, thinner blades provide a longer flex life when used with lower horsepower sawmills.
  • Kerf. It refers to the width of the cut. Generally, the higher kerf is better to reach a broader range in cutting.

What are the Different Types of Portable Sawmill Blade?

1. SilverTip. It is from “carbon” steel, which makes it an ideal blade for sawing in high volume. SilverTip modules are suitable for both portable and industrial sawmills. Since it is from carbon, SilverTip is perfect to use in horizontal resaws and narrow-band sawing. You can resharpen this kind of blade, but not as often as a blade made with high-alloy steel.

  • Width (in inches). 1, 1.125, 1.25, 1.5, 1.75, 2, 3
  • Thickness (in inches). .035, .038, .042, .045, .050, .055
  • Characteristics. Softer than high-alloy steel.

2. DoubleHard. It is durable and an all-purpose sawing blade for softwoods, hardwoods, knotty woods, and frozen woods. It is from high-alloy steel designed for both portable and industrial mills. It features induction hardened teeth for delivering twice the toughness and twice the sharp life compared to standard carbon blades.

  • Width (in inches). 1.25 to 1.5
  • Thickness (in inches). .035, .042, .045, .050, .055
  • Characteristics. Harder than carbon steel, tough on non-chip material

3. Bi-Metal. It from high-alloy, two-piece steel with a wire-welded hardened tooth tip to offer a longer sawing sharp life. Bi-metals are suitable for sawing various types of lumber because of their sharpened edge.




  • Width (in inches). 1.25 to 1.5
  • Thickness (in inches). .042 to .050
  • Characteristics. Maintained with CBN grinding technology

4. RazorTip Carbide. It is a sturdy blade for sawing under different conditions. RazorTip Carbide is ideal for tropical hardwoods, kiln-dried lumber, engineered wood, and more abrasive materials. It utilizes a robust triple chip tooth settings for withstanding even the hardest tree while providing a very smooth finish.

  • Width (in inches). 1, 1.125, 1.25, 2, 3
  • Thickness (in inches). .035, .038, .045, .055
  • Characteristics. Requires diamond wheel for resharpening

How to Maintain a Portable Sawmill Blade Properly?

Maximize the lifespan of your portable sawmill blade and its use by maintaining it properly. It also helps in achieving the best outcome and eliminate wastage in time, money, and resources.

  • Sharpen your Blades Regularly. First of all, never use your hand in sharpening your blades. Use blade maintenance equipment to ensure that it works at maximum precision and performance.
  • Always Maintain the Drive Belt Tension. Keep it tight so that it can transmit higher horsepower to your portable sawmill blade. 
  • Understand Your Wood. Have a better understanding of the moisture content of various wood species. It’s because trees have a different density that requires multiple cutting techniques and feed rate. 
  • Apply Lubricants. Use lubricants on your sawmill blades to increase sawing performance while reducing pitch build-up. It also results in a longer life span of the edge.
  • Always Clean the Log Before Cutting. Remove all dirt, rocks, sand, and other foreign material that may cause wear on the teeth. Use a debarker to help you clean out all excess dirt to your log.
  • Examine Blade Wheel Belts. Always make sure that the blade wheel belts are in good condition to attain maximum performance. Otherwise, worn belts may cause blade tracking problems.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

When Was Sawmill Invented?

Sawmills started when a Dutchman named Cornelis Corneliszoon invented his type of Sawmill by applying a pitman arm onto a windmill. It was a model wherein that converted a turning motion into an up-and-down movement. On December 15, 1593, Corneliszoon patented his Sawmill.

What Type of Portable Sawmill Do I buy?

Choosing the type of portable Sawmill depends on what you want to cut and frequency in reducing it. For small projects, you can pick a  bandsaw or chainsaw sawmill. Every kind of portable Sawmill is for a specific type of work. So, you need a larger mill to cut a large-sized log and vice versa.

How Long Do Wood Mizer Blades Last?

Wood Mizer is a leading manufacturer of modern timber processors with smarter products to increase profitability and promote sustainability. Currently, they have 75,000+ sawmills in operation in more than 100 countries. Usually, the blades in their Sawmill can last for up to five years, depending on its use.

Final Words

Buying a portable sawmill is worthy for someone who owns a good land of bush and uses lumber at least on a semi-regular basis. Having a portable mill is a good investment for building your high-quality furniture and other wooden products. You don’t have to go to the hardware store to pay for lumber because you can already make your own. Buying a portable sawmill is expensive, so make sure that you scrutinize it and make sure that it exactly fits your cutting needs.

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