The inspiration for designing and building my own lumber mill came strictly from a cost standpoint. I had a lot of hard maple cut down and piled up in 8- and 10-foot lengths. To make them into lumber, I either had to haul those logs, some 2 feet thick, to a mill or have a mill come in and do the job. The prices for sawing were quoted starting at $150 per thousand board feet. Purchasing a mill was out of the question, since the price for a hand-operated mill was $4,000 or more. So I started making drawings and designs.
I had some iron on hand, and a small shop with a welder and some metal-cutting equipment. I knew where I could purchase material (some used) at a reasonable cost, so I started laying out a foundation for the mill and welding it together. Keep in mind, my logs were fairly large, so I laid out the length of the foundation to 16 feet to accommodate the mill head — the pan of the mill that carries the motors, band wheels and cutting blade–and up to a 12-inch-wide log.
I had a 12-horsepower, electric-start industrial engine on hand. I used 13-inch car wheels and tires to run the band on. I incorporated all of that into the mill head that rolls on tracks. To saw the lumber size I need for a specific project, I push the mill head by hand through the logs. The mill pictured above has sawed everything from old, dry, white-oak beams to old highline poles, and made lumber up to 12 feet long.
It took me only six weeks to build. The machine works well and does what I designed it to do. Not bad for a do-it-yourself project that cast me less than $700 in materials. All the parts I used are readily available; scrounging up parts was not a problem.
Fully detailed plans and instructions are available by sending $20 to Mencer Johnson; 50178 364th Place; Palisade, MN 56469; or e-mail email@example.com .