Site layout and prep
The site should be well drained and reasonably level with good road access in and out, preferably where we can circle out with the mill without excessive backing.
A minimum work area for the mill should include at least a 30’X50’ site – more space will be needed if you need room to maneuver your support equipment (tractor, skid steer, trucks, trailers, etc)
Staging logs and cutting lumber as close to the proposed building site where to be used will reduce future transport issues, time, and cost.
If cutting walnut be sure livestock cannot access the sawdust on the pile or the lumber as it is dangerous to them.
Identify where you want to stack your finished lumber and the scrap slabs
One option is to stack the finished lumber directly on a waiting trailer staged at or near the rear of the sawmill.
Have dunnage ready to stack lumber and slabs on for easy forklift access, if forks will be used.
Logs should be staged ready to cut level with or slightly uphill of where the mill will be placed.
Staging the logs on 2 parallel logs off the ground protects them from rot and some insect damages and makes them easier to roll.
Remember that some species of wood, especially softwoods like pine, are especially subject to damage from insects and worms
and are time sensitive when it comes to sawing – damage can occur very quickly in warm weather.
Removing the bark, where possible, will help protect the logs from pests in many cases.
If no heavy equipment is available to load the logs they will be rolled on to the mill loading arms with a cant hook.
The loading arms of the mill will be on the driver’s side of the truck when driven/backed into place.
Stacks of logs should be centered, not lined up along one end, so they can be centered on the loading arms when loaded.
If you need to separate lumber by species stage the logs by species with longest to shortest by species next to where they will be cut.
Stage the logs such that the longest lumber will be cut first for ease of stacking.
Keep the logs as clean as possible – avoid dragging them through the mud to reduce clean up and milling time.
Dirty logs take more time to mill and may result in extra costs.
Have a cut list
Identify what specific lumber you will need so we can cut the longest, thickest, most critical lumber from the best logs and use the shorter, smaller and lower graded logs for cutting lumber that will be less critical
Example – we would want to cut long, thick framing materials out of the best logs and cut the sheeting/siding from the side cuts, shorter or more knotty logs.
Leave adequate trim on your logs but minimize cutting excess lengths as this reduces the yield from your logs, costs more and increases handling, transport and lumber storage problems.
Generally four to six inches of excess length is left of trim with eight inches or more being billed at the next full foot length.
Before cutting identify any special cuts needed such as live edge slabs for specialty furniture making, fireplace mantels, etc.
Except in very rare circumstances cut your logs to at least eight feet long to ensure better clamping and turning on the mill.
Large numbers of short (<8’ long) logs will be billed at hourly rates because of the extra time required to mill them.
Lumber that will not be used immediately should be stacked with stickers every at each end and every 16”-24” between.
Preferably the stickers will be of the same species as the lumber being stacked to reduce “sticker stain”
Dried stickers approximately ¾” to 1” thick/square and not over 4’ long work best for most lumber.
Stickers can be cut from your lumber, made from plywood or purchased in advance.
Warning – Stickers and stacks of lumber should be no longer than the forks on your support equipment.
Lumber should be stacked straight and level off the ground where it is protected from the elements.
Stack on cinderblocks, cross ties or pallets if possible.
Keep the storage bases straight and level to prevent long term damage to the lumber. If you have a hump or dip in your storage base, the lumber will dry with the same dip or hump in each board.
Place heavy weights such as cinderblocks or sandbags on the top of the stack to ensure your lumber dries straight and to prevent cupping/bowing of the lumber.
The top of the stack should be protected from rain or snow with metal roofing/tin or a tarp if not under a roof.
Be sure there is good ventilation for air flow for best air drying to prevent mildew and rot- do not completely block air flow with a tarp or such.
If under a roof with poor ventilation you may want to use a fan for the first week or so to improve air flow – do not over do the fan use or you can create damage by too rapid drying.