Answers to Your Questions

How much lumber can I expect to get from my logs ?

What should I know when hiring a sawyer ?

How is a log milled into lumber ?

How do I dry the lumber ?

What is a log skid ?


Our sawmill can handle the following ranges of log sizes:

Largest Log:    20 feet long, 36 inches in diameter

Smallest Log:    5 feet long, 6 inches in diameter

Widest board :    23 inches wide

We can accomodate smaller logs both in length and diameter with custom rigging.

Wood-Mizer Sawmill Our Wood-Mizer Lt40 Sawmill on site

If you're planning to hire a sawyer with a portable sawmill make sure to following these suggestions to get the most from your investment.

How to Calculate your Log Volume

This calculator helps you determine how much lumber you can expect from your logs when they're milled. A popular unit of measure is the Board Foot.

A Board Foot is a unit of volume which equals 144 cubic inches. For example a piece of wood measuring 1"(thick) x 12"(wide) x 12"(long) equals one board foot. Why is this important? For one thing, this allows you to compare lumber prices. How much are you paying per Board Foot? You can find out how many Board Feet are in any piece of lumber this way:

Say the lumber measures: 2" x 8" x 16'(feet). The number of Board Feet in this piece is: 21.33, calculated this way (2" x 8" x 16') / 12 = 21.33 BF.

Board Foot

This is fine for square dimensioned lumber, but you have logs, how can you calculate the number of Board Feet in your round tapered logs?

Well, over the years various methods or rules have been developed to determine the number of Board feet in a log.

One of the most accurate methods is called the International 1/4 inch log rule. The calculator below uses this rule to calculate the number of Board Feet in your logs.

To use the calculator, simply measure your logs according to the diagram and enter the dimensions in the table. If you have more logs than the table has rows just keep track of the total volume each time the table is filled. In other words, enter all your log dimensions filling the table, compute the total volume. Clear the table and enter in the next set of dimensions, keeping track of each total. Then add all the totals up.

This calculator does not account for fractions of an inch. If you'd like a more precise measure use this and select the International log scale. Then use the Back button to return here.

Log Volume Calculator

Log measuring diagram
Quantity Length (8 - 16 feet) Diameter (6 - 30 inches) Board Feet (inches cubed)

Other Lumber Calculators

Log Volume
Log Weight
Lumber Weight

How to Hire a Sawyer for Onsite Milling

Here a few suggestions if you plan to hire a sawyer with a portable sawmill to mill your logs on site. Keep in mind these are only suggestions and not every step must be followed. However, if your aim is to maximize your investment, consider following most of the steps.

These steps should be done before the sawyer shows up on milling day.

Step 1. Ideal logs for lumber

Not all logs are good lumber candidates. The ideal log looks like a straight cylinder, without any protruding nubs or branches and measures between 10 - 20" in diameter (on the small end) and between 10 and 12' long.

This does not mean that logs not fitting this description cannot be milled. Often times crooked logs and crotch pieces produce the most beautiful lumber. It just means that these logs take longer to mill. Sometimes a little longer, sometimes a lot longer. Our mill can handle log diameters up to 36" and lengths up to 20'.

Step 2. Cut logs to a uniform length

If possible, pick a length you can use and cut all the logs to that length. It is much easier to handle lumber of one length than many lengths, especially when stacking the pieces for drying. This also makes milling go a little faster, since the sawyer can optimize his routine according to the length of the log.

Step 3. No metal

Make sure the logs are free from both surface and embedded hardware. This includes nails, fence pieces, metal brackets, porcelain...basically anything non-wood. Often these items cannot be seen from the outside because the tree has engulfed them as it grew. If you're not sure, buy or rent a high quailty metal detector and scan each log carefully. I carry a metal detector with me, which anyone can use free of charge.

If you find something, you can either dig it out or put the log aside. Trees that grow near residental property usually have metal in them. And it's usually found within 4 to 6 feet from the ground, where humans can reach. If the sawyer hits metal, he will typically charge you the cost of a replacement blade.

Step 4. Clean logs

Make sure the logs are clean of rocks, mud and dirt. These materials will quickly dull a blade, requiring more frequent blade changes, causing down time, causing less lumber yield. Use a heavy duty wire brush to scrub caked on mud or a power washer if possible.

A sharp blade not only cuts faster, but straighter too.

Step 5. Stack the logs neatly

The neater the logs are stacked, the easier it is to load them on the sawmill. This is a general rule, not absolute. For example, logs can be loaded just as fast if they are scattered about and a tractor, skid steer, excavator or the like is used, especially if these machines have a hydraulic grapple, tongs or forks.

If these machines are not available, you may want to build a log skid, about 30" off the ground to allow the logs to roll onto the sawmill easily.

Step 6. Have a team ready

It may surprise you to know that mill logs requires more time moving wood than actually cutting it. Each time the sawyer helps you move wood (loading logs, removing slab wood or stacking lumber) your total lumber yield goes down.

It is best to have a team of three, including the sawyer when possible. Two people handle moving all the wood (the off-bearers), while keeping the sawyer busy milling.

Closing Thoughts

Remember, you're asking for a custom service to be performed on site with your logs. This means you have the opportunity to have most any dimensioned lumber milled just for you and the convenience of not having to go out and getting it. The price you pay for that lumber may or may not be lower than a commercial lumber yard. It depends on the factors listed above and your specific needs.

Our experience has shown that because of the quality and quantity of the lumber typically produced, the cost of a Board Foot is lower when compared to commcerial off-the-shelf lumber. Plus, knowing that you helped produce lumber from your own trees with your own hands is priceless.

Milling a Log into Lumber

This sequence shows one way to mill a log. The log is first loaded on the mill and rotated so most of its surface contacts the sawmill's bed and is up against the back supports of the sawmill (the back supports are not shown in these pictures).

Next, the log is secured and squared into a large beam also known as a 'cant'. To "square" the log, four cuts are made, rotating the log 90 degrees each time.

Next, the cant is sawed into the desired lumber, boards, beams or a combination.

Lumber processing 1 Lumber processing 2 Lumber processing 3 Lumber processing 4 Lumber processing 5 Lumber processing 6

In addtion to sawing logs, we can also resaw existing lumber. Resawing is the process of reducing the thickness of a beam or board, for example; cutting a 2x4 into a 1x4. Band blade sawmills, like ours, make resawing easy and efficient.

Drying the Lumber

Once the lumber is sawn, it must be dried. Freshly sawn lumber contains high levels of moisture. This moisture must be removed through evaporation.

The least expensive way to do this, is to air dry the lumber outside. Outdoor drying can reduce the moisture content of wood to about 12% in New England. Drying rates vary depending on the season. More drying occurs in the Summer and less in the Winter.

Kilns are another way to dry lumber. Kilns are large insulated enclosures with a heater and dehumidifier. Warm air from the heater is pushed by a fan through one or more lumber stack(s) inside the kiln. The warm air accelerates the evaporation of moisture from the wood. The humidifier condenses the moist air into water which is pumped outside the kiln.

Instrumentation is used to control the air temperature and air speed during the drying process. The moisture content (MC) of the lumber is measured periodically until it reaches the desired level at which time the lumber is considered dry and removed from the kiln.

Often, kilns are used to further lower the moisture content of lumber that has already been air dried.

Here are the basic steps to air dry lumber outdoors:

It is best to keep the lumber away from the ground as much as possible. A minimum distance is 12 inches. This can be achieved by building a sturdy wooden structure on cement blocks.

Stack the lumber allowing a 1/2 inch separation between each piece horizontally. When a row is completed use one inch square sticks laid at 90 degrees to the lumber separated every 18 inches. Repeat the process until all the lumber is stacked.

Drying Lumber Stack

The upper row should have sticks to isolate it from the roof. Before placing the roof, drape Shade Cloth over the entire stack. This helps prevent the wood from discoloring from the Sun's UV rays.

The stack must be protected from rain in order to dry properly. The roof can be any material, I prefer 4' x 8' sheets of SmartSide found at big box stores. This material is stable, won't warp and is relatively cheap. Place the roof on the stack over the Shade Cloth. If the area is susceptible to strong wind, place weights on the roof to prevent it from moving.

Log Skid

This is an example of a log skid built using logs. The black ramps attach to the sawmill, allowing the logs to roll from the skid to the mill easily.

Log Skid

Here's a real one:

Log Skid 2

Feel free to give us a call, text or email with any questions.