articles,  Milling Lumber

Sawmill Blades

Diary of a sawyer (newbie stage)

I have been trying out some different band saw mill blades this past month. The blade on the bottom having already gone through the mill, past due for sharpening, the result of this newbie sawyer not knowing when to stop and change the blade. The top blade is a different brand, new out of the box and ready to start cutting.

Lenox,Woodmaster c-sharp,Kasco,sawmilling blades
band saw mill profiles

The blade in the lower picture are the Lenox Woodmaster C-Sharp blade that were delivered with my SMG Champion sawmill.  Notice the design of the saw blade has a flat bottom in the gullet. Being a beginner with using a sawmill and the sawmill not having a de-barker blade, the blade life for the first few blades seemed to dull rather quickly. By quickly I mean 250-300 bd ft. I’ll admit as well I was sawing some dirty logs too.

As I progressed into cleaner logs and learning to limit the number of cuts I make into bark, the blade life for the next few blades extended to about 500 bd ft. I was cutting mostly 8ft long poplar logs, average board width 12 inches, by 1 inch thick, about 8 board feet per board.

sawmilling,rough lumber,Nova Scotia
Lots of hard work sitting there.

Doing the math, I was cutting about 60 boards. And given the cost  to ship out blades for sharpening and paying the return shipping costs too, it seems the blade cost is about $0.25 per board. About $0.03 a bd ft.

It doesn’t sound like a lot, $0.03 per bd ft.  At $0.25 a 8ft length of board, it sort of gets your attention, enough to say that if you sell that board you should recover that amount. And certainly, when you have to send out 10 blades for resharpening at $10 per blade, and $25 for shipping each way, that $150 for sharpening 10 blades. If you are sharpening a reasonable amount of boards for a hobby sawyer, its easy to go through 10 blades a week. So spending $150 a week on sharpening services get old…quickly.

So like many sawyers, eventually there is the discussion of sharpening blades ourselves. But what path to take? Obviously, first get online and see what others are doing. Hand filing with round file? Really slow. Hand sharpening with a Dremel® type tool and small circular discs? Maybe, but one would think not very accurate. There there are the manual hand crank machines and the ‘Cadillac’  auto-advancing, oil cooled machines. Every advancement in sharpening capability costs more money…but less time. How accurate do you have to be to rough saw lumber anyway?

Well it depends I guess on the sawyer’s goals in saw milling. Milling rough boards for a couple sheds is how it usually starts. Once the sheds are built, then what? Sell the mill?

shipping container,board and batten,saw milling,logs to lumber
Taking shape.

Hell no, too much fun! Well, its physical work, but at the same time its not ‘work’. I think of it as my daily exercise routine.

So, keep the mill. Now what? The only other purpose is to offer sawyer services to others, or to start slabbing boards for niche markets. Either one requires your cuts to first be accurate; second, be reasonably smooth. Many folks don’t like saw tooth marks on the boards (caused from blade teeth being out of alignment (set). Some do like the marks, I do, but most don’t.

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live edge sugar maple slabs

Tooth set. That brings up the other job of sharpening blades; making sure the teeth are set in alignment. That means another tool, besides the sharpener. A sawyer quickly begins to realize why a sharpening service charges as much as they do for sharpening blades. They need the right tools and the right wisdom in using those tools to get the job done.

So what is this sawyer going to do? Stay tuned as we jump into the world of saw mill blade sharpening.

We enjoy engaging in conversation with others so drop us a comment below!


A Newfoundland born Canadian with a life long interest in woodworking, baking and anything else that peaks my curiosity.

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