A laser beam allows a sawyer to see on the log where the blade will travel before starting the cut. This can be handy as it will save some time when cutting crooked logs or when you want specific features added to, or cut from, live edge slabs. Laser beam kits are available for many of the bigger, more expensive saw mills but for our small manual mill, no luck. Time to make up a DIY kit. Beam me up!
I emailed a company and presented them the idea of what I wanted to achieve. They were very prompt with their email reply as well as professional and knowledgable. I had several questions and each answer brought new questions. We ended up emailing back and forth several times, to the point where they called me to expedite my inquiry. They were very helpful and accommodating, which I find to be a rare commodity in B2B relationships these days.
Their recommendation was a 10 mW laser module for the task. I wanted to be sure I could see the laser beam so I requested a 50 mW (largest one they had). I have no clue as to what may be needed so I figure bigger is better, right? They assured me 10 mW would be sufficient but left it up to me. I ordered the 50 mW. They then kindly offered their 10 mW and 20 mW laser modules to allow me to test the differences. I’m the guy who can test a hammer and hit my thumb, so what could possibly go wrong with me testing laser beams?!?! 🙂
The box arrived, professionally packed and included everything we had discussed.
Here is where I mounted the kit. I discovered that the electrical leads of the battery box could make contact with the aluminum housing of the sawmill, which can cause the laser module to not work. So either the battery box, or the mounting bracket, should be insulated from the aluminum housing. The battery box and the laser are not weather proof. I will be placing a roof over the sawmill at some point in the future, but for now I will have to construct some sort of weather shield.
My mill is outdoors, so I was already under the assumption that I would not see laser line under full sun. That turned out to be accurate for the 10 mW and the 20 mW modules. The 50 mW module was visible when clouds are present. There is no doubt that if the sawmill was under a shelter, this laser line using any of those powers would be more visible.
So I waited an hour. I figured that at 6 pm the lighting conditions would be similar to that of being under a roof shelter. The 50 mW laser did not disappoint, casting a easy to see beam of light.
It not only cast a light on the log, but right across the work yard, easily reaching the embarkment more than 100 ft away.
Its quickly starting to turn dusk so I took out the 50 mW module and placed the 20 mW module in its place. The results were impressively similar.
To my surprise, even the 10 mW module broadcast a line that was easily viewable.
All that is left to do now is field testing. That is, to run the saw and cut some logs, to see how the laser module, mounting bracket and battery box endures the harsh environment (vibrations and dust) of the sawmill. Check back again for more results.
Update December 2018
I have used the laser a couple times this year. I have not sawed much this past summer so I haven’t used it much. For the few times i have used it, its worked well. The mount keeps its position pretty good. The head of my saw doesn’t vibrate much. Usually about 10 logs or so I might have to readjust the laser line. Keep in mind the purpose of the laser for me is to estimate blade position across the log when dealing with heavy tapered logs or odd shaped logs.
Some people have inquired about where I got the kits. I bought them from Apinex, located in Quebec Canada. They sell direct. I have the 10mW and the 20mW lasers for sale, left over from testing. As well as one mount kit and battery kit. Contact me if you are interested in any of them.