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If you cringe at the price of wood at the lumber mills or, even worse, the big box stores, you might be searching for other options.  I checked out some portable sawmills;  most of these are large units where you put a log in a cradle and a manual or power bandsaw slices up the wood, and they start at about $3,000 and go up to the tens of thousands.  I’m not looking to start a one-man sawmill operation, just trying to save a few sawbucks, so I was glad to find this mill made by the Granberg Company — it works off a regular chainsaw.

The Granberg Company has been producing portable sawmills since the 1960s. The first models that I looked at ran off 30” or larger chainsaws, and seeing how my saws are 20” and under, the investment in a 5 HP saw would’ve added too much to the cost. Then I found the G777 Small Saw Mill — this mill is designed to work with a 20” or smaller saw, and it makes a cut that’s two inches shorter than your bar. Since most home-shop jointers are six to eight inches in length this is good enough for me.

The G777 will cut boards as small as 1/2”, and it attaches to your saw without any modifications. Granberg sells a “ripping chain” that should make easier and smoother cuts.

I’m sure there’s more waste using a chainsaw to cut rather than a narrow bandsaw blade, but the machine cost is a lot lower.  Where I live, common woods sell for about two to three dollars a board-foot from a local mill, and that’s not close to the prices at the big box stores for some of the larger sized lumber, like 4×6 or 6×6.  The G777 sells for $130 and can cut a few hundred feet in a day — at that rate it’ll pay for itself in the first hour or two of use.

G777 [Granberg]
Street Pricing [Google]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


11 Responses to Be Your Own Sawmill

  1. Jim German says:

    Lots of sawmills will mill your wood for you if you bring it to them for about 50 cents a bf. Course getting 3000lb logs to the mill can be difficult, seems like a better idea than using this sort of thing though.

  2. Adam R. says:

    Does anyone know of something like this that would work with say a recip saw? A chainsaw just has too big of a kerf if you are dealing with some unique or expensive wood.

  3. Mitch says:

    My friend bought one of these things; the Alaskan brand mill or something. He had to upgrade his chainsaw to at least 50cc or something like that. It worked impressively well. Unfortunately for him, the drying of the boards didn’t work; warped all to heck. Any tips on drying boards properly?

    This device seemed a lot easier than dragging the logs off of his property and wrecking his lawn.

    re: kerf
    Maybe the way to go would be use this to cut out 12″ blocks to fit a bandsaw that can resaw. This would minimize the waste from the kerf. Of course you’d need a bandsaw to handle that.

  4. Gary says:

    Air drying wood – use consistently sized and spaced stickers. Put a piece of ply on stickers on the top course and then a bunch of weight – think in terms of hundreds of pounds. Put a tarp over the stack and put it in an area out of direct sunlight but in a place that will get even airflow all around the stack.

  5. What Gary said will probably fix it the next time.

    You also have to seal the end of the wood to prevent the ends from drying out too quickly and splitting the wood.

    Remember that a certain percentage (I am not sure of the number) of the wood will not be usable due to flaws, damage, or whatever. If I cut 1000 BF of lumber, I would be happy to get 500 BF of clean lumber out of it. Remember the mill does that for you if you buy seasoned lumber from them.

  6. DrunkenMessiah says:

    This is an awesome technique. My father and I have used an Alaskan milling rig in combination with a STIHL 086 chainsaw and 48″ bar with ripping chain (you really HAVE to have a ripping chain if you’re going to do more than a couple board feet. Normal chain is meant specifically for cutting across the grain, not with it like ripping chain is meant for) to cut tens of thousands of board feet over the past few years. It is far and away supirior to most mobile mills in a lot of ways. Yes, the kerf is quite large, but the rig’s flexibility is unmatched:

    The mill at work

    We have gone into wooded locations that you couldn’t even get a four-wheeler into let alone most saw mills and come back out with stacks of perfect boards. You can rip the lumber right where the tree was felled and the different cuts you can make are amazing. We have made some of the most gorgeous quartersawed Red Oak that you will ever see in your life:

    quatersawed oak

    Quartersawing wastes a bit more from a log than usual, but because it makes the grain perpendicular to the flat face of the board it yields timber that is unmatched in strength, beauty and flatness. Quartersawn lumber will NEVER bend, split, crack or warp as it dries. It is an old technique, nearly all wood was quartersawn a few hundred years ago, but these days you’re lucky to find any mill that will do it for you, which is a shame really, because, well, just look at the results:

    Quartersawn Beauty

    I rest my case


  7. diluded000 says:

    The agriculture dept has some docs:


    You can backspace over the fputr6.pdf and get to the ftp directory that has more.

  8. Mitch says:

    Thank you for the tips. I bet it’s the hundreds of lbs of weight that was missing in my friends scheme of air drying.

  9. paganwonder says:

    What could be more fun than going out in the woods with loud, dangerous power tools and making sawdust! Plus, you can feel like you did something useful. A win-win.

  10. David Bryan says:

    I’ve got some long countertops and benches at my house in New Mexico a guy cut lengthwise out of a juniper tree, freehand, with a chainsaw.

  11. Michael Pendleton says:

    For air-drying your lumber, you also need to leave the wood sitting for a looooong time. Think a year. It varies according to all kinds of things (environmental conditions, moisture content of the wood to begin with, board thickness, species, etc) but it’s never fast! Unless you have a giant kiln of course, like a commercial mill, in which case it only takes weeks instead of months. Still, if you’ve got the logs, tools and space to let it sit, then it seems like a no brainer to me. (You’d really want a planer, not a joiner, to finish them, and those are typically 12″ wide. Just saying…)

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