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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There are certain things I have great success with, at Harbor Freight (HF) ... basic tools, the trailer kits, and now (hopefully) the Sawmill?

Lumber prices are such that it is time to get a sawmill going, if there is going to be any chance of keeping projects going. I could go to a nearby (40 miles round trip) sawmill, but I've got all this timber, lots of acres and space to create, and I think a a sawmill is finally in order ...

I had great success with the HF trailers, having bought, assembled, and diy-decked a 4'x8' kit, and ended up with a great 1-ton utility trailer ...

I'd like to use this sawmill (not in kit form ... drat) as my starting point:


And then upgrade/update as folks suggest on places like "Harbor Freight sawmill group on FB". Things to upgrade would be blades, possibly engine (it looks like a predator). The "other" sawmills don't seem to be in my budget ... the vendors are very proud of them.

I'd have to build a sawmill shed around it, but that's good ... it's a clean-slate shed, purpose built for the sawmill, and possibly for wood drying functions.

I considered something that utilizes my Stihl, but am uncertain about those kits ... if anyone had good success with these, please chime in as well!

I also considered building one from scratch, as there are numerous websites discussing this (lumberjocks, others), but I'm not yet in a welding phase ... still in a carpentry phase out here. Build it out of 2x4's, or don't build it ...

Opinions?
 

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There are certain things I have great success with, at Harbor Freight (HF) ... basic tools, the trailer kits, and now (hopefully) the Sawmill?

Lumber prices are such that it is time to get a sawmill going, if there is going to be any chance of keeping projects going. I could go to a nearby (40 miles round trip) sawmill, but I've got all this timber, lots of acres and space to create, and I think a a sawmill is finally in order ...

I had great success with the HF trailers, having bought, assembled, and diy-decked a 4'x8' kit, and ended up with a great 1-ton utility trailer ...

I'd like to use this sawmill (not in kit form ... drat) as my starting point:


And then upgrade/update as folks suggest on places like "Harbor Freight sawmill group on FB". Things to upgrade would be blades, possibly engine (it looks like a predator). The "other" sawmills don't seem to be in my budget ... the vendors are very proud of them.

I'd have to build a sawmill shed around it, but that's good ... it's a clean-slate shed, purpose built for the sawmill, and possibly for wood drying functions.

I considered something that utilizes my Stihl, but am uncertain about those kits ... if anyone had good success with these, please chime in as well!

I also considered building one from scratch, as there are numerous websites discussing this (lumberjocks, others), but I'm not yet in a welding phase ... still in a carpentry phase out here. Build it out of 2x4's, or don't build it ...

Opinions?
really a job to build one right. That mill you posted does not look like a very good one. I would fine one in use somewhere and check it out before buying it. Harbor could tell you who has one maybe. I have a 20 hp. mill about like that one and the bed is on wheels so it is easy to move and set-up anywhere. I have had it for 20 years and it cost 5,000 then with an extented bed so i can cut up to 20 ft. logs. You need a loader or a tractor to haul and load your logs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
101 ... thanks for the comments!

I do have the tractor ... one of the first purchases (used) for the homestead! May have to cut some trees down, to even fit it between the trees!

Part of the planning out here is Sylva-Forestry, so one day there should be "swaths" of interior land cleared, alternating with swaths of forest. Lots of wood coming out of all that ...

I intend to do a bunch of mods to the sawmill ... just need a jumpstart in getting it done (w/o welding); gets the frame, bandsaw, engine out of the way, and I can (hopefully) add/mod whatever is lacking. Same approach to the trailer ... the HF kit jumpstarted the trailer build, and I was done in no time.

It's about the only way to handle HF, as best I can tell ... stay away from some things, find ways to use the others to jumpstart stuff ... many items there are in the disposable (not fixable) class.
 

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My understanding is that the foresters on the supply side are not getting rich right now; there's a glut of wood and the mills are taking their pick at their own price. I know demand is up but mills are apparently running near full capacity. What I want to know is who is it that is jacking the prices and getting rich. Is it the big box stores? The mills? Who?
 

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One should only buy from HF for tools/machines that will be used only once, (or twice if you're lucky).

I bought a 4x8 trailer from them. Most of the bolt holes had to be re-drilled to allow passage of the bolts. The holes to attach the mud guard were a full 6 inches off from the proper location.

I once picked up a 1/4 in ratchet there-- It lasted about 6 cranks before the gears stripped.


One man post hole augur-- After about 10 min use, it was spilling oil like when you set valve lash on a running engine.

And screw drivers-- They'll only take very small hammers :)
 

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Have you ever stood in a store and picked up a box and noticed it had been retapped or the cardboard was damaged, so you put it back, stood there and looked for your item in the best looking box, hoping it would be better quality?
Harbor Freight is Blackjack.
I have a wood lathe I bought from them that is a clone of a name brand other than color and apparently QC. One of the bits would not tighten down, meaning it shook to so bad I could not properly turn anything, let alone get it smooth.
I bought a belt sander that is also looks to be a stolen property rights from someone else. It works fine but it isn't hard to find it's limitations.
I agree that many of their tools are one or two time use, however, they are good at stocking that specialty tool that you cannot get anywhere else.
 

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I too am considering a sawmill because the price of lumber is so high and there are other things I want to build on my property. The money is a problem right now too. I figure I am better off not buying the HF junk. I have always believed that the best value in the long run is to buy good quality in the first place.

I have decided to see if a local, one person, sawmill would be willing to mill the trees I bring them for a reasonable fee or keep a percentage of the lumber in payment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Doc- 's experience on a 4x8 trailer kit was different from mine ... mine really went together easy, no issue with things lining up. In no time, I had a working trailer upon which I could build my own wooden deck. I saved hundreds over a completely finished similar-sized trailer ...

This is where I think HF and others might excel, as in a series of kit things that you assemble to reduce the initial costs (your labor is free). After finding the right manual, the HF sawmill also comes in kit form, so I should be getting a jump-start on the project, with a savings over similarly-sized sawmills.

The savings, on our homestead, always ends up being the difference in whether a project gets going, or languishes ...

Many items at HF are problematic ... the kits don't feel like they are problematic ...

This would be moot if I could purchase steel, cut & assemble, weld, and so on, all requiring specialized tools and shop space ... that's not a jump-starter in our neck of the woods.
 

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Look for a used "real" sawmill, you should be able to find something in your budget. I wouldn't buy a harbor freight sawmill, that sounds like a terrible idea based on my experience with harbor freight tools. Sawmills work hard and need to be well built.

I think you were asking about an Alaskan mill when you said a kit for your stihl. Those work, but they are sort of special purpose kind of deals like when you can't get a bigger mill in or the logs out. You won't like it very much after the first hour. And you'll use your chainsaw up all the way pretty fast. And, for it to not suck really badly, you need another chainsaw around to cut the logs and make adjustments instead of taking the frame on and off the saw all the time.

Look for a used wood mizer or similar on Craigslist they're on there pretty regularly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for the tip on the Stihl attachments ... I was unsure if I wanted rough-sawn for any projects, or if I would go straight to "milled" from the sawmill. A two-saw requirement (makes sense now) kind of kills that ...

Craigslist did have sawmills ... checking just two states, there was a TimberKing for $11k, and WoodMizers for $25k and 30k ... it's back to my kit-form $2k sawmill.

Even if I have to throw away the (predator) engine, and rework or throw away the bandsaw portion, I think I have a better-built sawmill frame upon which to work engine and bandsaw magic ... if nothing else, its a $2k entry into sawmill equipment and operations.

I did look at lots of "lumberjock" and youtube "homebuilt" models (with spinning tires and such). They pretty much had signs that said "insert arm here, press button to begin ripping" ... I couldn't tell if it was the log or my arm that was to be ripped ... rusty metal going every which way, with engines, chains, hydraulic lines wedged in as well. I'm sure it works ... but I don't think I have enough spare body parts to find out if it's good for this homestead.
 

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Dont have the HF sawmill but have read lots of comments about them. Most common among them was the track rails were weak.
All recommended redoing the track and adding a pair of legs out the back to stabilize the saw frame (it will twist as is)

Most folks also recommend spending the money on a woodmizer or build your own.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
One of my many needs around the homestead is for small quantities of large beams, like skids ... to leverage the Stihl, I'll purchase something like the Haddon beam-cutting device, and see if that can meet the one- or two-offs of such beams.

When last I was at a big-box lumberyard, the large skid-like beam sizes were fairly well picked over, so I left empty-handed (but got to keep my first-born) ...

Perhaps these devices will fill the need ...
 

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25-30k for a woodmizer or similar is totally off the charts. Are they brand new? 5-10k is what catches my attention. Just keep waiting at this rate. A good one at a workable price will come along soon enough.
 

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Most of my "build your own" projects are more expensive than I was hoping they would be. Just a heads up.

Don't buy harbor freight. Wait for a decent price on a used one is my opinion.
 

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Simple arithmetic---- How much lumber will $2Gs buy?....How much lumber do you need?...Will a $2G HF- POS produce $2Gs worth of lumber before it poops out?....Will you need $5-10Gs of lumber (break even point on a good used mill)?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Slowly getting a feel for the "levels" of sawmills out there ... I'm thinking the classes might be breaking down as follows:
  • low-end: harbor freight, woodland mills, etc. ... from $2k to $4k ... great for homesteaders on a budget, not running the sawmill as a business. Mods: most folks seem to be extending the length, and/or putting it on a trailer. change brands to change engines (hf = predator, wm = kohler)
Still need to fill out mid- and high-end categories above to know where the sawmills fit.

I most likely won't be buying mid- or high-end, as that would only be possible in the "used" category for our homestead. I try to avoid buying used because it's too easy to buy other people's problems (how well did they treat the equipment, what is broken on it, what is aged or needs replacing, how good am I at catching all this before buying).

Need to turn wood on my acreage into usable non-standard lumber; wood comes from clearing or blowdown. Need large beams 8' to 12' long, of many timber-frame dimensions, which I have trouble finding at big box yards. Many outbuildings on hold, because my preferred building material, wood (timber-framed), isn't on hand. With 40 acres of pine, it seems to make sense to extract value by having a sawmill set up. My labor is free, just need a sawmill kit.

By "kit form", I mean a steel frame already cut and ready to assemble, a bandsaw component, and an engine component ... these are what I need jumpstarted, where possible.

Labeling HF as "POS" might be too broad of a brush stroke across all HF items, whereas I have found certain items to be OK for use (hand tools, trailer kits); these have held up well on our homestead.
 

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When buying a used portable sawmill, condition is important, but as much so is the "why" it is being sold. Death, old age, cut off my hand, sold property, etc.
I have seen the portable mills at auctions. At an estate sale I wouldn't be too concerned; at a consignment sale I would be.
 

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$2,995 for a new LX25 Wood-Mizer, with larger log handling than the HF product.

Can also be extended with extra rails, $295 for each 5 feet.
.

With the current price of lumber,I might have to look into getting one myself. :unsure:
 

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A $2000 disposable sawmill costs $2000 and is painfully slow.
A $20,000 used wood mizer can be sold for the same price you paid for it, making kit free and is ten times faster and more useful.

What you are wanting is perhaps the most common thread on HT. How do I safely confine pigs without the cost of an expensive fence? How do I pull a hundred big stumps without costly equipment? How do I get another 100,000 miles on my 30 year old truck without spending a lot? How can I get 5 gallons a day from my 15 year old sale barn Jersey cow? You get the idea. In most cases, you get what you pay for.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Haypoint ... you've nicely book-ended the extremes for me!

Things will definitely go faster on my homestead if I spend thousands to have someone else build my projects, versus me doing it for just materials, tools, and providing free labor; I don't know why the "boss" has rejected the former approach each and every time.

I tend to say that there are always choices ... either fully paid for via a contractor, self-done with free labor, or something in between with some degree of materials, tools, and labor choices.

A low-end sawmill will be slow(er), but will cost less; a high-end will be fast(er), but will cost more. Both should get me further down the road. I know I enjoy reading about both approaches when others do these things!

For our homestead, large capital outlays push projects to the back of the line ... creative thinking, maker attitude, and so on, enable the projects to come forward and get done faster. It's how we got to mortgage- and grid-free ...

If I win the lottery, my thinking on all this might change ...
 
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