Last updated on April 8, 2021 by qualified builder Aaron Barnett
When it comes time to mill your own lumber and you’re on the lookout for the best portable chainsaw mill an Alaskan mill or aftermarket alternative will let you take your woodworking projects to a whole new level.
Simply attach a solidly built portable mill guide to your Stihl, Husqvarna, or other branded chainsaw and be ready to mill your own timber slabs.
#3 The Norwood portable chainsaw mill
Norwood PM14 24″ bar, up to 14 inches deep and 8 inches wide cutting, chainsaw mill
#4 Best Alaskan chainsaw mill
Granberg Alaskan Mark IV Chainsaw 36″ bar, up to 13 inches deep and 32 inches wide cutting, chainsaw mill
Best edging mill
#3 Another edging mill
Strongway 24″ bar up to 24 inches cutting, edging mill
#4 The Timber Tuff heavy-duty edging mill
Timber Tuff TMW-56 5 pack, 2×6 inches, heavy-duty lumber guide
Anyone who takes pride in their woodworking knows what a chainsaw mill is. Also called ‘Alaskan Sawmills’, these serious pieces of equipment basically transform any regular chainsaw into a portable lumber mill.
Wood has always been an important building material with sawmills processing large quantities. But by the 20th century, portability had slowly become a trend for keen DIY enthusiasts with a new option to bring milling down to local levels, birthing the apparatus you now know and love, as a chainsaw mill.
These bad boys come in many shapes and sizes and are highly distinguished by seasoned lumberjacks. While not being a tool for beginners, these tools definitely have a sense of finesse to them. In this guide, we’ll be looking at the best chainsaw mills money can buy.
Things to look out for when looking for a sale
Benefits of buying a chainsaw mill
Before you buy a chainsaw mill.
Know your brands.
The chainsaw brand you choose should offer top-notch quality as they do cutting prestige. It’s important to be knowledgeable about a tools brand before you make a purchase. To save you time and precious money, validate a brand’s track record and only select from those who already have an established name in the industry.
Check the durability.
Assessing durability mainly boils down to knowing what materials your mill is made from. You’d want a chainsaw mill that is made of steel, aluminum, or both; something solid and is sure to repeatedly withstand the stress and tension of bearing a full day’s work, regardless of the weather and the user.
Consider the construction and design.
The mill should look and feel right. It has to be oriented in such a way that allows you to get the most out of it as possible. All connectors and locks should be properly placed and have a tight fit once set. The apparatus should not wobble or shake at any point of your operation.
Think about the price.
A portable mill should never cost too much, at least not more than some of the chainsaws you’d be using with it. It’s basically a functional frame, so while some may be a tad more expensive, this is with regards to the material and its manufactured finish. If you deem the price right for the brand and your needs, then that’s probably the ideal choice for you.
Difference between chainsaw mill & edging mill
Chainsaw mills are great if you want long, horizontal accurate cuts from a fallen tree to create perfectly sized timber slabs. The portable chainsaw mills operate by lining up a tree log you want to plank up with the jig. These mills do well even with large pieces of hardwood, gifting near-perfect pieces of timber slabs from 24-36” diameter trunks.
An edging mill is a type of chainsaw mill that’s oriented to cut vertically to clean up the edges later. It operates in roughly the same way and is compact and great for cutting logs into beams and/or into finished lumber. You can also use edging mills for refinements; and fine-polishing planks that were already cut prior but need a new edge.
Parts of a chainsaw mill and their uses
Jig. The jig is basically your guide system to help control the bar’s motion. In the case of a chainsaw mill, the jig is what the bar guide mounts to in order to cut straight and securely along logs.
Bar guide. This is the mechanism that allows the chainsaw to trace along a defined path, which in this case is provided for by a jig. As suggested by its name, it guides the bar to ensure that you remain cutting in the same direction.
Additional functions of the bar guide include cut-depth control which is either adjusted via specialized knobs or manually adjusted by unscrewing lock-bolts.
Clamps. Clamps are a necessary safety feature as they hold the bar firmly in place and are responsible for mounting your chainsaw securely.
Ideal chainsaw motor size (cc) and bar length
Here are a couple of standard specifications for choosing motor capacity and bar length.
As a general rule, you should get a bar that’s at least 2” longer than the thickness of the wood you intend to cut with cc being proportional or more than the length of the guide bar.
Light work. Light applications are mostly confined to working with small trees. The wood is thin and rather easy to work with. 14 to 16” bars and a 45 cc motor are enough to take on these kinds of materials.
Large to medium work. If you intend to cut medium or average-sized logs. You’ll benefit from using at least a 65 cc motor and 16 to 36” bars to be able to smoothly handle these pieces.
Heavy work. Some kinds of trees can also be very dense and thick, possibly causing a chainsaw to bind if it’s underpowered. You can avoid this by using an even bigger 90 cc motor and a chainsaw with a bar 42 inches or longer.
Choosing the best chainsaw mill
#1 Top value chainsaw mill
The title says it all, the Carmyra 48″ is the best overall pick. It has great flexibility as it is able to mount any chainsaw, even those with the longest bar lengths. While it does have some heft to it, you can still easily carry it around. It cuts the widest out of all the mills – beams 13” thick and up to 48” wide – but also narrowly, capable of cutting at 0.50-inch depths.
A less expensive alternative to the Alaskan Grandbergs, this mill is sure to hasten the completion of even your biggest and most demanding projects in the future as well as medium to large-sized jobs now.
#1 Best valued Alaskan mill for small jobs
The Grandberg G777 is the best value chainsaw mill available on the market. If you are keen on portability, then this beauty is a perfect fit, one with its mix of aesthetics, easy assembly, and straightforward handling.
The G777 is able to house up to 20” bars, which is perfect if you’re a local builder or homeowner. Incredibly light and made of zinc-plated steel, this little guy is sure to last you a long time, save money, and get your wooden beams and slabs cut smoothly.
#1 Most affordable chainsaw mill
Go with the RCTEC 36” if you absolutely need a chainsaw mill. It’s a must for those working on a tight budget. For what you pay, you get a sturdy aluminum steel mill that’s capable of cutting very narrow depths up to 0.20 inches.
It’s big and efficient, and able to fit bars 12-36 inches long while capable of sawing through wood up to 12 inches thick. Tackle any job at a fraction of the cost with this robust and adaptable mill.
#1 Top edging mill
The Haddon Lumbermaker is definitely the best edging mill, bar none. It’s lightweight and compatible with any regular chainsaw, making it able to take on virtually any kind of job. To add to its versatility, it comes with a heavy-duty lumber guide to easily make 2×4 and 2×6 planks and slabs.
The Lumbermaker is simple to assemble and use. Its pivoting saw can make plunge cuts and allows for depth-adjustment on the fly. Couple that with its amazing lightness and surprisingly high-quality construction, and you get a portable sawmill that’s as effective as it is convenient.
Portable chainsaw mill vs a Bandsaw mill
What type of portable sawmill to use depends mainly on your specific needs. If you are already bigger than a small-time logger and need to meet client orders and production quotas, then you’re better off investing in the larger and more expensive bandsaws. Bandsaws are specifically built to handle larger and denser wood while maintaining consistent and precise results.
You’ll want to go with a chainsaw mill if you dabble more in small or medium-sized jobs. Chainsaw mills are definitely more portable than bandsaws. They are also less expensive and help in further reducing costs by eliminating the need for other equipment, especially when working with smaller materials.
What are ripping chains and when to use them?
A ripping chain is a specialty chain that’s used for specific milling purposes. As opposed to other types of chains, ripping chains cut, at an angle, along the wood grain instead of across the veins and pores.
Use ripping chains if you want your pieces to have a more polished/refined finish. Their semi-chiseled nature ensures that they remain sharper for longer and their damage-resistant construction saves you money from replacements in the long run.
Other tools that go with a chainsaw mill
1st and foremost, the best tool to have along with these portable sawmills is of course a chainsaw. You’d also want a quality chainsaw that really is responsible for the end result, a model that will serve you well and last you a long time without maintenance. If a sword is only as good as the one who wields it, then a chainsaw mill is only as good as the chainsaw that it wields. To make things easier, check out my thoughts on the best husqvarna chainsaw. And my cordless chainsaw guide if you’re looking for a safer trimming machine for around the home.
If you want the bee’s knees set-up, it’d also be good to have the best thickness planer just in case you want to make a smooth surface and set lumber to an exact thickness for furniture making. Use thickness planers to remove small excesses of material to end up with an even thickness slab.
Storing and maintaining a chainsaw mill
You should preferably store your chainsaw mill in the same space as your chainsaw, seeing how they go hand-in-hand. Doing this makes both easier to access and keep. We advise covering it for a little added protection when not in use.
If you have multiple levels of storage, then it’d be wise to have the mill on the lower ones; this reduces the risk of it falling, avoiding possible damage and injury.
Lastly, give it a quick wipe or wash down after you use it, this will help prolong its life and maintain a pristine appearance. You can also give it a spray with silicone spray on any moving parts if left in storage for a long time.
Steps in setting up chainsaw mills
If you know how to work a chainsaw, then setting up the mill won’t be too complicated.
Tips for using a chainsaw mill
Comparing chainsaw mills
|Carmyra 48" bar||Carmyra 36" bar||Norwood PM14||Granberg Alaskan Mark IV||Zchoutrade YJBJ01-36||Granberg Alaskan G777||RCTEC 36" bar||Lukcase Portable Chainsaw 48" bar||CO-Z CMP1436BN||Felled 20" bar||Timber Tuff TMS-24 24|
|Verdict:||Top protable chainsaw mill||Best value chainsaw mill||Best low-cost|
|Bar size:||14 to 48 inches||14 to 36 inches||up to 24 inches||up to 36 inches||14 to 36 inches||16 to 20 inches||12 to 36 inch||14 to 48 inches||14 to 36 inches||up to 20 inches||12 to 24 inch|
|Cutting capacity (depth) :||0.5 to 13 inches||0.5 to 12 inches||up to 14 inches||0.5 to 13 inches||0.5 to 13 inches||0.5 to 13 inches||0.20 to 12 inches||0.5 to 13 inches||0.5 to 12 inches||0.5 to 12 inches||0.20 to 12 inch|
|Cutting capacity (max width):||48 inches||36 inches||up to 8 inches||32 inches||36 inches||18 inches||36 inches||36 inches||24 inches||24 inches||24 inches|
|Weight:||19 lbs||14 lbs||92 lbs||20 lbs||15 lbs||17 lbs||17 lbs||19 lbs||18 lbs||16 lbs||14 lbs|
|Material:||Stainless steel and aluminum||Aluminum and steel||Aluminum and steel||Aluminum and zinc-plated steel||Aluminum and steel||Aluminum and zinc-plated steel||Stainless steel and aluminum||Stainless steel and aluminum||Stainless steel and aluminum||Stainless steel and aluminum||Stainless steel and aluminum|
Comparing edging mills
|Haddon Lumbermaker||Granberg G555B||Strongway||Timber Tuff TMW-56|
|Verdict:||Top edging mill|
|Cutting capacity:||2 x 2 inches, 2 x 6 inches||36 inches||24 inches||2 x 6 inches|
|Weight:||4 lbs||6 lbs||6.27 lbs||3.61 lbs|
|Material:||Steel||Aluminum and steel||Aluminum and steel||Heavy-duty steel|
The Carmyra 48″ is the best chainsaw mill, period. It’s big, solid, flexible, and can cut really wide pieces of wood. I mean, what more can you ask from a sawmill right? Up the next alley is the Grandberg G777. This lightweight, zinc-plated mini mill is the ideal choice for casual woodworkers and budding milling enthusiasts for its nice mix of function and portability.
Of course, we can’t leave out the most affordable RCTEC 36”. It cuts really narrow and can support some of the longest bars for the biggest logs. Lastly, the Haddon Lumbermaker does wonders as the best edging mill thanks to its compactness and efficient design.
And that about wraps up our guide about the best chainsaw mills. With the correct one, your pace and production will surely increase. Meanwhile, you can check out my recommended top-performing gasoline chainsaw here.
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My name is Aaron, and welcome to Bangingtoolbox.
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