Over the years I have cut and split an awful lot of firewood, but sometimes that can be a waste. For several years I had a small chain-saw mill, which I used to plank up occasional large trunks of timber, chiefly oak. I say small; the bar on the chainsaw (a 95cc Sachs Dolmar) was 44 inches long, and capable of milling planks up to 30 inches wide!
The secret was a frame with rollers, which kept the guide bar at a constant depth, the first cut being made with a ladder as the guide. The chain was a special one, though an ordinary chain, filed at 90 degrees, rather than at an angle, can also do the job.
The system worked well, although was very slow, and really needed two people to work the set-up. Often this was a young lad on a training scheme, but we also used to do some planking when work was quiet in the summer. There is a lot of waste sawdust (the cricket club were grateful for that) and the production is much slower than a band-saw. But for an individual log it can be a good solution, and is therefore worth considering for a small woodland owner.
We made quite a few wooden benches, cutting three inch oak planks, for both the Woodland Trust and Plymouth City Council. But I also milled one inch planks, thinking of the renovation of White Cottage – a 17th century listed cottage and also Wildlife Woodlands’ HQ. They spent many happy years air drying in a barn, before being used for three of our bedrooms.
The end result is, I think great, if a little more rustic than you may find from B and Q! There is a little bowing as the timber seasons (heavy strapping during seasoning can help reduce this), and some timber is wasted from splitting along the grain, although two thin planks can often be taken from a split wide one. The largest floorboard we have in the house is 24 inches wide.
My mill was sent into retirement some years ago, but was very similar to the one in the top photograph, taken from a range of mills offered by Alaskan Mill UK. If you would prefer a contractor to mill your log or logs, then have a look at a list of contractors compiled by Living Woods. Many of these contractors will be operating mobile band-saws, so will be more efficient if you have several trunks to mill. See a video on You Tube by clicking here. County agricultural shows are also often a good place to see demonstrations.
And even if the economics are not quite right, there is a wonderful sense of satisfaction knowing where your timber or floor came from!