Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Few Observations on Using a Sawmill in Winter

Using the sawmill to cut my beams has been a little bit of a learning experience now that the temperatures have dropped so low (recent days notwithstanding).

One of the first difficulties I ran into was the water freezing up.

You see, the blade is lubricated usually by simple water. Unfortunately, when it is far below freezing that no longer works.

Inquiring with Wayne at my local WoodMizer dealership, I found that they switch to windshield washer fluid when the temperatures dip that low. I have followed suit. One thing though, I was trying to be stingy with the fluid, seeing as it costs me much more than water does. This lead to loads of sap building up on my blade, and even worse sticking. Live and learn.

Generally, I also find I just have to move more slowly through the log to prevent it from binding. This is okay, as I think of myself as being a patient man. I also don't mind sawing, as it gives me a chance to listen to CBC radio on the AM/FM headphones Donna gave me for Christmas - did I mention them yet? They are the best gift ever!

A cursory cleaning on the rails on my mill is not enough. It took me a few days to learn this. I kept noticing that it was getting harder and harder to push the mill head down the rails. I cleaned the tops, thinking that the rollers were the only real point of contact. It wasn't until I finally could barely move the mill, log or no log, that I got right down and brushed off all the snow. Then I noticed the mix of ice and sawdust that had built up on the support beams. This mix was like concrete, in fact, it was sort of used as such during the war and called Pykrete.

In any case, it took a bit of tool work to knock off this layer of obstruction that the mill head had been riding up and onto. From now on I will be sure to keep that area much more clear. It is amazing how much easier it is to move the mill without that added friction.

I have seen that they have created a new clamp for the latest mills, and would be interested in trying it out sometime if funds and circumstances ever permit. I love my WoodMizer very much, but there is one annoyance that I seem to share with other owners of this older model of the LT-10 mill. The log clamp.

It doesn't always hold very well. I have cut a few "diamonds" due to the log rotating when the blade makes contact. This isn't fun.

As I said, the clamp that I have now has been replaced, so in that sense I can't speak to current mills. Mine is a solid bar with a wedge on the top that you cam into place and it just is suppose to dig into the rail based on the pressure. After repeated use though, it seems to slide on the rail. I finally opted to lock a pair of vice grips behind the clamp before engaging the cam. This has been working perfectly up until my last session, when the cam began to release on its own, seemingly due to the vibration of the mill head passing by. So now I am using two grips to lock the clamp in place. Inelegant, but it does work. I'll likely stick with this system for the near future - it holds the log extremely securely, it is just more steps than I was originally use to.

My relocated sawmill seems to work out well, if only there was a way to separate the sawdust from the snow without having to wait for spring

EDIT: Just yesterday I was given a used, surplus clamp in the new style to try by my local Wood Mizer dealer! Now that's true service! I'll try to report back after I've had a chance to try it out.

 

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