Whether you’re thinking of owning a small personal mill, a big industrial mill, or something in-between, you want equipment that’s tough enough to withstand the stresses of sawmilling. To be sure the mill you choose will be cutting straight, true lumber for years to come, be sure to ask these important questions.
Does the mill have a 4-Post Cutting Head? This design gives the best support and the best long-haul durability with the least need for tedious readjustment. Manufacturers who do not offer 4-Post Head mills go to great lengths to convince customers that when it comes to building heavy equipment “less is more.” Our 80 years in the sawmill business have taught us different. It’s no surprise that this design has been widely imitated across the industry.
What’s the Widest Cut the Mill Will Make? Most companies claim their mills will cut very big logs, but what really matters here is throat size: what’s the widest possible cut the mill can make? Small-throat mills will cut big logs, but they have to “chisel” them down. Wide throat mills cut straight through the big logs. With a wide-throat mill you get the highest-dollar jobs like quarter-sawing, cutting wide beams and wide planks. TimberKing mills cut wider ... anywhere from 6 to 10 inches wider than our major competitor…and TimberKing mills cut taller pieces, anywhere from 4 to 9 inches taller!
Does the Mill Feature Direct-Action Hydraulics? Not all Hydraulic mills are created equal. On some, major mechanical functions are actually run by 12 volt electric…or there are electric detent intermediaries between you and the hydraulics. Direct-Action Hydraulics eliminate troublesome 12 volt controls which can fail due to rain, road water and salt…plus they allow “feathering” which provides a wider range of control over your sawmill’s features.
Does the Mill Have a Welded Log Deck? Perhaps the biggest stress a sawmill faces is when the log is loaded on the machine. That’s why it’s so important that the cutting-deck be very strong and rigid. If it isn’t, a heavy log could deform it, leading to inaccurate cuts. This is why quality portable sawmills share two crucial cutting-deck features:
1) The cutting deck is welded together, not bolted together. Bolt-together decks allow significantly more “flex” than welded decks. That means they’re more prone to deform or need readjustment when a big log is loaded on them. When choosing a portable mill, insist on a solid, welded cutting deck.
2) The cutting deck has two full-length steel support beams. As with cutting heads, some manufacturers may try to convince you that “less is more.” They may offer a single-beam deck, or one that’s perforated like Swiss cheese. But most portable sawmill manufacturers agree that two full-length steel support beams give the best long-run strength and durability to a portable mill log deck.
What’s the Guarantee and the Warranty? Most established portable sawmill manufacturers will freely admit that you may at some time have a problem with your machine. That’s why established manufacturers back their equipment with strong guarantees and warranties. So while you’re comparing features and prices, be sure to compare warranty programs. Whether you’re buying a small manual mill, a large industrial mill, or something in between, insist on the following minimum coverage:
1) 30-Day No-Questions Asked Money Back Guarantee — If the portable sawmill you receive isn’t as it was represented to you, you need to have some recourse. If a manufacturer isn’t confident enough in their equipment to back up their word with a no-questions asked money-back guarantee, how confident are you in their equipment?
2) 2 Year Limited Warranty — Again, if a manufacturer doesn’t trust their equipment enough to back it with a strong warranty, should you trust that equipment? Some warranties have so many exclusions that they’re almost meaningless, so be sure to ask about the specifics of the warranty. Wear items like belts, blades and tires are normally excluded. But make sure that electrical systems, hydraulics, motors etc. are covered for the full term of the warranty. Again: if a manufacturer isn’t willing to back up their word with a minimum 2 Year Limited Warranty, you should shop elsewhere.
3) 5 Year Limited Cutting Deck Warranty — The Cutting Deck is such an important part of the portable sawmill, and is subject to so much stress, TimberKing backs it with a 5 year limited warranty. This type of coverage gives the manufacturer a powerful motive to build their cutting deck right. Again: if the manufacturer won’t back their cutting deck for a minimum of three years, you should probably look for a manufacturer that has more confidence in their equipment.