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Before Your First Cut

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Before Your First Cut

It is finally here, the mill you have been excitedly anticipating! Besides piling up all those beautiful logs that are waiting to be milled, there are important things to do before your first cut.

You can find a detailed list in your sawmill manual.

You've done the basics; you have your mill put together, leveled it, and you cut the wire loop on the dashboard hour meter. There are still a couple of things you should remember to do before turning on the mill.

Step 1

Fill the Mill with Gas and Oil

Choose a high-quality ethanol free fuel for your mill's engine. Choosing a low-grade gas that includes ethanol can clog your carburetor and cause havoc on your engine down the line. You should make sure your gas tank is full each time you mill to avoid your mill stopping halfway through a cut. 

Don't forget to check your oil. The type of oil you use will differ depending on the temperature in which you are milling. 10W-30 is the most common, but you can check the chart in your manual if you are unsure what oil to use.  If you forget this step, your engine's handy oil alert system will be sure to remind you. 

Step 2

Ready Your Blade

First, you need to make sure that your blade is sharp and clean. Look closely to see if there are any tiny cracks in the gullet. These can cause your blades to break prematurely, as detailed in our Sawmill Blades 101 article. If you spot some, no need to worry, you can usually grind them down using the Woodland Mills Blade Sharpener.

If your blade is brand new, you should double check that the blade is not inside out. Some blade manufacturers send the blades flipped backwards because of the process in which they are made. These will need to be manually reversed before you install them on your mill. When the blade is properly installed, teeth should be pointing in the same direction as the cut.

Some blades are manufactured with an oil coating to combat rust. This can cause your blade to pop off the belts. Just run over the blade with a clear rag to remove any oil and dirt before use.

The blade guard will stop the blade from accidentally hitting a log stop, damaging both the stop and your blade. Leaving your stops too high is an easy mistake to make. One that hundreds of our sawyers have faced, unwittingly making them a member of "The Club". The HM126 and HM130MAX come standard with a blade guard.

Step 3

Set Your Blade Tracking

Once your blade is on the mill, you can start fine-tuning the tracking on your blade. The goal is to have the blade centered on the belts and hold there as the wheels spin without needing any guides touching the blade. You can slowly turn the wheels by hand and adjust accordingly. Eyeballing it to get a similar amount of blade on either side of the band wheel is enough, you don't need to measure.

You can view our complete Blade Tracking Guide here.

Step 4

Filling Your Lubrication Tank

You should not fill your lubrication tank right away. Run your mill dry for at least 30 minutes to build texture on the belts. This will cut down on the chance of hydroplaning. When applying the lubrication start with a minimal amount and increase as needed to remove sap.

When filling the lubrication tank in warmer weather, you can fill it with water mixed with 1 teaspoon of dish soap. The soap will help keep sawdust from building up on the blade. In colder weather we suggest using windshield wiper fluid. Never use diesel or other chemicals in your lubrication tank as this can cause your belts to wear faster, as well as staining your lumber - and no one wants that.

Step 5

Adjust Your Drive Belt Tension

Tracking your blade can only be done under full drive belt tension. Setting your drive belt to the proper tension is very important. Too loose and all of that tracking you just did will be ruined. It could also cause your wood to have ugly waves on it once cut. Setting your tension too high can also cause issues with the tracking, as well as overheating and breaking your blades. It will likely wear out your belt and bearings faster, too.

There are a few ways that you can tension your blades to the correct amount:

  1. Turn the handle until it is snug.
  2. Then do 2.5 - 3 turns will get you to the recommended tension.

This is the method we most often recommend because it does not require any recalibration.

Once you have more experience...

To make life easier the next time you mill, once you are at the ideal tension, check to see if the bearing is flush with the tube. You can add or subtract shim washers until the bearing is flush with the tube at the correct tension. Now you can tighten with this visual aid in later milling sessions. This method may need recalibration after 100 hours

After you are finished milling for the day it is important to loosen the tension off the blade so that it does not create flat spots on the rubber belts. Flat spots can cause extreme vibrations while using the mill.

You can view our complete Blade Tension Guide here.