Swingblade or Bandsaw – The modern question for Sawyers

The modern-age question for portable Sawyers – Bandsaw or Swingblade? We know our answer, and here is why our Peterson swingblades are simply the smarter choice.

The standout feature of a Peterson mill is the innovative blade design  – allowing for far less maintenance while pumping out maximum return.

This process of squaring a log on a bandsaw is way more time consuming, as most bandsaws are only able to cut on one plane horizontally. This means that the log must be manually rotated on four separate occasions just to make these first cuts. With a Peterson swingblade, the log never moves. Instead, just the swingblade saw head is rotated into a vertical or horizontal cutting position.

The first four cuts on a bandsaw are extremely wasteful, often throwing away a rounded slab several inches thick. This means 4-8 boards of recoverable lumber that our swing blades would have saved. With our swingblade mills, smaller boards can be sawn from each outer position on the log, throwing away only very thin bark waste.


Swingblade or Bandsaw


Maintenance wise, band saws are an absolute headache – you don’t just pay for the initial sawmill; you continually have to purchase replacement bands at $20-$30 a pop. Bandsaws typically require four separate sharpenings and a replacement within the first four cubic meters (1600 Board Ft) of milling. Sharpening bands involves a separate machine back at the workshop, and takes around 20-30mins per band. Some bandsaw owners saw only four days per week, and spend the 5th day sharpening bands! Plus when you hit any gravel, metal, or very hard knots, bands can outright snap. This system is not only extremely time consuming, but also very expensive – you are tied to the bandsaw store forever.

Comparatively, Petersons need only 2-3 blades, and these can last for well over 10 years. Swingblades can be sharpened while still on the mill, which is a five-minute procedure, and only need re tipping after around 80 cubic meters (33,920 Board Ft) of milling. This can be done yourself, or by a saw doctor, and typically costs about $70. By the time you had milled the same 80 cubic meters (33,920 Board Ft) on a band saw, it would have cost you around $400 in replacement blades alone. This is extremely inefficient, without even considering the substantial downtime required to change the band on 20 separate occasions.

Based on an 8-hour day, with both a bandsaw and one of our swingblade mills milling 4.5 cubes (1900 Board Ft), the estimated blade maintenance cost is ten times higher on the bandsaw. It works out to about $9.14 for a Peterson mill, and over $90 for a band saw. In terms of maintenance cost and down time spent replacing and sharpening, swingblades are a no-brainer.


“I enjoy sawing on the Peterson as it’s so much fun! I’m getting really good at salvaging every little piece of edge grain out of our logs – it’s like hunting for gold lol! The bandsaw is more stressful because I never know when a blade might break or take a deep dive – this is a real problem in winter on frozen logs with the bandsaw”. – Tyler Hart, Canada

Many will try and argue that the kerf loss from a swing blade negates the blade maintenance savings. It is true the average kerf on a bandsaw mill is around 3mm, which is thinner than the 4.75mm-6mm blade kerfs found across the Peterson range. However, they haven’t considered the inaccuracies when flexible bands wander through the cut, resulting in loss of timber when those pieces have to be thicknessed or even rejected. With Peterson’s rigid swingblades, every board is square and consistent, as you don’t have the same wandering blade issues.

Even the byproducts from the mills should be considered. The sawdust emitted from a bandsaw is fine like dust, meaning it’s hazardous to breathe in, has no positive use cause after the fact, and quickly turns into mush that builds up around your mill. Comparatively, the wood shavings emitted from a swingblade can be used around the farm or garden for a multitude of purposes – just another way that Peterson mills are able to maximize the recovery of a log better than a bandsaw.

Peterson swingblades are capable of handling logs of almost any diameter, which cannot be said about bandsaw mills. Because the blade is static in one cutting plane, the bandsaw’s cut width is limited to the throat width, or length of the blade. The large the logs you have, the wider the bandsaw you need. But the wider the throat width, the more inconsistent the band becomes, and prone to warp and wander in the cut. Because swingblades are free to move around the log, and only saw off one board at a time, the diameter you can saw is almost limitless.


Swingblade or Bandsaw


The utility of a swingblade is also complimented by its ease of use. Simply push the mill down the tracks, swing the blade, and bring it back for a perfectly edged board. On a band mill, you have to continually rotate the log as boards are cut to choice. This often requires additional hydraulic components that are extremely expensive, or strong peaveys and a lot of sweat. The boards then need to be re-loaded back onto the bandsaw and edged, which again either requires lots of muscle or an additional edger – another time-consuming procedure with more expense. In terms of ease and efficiency, swingblades are far superior.

“My bandmill cuts 60-80 b/ft an hour. My Peterson is at least twice as fast as my bandmill, cutting by myself. When considering sharpening, my Peterson is probably 3 times as fast.” – Mark Duginske, USA.

When considering all factors, it becomes blatantly obvious to those that do their research, that swingblades are a far better choice. Bandsaws are great as resaws, for very small logs, or to complement a swingblade mill. But bandsaws on their own simply don’t have the utility, efficiency, or ease of use that a swingblade does, in the portable sawmill arena. And this is showing, by the number of sawyers purchasing swingblade portable sawmills these days. Want to try one for yourself? Get in touch with our team to try out the best, and original, Peterson swingblade sawmill.

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