World leading portable sawmill technology
How Peterson Swingblade Sawmills Work
A Swing Blade Sawmill aka Swingmill has a single circular blade that pivots; it moves forward in a horizontal position to make the first cut, pivots to vertical at the end of the log, and then moves back to it’s starting position as it saws in vertical. Your dimensional board can now be removed from the log completely edged and square. The log remains completely still, so there’s no log turning, edging or resawing involved.
Swingmills are the smart sawmill of choice. Peterson Portable Sawmills, located in Rotorua, New Zealand were the first to design and manufacture the Portable Swing Blade Sawmill in 1989, then Lucas Mill in Australia replicated the design and started manufacturing around 1995.
Swing Blade Sawmills are very much still in the ‘gaining popularity’ phase in many northern-hemisphere countries such as the US, Canada, and Europe, mostly because of lack of information and education.
How to cut a board with a Peterson Swingblade
To start a log, the blade unit is positioned at the top left of the log, with the blade in a horizontal position. The operator gently pushes the mill frame through the log to affect the first cut. Carriage movement through the log requires about 10 lbs. pressure as you are letting the blade do most of the work. A simple hand movement swings and locks the cutting unit into a vertical position, which is then pulled back down the log. Due to the originality of the design, no special locking mechanisms are required, making the whole process quick and simple – many of our customers comment on how easy it is to use in comparison to other brands!
The First Cut
The operator now pulls the unit back through the log in the vertical position to complete a cut. Your dimensional board is now free for removal, and fully edged! Once a row of cuts across the log face has been completed, the entire unit is lowered to the desired depth of the next cut. This is done using a simple hand or electric winch, and takes about 5-10 seconds.
These steps are repeated until you have only a thin firewood slab remaining at the bottom of the log – you have no need to move the log at any time during the whole sawing process. The concept is extremely inventive, but surprisingly simple. One of its many strengths is the Peterson’s ability to handle a wide variety of cuts. Running a single blade instead of two at once also means you do not need a huge motor, which reduces both overall costs and weight.
The Return Cut
Designed to cut the log horizontally and vertically, the single thin kerf blade of a Peterson swingblade circular sawmill pivots from the horizontal position to the vertical position with ease. Each cut of the log intersects at a precise point resulting in perfect boards every time as is the joy of swingblade sawmills.
Peterson Portable Sawmills use a unique process where a power head drives a tungsten-tipped circular blade through a log, which then rotates 90 degrees to achieve both horizontal and vertical cuts, in order to free a perfectly dimensioned piece of timber from the log. A rise and fall mechanism is mounted within a carriage which is pushed and pulled upon parallel tracks over a stationary log.
About our blades
Why so few teeth?
There is a neat story about how this was discovered. Prior to the first swingblade portable mill, most circle blades usually had 20-40 teeth or more on them. Back in 1989 when Carl Peterson build the first ever portable swingblade mill, he demonstrated the prototype at a local fair with a blade that had 16 teeth on it. Being a bit nervous with a crowd gathering, Carl pushed the mill too hard and a portion of the guard came in contact with the blade. The ‘clang’ drew even more people so he acted like it was no big deal, quickly tied the guard back on, and carried on milling. Carl was pleasantly surprised how easy it was, as board after board just peeled off that log. The crowds stayed all day watching in awe. When the people finally moved on, Carl took the guard off to sharpen the blade. He was amazed to discover only 4 of the 16 teeth were left on the blade! Most of the teeth had been taken off by the guard.
The rest, as they say, is history. Most swingmill blades today have between 5-10 teeth on them. There is a fine line between hp, speed of cut, depth of cut, finish quality, and even density of timber, to arrive at the perfect number of teeth.
Blade Maintenance Time & Costs Summary
Setting aside for the moment the arguments between bandsaws and swingmills regarding production rates and recovery rates, lets look at typical blade maintenance costs only. This is assuming both mills cut exactly the same amount of timber (1900bft or 4.5cubes) in an 8-hour day, and that neither hit metal. Here is a pretty comprehensive table that has been drawn up from data from two operators using the two different machines in the field. Typical blade maintenance costs and usage periods like these can also be found on the forums mentioned above.
Experience a peterson, in person...
Speak to Peterson owners in your area
If you’re researching a sawmill purchase, the best people to speak to are those who operate the machines on a regular basis. The millers in our Owner’s Network have made themselves available to you to ask questions by phone or email, and some of them even offer private demos and open days at their milling sites.
Some owners aren’t publicly listed. Reach out to us, we’ll check our records and connect you with owners in your area.
Explore Swingblade Tips & Tricks
Cutting patterns to optimize your logs, log placement, securing logs in place, calculations, maintaining the mill, you name it.. Skip the guesswork and check out our most popular tips and tricks for operating a Peterson Portable Sawmill.