Efficient Sawmilling Tips & Tricks

Millers are always coming up with new ideas, tips & tricks that make a better, more efficient sawmilling experience. Some ideas have been incorporated into the design of the mills, as we are constantly looking for ways to improve our mills. Others are listed below.

If you would like to contribute your own efficient sawmilling tip, send it through to us.

Cutting Patterns

Peterson Portable Sawmills are extremely versatile and able to make a number of different cuts for various purposes. These include flat (plain) sawing, quarter (grade) sawing, wide slabs and resawing, and tapers, beams and doublecuts.

plain sawing

Flat sawn boards are cut from the log where the growth rings run parallel to the wide faces of the board. Flat sawn lumber is the most commonly produced as it is very quick to cut and creates less waste.

The flat sawing method of cutting boards is great when dealing with high-tensioned logs. With the grain running parallel with the wide faces of the board, the boards will tend to bow upwards. Flat sawn boards have a lot of flex, therefore bowed boards can be straightened through correct fillet stacking and being weighted down during the drying process.

Flat sawn boards can be a disadvantage when used for applications such as treads on a staircase, as they can flex or bend when under pressure. They are great for applications where you will be nailing through the board, as they are less prone to splitting. It is also harder to match the grain when laminating boards together.

Quarter sawn boards are cut from the log where the growth rings run parallel to the narrow sides of the board. This style of cutting is considered to be the most ideal cut, and is more attractive than flat sawn lumber. Some species of trees such as oak reveal beautiful ray flecks when quarter sawn, and these boards are prized among furniture craftsman. Quarter sawn boards are much easier to match the grain when boards are laminated together.

For many sawmills, producing quarter sawn boards takes longer to cut, produces less board footage (cubage) and creates more waste. The flexibility of a Peterson Portable Sawmill makes cutting quarter sawn lumber an easy task with minimal effect to production figures, speed of cut and waste. The unique design of the Peterson Portable Sawmill allows you to cut quarter sawn boards directly from the log with no additional log or board handling.

Quarter sawn lumber produces a beautiful grain, which is ideal for use in areas on display such as cabinets and doors etc. Quarter sawn boards behave in the opposite manner to flat sawn lumber. They have a lot less flex because the grain runs perpendicular to the face of the board. Quarter sawn boards are quite stable and very strong, and are therefore ideal for use in weight-bearing applications.

When cutting quarter sawn lumber from high tensioned logs the grain will cause the board to bow like a banana. As quarter sawn boards are very strong, bending these boards straight is almost impossible, and for this reason we recommend flat sawing high tension logs.

One wide slab is attainable from every log without purchasing a slabber. After milling half way through the log, flip it onto the top of a half sawn log, and continue milling as per normal. If you don’t require a multiple of slabs this is an accurate, economical method of producing them. You then have the option of leaving a live edge for a rustic look, or flipping the blade to the vertical position and cutting the edge to leave a perfectly square slab.

Re-sawing is done in the same manner by placing the beam/board/slab on top of the half milled log, and then milling through it as per normal operation.

Tensioned logs are easier to cut with a Peterson mill because with only one blade cutting at a time, you are releasing the tension/stress slowly out of the log, keeping your boards much more uniform. For example, the majority of pressure that is put on the blade is when making horizontal cuts in high tensioned logs. If you are cutting 8″ wide boards the Peterson mill can make the cut in two passes (i.e. 2 x 4″ cuts), releasing the pressure slowly thus increasing the life of your blades.

Tapers are done with an attachment to obtain weatherboards/beveled siding straight off the log.

Beams and Double cuts are easily obtained with the Peterson without the need for turning the power head around, and by utilizing both sides of the blade. L-shapes are also obtainable, ideal for corners of houses, bench seats, etc.

Efficient Sawmilling When Cutting

Leave a small uncut 5mm ledge before making the finished cut, so the ledge supports the weight of the double-width board. This offers an alternative to wedging.

Lining up your double cut for efficient sawmilling with the Peterson SawmillTry cutting the back-cut first. This allows you to visually line up the second cut with your standard cut. You can easily adjust the winch up or down to line up the cuts, without having to walk around to the other side of the mill.

Before sharpening your blade, take the top slab off your log. The first slab dulls the blade the most, due to the large amount of grit and bark. Doing this first, will prolong the duration between sharpenings.

For efficient sawmilling, leave a ledge to allow the board to be resawn on the sawmillLeave a small ledge on the log, placing the board to be re-sawn next to it. Double-cut the board, so when pulling back on the mill, the blade forces the board against the ledge, and prevents any movement during the cutting process.

It’s a good idea to do the vertical cut first when you’re at the bottom of a slab. If the horizontal cut shifts the slab sideways, the timber is already edged so your boards should still come off fine.

Place a bottle cap over the lead-in adjustment bolt A, this will save you from having to play around with the lead-in adjustment every time you perform a double cut. When you have finished double cutting simply remove the bottle cap.double cutting adjustment

For holding logs in the right place, make yourself a couple of good large hardwood skids, and cut out a series of different sized notches as shown.

The smaller notches will hold small logs and should be first on the end you roll your logs in from


We also sell EZ Dogs which are placed on the bearers. This is very effective in holding logs of all sizes




Alternatively, you can cut yourself some wedges and use those effectively for wedging each side of large logs

If you wish to cut several boards that will later be glued together for table or bench tops, number each piece as it comes off the log. That way you can easily match the grain later after drying.

Log Placement For Efficient Sawmilling

If you are milling a lot of small diameter logs let’s say 200mm – 300mm (7.8″ – 11.8″) in diameter then you will need the EZ Dogs to secure the logs to your sawmilling skids which allow you to safely mill those small diameter logs.

If you are mainly milling medium – large diameter logs then you won’t need to use them and please note when you do use them and want to cut the last couple of boards out of the bottom of your log you will need to remove the 2 left hand EZ Dogs to get access to your log.

In most situations, EZ Dogs are the ideal log holding system as this prevents the spinning blade from moving the log.

You will need 2 pairs of EZ Dogs. The set includes 4 clamps and aluminium 6 spikes ( you have 2 spare spikes)

As you start to cut a vertical board, adjust the board remover so it slides next to the board. When you come to the horizontal cut, you will stop any sideways movements of either the mill or the log.

It is better to have the log on the ground during slabbing as this stops any sideways movement. If you are using skids, make sure they are big and have good notches.

If you are able to, angle your log on a downwards slope, so gravity helps to feed the slabber through the log. This helps prevent both operator and engine fatigue.

At the end of the board, leave a bone to prevent sagging.When cutting low on a log that has tension, leave an edge on the right hand side of the log. This will give more support to the log and provide more accurate last boards and will stop the log from sagging and moving.

Sight the blade in both horizontal and vertical positions, to ensure that your log is parallel before you begin milling.

Use three skids for bunk supports to stop the bottom slab from collapsing as it cuts. This will allow you to get maximum yield from any given log. It also stops the bottom slab from sagging or bouncing.

When positioning your Sawmilling Skids you need to keep in mind where your large diameter log center (Large Notch) needs to be.

You will also need to have at least a 6-8″ (170mm – 200mm) gap between the inside of your right hand track and the edge of your 8” X 12” (200mm – 300mm) Sawmilling skid this is to allow room for your loading roller to pass through when milling the last few boards out of your log.

For Double cutting you will need to allow enough room for your center unit to allow you to use the left side of your blade when cutting in the horizontal.

Making a pair of ramps to aid rolling logs over sawmill tracks.
Make a pair of ramps easily, by first cutting an 8×8 beam. Put it back onto the log at an angle, and cut vertically as per normal. These can be used to help roll logs over your tracks easily. The weight of the beam will keep it in place as it is being cut.

A lot of beginner sawyers cut V’s out of their log bunks to hold the log in place, but these often do not work.  A better method is to cut out actual square notches as a guide 10”-12” (250 – 300mm) in length x 50mm in depth. Cutting large 8″ x 12″ bunks, rather than small supports, is also more beneficial.

Take wind direction into account when setting up your mill, so as to avoid inhaling excess sawdust and exhaust fumes.

Use a stick or similar to correctly line up the centres of both sides of an oddly shaped log with the mill tracks. This way you will optimise the output of hardwood (closer to the centre) as opposed to sapwood (closer to the bark). The track frame must be parallel for this to work.

The Mill

Do not over-push your mill – listen to the sound of the engine and let the blade do the work. If you feel you need to over-push, your mill probably needs an adjustment.

When you are wheeling the carriage into position over the tracks, do not push it forward and attempt to roll it over your skids. Instead, reverse it in, and ease the wheels over the skids while pulling backwards.

When using an ATS model, clip-on, or dedicated slabber, try rolling the black carriage wheels to engage the bar into the log. This makes it easier, not having to push it through.

Turn the water off when doing your sizing, so that you don’t waste water.

Reset the sizing device while you are cutting, to save time at the end of a cut. Provided the board remover is off, you can reset the dial while you are cutting on the ASM also.

Before you do a cut, lock your sizing device in the reset zone, to completely eliminate any centre unit sideways movement.

You can actually steer the timber left or right as it is being removed, using the reset switch, making it easier for the tailer. This also keeps the boards from falling off the side of the log.

When strapping down your mill for transport, an alternative to strapping the bed is to go over the top of the frame. This will prevent chain stretch, which may happen as the bed is pulled down, which can then upset blade adjustments.

When setting/checking your horizontal criss-cross adjustment, you may find it easier to simply measure the front and back edge of your blade up to your bed frame:

  • swing your blade into the horizontal position
  • place a long straight edge/ruler on top of your blade. ( make sure your straight edge is long enough to span the width of your bed frame ( operators side to the front of your frame)

  • measure the operator’s side of the blade up to the bottom of your bed frameThen walk around to the front of the blade and measure up to the bottom of the front bed frame ( the measurements should be the same)  
  • if the measurements are not the same then you will need to adjust your white pads at the front of your machine
  • once the measurements are even then your horizontal blade adjustment should be pretty close to perfectcriss-cross blade adjustment

Put some household dish washing liquid in the water container to reduce friction on the blade, and also algae build-up in the container.

Buy a tin of silicon spray and use it daily on your chains, top turning shaft, and bed sliding areas.

Here are a couple of photos on what to look for when checking to see if your tracks are parallel. Line up the top of your closest rail to you with the bottom of the rail furthest away from you. You can see in the picture that the rail furthest away from you is higher. We need to lower that rail down slightly.

We have now lowered the far rail. We now look along the entire length of your tracks and we can see all 4 corners are parallel (level with each other). Please note you could also raise the track closest to you to achieve the same result.

You can also place a spirit level on the center of your red track skids and as long as the air bubble is in exactly the same position for both Red Track Skids your track should be parallel.