Swingmill Blade Maintenance – Maintenance Costs of Swingblade versus Bandsaw
(Editor’s Note: Part 5 of a 5-part series on what you need to know about swingmill blades. Swing blade portable sawmills are also known as ‘swingmills.’ Peterson Portable Sawmills has supplied this five part series for your information.)
A 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 its starting position as it makes its vertical cut. 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 portable sawmill of choice in the countries they originated from, and around most of the Pacific and Africa. Petersons in New Zealand were the first in 1989, then Lucas in Australia started manufacturing around 1995. But swingmills are still in the ‘gaining popularity’ phase in many northern-hemisphere countries such as the US, Canada, and Europe. Many people in these countries probably lack the information to make an informed decision. There are some great internet forums that share a wealth of knowledge on all types of sawmills, including swingmills. Try places like www.forestryforum.com and www.woodweb.com for owners who are more than happy to help you with feedback on the swingmills they run.
Blade Maintenance Time & Costs
Setting aside for the moment the arguments between bandsaws and swingmills regarding production rates and recovery rates, let’s look at typical blade maintenance costs only. This is assuming both mills cut exactly the same amount of timber (1900 bf or 4.5 cubes) in an 8-hour day, and that neither hit metal. Table 1 is a pretty comprehensive one, drawn up from the data from two operators that use the two different machines in the field. Typical blade maintenance costs and usage periods like these can also be found on the forums mentioned previously.
Most swingblade manufacturers supply re-tipping jigs that will assist you in replacing tips in your own garage. You can purchase pre-shaped and pre-tinned tips (with solder and flux on them) to weld on yourself with a basic oxy-acetylene welding set. Basically you need to compare the cost of the jig and tips, versus the downtime getting your blades to a sawdoctor, especially if the nearest one is more than a couple hours away!
When you hit metal with a bandsaw, the blade is usually a write-off. Hence the requirement to have a couple of boxes of spare bandsaw blades on hand at any one time. So that’s around $20 a pop plus your downtime changing blades in the middle of your job.
When you hit metal with a swingblade, you will usually chip 1-4 teeth. One or two missing teeth still leaves you 4-8 good ones to finish the job. In most cases you can carry on fine. Take the blade home at night and replace the one or two damaged tips yourself with a retipping jig. Or, send the blade to your sawdoctor. Retipping costs will be anywhere from $4 for a DIY single tip to $70 for re-tipping and servicing an entire blade.
The bottom line suggestion is to invest in a good metal detector; this will save you money on ANY type of sawmill.
Sawdoctors (Blade Maintenance Service Providers)
When you take a blade in for it’s first re-tipping, you will need to give your sawdoctor the manufacturer’s specification sheet. This will show the correct tooth size and width required, and the hook and rake angles. When the blade comes back, compare it to the other one you have. Then take note of the blade’s performance on the mill, and give your sawdoctor some feedback. He might not get it perfect for the first time around, so he needs to know what to change to get it just right. Once you gain confidence in your sawdoctor, it would be great to recommend him to other swingblade mill owners.
Table 2 contains some of the many sawdoctors that swingmill customers use for their blades, and whom they have referred to us as all around good service providers. There are probably many more, but at least this is a place to start!
TABLE 2. Sawdoctors that swingmill customers have referred and use for their blades.
Acme Saw & Supply
1204 E Main Street, Stockton, CA 95205
Alabama Saw Company
112 Chula Vista Drive, PO Box 770
Pell City, AL 35125
156 Cole RoadWinnfield, LA
Ph: 318-628-5461 (BH + AH)
B.H. Payne & Company, Inc.
1657 Taylor Ave., East Point, GA 30344 USA
Tel: 404-761-8711, Fax: 404-761-5398
Toll Free: 1-800-752-0627
Byrne Sawmill Services
18 Old D’Evereaux St., Natches, MS 39121
Carolina Cutting Tools
150 Park Avenue, Newberry, SC 29108
Chris Cringle’s Saw Shop
131 U Street, Eureka, CA
Country Saw & Knife Inc.
1375 W. State Street, Salem, OH, 44460
Ph: 330-332-1611 Toll free: 888-639-7297
Jorson & Carlson Co.
1510 Ohio St, Des Moines, IA, 50314
McGuiness Saw Service
Memphis Saw Division
8529 Aaron Lane, Southaven, MS 38671
Nashville Saw Division
861 A Springfield Hwy.
Goodlettsville, TN 37072
Oregon Carbide Saw Corp
1713 South East 7th Ave, Portland, OR 97214
Portland Saw Works
2005 SE 8th Ave, Portland, OR 97214
Ray Lynn (works AH from home)
205 Wiggins Road, Tallicon Plains, TN
Saw Performance Specialist Inc.
5322 Hwy 2 East, Columbia Fall, MT
Service Saw & Tool Corp.
1621 University Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50314
U-CUT ENTERPRISES INC
4800 Solvay Rd, Jamesville, NY 13078
1-800-952-8288 (TOLL FREE)