Bandsaw Mill-Sled



Having a large bandsaw is great but manhandling big billets and logs over the table is risky and plain hard work for the saw and the operator. I wanted to be able to mill any logs I'm capable of bringing home, but didn't want to lose any floor space to a permanent mill, so I designed and built this simple rolling-sled arrangement. It is absolutely amazing how much better a bandsaw works once you eliminate the friction of timber on the table which is added to by the downward pressure of the blade. Total cost was about $250 including paint and it can handle anything I can load on it with ease.


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How it goes together...

The rails are simply 50x50mm angle iron with one edge facing up. I've made it 4400mm long so it will fit a 2000mm sled and still some working room around the blade. The rails are supported by 4 sets of fold-up legs and the saw-table in the middle, the inner legs being on castors for positioning.


To minimize the loss of cutting height, I used 25x25mm angle iron across the saw-table which left the structure a bit flimsy when it was away from the saw so I added a simple reinforcement which fits below the table. I only lost 53mm of my cutting height in the finish - still over 400mm to play with!




As well as the rails, you also need something for the boards/waste to land on so this fold-up 'catchall' was added to the outfeed side. I was very happy with the way it uses so little space when packed.




The sled is a simple frame of 40x40mm angle iron braced with 20x20RHS. It is kept in-line with the rails by the ends of 6 bolts which can be adjusted as needed. To keep the steelwork clear of the blade, I added a strip of Ironbark which covers the bearings and acts as a zero-clearance support.

The bearings I chose are 8x8x24mm because it just made the maths easy and they were dirt cheap in a pack of 10.





To enable me to load logs on the sled without a mobile crane or gantry, I devised this tipping arrangement for the sled which allows me to load and cut logs much larger than I could normally manhandle over the table - though it does still have it's limitations as you can see in the video! Basically any log I can get standing on it's end and 'walk' to the sled is fair game.

Because my bandsaw came with roller guides and I haven't got my head around a way to convert them to the Euro style guides, gum build up on the blade was a huge problem to begin with. On very wet, resinous timbers like the Sally wattle I was using for testing, the build up on the blade can grow so much in just one cut that it puts the tension and tracking out to the point where the blade drifts off far enough to snap itself. I've managed to overcome most of it by removing the table insert (which becomes obsolete with the sled attached anyway) and replacing it with a steel brush arrangement I made - the original was brass but the bristles wore out after just one log's worth of cutting. The brushes are from the local $2 shop so they're easily replaced as they wear out but between them and an occasional wipe of the blade with some diesel, the blade stays fairly clean and cutting straight. Experimenting with this also showed me that Sally Wattle MUST be debarked in future as the copious amount of resin in the bark is the main cause of the blade build-up.




The rails are designed to fold up to about the size of a standard extension ladder so I could recover my working space when I'm not milling logs. It could just as easily be hung on hooks along the side of a building or similar but my machine was perfectly positioned to just lift the rails up out of my way with the pulley system pictured here. The video you will find further down the page shows how simple it is to set-up in a leisurely 3 minutes or so.




Coming up with some clamps to hold round or awkward shaped logs in place but were easy to move and use proved a challenge but I'm really happy with the result. The upright is 20x10mm steel as is the movable arm, all of which I have blackened to avoid rust with out clogging things up with paint.

Operation is simple, slip the bottom fork over the cross-rail of the sled and slip a pin through, then a half turn of the wing-bolt locks it in place. Slide the clamping arm on the upright until it touches the log then a half turn or so of the knob will secure the whole thing really well.

Once a log has had one side flattened so it seats squarely on the sled it doesn't really need clamping but the clamps come into their own again when you get down to the last boards when the billet is too thin to balance properly - basically allows me to split a 40mm board in half with out holding onto it - nice to have the fingers well away from the bitey bits!







After struggling to hold an awkward shaped log in position while I got the clamps onto it, I made a couple of these wedges to clamp onto the cross rails - very simple but very effective! - made setting a log up to get the best alignment much easier. 


...but wait, there's more!!!

I recently had the need to cut some small blanks while I had the mill set up and needed an easy way to hold the timber safely but didn't want to pack the mill away - only needed to make a couple of cuts and still had logs to mill!!! Easy fixed! - removed the mitre-slot guide from the Safety-Sled (only 2 bolts to undo) and clamped the Safety Sled to the Mill sled - cutting difficult little pieces has never been so easy!!! If I didn't need the floor-space the mill uses it would never get packed away again!


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Setting up the Mill-sled...

Once I bought my big new bandsaw it was obvious it could handle much bigger stuff than I could manoeuvre across the table so I set about building this sled arrangement for it. Now the sled can handle anything I can get on there and makes resawing a pleasure! Setup time is a casual 3.5 minutes with no loss of floor space when I don't need it. Total cost was about $220 (before paint!)

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...and loading a log on the sled...

While my tilt-loading system works just fine, loading this first heavy log made me realise it will be my limitations, not the sleds, that will govern what gets sawn on it - unless I decide to buy a little shop-crane!


... and then slicing a board from it.

I had some serious blade drift on this log but once I realised the extremely resinous bark on the Sally Wattle log was causing all the build up on the blade, I debarked what was left and the rest was a breeze from there.
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