Thinking about building your own giant bandsaw mill? Check out this cool DIY project where I built a giant slabbing machine!
I’m going to jump right into the information for part three of the bandsaw mill build because I have a lot of ground to cover. 5 hours of footage to be exact. But I’m going to do what I can to condense that for you so let’s go.
If you missed the first parts of this series, you can check Part 1 out here and Part 2 out here.
Now at the end of part 2 you watched us move the mill outside to it’s final resting spot outside. From here forward, if you see the mill back inside, the footage was taken before we moved it out of course.
A lot of times we were working to move forward whatever piece was immediately up next. Sometimes that task could keep all four of us busy either working together or divided up. But other times one or two of us were left with nothing. To stay busy though, and keep other things on the list moving forward, whoever was free would hop on some of the other parts that would be added in later.
The saw head beam was a great go to item for this as it not only gets holes cut and tapped on all four sides, but also lots of parts needed to be fabricated together to be bolted or welded onto it.
This is the part that spans the across the carriage and rides up and down to adjust the height of the cut. So many things get attached to this part, such as the motor, the wheels, the blade tensioner, the blade guides and the blade guards. Since the making of all of these things were made at different times throughout the build, I’m not going to do things chronologically but instead grouped together by task.
Lets start with the saw head beam itself. There were lots of standard holes that were easy to locate on where it needed to be drilled and tapped. After knocking out the easy stuff, we moved on to the more time consuming holes such as mounting the plates for the drive and idle shafts.
These components are 1) expensive but 2) high quality pieces of equipment. You can see the pillow block bearings already come mounted on the two shafts. They are the meat and potatoes of this mill and are one area I chose to upgrade from Matts, which is why my mill came out to be more expensive than his. I purchased my wheels, shafts, bearings, and mounting plates from a Canadian company called Premier Bandwheel
The idle and drive shalf came attached to their mounting plates however we separated the two so that we could make a base plate for the mounting plate.
The saw head beam is 5” wide, but of course this mounting plate is much wider so we first had to make two base plates on the saw head beam for the mounting plates to go. On this side, you can see we welded on a scrap piece of saw head beam to achieve this wider stance. Then we could put our base plate on top and weld it down as well.
And I thought this was cool! Instead of just welding around the perimeter, we cut holes in the center of the plate beforehand so would could also have welding points at the center. After getting the base stuck, we fill welded these holes in. Johnny and I teamed up on these, mostly to try and get a cool shot of both of us welding together. I call it a success.
Ok base plates are on, so next we let those cool down…which actually took a long time. But the magic of editing means we can skip right ahead to clamping them in place and finding the center of the holes.
We didn’t have a good set of center finders so instead a lot of times we used a bit the size of the hole, in a hand drill. With the bit being the same size as the hole, it would center itself. Then we just gave it a few rotations to make an indent in the metal. This small mark would then give us a location on where to place our smaller bit to actually start drilling the hole so that not only was it was center, but this small indent also prevents the bit from walking around as you’re getting the hole started.
Next we got into a system where we used a magnetic drill, which by the way is dead useful. We borrowed this from a friend and man alive does it make life easier when drilling through metal. After finding centers we chucked a small pre drill bit in it and punched all the way through. Then still working on the same hole, we enlarged it to the size needed.
After getting one hole in that plate punched, Johnny and I went to the other end to repeat the process over there while Matt tapped the hole. After we got one hole drilled on the other end, Matt came to tap it while we went back to the other plate to drill the second hole.
We continued with our system until all eight holes, four in each plate, were drilled and got both plates seating nicely.
While the three of us were working on that, JD was working on fabricating the blade guards. This is the enclosure that will be go around the wheels and blade area to keep people a safe distance from them but also protect them should the blade break while in use.
This process actually got started the day before with JD cutting out the overall shape out on three pieces of flat material. Then we could measure each side and cut material to length, you can see JD marking in chalk the length each section needed to be. We didn’t have any flat bar wide enough on hand for this so JD used a metal cutting circular saw to rip strips down from a larger sheet of material. He would then pass me the joint and I would reference the chalk marks to knock each one down then lay them in their respected position.
We were working later and later into the evenings because as I said in the first video, we only had five days to get this entire mill done. We were now on day three and feeling the pressure. Nobody had any qualms about it though. None of us have a problem working hard anyways, but being with such a cool group and working on such a unique project made working into the evening even more enjoyable.
So here are all the parts for the guard….oh and here is an exhausted Cremona for scale…..
The next day JD made it down to the shop early to prep all these parts, beveling the edges and also removing the rust from the weld zone on the sheet material. Then you can see how this comes together pretty quickly….JD would position each flap where it needed to go, with the help of a fireball square, and Matt would tack it in place.
Then Matt joined Johnny and I on the saw head beam while JD finished up all the welding. And people were asking about the knee creeper….yes, it’s awesome and I do recommend it having it around. If you remember to use it, it saves a lot of up and down to move around and of course keeps your knees off the hard concrete.
After JD finished the parts were moved out to the porch for grinding and pretty-ing up. Somewhere along the way we designated the porch as the cutting and grinding zone. This kept down the noise level and also the metal dust inside the shop.
Instead of trying to he-man the saw head beam out to location, Cody once again brought in the tractor for lifting and moving. Oh and those Superjaws…it’s something I briefly mentioned in part 1 but these are an unsung hero in this build. Not only were they used for clamping to grind or cut stuff, but hugely for holding up extremely heavy parts such as this saw head beam. They are way sturdier than saw horses plus have the versatility of clamping.
The tractor got the beam outside, manual labor got it inside the carriage then a Matt Cremona in a bucket got it lifted up : )
He actually just positioned an I beam and chain hoist in order to lift it up. Once it was held in place, we remounted the drive and idle shafts, starting with the drive shaft.
Because these need to be mounted to the underside but are extremely heavy, we mounted the drive shaft then flipped the entire beam over. On the other side, the idle shaft is mounted to the sleeve to adjust the blade tension so they mounted this upright on the sleeve, then the flipped it over as they slid it on the end.
Alrighty next was to slide the linear bearings on the guide rails. These have an inside profile that match the guide rails so they mate together perfectly and can slide up and down. These are kinda tricky to get on because they are full of small ball bearings which are only kept in place by a foam insert that you actually have to push out of your way when inserting the bearing on.
It was pretty exciting getting this far and having another moveable part so we told Matt to lay down so we could test it out. The test simply would not have been the same without Cremona laying on the beam but once we got done playing we divided up and got back to work.
JD started welding on additional parts that were already made while Johnny and I attached the third guide rail under the saw head beam. This rail is to give movement to the two blade guides that we’ll later attach.
In fact, after getting the rail on and tighten down, Johnny and I moved inside to start fabricating the blade guides while Matt started assembling the acme rods which controls the rising and lowering of the saw head beam.
These giant all thread rods go through the saw head beam and down to a stubbed out platform on the mill. At the bottom is a bearing that this threaded rod can rotate freely on, then at the top is a fixture that is mounted to the underside of the saw head beam.
This fixture is something that Johnny made days earlier that holds a giant nut in place. This way when the acme rods are turned that nut on the bottom of the saw head beam will ride up and down, moving the entire beam with it.
Isn’t that cool?
Ok lets look inside at the blade guides. A portion of these I purchased right off the shelf we just needed to fab together a way to get them down and out slightly so that’s what we worked on. Which really just amounted to some tubing cut to size, beveled, and then sticking it together. Once the parts were prepped, I filtered them into Johnny to stick them into place.
Once they were cooled down we could take them outside and mount them to the mill. Hopefully you can get the idea now on how they work. They attached to the two linear bearings on the underside of the saw head beam so that they can be moved left and right. The point is to have them as close to the log you’re cutting as possible to keep blade drift down, just like blade guides on a regular bandsaw.
At this point, we only had a few more hours before we would lose JD. He was flying home a day earlier than the other guys, so we were busting butt to try and get as much done as possible. We came a long ways in four days. And while the to do list was shorter, a lot of the items we still had left to do were going to be time consuming so we divided up once again to try and kill it. Oh and if you don’t want to be hunting for your to-do list on a job site, put you list on a big ol box and everybody can find it 🙂
Johnny and I attached the log holding devices to the bed of the mill. These are made from NTP pipe and we had to drill and tap a few more holes to attached them.
Matt was working on mounting the blade tensioner which is a hydraulic pump. As you can see, as he increases the pressure a foot is pushed out and hits against a lip on the removable sleeve we made in the last video. Once a wheel and blade are mounted on the idle shaft there on the bottom of the saw head beam, the tension will in turn be increased. Isn’t that cool?
Then JD over there was fabricating a stand off to attach the motor mount to. What a pro welder…..using his glove as a shield to get a good bead.
A lot of you have been asking if this will be gas or electric, and I went the same route as Matt and got a 10hp electric motor. I placed a power pole and new meter when I built my shop so all it will take to get power permanently to the mill is a new trench and that was worth it to me to have the lower maintenance of electric and also the lower noise levels. This is a three phase motor but I only have single phase available. With that, I’m using a VFD (a variable frequency drive) to run the motor. Going this route, just like Matt, will give me more control over the speed of the motor as I’m running the mill and also give me a slow start and stop which are nice options.
One of the evening time tasks as we were having a cold beverage and hanging out, was Matt hooking up the VFD to the motor to make sure they talked to one another and worked. It would have been a complete shut down on us slabbing up something before they went home, had there been some sort of problem with either component so it was a big moment when he plugged in power and things turned on. That my friends is the VFD turning on, and then the VFD turning the motor on. All is well.
Well….except the weather that is. A big storm blew in, not only bringing wind and rain but also the cold. Over night, things dropped to the 30s which made the last day we had to work on the mill pretty uncomfortable. Well, Matts use to the cold coming from MN but the rest of us aren’t and it definitely slowed down production.
We lost JD unfortunately, he had to get back to work in Atlanta, so we were down to the three of us and we started on getting the wheels mounted. Do these look heavy to you? Because they are incredibly heavy.
These are two 30” wheels that I purchase from Premier Bandwheel. They were machined, ground, polished then balanced. Then crated up and shipped all the way across the country to my mill. We used the shop crane to lift them up then I used some degreaser (carb cleaner) to remove the waxy protective coating that came on the outside surfaces.
Like I said, these are very heavy so we went from shop crane to tractor then straight onto the mill. This took a lot of slow moving and finessing and a lot of making sure you don’t have fingers in squishable places but to be honest, this went off without a hitch! It was incredibly smooth.
We’re getting closer! Next Matt mounted the belts that go from the motor to the drive shaft and tensioned them properly.
So now you can see kinda how it all works….the motor turns on, spinning the belt which turns the drive shaft which spins the drive wheel. Then once the blade is on the wheels, that will turn the idle wheel on the other side.
Now we’re still missing a lot of components such as the gear box motor that will mechanically lift the saw head beam, and the blade guards. But even with the weather being freezing (it was actually sleeting on us intermittently), Matt was determined to cut a slab before heading to the airport. So Cody worked with him on tracking and tensioning the blade while Johnny and I went and snatched onto a log from the pile.
We went with the smallest one since we were short on time and weren’t able to get everything finly tuned in. The blade guard is missing and spinning this thing up was dangerous so to work. So to work around that (but still make a cut before the guys had to leave) was we used straps to grab a hold of the carriage and then 30’ of paracord so that we could stand far enough away that if the blade broke or came off we were well out of range.
Matt turned it on at the VFD, ran away quickly to the safe zone, then Johnny and I pulled the carriage back making the first cut through a pecan log!
We did it! Group hug!
Haha. And if you aren’t familiar with Matt’s videos, he always throws water on the slab to get a good look at the popping grain, which is why I found it cool to do the same.
Matt and Johnny’s airport Uber driver was only 10 mins away at this point, so we quickly reset the carriage to get another cut in and get one complete slab cut.
Since even more bad weather was coming in, we quickly threw a tarp on it and I said goodbye to the guys. Not bad for 5 and a half days huh?
Even though the guys are gone, I’m still going to continue working on the mill. So stay tuned for the next video where I put on the lubrication system, blade guard, the gear box motor, and clean and paint it so I can get through my big pile of logs.
I hope that you enjoyed this part. I’ll see you on the next one.
Matt Cremona’s Bandsaw Mill Plans
Watch Matt’s Video Building His Mill
Things I Used In This Bandsaw Mill Project:
ISOtunes Bluetooth Hearing Protection
Wilker Do’s Chop Saw Station Plans
Ridgid Octane Drill
3D Modeling Software
Plasma CNC Table
Metal Marking Pencil
Lincoln Power Mig 260
Lincoln Power Mig 210
Welding & Grinding Hood
Clamps I Used In This Bandsaw Mill Project:
Bessey Quick Clamp
Bessey Duo Clamp
Bessey Rapid Ratchet Clamp (my favorite)
Bessey Small General Purpose
Bessey Inline Handle
Bessey Classic Heavy Duty
(Most of the links listed above are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Great Team and progress April! ???????????????? ……. Took your advice and wrote my list on a big cardboard box…….. Got some really strange looks at the grocery store! ????
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