Here’s a ChipIn for the Sawmill Project.
We have added a third project manager to the OSE team, Robert Todd.
Bob has been with us at Factor e Farm since July, on and off. He decided to stay for the winter, committing more deeply to our project. He will take on the sawmill as lead developer. We will get to building it as soon as the workshop is completed – which we are all working on right now. Thus, we’ll house both CEB and sawmill developments in our new, CEB-walled, living-roofed, off-grid facility with CEB dual-fuel wood/oil masonry stove. Sauna is included.
The sawmill project has a history already. I started with a bandsaw mill, and had an essentially completed prototype, with hydraulic motor and even a log cleaner.
I never ran the thing. Closer understanding of the sawmill – after building it – showed me that getting it working is not a walk in the park. Blade guides and wheel tilt must be adjusted carefully so that the blade stays on the wheel. The most difficult issue on a band saw mill, however, is blade maintenance. One goes through several blades in a day. Blade maintenance requires both sharpening and tooth setting. The additional cost for automatic equipment for these tasks is on the order of a few thousand dollars, and manual sharpening and setting means that you’re spending hours after a hard day of cutting maintaining your blades, if you don’t get them done professionally.
That’s the summary of my learnings, and I decided that this is not such a robust sawmilling solution for the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) – if we are interested in the simplest solutions for quality of life in an advanced civilization. If anyone thinks differently here and would like to take development of this sawmill to completion – we still have the entire sawmill. Come on over and become project manager – we just don’t have enough resources in-house to justify making it a priority.
We moved on to assessing and planning a swingblade sawmill as our next choice. This is essentially a small circular blade which you can rotate by 90 degrees to cut out dimensional lumber from large logs. YouTube videos on this are amazing – a swingblade cutting logs like butter, as it cuts not through a whole log cross section, but only a small section that is turned into a board. Our love affair with the swingblade sawmill ended when a sustainable forestry friend of mine, Ben Hansen, told me that he’s never seen a swingblade perform as advertised. He told me that he’s seen days wasted as logs would shift, and crooked boards were a result. I trust Ben’s ecological and technical judgment. He built digitally-fabricated LPSA trusses from roundwood:
Ben suggested a chainsaw mill, like a Logosol. We are pursuing this option presently. It is absolutely the simplest design. I shied away from it before because of chainsaw costs – the largest chainsaw in the world, a Stihl of Husqvarna 10 hp model, is about $2k. Plus, 10 hp on a rather thick chainsaw blade yields a cutting speed nowhere near that of a swingblade mill.
But, what if we use LifeTrac, with our multipurpose, 25 hp hydraulic motor, to power the chainsaw blade?
This is getting exciting. Cutting speeds, according to Ben, should reach our requirement of 2400 linear feet of dimensional lumber per day. This level of performance is such that it requires 2 days of sawmilling to produce all the roofing and lumber for a structure the size of our present, 1200 square foot CEB addition.
Why is a powerful, affordable sawmill important? The measure of success of the GVCS, in general, is how much market share we are taking away from global supply chains, via return to local production. If people have easy access to a low-cost (<$1k), high production (3000+ linear feet per day) – then I believe that this will have a significant impact on displacing factory forestry and old-growth clearcuts, and promote rainforest preservation. If we have our own resources in our backyard, we don’t need to steal them from neighbors.
We set up a project funding page for the sawmill here. The sawmill prototype and project budget is forthcoming.
People, I think we’re on to something. Are we going to build the world’s largest chainsaw? Open source, of course.