Sawyer Wisdom: Wise Words from Seasoned Sawyers to Those Just Starting Out with a Portable Sawmill

Wisdom is the reward of experience, and it should be shared.

Maybe even moreso than putting hundreds of hours on your sawmill, time spent learning from other sawyers may be the best way to take your milling from experienced to professional calibre. We believe in this so much, that we created the Norwood Connect forum over 10 years ago to cultivate a community of sawyers learning from sawyers. With thousands of owners putting endless hours on their mills, our Norwood family is a rich source of knowledge for anyone who is new to, of thinking about getting started, operating a portable sawmill.

Last winter, we sent out a survey to Norwood owners with the question "what is your best piece of advice for someone just starting out?". Here is what just a few of them had to say:

On getting started...

"Spend a lot of time cutting and learning how the mill works on less valuable lumber."

"Take your time. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Before you setup consider all necessary processes, especially log loading and lumber off loading. There's nothing worse than an awkward and inefficient mill setup."

"Make sure blade is level with bed & bed is level & straight"

"Take some time to study the art of sawmilling. There is a lot of great literature out there which will make you a better sawyer and help you to produce a better product."

"Watch as many how to videos, both those created by Norwood and individual operators. Knowledge is power."

"Take your time on assembly, adjustment, and alignment. Read the Norwood Connect forum, as there is much to be learned from other owners."

"Understand that it takes a long time to learn proper milling. The joy from that time is beautiful wood you can't buy from a lumber dealer. Every tree is like opening a Christmas present and exposing the beauty inside. It is truly exciting to see, at times it will make you gasp."

"Drying your lumber is just as important as cutting it."

"Have your drying zones constructed before the mill."

On learning the hard way...

"Watch the height of the log stops so you don't cut them in half and ruin a blade.  If you don't cut one you re not really in the club yet...."

Slow down. I made a lot of mistakes because I was just going too fast. Clean your logs from dirt and rocks,and check for nails embedded. A dull blade makes uneven boards."

"Milling the lumber is worthless if you do not learn how to properly stack and dry your lumber"

"Order extra blades. Getting the tension and other factors just right is a bit of an art. The trial and error can chew through a couple blades before getting the hang of it."

"Make sure your blade is balanced right. My very first use it wasn't balanced right and it flew off chewing a nice long hole in the guard."

On choosing your sawmill...

"Buy quality now"

"Make sure you have enough power, size, and quality of a mill for your intended purpose. My Norwood suits my personal needs perfectly."

"Nothing beats hands-on experience and buy the biggest and best-equipped mill you can afford. You will not regret it..."

If you plan to work with odd lengths, and shorter lengths add more vertical rests and consider another clamp and dog. purchase the oil filler and drain tube."

"Think about versatility because what you think you will be doing may change once you got started."

"Order the spare parts kit for your mill, saves time."

"Look for all the features that can be added later."

Tricks of the trade...

"The stress in the wood causes it to move, so leave an extra 1/4 inch on the last piece then flip it over to true it up. The bow isn't always the blade or guides fault "

"Once you start a cut never pull the blade back while running. Turn off motor and use a wedge to pull the blade back out of the cut."