Types of Sawmills

Bridgette Redman

Sawmills have been used since ancient times to cut logs into boards. Early sawmills were powered by water. Later, windmills, steam and electricity powered sawmills. Over the past two centuries, engineers developed portable sawmills, which are in widespread use today. Portable sawmills are sometimes called one-man sawmills. They can be transported to wherever the logs are being cut, reducing the transport needs for the lumbering industry.

Portable Bandsaw Mill

Early sawmills used a crank and water power to cut logs into boards.

A bandsaw mill features a bandsaw attached to a log bunk. The log is placed on the bunk. The bandsaw blade is typically set on rubber wheels and the blade travels down the length of the log. The log bunks and tracks determine the thickness of the completed board.

Portable Chainsaw Mill

A chainsaw mill consists of one or two chainsaws attached to a pair of rails. The rails are able to sit on the log and travel across it while the chainsaw cuts the wood. The distance between the rails and the bar of the chainsaw is what will dictate the thickness of the board.

Portable Swingblade Mill

Swingblade mills use circular blades. They are gas-powered and are usually automated. They are typically used for larger logs and can be adjusted to cut many different sizes of boards.

Water-Powered Stone Sawmill

The stone sawmill, also known as the Hierapolis sawmill, is the earliest recorded example of a sawmill. Powered by water, it dates to the 3rd century A.D. These were used around the world for several centuries.

Windmill Sawmill

Windmills were used to power sawmills beginning in the 1590s.

Windmill sawmills were developed in the late 1500s by a Dutch engineer who put a crankshaft on a windmill to power the sawmill.

Steam-Powered Sawmills

Steam-powered sawmills were developed in the United States in the early 19th century. These types of sawmills were built in areas away from water and were far more efficient than older mills.

Computerized sawmills

Modern sawmills can churn out a large number of boards very quickly.

Today's sawmills are largely computerized and run on electricity. Computerized mills emphasize highly efficient production, along with safety and waste reduction. As they are expensive to build, they typically require a high level of production in order to return profits.

Gasoline-powered sawmills

Gasoline-powered sawmills operate on a smaller basis than computerized sawmills. They were common early in the 20th century and exist on a small scale today. They are typically run by private entrepreneurs.