The use of a Board Mill or Alaska Mill for the production of lumber
The main element of a Board Mill or Alaska Mill is a powerful chainsaw with a two-stroke
engine of at least 70ccm. Attached to the sawmill is a metal frame. The frame guides the saw
bar through the log to produce boards of uniform thickness. For the first cut a straight plank or
rail is rested on top of the log to create the first even surface. Then the guide bar is calibrated
to the desired thickness of the boards and one after the other board is cut from the log. Boards
of any thickness can be cut. For building purposes, the most common planks are either 1 or 2
inch thick. These board can then be trimmed with a chainsaw or better with a circular saw to
produce rafters or boards with a standard width. 1×3, 1×6, 2×4 and 2×6 are the most common
A board mill can be operated by one person, but most operators prefer to work with and an
assistant who can help to position the log and to move the boards.
An experienced team can produce 400 to 600 board feet of lumber per day.
No other machinery is required to produce the lumber. Once the tree is on the ground a
section of the round log is selected and cut. Depending on the length two or three log length
can be cut from one tree. The log will then be positioned on the forest floor, so that it rests in
a stable position without the risk of moving. Once the log is fixed the milling can start.
A chainsaw usable for milling can be purchased in Dominica for EC$ 3500 approx. US$
1300. The Alaska frame needs to be imported and costs approximately US$ 150. For gas- and
oil tanks and personal safety equipment US$ 250 can be budgeted. For a total US$ 1700 an
Alaska Mill is ready to work.
The cost to operate he mill are not too high. A day’s work requires not more than 15 litres of
gasoline and approx. 3 litres of chain oil. A chain will last for at one or two weeks and cost
approximately US$ 50. An experienced chainsaw operator can produce US$ 150 worth of
lumber a day.
Chainsaw lumbering is hard work and requires experience. It is not suitable for unskilled
workers. However, with 2 to 3 days of training any worker would be ready to start milling.
The key question to answer is: How much useable logs are accessible to be converted. Only a
half of the wind thrown species are suitable for lumber. How many of these are they
accessible the terrain may be too steep to reach the or they are “buried” under many other
trees. This question needs to be discussed with the Forestry Department.
Salvage logging is one of the most difficult and dangerous forest operation. In any case only a
relative small percentage of the total number of trees on the ground will usable and accessible.
How much needs to be evaluated in the forest.
Chainsaw lumbering is a typically done by individual private operators. They should be
provided with the equipment to work it. To reduce the risk of misuse the saws should be given
to the Forestry Department and the Forestry Department leases the mills out to private
operators through a simple lease agreement.
Ideally a small rental fee should be charged from the operators, which can be payable after the
operator has sold the trees. The rental fee can be taken as a down payment for later purchase
of the saw. This may serve as an incentive to maintain the saw in good working order. The
Forestry Department has tradition of providing contract workers with forestry equipment.
In addition, the operator should be furnished with a license making him the rightful owner of
the timber he produces and allowing him to transport and sell the lumber of the trees he
For further technical information on chainsaw milling please contact:
Regional Forestry Officer for the Caribbean
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO/UN)
c/o Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries
Letitia Vriesdelaan 12, New CAHFSA Building,
(597) 479-112 Extension 1217
Direct Line (597) 424414
cell (597) 8252560