How to Make Rails for Your Granberg Alaskan MKIII Chainsaw Mill
In the mountains of New Mexico, pine trees are a challenging but elegant material to work with. Thick bark makes cutting the trunks exceptionally difficult, but the outcome is exceptional: Once cut, pine boards are both beautiful and sturdy.
I ordered my Alaskan chainsaw mill so that I could mill my own lumber for projects that include a covered front porch deck with a ramp for my Dad, a Mexican style shade structure, and a back porch deck.
In this article, I will detail how to make homemade rails for a Granberg Alaskan MKIII Chainsaw Mill in the following steps:
- Identifying materials
- Finding the necessary hardware
- Cutting the wood using the rails
A mill is where timber is cut for use for building and construction.
Necessary Lumber Cuts for My Projects
I needed to mill:
- 1" decking
- 2" x 6" boards
- 6" x 6" posts
- corbel blocks
- 6" x 8" beams
After doing some price comparative research, I decided to create rails to slide the mill apparatus out of nice straight lumber instead of buying rails.
Making Rails for My Granberg Alaskan MKIII Chainsaw Mill
After getting the mill I decided that I didn't want to risk milling bad lumber, so I made my own 12' rails. Here's how I made rails for less than half the cost of the manufactured 9' rails it's recommended you purchase.
Thought Process for Identifying the Proper Materials
I was at the hardware store looking for a ladder because I saw that someone had used half of an extension ladder as rails for their chainsaw mill. I needed to mill a 10' log, so the rails needed to be longer than the log. I was looking into purchasing a 24' ladder so I could use the 12' section.
At $150 a pop, I thought that would be a waste of a good ladder and I was feeling crafty. Since they don't keep the ladders in the aisles, I found just what I needed while snooping around the back of the store where they keep the over-sized stuff.
Power struts are used as metal framing for electrical, HVAC, and other work. I bought three 10' pieces and cut one of them into six 1' crossbars and two 2' pieces to weld onto the ends of the remaining two 10' power struts.
Welding the Power Struts
Don't forget to grind off the rough cut edges!
Nice to have a welder when you need to glue two sticks of steel together. I usually hire my buddy to do my welding, however, I can do a couple ugly welds that hold!
Mark the holes for the cross braces. The holes in the channel of the power struts have 2" spacing on-center. The cross braces on the ends placed at 1 foot from the end skips 6 holes. The pattern of the holes skipped: (x = cross brace)
6 holes X 11 holes X 11 holes X 10 holes X 11 holes X 11 holes X 6 holes
I used big bolts that could be tooled with the most common tool every sawyer has, a chainsaw tool! Don't forget the beefy washers and nylon lock nuts. The rails can be adjusted to be closer together for smaller logs on site, I can only imagine doing this with hardwoods, otherwise, skinny trees aren't worth milling.
The right tool for bolting things together, but the wrong tool for this job!
You can work it into there, but it's time consuming to get it out and you might bend the strut!
The best tools for this job:
two chainsaw tools! You will have to slip each tool in the ends of the channel and re-place it over each bolt again as you squeeze it. I set all the hardware in place before tightening.
I took the time to square all the cross pieces with one side then doing the other side went really fast.
12' Rails DONE!
Here's the breakdown:
$60.........Three 10' Powerstruts (3 @ $20 each)
$15.........Hardware (1" 5/8 bolt, 2 washers & locknut - 12 sets @ $1.25)
2 welds, edge grinding & bolt together: 3 hours
Screw and level (side to side) a mounting block then add a 1" block to space it for level end to end.
Adjust the screws and Voila! I used 4 1/2 inch long screws. Make sure that they don't penetrate into your cutting plane.
Check for level, then double check after each end is fixed and triple check . For my logs, I leveled my trailer with the center of the blocked log so that I was not having to make adjustments with minor angles.
On the thick end of the log, I put some level cross-grain cuts and chiseled them for a "shoe" for the cross brace to rest in. Next time, I think that this will be the method that I used on both ends of the rail apparatus. Of course, the cuts on the thick end will be deep enough to be level with the small end and will require cross-cut "shoes" for the 2nd and/or 3rd cross braces closest to that end.
***NOTE: Update - Chainsawing "shoes" and using small shims turned out to be the best method. On a few logs, using a small spacing block on the smaller diameter end helps eliminate crossing the grain end-to-end.
Checking for level side to side on this end! It's level, it's just the camera man leaning.
Text with BIG Picture
After the 1st cut and shimming to keep it from pinching the saw.
For 1st cuts, I found that shimming isn't as necessary if you are going to plane the boards like I am going to do. When milling bead-sized cuts, the heavy slab definitely needs to be shimmed as you go.
Top lopped off!
Perfect 1st cut. Not only first cut on this log, but my first cut ever will a chainsaw mill!
2nd cut - first 1" plank.
Ready for the next cut.
Treating this lumber with Cedarshield then staining with a nice red stain. Soon to be ripped for decking.
Will add a few photos of the finish decking material and the completed deck soon!!!
Great Stuff on Amazon
Do you have a chainsaw mill?
Are you making your own rails?
Did you try to build these rails?
I'd love to hear about it!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.