How to Make Rails for Your Granberg Alaskan MKIII Chainsaw Mill

Updated on August 22, 2019
CASHubbard profile image

CASHHubbard is a martial artist and freelance photographer living in the mountains of New Mexico.

Turns out you don't need to purchase stock rails for your chainsaw mill after all.
Turns out you don't need to purchase stock rails for your chainsaw mill after all. | Source

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 with the following information:

  1. Identifying materials
  2. Welding
  3. Finding the necessary hardware
  4. Bolting braces to struts to make a rail

  5. Cutting the wood using the rails

A portable saw mill can simplify a difficult job while working with wood in the wilderness.
A portable saw mill can simplify a difficult job while working with wood in the wilderness. | Source

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 with the Granberg Alaskan MKIII Chainsaw Mill.

1. 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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Power StrutsClose-Up of a Power StrutPower Strut Cut Into Crossbars
Power Struts
Power Struts
Close-Up of a Power Strut
Close-Up of a Power Strut
Power Strut Cut Into Crossbars
Power Strut Cut Into Crossbars
Click thumbnail to view full-size

2. Welding the Power Struts

Don't forget to grind off the rough cut edges!

Nice to have a welder when you need to attach two sticks of steel together. I usually hire my buddy to do my welding, however, I can do a couple of 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. For perspective, the cross braces on the ends placed at 1 foot from the end skip 6 holes.

The cross pattern of the rails and cross braces requires seven braces when constructing the rails from power struts.
The cross pattern of the rails and cross braces requires seven braces when constructing the rails from power struts. | Source

The Pattern of the Hole and Brace Welds

It's helpful to weld the braces in a pattern. I welded my rails in the following pattern. The diagram above also details where I placed braces on the struts.

X = Cross brace

6 holes X 11 holes X 11 holes X 10 holes X 11 holes X 11 holes X 6 holes

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bolts needed for creating the rails.A ratchet and socket combination could work for attaching the struts, however they may be too large considering the material we're using!A chainsaw tool will do the trick. A ratchet and socket may be too difficult to work in and out of the metal fold.A Chainsaw Tool
Bolts needed for creating the rails.
Bolts needed for creating the rails.
A ratchet and socket combination could work for attaching the struts, however they may be too large considering the material we're using!
A ratchet and socket combination could work for attaching the struts, however they may be too large considering the material we're using!
A chainsaw tool will do the trick. A ratchet and socket may be too difficult to work in and out of the metal fold.
A chainsaw tool will do the trick. A ratchet and socket may be too difficult to work in and out of the metal fold.
A Chainsaw Tool
A Chainsaw Tool

3. Hardware for Building the Rails

I use big bolts that could be tooled with the most common tool every sawer has: a chainsaw tool! Don't forget the beefy washers and nylon locknuts.

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.

Item
Quantity
Price (each)
Price Total
10' Power strut
3
$20
$60
Hardware (1" 5/8 bolt, two washers, two locknuts)
12 Sets
$1.25
$15
Time for two welds, edge grinding, and bolting
3 Hours
Free!
Priceless
 
 
Total Cost:
$75
DIY Chainsaw Rail Price Breakdown
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Two Chainsaw Tools
Two Chainsaw Tools
Two Chainsaw Tools

4. Bolting Braces to Struts to Make a Rail

Two chainsaw tools work well for bolting together the rail and brace struts.

  • You will have to slip each tool in the ends of the channel and replace it over each bolt again as you squeeze it.
  • I set all the hardware in place before tightening; then slowly clamp down before fastening.

I took the time to square all the cross pieces with one side then doing the other side went really fast.

The 12' Rail Finished Product
The 12' Rail Finished Product

Mounting Blocks for Your Rails

  • Screw and level (side to side) a mounting block then add a 1" block to space it and level the rails end to end.
  • I used four 1/2" long screws to attach the rails to the braces. Adjust the screws and voila! Make sure that they don't penetrate into your cutting plane.
  • Check the surfaces to be sure they're level. Check again after each end is fixed, and check a third time to be sure.
  • 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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Blocks to Support Rail BracesUse a Level Across Rails for Accurate Horizontal cutsUse a Level Across Rails for Accurate Vertical cuts
Blocks to Support Rail Braces
Blocks to Support Rail Braces
Use a Level Across Rails for Accurate Horizontal cuts
Use a Level Across Rails for Accurate Horizontal cuts
Use a Level Across Rails for Accurate Vertical cuts
Use a Level Across Rails for Accurate Vertical cuts

Chainsawing "shoes" and using small shims turned out to be the best method for perching my rails on the log. On cone-like logs, using a small spacing block on the smaller diameter end helps eliminate crossing the grain end-to-end.

Of course, the cuts on the thick end are deep enough to be level with the small end and will require cross-cut "shoes" for the second and/or third cross braces closest to that end.

Checking for level side to side on both ends is critical for a level cut.
Checking for level side to side on both ends is critical for a level cut.
A Log and Rails Pre-Cut
A Log and Rails Pre-Cut

5. Milling a Pine Tree With the New Rails

After the first cut and shimming to keep it from pinching the saw.

For first 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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Top of the Log Lopped OffClose-Up of the Top of the Log Lopped OffPerfect first cut. Not only first cut on this log, but my first cut ever will a chainsaw mill!First 1" Full Length Second-Cut Board
Top of the Log Lopped Off
Top of the Log Lopped Off
Close-Up of the Top of the Log Lopped Off
Close-Up of the Top of the Log Lopped Off
Perfect first cut. Not only first cut on this log, but my first cut ever will a chainsaw mill!
Perfect first cut. Not only first cut on this log, but my first cut ever will a chainsaw mill!
First 1" Full Length Second-Cut Board
First 1" Full Length Second-Cut Board
Staining boards is a different story altogether.
Staining boards is a different story altogether.

Treating Your New Boards

Treating this lumber with Cedarshield then staining with a nice red stain. This wood will soon be ripped for decking.

Will add a few photos of the finish decking material and the completed deck soon!

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! Leave a comment below.

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.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Shawn 

      9 months ago

      My setup is same principle except I used a 12’ piece of industrial cable tray

    • profile image

      Bill Moss 

      23 months ago

      I have an Alaskan Sawmill, been trying to figure something for the rails like you did.

      This is a great idea!!!

    • profile image

      Richard Sanders 

      2 years ago

      Yes sir I made my own rails I havnt used them yet but Im sure they will work fine thinks for the idea a lot better then a board

    • profile image

      Dale 

      4 years ago

      What type of chain did you use?

      Thanks

    working

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