STC News by Bill Boyd

Susquehannock Trail Club

A year or so ago, our trail club purchased an Alaskan mill. Now many of you I’m sure aren’t familiar with these, so here is a brief explanation: They are a fairly simple device, made of steel and aluminum, which attaches to a chainsaw bar, to allow you to mill off a slab or board from a log.

It clamps to the bar with just two set-screws — no drilling of the bar. You place a guide on the top of the log, in our case we simply used a straight 2 by 6 by whatever length slab we wanted to remove.

You then adjust this thing to whatever thickness you want to mill off the log, ranging from an inch to a foot or so. I’m not sure when you would want to mill a foot thick piece off, unless you were making barn beams or posts.

Anyway our plan was to make bog bridges and/or benches, so we started practicing milling off a fairly thick slab, maybe three to four inches thick, which would leave around a foot wide flat on the log.

We began by using a couple different saws, ones that work very well for firewood cutting but, as we quickly discovered, were sorely lacking the horsepower necessary for milling a log lengthwise. To be fair we were forewarned of this; the advertising made it clear that this work required a lot of horsepower but you have to begin the learning curve somewhere, right?

You begin by holding the saw horizontal and letting the guide travel as level as possible on your guide board. We did manage to mill two eight-foot, hard-maple logs, and ended up with quite straight and level cuts.

They recommend a “ripping-chain,” which has specially designed cutters for this work. Well naturally, we had to first try a conventional chain. That was not a very good idea, we found. It’s much more difficult cutting a log lengthwise than cross-cutting it as in firewood cutting.

Eventually acquiring a ripping-chain, a 17-foot log of a different species (softer) was milled with much less effort than first encountered. Another recommendation is a larger saw, of course much more expensive and considerably heavier. These are considerations when you are carrying a saw a mile or two down the trail. Some of these saws should come with wheels!

I know some loggers are laughing, but then they are just going from one tree to the next and, for the most part, they are a much younger bunch. One of our members does indeed have a “monster-saw” which we can’t wait to try. We’ll probably pick a log fairly close to the road for that.

Quite often each season, a decent tree falls across the trail, and usually just gets a pathway cut through it. We would really like to make better use of these, and we are thinking this would be a good way to do it.

A few days ago we placed the two maple logs on notched cross-pieces for benches at Little Lyman vista and also Boone Run vista. These are spots where one may wish to sit a spell and take in the view in spring, summer and fall. It is not recommended you travel these roads in the winter. These vistas are all located on the Susquehannock State Forest Public Use maps, available free at DCNR offices.

The next trail club meeting will be here at the Boyd ranch on Saturday, Nov. 9. Dish-to-pass dinner at 5 p.m., with meeting to follow around 6. All are welcome.

Bill Boyd is a member of the Susquehannock Trail Club. He can be reached at