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Thread: Beam chainsaws

  1. #1
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    Beam chainsaws

    Quoting a job right now that would require me to get a new, fun tool: beam chainsaw (or rent one). I'll be making some simple cuts on 12" x 12" posts.

    The price range from Skilsaw to Mafell: $700 to $7000, respectively. The Skilsaw gets bad reviews (out of square cuts on 12" cuts), which isn't a big surprise given the price. However, I'm not seeing much in between. Do any of you have experience with beam saws? Do you have any recommendations?

    Portable bandsaw is another option. Again, Mafell is $7000.

    I may only get one or two jobs out of this tool (so far), so anything above a few grand is not worth it. However, I'm guessing it could be a tool that once you have it, opportunities to use it will suddenly become everywhere.

    Edit:
    The most economical approach seems to be a Makita 16" beam saw and cut from each side. ($800) The idea just scares me a bit, but I suppose that it's used safely by many a person.




    Cheers,
    Last edited by andrew whicker; 05-10-2021 at 2:10 PM.

  2. #2
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    For $90 and a custom cutoff jig you can buy a Hadden Lumbermaker and with the pivoting feature of the Lumbermaker you could make a beam cutoff fixture. https://www.mcssl.com/store/haddontools
    That also depends if you already have a chainsaw.

  3. #3
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    Have you looked into Bigfoot saws? http://www.bigfootsaws.com/

    They have some pretty good options as well.

  4. #4
    I don’t do as much timber framing as I used to, but I have used all the tools you mentioned in your post.

    For crosscutting a 12x12, the easiest method that will yield the best results in the least amount of time is the Mafell portable bandsaw, but it is likely the most expensive and there’s no way that I could justify the purchase of that tool unless I was timber framing all the time, which I no longer do. It’s an amazing and precise tool that I used extensively to cut joinery, crosscuts, notches, birdsmouths, etc just as much of more than the decorative scrolling type work that is typically marketed with that tool.

    I would use a Makita (or similar) circular beam saw (16 5/16” blade with 6 1/4” depth of cut) and cut from both sides and clean up with a plane and/or sander as needed. Crosscutting posts (even 12x12) is a pretty normal occurrence in timber framing and people have done it successfully with beam saws forever. Unless the timber is perfectly square at the point of reference with you square / layout then you will not get a perfectly square cut, but it can happen and if it’s not square then there are so many simple ways to make it square. Being strategic about how you choose your reference faces in regards to the twist/bow/etc that the timber had can be worth the extra time as you will potentially have no clean up to do, or at least can mitigate the clean up compared to just throwing a square on there without evaluating each stick of wood. I may be saying things that you already know, so forgive me, but I have seen folks do so many things over the years without thinking and then complain about the poor results, that I find it to be worth at least mentioning in passing.

    A chainsaw beam saw is going to leave a pretty rough surface on the end grain of the cut. This may not matter, but just be aware that it will be the roughest of all the cuts and you will need to take some precautions (tape, scoring, maybe more) in order to prevent tear out 2 sides of the cut because of the way the chain rotates.

    How long are the posts and how many cuts do you need to make? What species is the timber?

    I have made many a cut in big timber before with a smaller circular saws (7 1/4 - 10 1/4”) and finished the middle by hand with a large (300mm) and fairly aggressive toothed Ryoba with great success. Believe it or not, this is a very viable option if you have less than say 20 or so cuts to make. More than that and you obviously will see efficiencies in a dedicated tool, but you obviously would need to be able to offset your purchase price of the tool in labor saved if you don’t plan to have much of a valuable use for this tool in the future.
    Last edited by Phillip Mitchell; 05-10-2021 at 2:52 PM.
    Still waters run deep.

  5. #5
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    or a prazi on a worm drive saw. we use one of these on occasion and it works great with a quality worm drive saw.
    http://www.praziusa.com/12-beam-cutter-model-pr-2700/

  6. #6
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    I have my eye on a super sawsquatch from Skil, and this sounds like it would be the excuse ive been waiting on. However, like Phillip mentions, i cut a few 8x8s with a 7-1/4" circular saw and a ryoba. Not my favorite thing to do in the world, but it worked. Depending on your skill level and the trueness of the material, its not too difficult to line up nonthrough cuts from either end of the beam. I only have a festool ts75 and a 7-1/4 milwaukee, and i cut a bunch of 6x6s and two 8x8s for a TF shed last year. Really made me appreciate a 12" blade on my miter saw when i went to do the brace stock. It was so satisfying to make a perfect cut in one go.

    If you dont have to make the cuts onsite, you could always look at a used Monarch or Northfield Unipoint. I think they take a 22" blade. Not an ideal tool for this specific job, but you have a higher likelihood of using an industrial RAS in a shop than a specialized timberframe portable tool.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the responses!

    I have a skilsaw 10" blade I used for 8" x 8" posts. I now use that saw for anything I would use a circular saw for (excepting track saw and cordless moments). It's an awesome tool and I have yet to pick up my 7 1/4 saw ever again. Highly recommended.

    The makita /skilsaw big boy is a saw that only fits into the make money category. No regular Joe reason to own one. But at $800, it's not really too expensive. The two jobs I'm looking at will be good money. And I always enjoy a little construction on the side. If I get one of the jobs, I'll get this saw.

    I'm going to be cutting 14 ft lengths down and making a simple chamfer aesthetic on two ends of a 12ft beam. No joinery. Rough sawn cedar.

    And I do love my Japanese handsaws. They're so amazing at making quick work of lumber.

  8. #8
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    I have the oldest model of the Makita 16-5/16's circular saw. After 35 years, I finally found a blade that will cut true on it. The lower of the toothcount blade of the Oshlun
    16-5/16's two blades they sell. It's not really even a real expensive blade. The cuts looked like a tablesaw cut with a new Forrest blade.

    If I was buying a big saw today, I'd probably get the newer model from Skil, but my old one still works fine.

    I bought a Prazi attachment off the Classified section here, just because I didn't have one, but have never even taken it out of the box, so sorry, I can't offer any advice on that.

    I have a 10-1/4" Milwaukee, for cutting 4x's. It's a Lot easier to handle than the big Makita, but the Makita turns slow, so it's not really scary like it could get away from you.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by andrew whicker View Post
    Quoting a job right now that would require me to get a new, fun tool: beam chainsaw (or rent one). I'll be making some simple cuts on 12" x 12" posts.

    The price range from Skilsaw to Mafell: $700 to $7000, respectively. The Skilsaw gets bad reviews (out of square cuts on 12" cuts), which isn't a big surprise given the price. However, I'm not seeing much in between. Do any of you have experience with beam saws? Do you have any recommendations?

    Portable bandsaw is another option. Again, Mafell is $7000.

    I may only get one or two jobs out of this tool (so far), so anything above a few grand is not worth it. However, I'm guessing it could be a tool that once you have it, opportunities to use it will suddenly become everywhere.

    Edit:
    The most economical approach seems to be a Makita 16" beam saw and cut from each side. ($800) The idea just scares me a bit, but I suppose that it's used safely by many a person.
    Whatís a beam chainsaw? I canít imagine that (for crosscuts at least) it could be any more precise than my larger ryobas. If anyone disagrees, can you explain why?

  10. #10
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    The last time I cut 12x12's, it was in 1983. I built a spec house with a timber framed porch. It has 12x12x16 foot treated porch columns. That's when I bought the big Makita. I hired a crane to set it, and we didn't have to tune any joint at setup. I had cut all the tenons, laid out the mortises, and left my two school dropout helpers to cut the mortises, while I went to the 1983 Windsurfer Western Hemisphere Championship for a week. It was a big gamble, but I got lucky, and it did a lot of good for the helpers.

    Layout the cut line all the way around. The big circular saw will only cut a bit over halfway. Make a test cut outside the line far enough to be able to judge how it's going relative to the line. Stay away far enough that the real cut will be right on the line. Adjust the saw tilt to get it to cut exactly on your line. You have to do that on both sides, since the beam may not be perfectly uniform.

    I cut the compound angles on the bottoms of these temporary 1798 house legs, with the big Makita in 2017 (I think). That's when I got lucky, and bought the Oshlun blade.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Tom M King; 05-11-2021 at 8:20 AM.

  11. #11
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    That's a hell of a project. Nice.

    I love both woodworking (fine details, design, art) and construction (heavy lifting, laughing, powertools, big machines)... I think they both will be in my future.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Dawson View Post
    What’s a beam chainsaw? I can’t imagine that (for crosscuts at least) it could be any more precise than my larger ryobas. If anyone disagrees, can you explain why?

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Kelly View Post
    So whatís the big deal?

  14. #14
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    I was thinking this was the one he was talking about. Looks like a dedicated version of the Prazi attachment.

    https://www.skil.com/wormdrive-carpe...nsaw-spt55-11/

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Dawson View Post
    So what’s the big deal?


    Also useful for cutting SIPs, LVLs and thick insulation panels.

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