The mill attachment consists of a pair of rails which are attached to bar of the chainsaw. The rails ride on the face of the log and guide the chainsaw blade through the log at a consistent depth so that planks of a predetermined thickness can be cut. The distance between the rails and the bar determines this thickness and it can be adjusted by moving the rails along a post at each end of the mill attachment. The rails are then locked in place using lock screws.
Small mills use a single chainsaw and can be handled by a single operator. Larger mills use two chainsaws, one on either side of the attachment and these require two operators. This larger style of mill requires a special bar which allows the two chainsaw heads to be attached at either end. The width of the plank that can be cut is determined by the length of the bar, so for logs having a large diameter, the longer bar is necessary.
For the first cut, a pair of rails are usually attached to the log to give the mill attachment a reference surface to guide it. Subsequent cuts are made using the surface of the previous cut as the guide.
Alasakan mills are relatively cheap to purchase compared to other types of mill and are also straightforward to make. They are therefore popular with hobbyist woodworkers who have access to felled timber.