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Author Topic: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?  (Read 23475 times)

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Offline 038magnum

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"Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« on: March 11, 2012, 08:27:13 pm »
I am so confused! To all the ones out there that post on this site regularly that have a portable sawmill businesses, do you really make much money at it or is it mainly a hobby? I have been reading other sites and many discourage starting a portable sawmill business. Some say you have to charge around $100 dollars and hour to make any money at it. I wonder if this might be true with all the expenses you incur. I know that just starting up is tuff and it will take a while. I plan on working the job that I am in now until things take off. The wife is behind me in starting this endeavor so I have that on my side. I just wonder that after paying big bucks for a hydraulic mill, you will also have to work the other job to make this venture work. Please help me out. Be honest, is this worth it. All I want is to pay my bills and make a little money at it. I am not looking to get rich. I love working outdoors and working with wood. I think this would be enjoyable and interesting to see what you can get out of a log.  Thank you in advance for your help.

Offline bikedude73

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2012, 08:50:27 pm »
Hello for whatever this is worth I bought a small less expensive mill wm lt -15 and if I make money that's great and if not I get to cut lots of great wood for me.  On the other hand I would say buy a  woodmizer lt-15 go at the least if you want to go mobile.  Your welcome to check out my website www.blackdogboards.com  Ask any questions I will help any way I can.  Good luck...

Offline laffs

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2012, 08:55:57 pm »
Thats a hard one. I think at your age, you have to look at it as a hobby and if it turns into something it does.
If it was me knowing what i do now and economics what they are. I think id buy the planer and kiln first,buy rough lumber and mill it. go from there.

During the off season Igive out tons of quotes. If they show up, great. theres no guarantee from week to week how much work youl get. About a third of my milling is for myself. If you find i niche you might do alright.
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Offline Magicman

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2012, 09:14:01 pm »
I have never regretted my decision to start a portable sawmill business.  The first year I invoiced 44 saw jobs, sawed over 40Mbf, and grossed  $7,060.  The second year it was 53 saw jobs, over 60Mbf, and I grossed $10,700.  I was charging $175.00 per Mbf back then.  I tell you this not bragging or complaining, but just to give you an idea of what I did then and with absolutely no advertising.  I have been averaging well over 100Mbf per year since then.

Concentrate on learning to produce a quality product and your repeat customers will keep you in business.  Develop a niche market that fits you and your customers.  Mine is sawing factory sized dimensional framing lumber.  Others specialize in sawing various other species and dimensions.

Knothole Sawmill, LLC     '98 Wood-Mizer LT40SuperHydraulic/Lombardini/Kohler

Never allow your "need" to make money to exceed your "desire" to provide quality service.....The Magicman

Offline Dave VH

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2012, 09:26:05 pm »
I've only had my mill for a couple of months, and it has already paid for itself many times over.  ofcourse it is a small, old, manual mill, and not very efficient at that.  but with such a small investment, it's not hard to break even.  I'm learning a lot right now, and saving to get the big hydralic mill that I want.  I got the mill just for myself.  I am already a self employed carpenter, so that helps.  I have got a number of people asking me to mill for them, and I have several of my own logs that I'm stockpilling lumber from that I will either use or sell in the future.  It is more than worth it for me, but I didn't take much risk, which is the way that I would recomend starting out.  However each to there own.  Good luck on your decision.
I cut it twice and it's still too short

Offline shortlogger

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2012, 10:52:50 pm »
I don't saw full time I have a high hp manual mill and I turn away people  about every week that are needing lumber cut because I can't saw enough to take all the jobs offered . But I am unsure if I would be able to make the payment on a large hyd mill and still have enough left to live on every month it has it's ups and downs , with some advertising I think I could make it ok . If nothing else it will deffanatly keep you busy as a side job . It would also help if you have access to timber to cut and stack to sell outright when nothing else is going on that's what I do anyway ,and that's my opinion . Also different parts of the country have more or less competition  and demand to consider as a factor .
1 Corinthians 3:7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase . "NKJV"

Offline Chuck White

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2012, 05:42:07 am »
I'm mostly a hobby sawyer.
I don't saw year-round, just from Spring to Fall, no cold weather.
I'd say if you really wanted to saw, get a hydraulic mill, and look for a used mill in good shape first, you could save near half.
There's good money to be made, considering the convenience to the customer, that convenience being he doesn't have to truck his logs!
You will also meet some really great people too.
~Chuck~
Retired USAF, Retired School Bus Driver, and now a Mobile Sawyer
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I LOVE MY SAWMILL

Offline bandmiller2

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2012, 06:35:26 am »
I think if you consider it a hobby that pays its own way you'll be pretty close to reality.A few here are making some money but its a hard way to support yourself and family."It takes a good job to support a farm and a mill". Frank C.
A man armed with common sense is packing a big piece

Offline MHineman

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2012, 07:02:30 am »
  Starting out it would difficult to make as much money as a regular job, but you are your own boss.  That can be good or bad depending on you, your age, your family, and your area.
  I do custom sawing at a customer site, same at my site, saw my logs to sell lumber, small scale logging, and farming.  Any one of these would not keep me busy around here, but all together I'm getting by.
  It generally takes time for you to learn enough about running the sawmill to do a good job, get known for doing a good job and develop markets.
  I'd recommend doing it as a side job for at least a while and then see it you can develop the business and if you really want to do it more than a side job.
  After a weekend of moving lumber and rolling cants on the mill, many need to go back to their day job to rest.
1999 WM LT40, 40 hp 4WD tractor, homemade forks, grapple, Walenstein FX90 skidding winch, Stihl 460 039 saws,  homebuilt kiln, ......

Offline stavebuyer

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2012, 08:23:06 am »
The "worth it" part is a tough one to answer. There are alot of low hour used mills on the market right now..I am sure several are being offerred for sale by people that decided it wasn't worth it. Costs are easier to estimate than income or production. It's possible to obtain the per hour production numbers manufacturers claim but harder to average them in the long term. As a startup, I would have a hard time recommending going much in to debt to finance a mill if you have to rely soley on it to be able to make the payments. If your "portable" you will need to figure travel time and costs. If your stationary you need to add in the cost of support equipment to handle logs/lumber/sawdust/ and slabs. The "mill" has to cover these costs too. Thats the down side. The up side is unless the "worth it" part needs to be a six figure income then you won't need $100 an hour to make it pencil out. Overall operating costs excluding labor for a portable mill should be less $20 an hour.
 
My advice would be to buy a used mill you can afford even if it's not paying its own way. If the work and margin is there for you a new mill is just a phone call.

Offline FeltzE

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2012, 08:25:02 am »
Running a portable sawmill business is a gamble ... not a bad gamble mind you.

 - First it's difficult to judge the local market, how much demand is there for portable sawmilling?
 - Is there a market for rough cut (green/air-dry) lumber?
 - What is the current rate for sawmilling in your area?

I started with the assumption that I could saw enough to make my payments on a new mill ('96) working weekends while I worked full time. I was correct, and made some pocket change along the way.  Now in working retirement I find that I am not getting as many cutting calls as I would like (mostly due to the depressed economy here these days) Although I am supplementing my income none the less, but not enough to pay all my bills.

Local market rates and value  are everything in the custom cutting business. In Western NY you will find Amish still cutting and stickering under 0.20/bf Go ahead and compete with that... Here in NC where I am 21-.30/bf no one is working full time portable sawing locally. I just saw an ad for 20,000bf of RC lumber for sale at .45/bf. so there is another sawyer sawing in the yard making more than he is selling. I keep 5000+ bf of sawn lumber in the yard for the walk in customer typically.

Don't forget neighborhood issues like noise or zoning.  Consider you might need a place to send your slab from the yard periodically, a flatbed truck or stakebed dumper, a loader to handle logs/lumber/sawdust as well.

As of last month I added a shavings mill to the list of support equipment. Support equipment now equals 5 times the cost of the original mill and I'm still a portable sawmill operation.

Eric

Offline FeltzE

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2012, 08:33:24 am »
I'd add that as Stavebuyer mentioned that the manufactures estimates of production (although achievable) are unrealistic for the typical operator. You need to add in time to sharpen blades, travel to/from jobs, handle the product and advise novice customers.

A typical 1 1/2" blade band mill with hydraulics and a 30+hp motor out runs the "one man operator" To achieve the manufacture's estimates you need clean GRADE timber ( a rarity in on site and portable sawmilling), one or two helpers to stack and sticker your stock, add in a tractor/loader to move the logs into postion and slab out. Yard maintenance isn't factored into the mfr's plan either.

Offline Magicman

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2012, 08:58:42 am »
Going back to the "worth it" question.  You stated that you had a "real job" and would gradually try to build up a sawing business.  That is the part that I heard.

Making a living with a startup portable sawmill business is a huge stretch no matter what your budget is.  My post above describes how I built up a supplemental income business.  Not a business that would make a living for a family.

I bought my WM LT40 SuperHydraulic sawmill used.  It has all of the bells and whistles necessary to handle any log that any of my customers has ever had.  That is very important.  I would not have been as successful with a lesser sawmill.

The former owner of my sawmill bought it to try to make a living with.  He went belly up in two years and still had a sawmill payment.  He went back to his former real job and the sawmill sat idle for a year.  There is not enough business within my area to support a "make a living" business, and I have it all.  I have one scheduled later this week that is 175+ miles away, but it will only be a two day job.

I have 18 saw jobs on my list that are in various stages of being ready to saw.  Folks will call and say "put me on your list" when they start getting logs out, etc.  I will do them all this year plus some more, but that still is not a "living".
Knothole Sawmill, LLC     '98 Wood-Mizer LT40SuperHydraulic/Lombardini/Kohler

Never allow your "need" to make money to exceed your "desire" to provide quality service.....The Magicman

Offline FeltzE

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2012, 09:07:45 am »
Well said Magicman

Offline WDH

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #14 on: March 12, 2012, 09:19:45 am »
I agree that it is a tough row to hoe to make a full time living custom sawing for random customers.  There are very few that I know of that do it or have done it as their main source of income.  Looking at it as a way to pay for a hobby or as a way to make supplemental income is more realistic.  There are very many factors out of your control, no matter how good you are.
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Online customsawyer

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #15 on: March 12, 2012, 10:50:27 am »
There is a reason that most new businesses  go belly up in the first 5 years. It is tough to get any bus. up and running. The smaller you can start and get by with the better off you will be. When I first started I had a 9 year old forestry bus. that was well established so I was just adding another service. It helped that I had most of the support equipment that will be need (tractor with FEL, good truck and other trailers). I already had a customer base that made it easy to start the word of mouth advertising. It still took a couple of years to get the ball rolling.
I make my living doing nothing but sawmilling but my bus. is special in that I have found a specialty market to service. If you look at the people that make it doing nothing but milling the have one of two things going for them. One it is not there only source of income or they have a nitch market, some have both.
In answer to your question is it worth it. Yes . Just don't think it is going to be easy. Many have tried but few make it.
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Offline hackberry jake

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #16 on: March 12, 2012, 10:52:08 am »
  After a weekend of moving lumber and rolling cants on the mill, many need to go back to their day job to rest.
. I agree with this completely.
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Offline Brad_S.

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #17 on: March 12, 2012, 02:44:31 pm »
I was a full time sawyer for 16 years. It is a tough way to make a living. It is physically exhausting (I was in my 30's and 40's at the time). I never did much more than earn a subsistance living. 
It is capital intensive: you need to add equipment to make more money, things break, things wear out.
You only make money when the blade is in wood, yet when running a business there is so much else to tend to that perhaps only 25-30 percent of your time is actually spent sawing. It is easy to think you are making money when you still have another job that is actually covering costs you don't think of such as health care insurance, phones, utilities and property taxes.
During the course of my business, I watched about a dozen competitors come and go... I don't know if they were smarter than me and saw the light and quit sooner or if they were lazier than me.
At your age (OUR age, actually) I would keep it an enjoyable hobby that is subsidized by your "real" job pay and find a less physical job to carry you into your retirement years.
Just my 2 cents worth. I am not trying to talk you out of a dream.
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." J. Lennon

Offline Jim H

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #18 on: March 12, 2012, 09:07:47 pm »
I've been sawing full time for a while now. I make a decent living but the work is physical. I think you have gotten good advice to start as a hobby and see where it goes from there, I sawed part time for about 4 years before going f/t. I'm probably not too far from you, pm me if you like, I'd be glad answer any questions that I can.    Jim
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Offline 038magnum

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Re: "Portable Sawmill Business" Is It Worth Getting In To?
« Reply #19 on: March 12, 2012, 09:12:53 pm »
Thank you all for your honest input.
I still want to do this.
I think to make a business work. A lot is what you are willing to put into it. Like many have said if you do good quality work. Then your name will get out there. It is just going to take a while for this to happen.