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Author Topic: Small scale sawmill business  (Read 1975 times)

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Offline dirthawger

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Small scale sawmill business
« on: November 12, 2017, 04:43:43 pm »
So Ive been trying to decide where i wanted to focus my attention.  Firewood or sawmill business.  I do enjoy cutting my own firewood but im not passionate enough to make it a business.  So im going for a small scale sawmill business. I do mean sawmill as my financial goal is just to make the payment which for the LT15 is around $140. I know the lt15 isn't a commercial unit but itd give me a way to ease into and see if i could actually bring in business.  So what's yalls opinios?

Offline Percy

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2017, 05:07:07 pm »
Not sure which power plant you have on your LT15 but the ones with a 15 hp electric or the 28 FI Kohlers have feed rates same as an equivelent LT40. Just more physical. Making a 140.00 a month with that mill is an easy thing to do IMO.
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Offline ladylake

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2017, 05:10:45 pm »

 Should be able to clear $140 a day easy.  Steve
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Offline irvi00

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2017, 05:57:37 pm »

 Should be able to clear $140 a day easy.  Steve

Agreed. Once you get your name out there and people know about you, you'll be swamped with work. It aint easy but its a good way to spend your time.

Offline Peter Drouin

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2017, 06:02:41 pm »
Are you going to sell lumber, or just custom sawing??
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Offline thecfarm

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2017, 06:06:16 pm »
A all manual mill is a hard way to make money. But it can be done. I would not want to be sawing steady 5 days a week,even weekends would get to me. I have a manual sawmill,I cut down the trees,mill them,and than build. Breaks up the work part. Well meaning doing the same thing all day.  :)
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2017, 07:33:26 pm »
DH,

   Way short on details for advice on my part. What is your experience and what kind of support equipment do you have to work with? Where are your logs coming from? Are you sawing lumber for others or selling it? If selling, where will you sell it? Are you transporting  lumber for others and if so back to the support equipment. Where are you sawing? On your site or customers? If your site how well is your site laid out for access, storage, etc? If at home what are you doing with the by-products like sawdust and slabwood?

   I don't want to be negative and will be glad to comment on specific questions and details. Good luck.
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Offline dirthawger

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2017, 07:45:45 pm »
I figured i would do both if that's an option,  didn't know if maybe i need to decide on one or the other.  And i don't plan on doing it 5 days a week, id love to be swamped with work but right now my goal is just pay the monthly and supplemental income for my fulltime job and stump grinding business.  I guess it's just going to come down to just suck it up and buy it. Just a little concerned about finding customers but that's with everything you do i suppose. So do y'all recommend not getting an LT15?

One other question is I've talked to a guy before that cautioned me against woodmizer mills cause he said they're designed to make you a slave to woodmizer. He recommends lucas. Did this guy just have a bad experience?

Offline firefighterontheside

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2017, 08:01:31 pm »
I recently acquired an LT15 from my buddy, a former member here(gfadvm).  He has been sick and couldnít use it anymore.  He sawed mostly by himself and only with free logs that he got here and there.  He would cut, air dry and sell anything he could get.  While still working as a fulltime horse veterinarian he made over 30,000 in about 2 years.  He was very meticulous in his cutting and stacking.  He cut everything live edge and stacked in perfect stacks keeping mirrored edges together.  I believe he appealed to people who wanted live edge and who wanted book matched slabs.  He priced his wood by the slab and not the board foot.  That may be a good model for a small business.  Myself, I will mostly be cutting for myself and friends and will also make it known that I will cut for a fee.
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2017, 08:32:23 pm »
One other question is I've talked to a guy before that cautioned me against woodmizer mills cause he said they're designed to make you a slave to woodmizer. He recommends lucas. Did this guy just have a bad experience?

    Did he ever actually own and operate a WM mill? I have just under 500 operating hours on my mill and a little over 72K bf plus other specialty cuts and my experience with WM has been totally positive. IMHO the WM prices are competitive when compared to the same or similar items in the local market or on line purchases, their on-line advice and troubleshooting, when needed,has been spot-on and their responsiveness with advice and sending critical spares has been above reproach.
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Offline 4x4American

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2017, 08:41:57 pm »

I had a friend message me a picture today of a pine log (more like firewood block) that he cut in half and then squared the top up and got paid $150 to do that...if you could find markets like that you would have the best of both worlds, firewood and sawmill lol

If all else fails you could make $140/month collecting cans lol


No but seriously that lt15 will make those payments easily, you could probably make double payments on it each month and pay for it in half the time.
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Offline Tom the Sawyer

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2017, 08:47:24 pm »
 dirthawger,

As mentioned before, a bit more information would get you more pertinent answers.  Please add your location to your profile.  If you are considering firewood vs. milling, I would assume that you have a source for logs.  Are they 'firewood' or saw logs.  Your location, market, and competition will have a lot to do with your potential success.  If your concern is making enough to cover the payment then I would assume that you have a full-time job.  That may make it easier to get started, sometimes it can be slow until you get your name out there, and a good reputation.
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Offline dgdrls

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2017, 08:55:03 pm »
I figured i would do both if that's an option,  didn't know if maybe i need to decide on one or the other.  And i don't plan on doing it 5 days a week, id love to be swamped with work but right now my goal is just pay the monthly and supplemental income for my fulltime job and stump grinding business.  I guess it's just going to come down to just suck it up and buy it. Just a little concerned about finding customers but that's with everything you do i suppose. So do y'all recommend not getting an LT15?

One other question is I've talked to a guy before that cautioned me against woodmizer mills cause he said they're designed to make you a slave to woodmizer. He recommends lucas. Did this guy just have a bad experience?

Lucas and LT-15 are worlds apart.  Either manufacturer builds a dandy mill.  IMHO unless you're really sold on a circle style mill or plan on big logs go with the band. (I prefer the circle blade and no one around me has a Lucas so bigger logs are easy for me)
With that said if you go with a Woodmizer get one with the Monorail, at least an LT 28, that's what sets a WM apart from the others.
In a smaller mill I would test drive some of the others manufacturers first, used is also a great route,

You will have to build the service up as others have indicated,
I believe with a bit of effort you should clear the mill easily in a 2-3 years (or sooner) with regular part time milling

D

Offline dirthawger

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2017, 09:01:27 pm »
No i don't have a source of logs which is an issue. As far as competition goes there is one other guy that does custom sawing, builds furniture and flooring with the lt35.  And sorry about my profile i thought i added it but I'm in shreveport, la

Offline Magicman

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2017, 09:41:07 pm »
I am finishing 15 years of sawing with my Wood-Mizer and I have never felt like a "slave".  Their technical support is at your finger tip and the technicians will spend whatever time is necessary to keep you sawing.  Actually it could be that they are our slaves.  :D
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Offline dirthawger

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2017, 10:04:04 pm »
I am finishing 15 years of sawing with my Wood-Mizer and I have never felt like a "slave".  Their technical support is at your finger tip and the technicians will spend whatever time is necessary to keep you sawing.  Actually it could be that they are our slaves.  :D

I can't remember exactly what he said but something about they design the blades so they wear out quick and are very expensive. From what I'm reading sounds like he just had a bad experience or just a big fan of lucas.

Offline Magicman

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2017, 10:37:22 pm »
I would put him on my list of guys to "not listen to".   :P

There is no blade or sawmill manufacturer that would intentionally sabotage any part of the sawing operation.  It would also be a very rare occasion if you could find one that would discredit another manufacturer.  Let each stand on their own merits and the sawyers/users will make their own decisions and make their own choice.
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Offline dirthawger

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2017, 10:48:01 pm »
I figured i would do both if that's an option,  didn't know if maybe i need to decide on one or the other.  And i don't plan on doing it 5 days a week, id love to be swamped with work but right now my goal is just pay the monthly and supplemental income for my fulltime job and stump grinding business.  I guess it's just going to come down to just suck it up and buy it. Just a little concerned about finding customers but that's with everything you do i suppose. So do y'all recommend not getting an LT15?

One other question is I've talked to a guy before that cautioned me against woodmizer mills cause he said they're designed to make you a slave to woodmizer. He recommends lucas. Did this guy just have a bad experience?

Lucas and LT-15 are worlds apart.  Either manufacturer builds a dandy mill.  IMHO unless you're really sold on a circle style mill or plan on big logs go with the band. (I prefer the circle blade and no one around me has a Lucas so bigger logs are easy for me)
With that said if you go with a Woodmizer get one with the Monorail, at least an LT 28, that's what sets a WM apart from the others.
In a smaller mill I would test drive some of the others manufacturers first, used is also a great route,

You will have to build the service up as others have indicated,
I believe with a bit of effort you should clear the mill easily in a 2-3 years (or sooner) with regular part time milling

D
Yea Im leaning towards the lt28 as the minimum i would need to be somewhat profitable. The lt15 would be a pain to have to load it each time i need to move. I could get the next model lt15 but for a little bit more id get a better machine

Offline Ianab

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2017, 11:37:11 pm »
Quote
One other question is I've talked to a guy before that cautioned me against woodmizer mills cause he said they're designed to make you a slave to woodmizer. He recommends lucas. Did this guy just have a bad experience?

I suspect he's just had a bad experience, or someone else has told him some horror story. Woodmizer technical backup and parts seems to be one of the better in the industry, although because some of their parts are specific to their machines (not generic engineering supply store parts) it does mean you may need to get some parts via them. You don't HAVE to use their blades, but they are competitive with those.

Blades on a bandmill (in general) DO wear out faster than a swingblade, so there is some truth in that. But they are a "consumable" and you just have to factor the sharpening and replacement into the sawing cost. It's a few cents per bd/ft. The Lucas blade can be resharpened on the mill, and retipped by a local saw Doc when the carbide cutters have worn out (or you hit metal ) So blade costs should be less on the swingblade, but the difference to the overall cost isn't huge

Having said that. I'd still consider the Lucas or other swingblade mill in your situation. If you have a stump grinding business I would imagine the "add-on" to that business would be being able to saw up the log that came off the stump. You would have contacts with arborists and homeowners, so you make it known you have the sawmill service as well. This means you need to be portable, and that's one of the swingblade's strong points. You can carry and wheel it into someone's back yard and set up around a log where it's laying. No heavy machinery, no dug up lawn etc. Large logs are also no problem. You can of course cut small logs as well, but so can any other mill. You roll in, set up the mill, cut up the log, load up again, put ~$140 in your pocket and be on your way again.

The Lucas and LT15 are of course very different mill, and have their own strengths and weaknesses. But production wise, the Lucas would be more comparable to a LT35 style mill. As in, something you could run a business with. The human factor is usually the limiting thing with swingblade mills. The mill can saw a LOT of wood in a day, can you keep up moving it all day?  ??? :D
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Online Darrel

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #19 on: November 12, 2017, 11:58:17 pm »
If I really wanted to make money with my mill, I'd be rich for two reasons. First, when I do saw for some one else, I make pretty good money. Second, there is so much work out there that if I did it all, I wouldn't have time to spend the money so it would just accumulate.  :D

Seriously though, there is plenty of work out there and I really think you'd be happier with rhe LT28 over the LT15, especially if you plan to be mobile.
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #20 on: November 13, 2017, 08:30:05 am »
   I'd suggest a well maintained used LT35 or LT40 with hydraulics over a new LT28.

   I just finished cutting a little over 3800 bf of mostly 16' WP & poplar for a customer and my hydraulics never trembled when lifting, turning and clamping even logs near the threshold of what it is designed to handle. I even used the hydraulics (Moveable clamp) a couple of times to pull big logs off the top of the stack and on to the arms. These were way to big to move by hand. The customer did not have any support equipment and if we'd been using a manual mill we'd have had to split the larger logs or jury-rigged some other, slower and more dangerous method to load the logs.

    Any sawyer who does not have an awful lot of other support equipment should seriously consider getting a mill with good hydraulics.
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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #21 on: November 13, 2017, 08:42:03 am »
If I was just starting out, I would definately get a hydraulic mill of some sort, or the equivalent level of swingblade.  I've never owned one, but have an acquanatince who does, and it will push out lumber fast.  I would also go with a company that answers the phone when I call, every time.  One who has good technical support, and can get parts to me fast.

Woodmizer provides all of that to me, so do other reputable companies. 
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Offline Crossroads

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #22 on: November 13, 2017, 09:25:47 am »
I started with a manual mill, after one summer I added hydraulics to it. After 2 summers, Iíve upgraded to a new LT40 wide. i Have no regrets that I started the way I did, but t will definitely second the recommendations to start with hydraulics, they are worth every penny.
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Offline TKehl

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #23 on: November 13, 2017, 09:41:52 am »
You really should determine your market and log supply before plunking down $$.  It could be anything from urban timber to ???  I went with a swing mill first as I cannot compete with the local Mennonite mill on price and there is already a local established with a portable bandmill.  I hunt the oversize timber niche and pick up some other jobs here and there.

From your other post, I know you have a tractor.  That will help a ton with log handling.  Logs can be moved with winches, arches, and ramps, but it just takes longer.

With that said, entry level sawmills sell quickly and for near new price as long as they are kept up.  And making payment is a lot easier than making a living from a portable mill.  So the risk is pretty low.

As for Woodmizer, it is kind of the John Deere or Caterpillar of the band mill world.  Darn good machines with good support and as such, there is a small premium there (but also a premium if you sell it).  I donít have one, but they are worth strong consideration, though other makes and models are certainly worthy contenders.  If I upgrade my baby bandmill, Iíll most likely be looking at either an EZ boardwalk 40 or a Cookís extra wide mostly for width capacity as mentioned above.

PS  If you get into sawmilling, youíll probably get a bit into firewood in order to get rid of the waste slabs.  2 dreams with one stone!   ;D
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Offline dirthawger

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #24 on: November 13, 2017, 09:50:34 am »
Guess ill really have to consider the hydraulic models. It wouldn't even be a question for me if it weren't for the unknown. The fear of not knowing if id get business is the only thing keeping me from getting one with hydraulics but from what I've read that won't be a problem.  I think what ill do is go with the lt35 but ill just wait and save up a few months worth of payments. But if i end up getting tons of business i might just sell my grinder.  Looks like if i wanted to be serious about sawing i wouldn't have time for a fulltime job, grinder, and sawmill. Ive been considering selling my grinder anyway.  Its seems quite seasonal and my payments are $558 a month and its just not quite the type of tree work i want to be in.

Offline dirthawger

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #25 on: November 13, 2017, 10:12:56 am »
You really should determine your market and log supply before plunking down $$.  It could be anything from urban timber to ???  I went with a swing mill first as I cannot compete with the local Mennonite mill on price and there is already a local established with a portable bandmill.  I hunt the oversize timber niche and pick up some other jobs here and there.

From your other post, I know you have a tractor.  That will help a ton with log handling.  Logs can be moved with winches, arches, and ramps, but it just takes longer.

With that said, entry level sawmills sell quickly and for near new price as long as they are kept up.  And making payment is a lot easier than making a living from a portable mill.  So the risk is pretty low.

As for Woodmizer, it is kind of the John Deere or Caterpillar of the band mill world.  Darn good machines with good support and as such, there is a small premium there (but also a premium if you sell it).  I donít have one, but they are worth strong consideration, though other makes and models are certainly worthy contenders.  If I upgrade my baby bandmill, Iíll most likely be looking at either an EZ boardwalk 40 or a Cookís extra wide mostly for width capacity as mentioned above.

PS  If you get into sawmilling, youíll probably get a bit into firewood in order to get rid of the waste slabs.  2 dreams with one stone!   ;D

Im not sure about my log supply as i primarily aim to be portable so customers will call me to saw their logs. As far as competition, there's only one other guy in my area that does milling. I agree with CAT being top of the line,  not so sure about JD tractors though.  We use them at work to move dragline cable and they bong down easily, put me in a bind several times trying to move cable while the dragline is walking,  bogged down and dragline almost sat down on the cable.

Offline Crossroads

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #26 on: November 13, 2017, 10:46:55 am »
Guess ill really have to consider the hydraulic models. It wouldn't even be a question for me if it weren't for the unknown. The fear of not knowing if id get business is the only thing keeping me from getting one with hydraulics but from what I've read that won't be a problem.  I think what ill do is go with the lt35 but ill just wait and save up a few months worth of payments. But if i end up getting tons of business i might just sell my grinder.  Looks like if i wanted to be serious about sawing i wouldn't have time for a fulltime job, grinder, and sawmill. Ive been considering selling my grinder anyway.  Its seems quite seasonal and my payments are $558 a month and its just not quite the type of tree work i want to be in.
You can have a pretty nice mill for that $558 a month and there is a lot more versatility with a mill. You can be portable, find a niche and have a log supply to accomadate that niche, cut hardwood slabs for furniture, beams for Custom builders...... your imagination is the only limit. Since Your already in business, donít forget the tax benefits
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Offline hopm

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #27 on: November 13, 2017, 11:08:53 am »


As for Woodmizer, it is kind of the John Deere or Caterpillar of the band mill world.  Darn good machines with good support and as such, there is a small premium there (but also a premium if you sell it).  I donít have one, but they are worth strong consideration, though other makes and models are certainly worthy contenders.  If I upgrade my baby bandmill, Iíll most likely be looking at either an EZ boardwalk 40 or a Cookís extra wide mostly for width capacity as mentioned above.

Been looking at the EZ Boardwalk 40 myself. Looks like the most bang for the buck out there. Fighting off putting my mill on the market for the upgrade.

Offline dirthawger

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #28 on: November 13, 2017, 11:34:59 am »
Man, might have to put my grinder up for sale now, i really think i could make a lot more with the mill.

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #29 on: November 13, 2017, 11:57:49 am »
Everyone has different ideas of what making money is. I do not know what the difference in payments would be between your lt 15 at 140 a month and say a lt40 hd, but in my opinion it would be easier and maybe even quicker to make 3 times that monthly with a fully hydraulic mill.

It is just my personal opinion, which sure isn't worth much, but if my intent was to bring in income, I would not even consider a manual mill, even to get started and get a feel for what a guy can do.

One thing a guy can do if he is just wanting a spare time gig and not a whole bunch of sawing or a lot of logs, is to build and sell something instead of trying to profit soley on board feet. What is an 8X10 portable building worth in your area for instance?
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Offline Chop Shop

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #30 on: November 13, 2017, 07:15:42 pm »
Man, might have to put my grinder up for sale now, i really think i could make a lot more with the mill.

You could get rich!  :D

  I mean the grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side, right??    :)

Offline Peter Drouin

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #31 on: November 13, 2017, 08:15:31 pm »
Big or small, all it takes is a lot of MONEY to get started. :D :D ;)
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Offline dirthawger

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #32 on: November 13, 2017, 10:44:39 pm »
So are y'all saying running a sawmill business is a bad idea?

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #33 on: November 13, 2017, 10:58:25 pm »
Not at all, but like any business, you need your ducks in a row.

I didn't buy my mill with the intention of sawing for hire or even building a business with it, I tend to think it is entirely possible though.
I would not however start out with a manual mill thinking of building a business with it.
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Offline Stuart Caruk

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #34 on: November 14, 2017, 01:15:51 am »
The cost of the machine is of course tax deductable. You won't ever regret buying a hydraulic mill, although you will regret getting just a manual one, unless you plan to start that way and trade up. Get the biggest baddest you can comfortably afford.
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Offline Chop Shop

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #35 on: November 14, 2017, 01:36:08 am »
Honestly I thought the other way around.

I have a good friend that is "kinda" retired from the tree service bizz.    He pretty much only cuts easy jobs with minimal cleanup.   He usually runs a stump grinder most of the time.

His stump grinder is VERY CHEAP to run.   It does not need teeth very often.  Its run by ONE man, no helper needed.   It uses only gas.  He sometimes digs a couple rocks out of the way.  99 percent of the time he backs it in and just pulls levers and watches a stump get eaten.

While he's there a few neighbors always come out to see what the noise is and are usually amazed and how good it works.  Then they all ask, "how much to get rid of a couple of my pesky stumps while your here?"

His machine is not a new expensive to buy and fix track mounted grinder.  Its not an a little rental sized machine that takes forever either.    Its a nice older Vermeer that is towed with a truck and backed into place and starts grinding.   It works great and is very inexpensive to operate.   It can make ALLOT of money in a day by ONE man that not working very hard.

Sometimes I think the grass is greener on his side of the fence.

Offline Ianab

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #36 on: November 14, 2017, 01:40:12 am »
So are y'all saying running a sawmill business is a bad idea?


No.

But simply quitting your day job and buying expensive machinery to start a business you have little experience with might be a bad idea.

Getting a cheaper used or manual mill and doing some part time weekend hobby sawing first might be wiser. Do that for a while and while you may not make much money, you will soon be a competent sawyer, have a stash of wood you can market, and have got your feet wet in the business. You can then judge better what your market options are, and what machine or other equipment you are going to need to expand your business to full time.

For example we don't have a lot of demand for custom sawing locally, but I've salvaged a lot of good cypress / cedar / eucalyptus / sheoak wood with my little manual swing blade (that has no payments to worry about) and am now in the position to make (and sell) some unique custom woodworking projects. Still a part time gig, but when you can turn a free tree into $1000 of outdoor furniture, that's arguably better than slaving away sawing for someone else.
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Offline Magicman

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #37 on: November 14, 2017, 07:13:24 am »
You do have to find the market that suits you and your available time.  I bought my sawmill used and had never seen a portable sawmill operate.  My intention was to fell/saw logs from my property and sell lumber.  I quickly realized that I was without a much needed lumber shed and what about inventory?

In less than a year I found my market in portable sawmilling.  No shed, no inventory, no logging, and no slab/sawdust to dispose of.  I am now completing my 15th year of sawing.   :)

I saws um and leaves um.    ;D
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Offline TKehl

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #38 on: November 14, 2017, 08:36:33 am »
There are lots of opinions on this thread.  The great thing is they are ALL right for the given set of circumstances.  There's no blue print to follow.  Kind of have to find your own road to success taking bits and pieces of advice here and building what works for you.

I would recommend watching a TON of uTube videos on sawmills.  Ones your interested in, but a few that you hadn't considered as well, because you never know.  When you get a short list together, see if you can find someone that has one and offer to tail for free if they show you the operation in person. 

If I were in your shoes and the grinder was at least making its payments, I'd keep going with it. (Unless you just hate it.)  When paid off, it will pay for your mill or next piece of equipment.  I'm a fan of MSI (Multiple Sources of Income).  I find its easier to have 3-5 things that can make $5-15K each than one thing that will make $50k.  YMMV   ;)
Lucas 6-13+slabber, Mr. Sawmill bandmill, orange chainsaws, JD SSL, Case Backhoe, farm tractors, trailers, and 150ish acres of trees.  Fledgling woodshop with CNC router, laser engraver, Woodmaster 712, and a Berlin 108 moulder (project).  Oh, and a lovely (patient) wife and four offbearers.

Offline dirthawger

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #39 on: November 14, 2017, 10:26:35 am »
The cost of the machine is of course tax deductable. You won't ever regret buying a hydraulic mill, although you will regret getting just a manual one, unless you plan to start that way and trade up. Get the biggest baddest you can comfortably afford.

This is the plan i intended to follow. Im not quitting my day job or selling my grinder. My plan was to get the lt15 that is portable and if i become swamped with work a bigger one is a phone call away. Im much more comfortable with a 170 a month note vs 450. My way of thinking is that itd give me the opportunity to really get a feel for the market without a lot of risk. That was my plan at least.

Offline Crossroads

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #40 on: November 14, 2017, 10:37:47 am »
You do have to find the market that suits you and your available time.  I bought my sawmill used and had never seen a portable sawmill operate.  My intention was to fell/saw logs from my property and sell lumber.  I quickly realized that I was without a much needed lumber shed and what about inventory?

In less than a year I found my market in portable sawmilling.  No shed, no inventory, no logging, and no slab/sawdust to dispose of.  I am now completing my 15th year of sawing.   :)

I saws um and leaves um.    ;D

I like the no mess option of sawing at other peopleís places too. I just noticed your 74 years old, thatís impressive your still out there making boards! Gotta love hydraulics;)
2017 LT40 wide

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #41 on: November 14, 2017, 11:09:34 am »
DH,

   If you are going to do it, do it right. If I were hiring a sawyer to come cut my logs into lumber and I was tailing for him I'd want him to get in and get out and not keep me tied up for a week doing a 1-2 day job. Cutting with a manual mill at your home or by yourself might not be a problem with the time involved but if you are tying up my time that is different. Lumber generally sells for the same price whether it was sawed manually,on  a hydraulic mill or a big circle mill somewhere. If sawing by the hour you can justify a higher rate with a bigger/hydraulic mill and you can finish faster and let you and your customer move on to the next project.

   You don't have to buy the biggest hydraulic mill out there with all the bells and whistles but at least get a mill big enough to give you some credibility.
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #42 on: November 14, 2017, 12:30:47 pm »
My thoughts is a manual mill is fine for a hobby sawyer in a permanent location, where you can rig up a log deck or have equipment to load and handle logs.
If you are sawing portable, there may or may not be anything there to handle logs, we have all seen pictures of nightmare log decks customers have put up expecting the sawyer to be able to handle them.

My thoughts are if I hire a mill and it shows up and is a manual, I will be paying by the board foot period. If it is too slow and keeps me or somebody I am paying to tail tied up too long, I am on the losing side, no matter how nice and hard working the sawyer is. Chances are I will never call him back remembering the experience. He may have upgraded to to the latest and greatest, but a bad memory will make it so I never find out.

The other thing is, looking at the board foot prices many are charging, a manual mill will have you working for minimum wage, and paying a monthly payment along with maintaining a sawmill and at least a pickup, plus insurance, etc for the opportunity to work hard for the same money as the guy taking your order at micky D's.

I am not trying to dissuade you or anybody from starting your business, if you like sawing, it can be very gratifying and even fun, I just wouldn't want to start out with what I see as a major disadvantage to start with. Even with the best and latest and greatest mills, you will not be seeing a lot of millionair sawyers. lol.
I do think a guy with determination can make a good living with one, especially once you find your niche and love what you are doing.
I would be much more inclined to either take on the bigger payment if buying new, or looking for a used hydraulic machine.
My idea of upgrading after I found my business working would be trading up from a used machine to a newer diesel or adding another piece of equipment such as an edger or something like that.
Old LT40HD, old log truck, old MM forklift, and several huskies.

Offline drobertson

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #43 on: November 14, 2017, 12:36:45 pm »
I briefly scanned the comments posted on this, all I have to add to this thread is if you want to do it, do it.  If you are doing sawmilling, you will for certain have plenty of opportunity to do some fire wood along the way.  Budgets for the most part determine initial paths, and these paths vary as does the budget. So, find your in and open door,  and by all means at least visit some other mills, seeing is believing.  It leads to or should anyway a better understanding of whats needed.  I made a call just today to a lady who for the last 3-4 weeks maybe been advertising for a sawyer, seems like folks don't want to work.  She's been sawing beams for cabins it seems.  Well after a good nice visit on the phone I agreeded to visit just to see, maybe help her,, this said, it's just a hard hoe to roe, make no mistake about that,,I wish you all the best, which ever route you take,
only have a few chain saws I'm not suppose to use, but will at times, one dog Dolly, pretty good dog, just not sure what for yet,  working on getting the gardening back in order, and kinda thinking on maybe a small bbq bizz,  thinking about it,

Offline red

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #44 on: November 14, 2017, 06:25:12 pm »
Buy a big sawmill business and it will quickly become a small sawmill business.
We have a lot of good boys and girls in harms way
lets all support them and their familys.

Offline paul case

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #45 on: November 14, 2017, 06:30:34 pm »
You do have to find the market that suits you and your available time.  I bought my sawmill used and had never seen a portable sawmill operate.  My intention was to fell/saw logs from my property and sell lumber.  I quickly realized that I was without a much needed lumber shed and what about inventory?

In less than a year I found my market in portable sawmilling.  No shed, no inventory, no logging, and no slab/sawdust to dispose of.  I am now completing my 15th year of sawing.   :)

I saws um and leaves um.    ;D

I like the no mess option of sawing at other peopleís places too. I just noticed your 74 years old, thatís impressive your still out there making boards! Gotta love hydraulics;)


MM is impressive.

PC
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Offline Brucer

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #46 on: November 16, 2017, 01:08:12 am »
I started with an LT40 manual and within a year I sold it and bought a new LT40 hydraulic.

OlJarhead  started with an LT10, built a trailer for it, and got so many sawing requests that he sold his LT10"Super" and bought a new hydraulic LT40.

In my case, I couldn't afford a hydraulic mill. If I had borrowed the extra money to buy one, I wouldn't have been able to make my payments for the first six months. But after a year I had enough business to convince the credit union to lend me the money to upgrade. I paid off my 5 year loan in 20 months and was still putting money aside.

I trained a guy how to saw last spring using my LT40. The goal was not to teach him how to use a WoodMizer (he'd already ordered a Norwood). It was to teach him how to read a log and how to deal with the material. When I went to see how he was doing a few months after his mill arrived, he'd built a simple log deck that would let him load logs as fast as my LT40 could load them -- mind you, he had the use of the customer's skid steer to get the logs on the deck.

So while lots of people will advise you to go hydraulic right from the start, there's a lot to be said for starting with a less expensive mill (even an LT10!) getting some experience (and customers) before moving up to something better.
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Offline Ianab

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #47 on: November 16, 2017, 01:59:18 am »
Quote
I started with an LT40 manual and within a year I sold it and bought a new LT40 hydraulic.

OlJarhead  started with an LT10, built a trailer for it, and got so many sawing requests that he sold his LT10"Super" and bought a new hydraulic LT40.

I agree with that if you are starting from zero experience. Chances are you wont make money in the first 6 months anyway, but if you buy a fancy mill, you will have to make payments.  But if you buy a cheap mill, don't give up your day job, and learn to saw properly while making a few business contacts in your "spare" time. Don't expect to make any huge profit, but you shouldn't be loosing money either. Then when you find there is the demand for your services, you have a business plan, and the milling experience to actually carry it out.
Weekend warrior, Peterson JP test pilot, Dolmar 7900 and Stihl MS310 saws and  the usual collection of power tools :)

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #48 on: November 16, 2017, 09:43:35 am »
   I agree with many of Brucer & Ian's comments if the sawyer has a place to saw and learn that is a good thing. I sawed at home and used my practice lumber to build a pole barn to store lumber in. I think Ol Jarhead got his first mill for personal use then turned it into a business and upgraded later.

   I don't think anyone should buy any mill and expect the customer to pay for him learning how to use it and for the initial time and mistakes most of us make when learning. I would not want to do so.

   I still think anyone sawing mobile should have a hydraulic mill or bring along the extra support equipment needed to move the process along at a reasonable pace. If not I think the sawyer should be sawing alone or with his provided helper and charging by the bf. Just my opinion and I was wrong once before (I thought I had made a mistake :D :D).

   I do think "interning" with another sawyer would be time and effort well spent.

   Good luck no matter what you decide.
Howard Green
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Offline Florida boy

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #49 on: November 16, 2017, 10:19:34 am »
All I know is that a all manual mill will work you down by yourself. I would hate to think of going mobile on a job with my manual mill. Once I get it set up under a shed with log deck and some type of roller tables my production should go up and level of being exhausted go down. If j were looking to make a business out of it I would look real hard at a used hydraulic mill. Rolling loading and leveling logs can really take a toll if all manual.

Offline terrifictimbersllc

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #50 on: November 16, 2017, 10:34:12 am »
The cost of the machine is of course tax deductable. You won't ever regret buying a hydraulic mill, although you will regret getting just a manual one, unless you plan to start that way and trade up. Get the biggest baddest you can comfortably afford.

This is the plan i intended to follow. Im not quitting my day job or selling my grinder. My plan was to get the lt15 that is portable and if i become swamped with work a bigger one is a phone call away. Im much more comfortable with a 170 a month note vs 450. My way of thinking is that itd give me the opportunity to really get a feel for the market without a lot of risk. That was my plan at least.
I think you would get a feel for the market and you would be able to make the $170 payment. Also the equipment should have good resale value.   You already know something about being in business. 

What I'm feeling and hearing in the replies above is that once you have the mill after a few jobs, i.e. pretty quickly,  you will probably be seeing that your market would be bigger, your future income potential higher, and the amount of time and energy you would be expending on jobs much lower, if you had a mill more suitable to and more capable for  portable sawing.   I don't know what you are looking at for a mobile LT15 but if it is about $12K then it is already about half or more of what a good used LT40 could be had for.

Another way of saying part of this is that being able to make $170 a month is a given.  So is getting the feel of sawing.  If whether you like the feel of sawing is in question maybe find out how to get that some other way maybe spend a few days helping out a sawyer somewhere. 
DJ Hoover, Terrific Timbers LLC,  Mystic CT   2001 WM LT40SHDD (42HP Kubota, Accuset2, FAO's, Lubemizer, debarker, hydraulics everywhere), Peterson WPF 10-30 with chain slabber. LogRite fetching arch, WM BMS250 sharpener/BMT250 setter.

Offline BigBurOak

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #51 on: November 16, 2017, 11:14:17 am »
What kinda wood would you be sawin? There seems to be a halfway decent amount of trees down on the Red River but I'm a long way from there.
Who needs a gym if you got a woodpile?

Offline Mcgeezer

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #52 on: November 16, 2017, 12:47:50 pm »
Hi Everyone,

I'm new to the forum, and have been reading some great articles here.  Nice to chat with you all...
I'm looking at switching careers into more agriculture/farming.  A small sawmill business would be a big part of this (along with honey, firewood, Christmas trees and more).  I have only around 60hrs of actual operating experience, but have realized now at 35 years old that being in the bush, and having a career that makes one happy is the most important thing in life!
I was hoping to lay out some of my business ideas here int he hopes that you folks would provide some feedback for me with your shared experiences/knowledge.
-We have timber rights on a Christmas tree permit in eastern British Columbia.  Our bush is 70% Douglas fir, 20% western larch, and 10% ponderosa pine.  Many trees are 40"+ in diameter.
-I would like to start small, using cash to startup as opposed to thinking too big and being buried in debt.  The market I'm targeting is renovations through my contacts in the building trades.  Slabs for sinks, counters, mantles, tables, benches, and board cutting of the larch for furniture, cabinets etc. and more would be my primary focus, in addition to accent timbers for interior work.  I'm looking at 10-12' maximum logs to begin.
-My idea is to have a friend build a logging arch which would attach to the hitch of my jeep for hauling logs to the mill.  I do have some issues with placing logs/taking timbers off the mill, as I will be mostly working alone, and don't have the capital to purchase a tractor or bobcat yet.
-The mill I'm leaning toward is the Woodland Mills model 130.  Does anyone have any feedback of this mill, or suggest something else conducive with my plan?
-I'm really excited about this idea.  I feel i can make some supplemental income (along with other agriculture and substitute teaching on the side if needed) and just let the business evolve and see what happens.

I would greatly appreciate your comments/feedback on this as many of you seem to have a tremendous wealth of experience milling wood.

Kind regards



Online starmac

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #53 on: November 16, 2017, 01:09:21 pm »
Every body has made some valid points.
I do wish the op the best in his goal, any choice he makes.
If his aim is mobile sawing, I would encourage him to find some sawyers that would let him help and get somewhat of a feel for what is getting into, and maybe get some of the learning process out of the way before making a financial decision. I know sometimes that is hard to do.

I bought my mill during the winter and didn't even see it till after spring breakup. I had never sawed the first board, but what I did do in the mean time was found this forum and read it from the beginning. I am also lucky that we have only one main species to saw, White spruce.
From what I had read, spruce was terrible to cut, but it turns out our white spruce is very forgiving and probably about as easy to make nice straight lumber out of as there is.
 We do have some sawable (is that a word) birch and aspen that I do want to try, and would probably have to if I was a mobile sawyer for hire. So would need some more experience with that.

Reading back through the sawing and milling threads all the way. It is obvious quality boards can be made by any type of mill, from chainsaw mill on up to the latest and greatest.
Also from my reading, I have never, that I recall, ever seen a thread where a member wished he had started with a manual mill.
I am in no way trying to dissuade the op, and wish him the very best, but from a purely financial standpoint, realistically how many hours sawing a month would be the difference in making the payment on a basic hydraulic mill and the mentioned LT15 manual, I bet it is no more than 3 or 4 hours. At any rate the payment should be doable in one day a month sawing, if we are only talking covering the mill payment.
Old LT40HD, old log truck, old MM forklift, and several huskies.

Offline TKehl

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #54 on: November 16, 2017, 01:24:34 pm »
McGeezer

First, welcome.  There is a ton of knowledge here that can help on your journey.  A few of us, including myself, also farm in addition to the sawmill/forestry addiction.

Second, keep your day job and do this on nights, weekends, and vacation.  A steady income gives the ability to take some risks as well as a cushion if those risks don't pan out.

Third, take a bite and chew it until it's done.  Going from Felling trees to installations can be done, but there are several steps each with its own learning curve.  You will definitely need a kiln in addition to the mentioned starter equipment.  Get good at an enterprise before starting another.  Would have saved me a lot of time, $, and pain if I would have followed my own advice.  Nothing like watching goats eat $700 worth of pig feed in 2 days or spending hours fixing pig fence in 100įF heat after 12 hours at my day job just to have them tear up a new spot a day or two later (for weeks) and then come out below break even...

Fourth, the WM is a good mill from what I've seen, but I don't think it will do what you want it to for sinks and counters.  Just doesn't have the cut width and won't handle large logs.  It would be worth your time to look into a swing mill with a slabber or a chainsaw mill for the large stuff.  Easily portable and can set up around the log so you move boards and slabs instead of heavy logs.  If the large stuff is only a small %, a WM + a chainsaw mill could be a good combo.

Fifth, how far to your site from where you plan to process.  Moving logs with a Jeep is going to be very hobby level unless it's a very short drive.  Can still work if you chase higher margin stuff.  Otherwise, cut and hire a log truck to move them.

Finally, do you have any experience with any of this?  It's a lot of hard work even with good equipment.  Would be good to try it before you buy it.   ;)
Lucas 6-13+slabber, Mr. Sawmill bandmill, orange chainsaws, JD SSL, Case Backhoe, farm tractors, trailers, and 150ish acres of trees.  Fledgling woodshop with CNC router, laser engraver, Woodmaster 712, and a Berlin 108 moulder (project).  Oh, and a lovely (patient) wife and four offbearers.

Offline Ianab

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #55 on: November 16, 2017, 02:18:58 pm »
McGeezer - Big logs and limited support equipment? Look at a Swingblade mill / Slabber combo for your situation. Peterson or TurboSaw for example. The idea is that you don't move the logs, you move the mill, and basically saw them up where they fall. A winch and farm jack are handy for maneuvering logs into the best position for milling, but otherwise you just need a sturdy utility trailer to move the mill and your sawn boards.

The Woodland is a decent mill, but you aren't going to enjoy wrangling 40" logs with one, or any small band mill for that matter, and those big butt logs are where the best wood is going to be.

My support equipment is basically a Corolla and a trailer, but I can handle logs like this weeks mission.

That's the stump it came off behind the mill. I did have a tractor and chain to spin the log around to a better position to mill, but it couldn't pick up that size log to transport any distance. A decent winch on a Jeep would manage that sort of thing.

And get the boards home.

Weekend warrior, Peterson JP test pilot, Dolmar 7900 and Stihl MS310 saws and  the usual collection of power tools :)

Online starmac

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #56 on: November 16, 2017, 02:23:46 pm »
Mcgeezer, you will probably get more and better responces, if you start your own thread.

Curiosity though, Can you even get a jeep and logging arch to most of your available trees? There are ways to get her done with minimal equipment, but sometimes the labor negates it.
Old LT40HD, old log truck, old MM forklift, and several huskies.

Offline Mcgeezer

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Re: Small scale sawmill business
« Reply #57 on: Yesterday at 04:25:43 pm »
Thanks Starmac, Ianab, and Tkhel for your input

I'm actually going to cut and paste this into a new thread for more response, but I appreciate your input folks!  To answer your question Tkhel, yes there is a great road network, and clearings close to the old-growth logs from 60 years of timber harvesting and christmas treeing on the property.  No problem getting my jeep to the logs.