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Author Topic: Small scale sawmill business  (Read 1974 times)

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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.
Howard Green
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Offline YellowHammer

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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.
2017 LT40 wide

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
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 #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
2017 LT40 wide

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.

Online starmac

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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?
Old LT40HD, old log truck, old MM forklift, and several huskies.

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?

Online starmac

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

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.