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Author Topic: Small scale sawmill business  (Read 2003 times)

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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
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline starmac

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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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sawing oak.hickory,ERC,walnut and almost anything else that shows up.
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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.
Bruce    LT40HDG28 bandsaw with two 6' extensions.
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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
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Online 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



Offline 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 :)

Offline 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.