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Author Topic: Looking for advice  (Read 1030 times)

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Offline blake.benton1

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Looking for advice
« on: January 14, 2018, 11:48:37 PM »
Hi guys, been following and reading the forum for a while. Here’s some background on me, my family has been in the logging business for 40 years. I work with them from time to time but my day job is working for an agriculture equipment dealer full time. With that being said, my uncle and I have been looking into purchasing a sawmill to sell lumber as a side business. We have the support equipment in place already as well as the access to logs. My question is what would y’all do first build a kiln to dry lumber and have someone cut the lumber until we pay for kiln and have enough money to purchase sawmill outright or buy sawmill first and pay for it and then get kiln? I understand that having the kiln will add value to the lumber but from your experience is there a way higher demand for kiln dried lumber versus green/air dried?

Offline Ianab

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Re: Looking for advice
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2018, 04:56:34 AM »
You will probably get a few different opinions on this one.

But my observation is that as well as paying for the mill and kiln, there is also a learning curve to the whole sawing / drying / selling thing.

My suggestion would be to look for a decent used manual sawmill, LT 15 or something similar. As you say you have some support machinery and a log supply sorted out, so that's a plus. This then gets you sawing (and learning) for a relatively small outlay. Once you have the sawing worked out, build a solar kiln. If you air dry, and just finish in the kiln you can dry a decent amount of wood. Some wood you will be able to sell green, some air dried, and for some kiln dried is the best return. For example, no one kiln dries cedar fence boards, you can sell them right off the saw, or air dry them easy enough.

Now you can run a part time hobby business with this equipment, and no big bank loan.  You can learn to run a mill, build up some inventory, and work out where your local markets are going to be. Don't give up your day job just yet, but you only have "hobby" money sunk into your venture so far, and you run the mill on the weekends.

Now if things are working out you can upgrade to a better mill with hydraulics etc. Because you now know what you are doing, what your markets are going to be etc. Sometimes things take a different turn from your original business plan. You might find the market is more for mobile custom sawing? Or rustic furniture built with wood from your mill? Or... something that we haven't even thought until you try it.

Because you bought a used mill, depreciation on it should be minor. Get most of your money back, and sell it to the next guy starting out or new hobby sawyer, with a clear conscience. "It's a good mill, I'm just upgrading to a bigger faster one"

Or you may decide this whole sawmill thing isn't really your scene, but again you get most of your $$ back. "It's a good mill, but I just don't have the time to run it any more."

Or it might be what you actually need. "Want to buy a picnic table or a garden planter?"

Either way, you haven't risked a whole heap of $$ to learn and test the market.
Weekend warrior, Peterson JP test pilot, Dolmar 7900 and Stihl MS310 saws and  the usual collection of power tools :)

Offline longtime lurker

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Re: Looking for advice
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2018, 05:55:17 AM »
My kilns are the most profitable machines I own. In this whole flying circus they are the one piece of equipment that I can basically load, start, and aside from 5 minutes a day to check them they run with no input from me aside from loading and unloading. Every other toy on the joint requires an operator for it to work. When I go home at night those kilns are still there working away making me money.

Having said that, there are a lot of variables. Species available and the orders we have means that sometimes the kilns sit empty for a month because we're cutting green timber orders. I dont do a lot of contract drying for others either, though the market is there to some degree. Thats going to vary from place to place... if there are a whole heap of small mills and no kilns you might find drying to be the most profitable enterprise... ready made market for your services, no competition, and you're avoiding having to compete with the other millers in that marketspace.

If there are no customers for your kiln though then its useless without a mill. They cannot make money sitting empty.

The quickest way to make a million dollars with a sawmill is to start with two million.

Offline Chuck White

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Re: Looking for advice
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2018, 07:07:53 AM »
Welcome to the Forestry Forum, blake.benton1!
~Chuck~
Retired USAF (1989), Retired School Bus Driver (2012), and now a Mobile Sawyer
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Basic mechanical skills are all that's required to maintain the Wood-Mizer.
I LOVE MY SAWMILL

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Looking for advice
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2018, 07:27:53 AM »
  If I were you, living where you do, I'd get my logs together, call the MagicMan who looks to be about an hour away and get him to come saw my lumber. I'd sticker it good and while it was air drying I'd build my kilns. By the the time the kiln is ready your first batch of lumber should be ready to go in the kiln. I'd pick Lynn's brain about the sawing process until I felt more comfortable and maybe call him back a few more times till I felt I was ready then I'd buy a good hydraulic mill then start sawing for myself. Depending on how fast your lumber is selling may help you decide whether you want to buy a new or a used mill.

   Good luck.
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"

Online Magicman

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Re: Looking for advice
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2018, 07:41:25 AM »
Hello blake, and Welcome neighbor...sorta.  I have traveled to and sawed in your area several times.   :)

Market?  You are in SYP country so are you thinking Pine?  If so, it will air dry to a usable dryness in a few months.  Competing with the lumber yard with framing lumber will be iffy at best, but there may be a market for 1" stuff but you will have to develop that market.

You may be able to develop a hardwood market but you will be looking at much more than a kiln to take it to a higher $$$ stage.

I am in the sawing business, not the selling business, so I have no real advice to offer except to research your market whatever that might be.  Simply producing a product doesn't make money.

Edit:  I might add that there does appear to be a market for a portable sawyer in your area but that wasn't your question.
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Never allow your "need" to make money to exceed your "desire" to provide quality service.....The Magicman

Offline blake.benton1

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Re: Looking for advice
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2018, 10:05:54 AM »
Hello blake, and Welcome neighbor...sorta.  I have traveled to and sawed in your area several times.   :)

Market?  You are in SYP country so are you thinking Pine?  If so, it will air dry to a usable dryness in a few months.  Competing with the lumber yard with framing lumber will be iffy at best, but there may be a market for 1" stuff but you will have to develop that market.

You may be able to develop a hardwood market but you will be looking at much more than a kiln to take it to a higher $$$ stage.

I am in the sawing business, not the selling business, so I have no real advice to offer except to research your market whatever that might be.  Simply producing a product doesn't make money.

Edit:  I might add that there does appear to be a market for a portable sawyer in your area but that wasn't your question.

Thanks! What started this whole deal is we got a contract to haul off pallets and skids with a large company about 2 years ago that builds transformers. the reason we got it is because a lot of the bigger skids they had were 6x6 and 8x8 posts that we could use as pads in the winter when logging. the condition was that we had to take everything not just the bigger stuff. So, a lot of these skids are made up of 8 ft 2x4's and 8 ft 4x4's. I have been unbolting these skids and selling the lumber. after doing this i have had multiple people ask if i had a sawmill wanting me to cut lumber for them. So, i agree that there is a market for a portable sawyer in my area. my thinking is i could cut the logs that we get off of the logging operation and sell that lumber at home while getting used to a mill and eventually becoming portable. The reason i was asking about building a kiln is because most of the logs that i can get cheap out of the logging operation is cedar because the mills don't want cedar for the most part but the timber companies want the cedar gone so they can plant more pines. So, Cedar would be the most cost efficient for me to get out of the logging operation but, i will be able to get pines and hardwood as well it will just cost me more. 

Online Magicman

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Re: Looking for advice
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2018, 08:07:18 PM »
Stickered ERC will dry nicely in about 6 months and my opinion is that no kiln is necessary for it.  Yes, I have sawn hundreds of thousands of bf. of ERC that was removed during timber harvest.  My all time largest customer is a logger.

I have traveled to and sawn jobs in Prentiss, Mount Olive, Hot Coffee, Magee, Mendenhall, Lumberton, and presently have a job on the book in Collins.  I have passed jobs on in Hattiesburg and McLain.  Yes, there is a portable sawmill market in your area.  A good website will be a necessity and the Forestry Forum owner, Jeff will be your guy to talk to.
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Never allow your "need" to make money to exceed your "desire" to provide quality service.....The Magicman

Online starmac

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Re: Looking for advice
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2018, 12:40:12 AM »
I have probably hauled transformers out of the place you are getting pallets.

In my way of thinking a guy needs a mill if he has a kiln, and can at least make money with a mill even if he sells no wood, so I would say mill first, especially since you have access to fast drying cedar, which will probably sell better than pine anyway.

If there is indeed a market for a portable mill in your neck of the woods, and there appears to be, I would be looking for a hydraulic mill, saw all I could for customers, and build up an inventory of cedar, selling what I could as I went. Then look at how it is going and proceeding on to a kiln if it looks like you need or still want to.
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Offline YellowHammer

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Re: Looking for advice
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2018, 12:48:24 AM »
I believe firmly that a mill would be the first step, a kiln second.  Get a good mill. Get good with it. Mill onsite at your place to get your feet wet.  Mill your own logs, air dry them or sell green.  Find a kiln operator who will dry your wood. Get to trust him.  Then when you mill your customer lumber, a certain percentage will ask to get them dried.  You handle that.  Go portable, or stay onsite.  Somewhere in there, you will find a specific niche you didn't know about, and if it's something you like, pivot and try to command that market. 
HobbyHardwoodAlabama.com

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Re: Looking for advice
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2018, 07:23:37 AM »
Absolutely an LT40HD at the minimum and a Super at best.  If new, I would be considering "Wide".  Major Munn in Sumrall already has a well established Kiln and Millworks operation.  I have used him to process lumber for me, and I regularly send potential customers to him.
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Offline Gearbox

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Re: Looking for advice
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2018, 09:07:21 AM »
Correct me if I am wrong but do you need kiln dried lumber to build a shed out back . We live in the far north and the only time we see people kiln is for flooring and paneling . Even Potlatch air dries there part of there studs .
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Offline JB Griffin

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Re: Looking for advice
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2018, 12:55:04 PM »
I see no reason to kd cedar at all. I have a neighbor that used to build cedar chests hundreds of em. Sold um to Silver Dollar City in Branson Mo and all over. He would go cut cedar logs and take them to the mill and bring the lumber home put it on sticks for 7 (or 14 crs again) days and then plane and build the chests, failure from to much mc was very rare. Same old boy find someone with kd cedar for sale and buys it thinking it was going to be perfect. Wrong, stuff split so bad he junked it all.
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