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Author Topic: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related  (Read 2564 times)

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Offline bigblue12v

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Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« on: October 21, 2018, 09:13:58 AM »
I think this is my first post in quite a long time. It's 7:30 am on a crisp sunday, about 30* here. In the last hour I've had two people contact me about firewood (potential new customers) and my mind never stops thinking about firewood. I'm sitting in my warm office inside my 1200 square foot humble shop while a brisket point is on the smoker to make burnt ends later today. There's going to be some rambling and open thinking on this post so if reading isn't your thing I'm sorry.


At this point, I'm 2 years anniversary today from leaving a fortune 500 company to start my own business. I'm 31 years old. Buying a house years ago that had a Central Boiler is what got me into firewood. The first year being without what I needed wood and equipment wise is what got me motivated to never let that happen again. The next two years I hustled so much firewood that I was selling as much or more than I was using myself. A couple of saws, a homemade splitter, a one ton truck and a trailer. Chasing all the free wood I could get, sometimes getting paid to drop trees and clean it up. Other times just getting notice of a tree someone had dropped and I'd go get it. I eventually started to figure out ways to make it a little easier, had a crane and tongs on one splitter, built a 4 way wedge, then got a conveyor, then a gooseneck trailer with a crane, then built a mini log skidder. Before I could really use the mini log skidder to pull firewood like intended, I accidentally got into logging, which led to deciding to get into the logging business. Enter my decision to leave my former employer.
Fast forward a couple years... Now have a Timberjack skidder, Deere CTL, Waldon compact wheel loader, single axle log truck, single axle dump truck, tri axle log truck, small firewood processor, pintle hitch trailer, skid steer trailer, Dodge 5500 crew cab flatbed with boxes, Dodge 3500 regular cab flatbed, Dodge Dakota crew cab short bed, bunch of saws, lord knows what else. This past January I added a partner because I really couldn't do everything myself in reasonable time to make everything work the way it needed. He's too good to be just an employee and this works a lot better for both of us. It keeps him invested and we pay ourselves salary so no one hurts when times are bad. When times are good we give ourself a bonus. We'd been doing the firewood on the side, he also has a Dodge 3/4 ton and a dump trailer. Don't have any idea how much firewood we did last year or previous to this season. Quite a bit for just a side gig. Pretty much all the material that gets ran through the processor is top logs procured from the harvesting of mature hardwood timber for saw logs. The wheel loader stays here at the shop with the processor to unload logs and feed them to processor. We process straight into truck or trailer and it goes straight to the customer. Firewood is grossing $150 per cord here. I charge $2 a loaded mile outside of a 10 mile radius. Yes people buy green wood here. We sell quality, consistent size, hardwood only, heavy on the oak, and the ability to deliver whatever quantity the customer needs. Am delivering to 9 different counties, most of it concentrated within just a handful. Where we're located is near the intersection of 3 different counties, so it's not quite as bizarre as it sounds. But do spend quite a bit of time driving. That's ok. This season so far we're at around 150 cords. Customers range from a campground to residential and a few smoker guys that really don't buy any volume to speak of. A face cord last them forever. But being a fellow smoker I'm happy to provide whatever species and sizes they need.
Most of the "competition" here locally is just weekend warriors with a saw and a department store splitter and a pickup truck. They don't move much volume, sell crappy wood in inconsistent sizes, it's terrible quality, they aren't in this for the long haul, some don't deliver, they'd be overwhelmed with multiple cord orders, etc.


Now,
The juicy part...
I enjoy the firewood a lot more, My partner is more into logging. I do enjoy the logging, don't get me wrong. It's just not my thing as much as firewood. I always said if i could make a living at firewood, I would rather be doing that. The logging is operated as a business should be, the business as it's own separate entity and banking, we're setup as employees/owner operators essentially. The firewood is operated under the business but we split the proceeds from it instead of it going through the business books. Starting in September, the firewood took off so crazy that we hired a skidder driver to help my partner at the woods and I basically am just doing the firewood full time, running as mechanic when needed, and hauling some logs as needed (most of our log hauling is contracted out). I've loved doing it this way. The firewood operation is at my house so this gives me some flexibility, however I work plenty of hours at it. My partner has no desire for the firewood business to be any different than it is now. Myself, I'd like to experiment with bundles, bags, kindling, setting up retail accounts with landscape supply yards in the "big towns" around us, etc. Eventually maybe have a processing facility in one of those towns where smaller in town deliveries are more economically feasible and thus affordable for the customer and profitable to me. I could even see adding a de-barker in the future, to produce better firewood and also a mulch product that is easily sold in town. Possibly even adding a kiln in the future. Whatever it leads to, I want to be ready to take it on. I get bored with the same old thing and I like growth and expansion and new opportunities.
As of this point, the firewood operation is starving for logs. When it's able to run, weather pending, the logging operation generates about a good single axle load of firewood logs per day as a by-product of harvesting the mature timber for commercial sawmill material. Lately it's been so wet that we haven't been very productive at the woods. I've been talking to other loggers and some saw mills offering to buy firewood logs but with no luck at this point. Small hand cut cable skid operations don't find it fiscally rewarding to do the extra topping work and skidding and sorting for small money. The large mechanical operations that do clear cuts have contracts with pulp mills. It's been very discouraging trying to buy logs.
At this point, I do have a loan on the Dodge 5500, the Deere CTL and the Timberjack. The business pays for the Deere and Jack. The Dodge is considered a personal vehicle. I hardly drive it.. Have thought about selling it but not sure if I have any equity in it. No sense selling it for a loss or a break even.
My partner is great, it would be hard to find anyone any better, if even possible. We do fine together and I don't mean to say that it's a stereotypical partnership full of disagreements. However there are things we don't think alike on. Such as the firewood business. At this point, I'd be interested in selling my half of the logging business to him and jumping into the firewood on my own, with the stipulation that he provide me all the firewood logs he can get, of course. I'm not convinced that would be enough but it's a good start. Perhaps I can eventually find some to buy. So I'm thinking that I need to either get into more niche specialty markets so that a cord is stretched further and brings more money, or find a way to charge and get more money for the product (season it, which means a lot of extra storage and handling). Being that this operation is at my house, I do live in a rural area, however have one neighbor that is a thorn in my side and has threatened to turn me into zoning for running a business from my house. However, she can't. Here, you're allowed to run a business from your home so long as it's not a retail location (no customers on premises). Assuming I could get a full season ahead of orders and have seasoned material, I think I could sell it for more money. There's a lot of extra handling and headaches that would come along with it, but I could sell a more premium product, do many more deliveries in a day during peak season, and not stress when there's a breakdown. The old Ford single axle dump truck is kind of a beater. Very reliable and not too bad on fuel, does a good job doing what needs done. But not the most professional looking vehicle in a nice neighborhood. Never had anyone complain about it, but that 2012 Dodge 5500 would look pretty big time delivering firewood in. It's a crew cab long wheelbase truck… 12' bed. Sure wishing it was a standard cab right now. Man it would be a cadillac of a delivery rig though…. Air conditioning, not gearbound to 55 mph, cruise control, quiet, heat that works good, good headlights, windows that don't rattle and leak, doors that shut as they should, 4wd…. Lol maybe i'm dreaming…… Its as maneuverable as the dump truck but seems the extra 3' of cab is a waste. For me to put a dump bed on it is not a great big deal but at this point it is a personal truck not a business asset. My partner is as thrifty as they come, getting him to agree to spend money on anything he does not deem absolutely necessary is pretty much impossible. Talking him into it is also nearly impossible. So I seek the thoughts and opinions of you all.. Perhaps you have some guidance for me. Maybe I should just learn to be content with the way things are now. The logging is good solid income, I simply want to do something different… a curse I've lived with my whole life, always wanting something different. It's not chasing money, just a serious yearn to learn and gain experiences. I've done landscaping, fabrication, mechanic work, sales work, delivery work, vehicle salvage and recycling, factory work, and probably a lot more i've forgotten about. If you're interested in researching demographics in my area, I'm located near Jackson, Brown and Bartholomew counties in southern Indiana, just about halfway between Louisville Kentucky and Indianapolis Indiana. I feel like the town of Columbus could support such a thing. I'm not certain that I would be able to give up all the bulk delivery customers I have now right off the get-go... In other words, I would need to continue that product for at least a while if not indefinitely. I'm not quite certain how well the area would support a bundle business, every gas station and grocery store has bundles out front. SOMEONE is supplying them, but there's often some very aged looking bundles on the rack and it's hard to imagine moving very much through those outlets. Maybe volume isn't the name of the game with bundles, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's just having a good route, drop a few at each location and keep going. I know I've read the thread on here where member CRThomas has a good bundle business but retails them for wholesale cost and sells them straight to the customer. I'm not sure if that would work around here but he seems to have it all figured out in his area for sure. I do think in town I could sell half face cords and single face cords, etc. just smaller quantities for a little more money and definitely be more reasonable on the delivery costs. Columbus is about 20 miles from me. Again, I feel like partnering up with a landscape supply place/ Nursery/Greenhouse type business might be just the ticket. I'd have to wholesale the products to them and let them retail and distribute it, but that might be perfect for them. they have space, equipment, relatively inexpensive labor, and a greatly reduced workload come firewood season. They have single axle delivery trucks, conveniently located yards, small loaders, so on and so forth. It just seems like a great add-on product that none of them have right now. I'm sure someone is going to suggest getting wood from tree services, however many of them seem to be cutting and splitting it for firewood as well, or else just have a lot of junk wood, soft maple, pin oak, etc. mixed with a lot of brush or chips as well if they were otherwise going to dump it at the city recycle center. They do have to pay a small fee to dump there, but likely not enough to offset the convenience of mixing materials in their trucks. They sure won't come all the way out here to dump, i've tried that in the past.

I'm looking for input from veteran full time firewood operators only. If you don't fit that category, I'd welcome your response, but please state that you aren't in that category so your thoughts are carefully considered. Thank you!
Lots of junk not enough time.. full time mechanic part time logger, firewood junkie, outside boiler owner, meat smoker enthusiast, fabricator, dad, husband

Offline brianJ

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2018, 06:28:33 PM »
Every local market is a bit different.    For instance the local hardwood mill sells rejected logs and even cants reasonable and depending on how convenient it is to unload they sometimes provide trucking too.   

About 10% of my sales are for bonfire wood and that contains a majority of soft maple.  They just want a flame and not really about the heat.   I price accordingly.   If I did bundles thats what I use.

Your partnership......One way to do that other than dissolving it is to become a minority partner and thus leaving three or even four days to work at your firewood business.  

Last thing is no one is going to give you great advice for your exact circumstances because we dont know all your circumstances even after a long & detailed post.   But you will get a wealth of experienced opinions.   Some will fit for you and bunches will fit for other readers that might not write a reply.   

Offline hedgerow

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2018, 07:06:17 PM »
I am always surprised at the price of firewood. I haven't sold firewood in 10 years and we were getting 150 a cord for hardwood then. I am surprised you are able to pay for your equipment and pay your self. We used to only sell around 100 cord a year and the wood was coming off my land so I wasn't buying the logs. Around this area no one buys green wood so a lot of handling went on.  It was taking too much time and not enough return for me to stay in it. Now days just getting the 15 cord a burn a year is tough. Good luck on the firewood business hope it all works out. 

Offline bigblue12v

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2018, 08:20:52 PM »
Thanks for the replies so far guys
Lots of junk not enough time.. full time mechanic part time logger, firewood junkie, outside boiler owner, meat smoker enthusiast, fabricator, dad, husband

Online mike_belben

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2018, 01:05:15 AM »
Theres a member on here thats got his local bundle market sewn up tight and i think he is in indiana also.. Busybeaver maybe?  He had chronicled his operation thoroughly on here, search that out.  

I made a junkwood fired kiln out of well..
... junk i had and it would get green wood burnable in two days.  I posted a thread on it in the drying forum, dont remember the name but if you try to clone it use steel around the heat pipe, not wood. Once i got the rocket style burner efficient it became a red hot fire hazard and will ignite wood thats a foot away so i parked it.


Bundles was a total flop for me.  Test the waters with a 4" handheld shrink wrapper and a bucket with the bottom cut out for a bundle cincher.  Dont blow 2grand on a power wrapper if they arent gonna sell.


In my experience the average rural hardwood stand is completely unmanaged and overstocked with trash wood needing to go.  Ive been in a lot of private owned woods..  Thousands of acres.  Ive been on one parcel ever that culled pulp/FW grade junk to grow prime sawlogs and it was a miraculous thing.  I think for a stable log supply you need to find CLOSE parcels to home for your convenience, and offer to do precommercial thin/timber stand improvement in exchange for the cull logs.  Thats basically what im gearing towards, just dont have all my ducks in a row to start. (And havent finished culling my own yet either)  In decades to come i aim to log lands i have managed for prime sawlog, where i already put in the trails and landing etc to suit my needs.  Your miniskidder is ideal to target culls below a certain diameter limit without making full on skidder mess.  For bigger stuff you could make a log arch or trailer with deadheader and haul cut to length instead of tree length and still keep a 4wheeler sized trail.  I think damage and ruts is the number 1 thing that a landowner is turned off by.  The smaller the machine the less invasive it appears to a lot of them.

Reach out to all the homebuilders and lot developers in your area.  I have gotten several free heaping 30ft goosenecks of tree length loaded on free just by being there to haul it off when they were piling.  Ive also gotten a few loads from clearing blowdowns which was not feasible on a take it for free basis.  If it paid $20/hr to cover expenses id have cut until he said go away.  I can sell semi green wood (if its oak that'll burn) but i cant give it away in summer, so spending fuel money i didnt have to get wood in spring and wait half a year to recoup it just wasnt good for me.

You may also consider putting an empty trailer at a tree or land clearing company and have them call you when its full.  Sort of like dumpster rolloff service.  


Revelation 3:20

Offline woodshax

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2018, 08:29:00 AM »
Big Blue,

All we do is bags and bundles at retail prices.  For us, State parks were the lowest hanging fruit and I have 25 parks and growing.  Last year we sold about $170,000 doing it this way.  Right at $85,000 in profit.....the margin would be higher if I invested in the processing part of the operation but I have concentrated in the bagging, bundling and sales portion first to prove the business model.

From my point of view....wholesaling to C stores is tough......you sell for $2.50 and they double the price......some even make you eat the shrinkage which seems to increase the closer you get to a city.... so you really have to have a lot of locations to have the routes pay off.

The State park season is counter cyclical to the home burning season....Spring and Fall......but you would be surprised how much wood we sell in Texas, in the summer when the night time low is 82 degrees....but spring and fall are obviously the busiest times.......here, the parks stay open all year and I would assume that in Indiana they close for a couple of months in the dead of winter but that allows for the residential sales to take priority.

My parks were "all sewed up" when I started....with them buying pallets of bundles from the large producers.....but I was able to talk one park into trying us out and now I have parks calling that I just can't find responsible and dependable people in the industry to supply them with a consistent and quality product.

The key was showing them the man hours required to provide firewood to campers compared to the profit.   In most cases they would have to pick up the pallets (to reduce costs) then cover and protect the pallets, and have Rangers keep the sales area filled.....and then either lock that area up to reduce theft....but that reduced sales to when the main office or camp store was open.......The demand for firewood is very inelastic..... If you need another bundle at 11 PM and there is no easy way to get it.....the fire dies and the potential sale dies with it.   If you keep the area unlocked with an "honor Box" then there is a lot of theft.....I now have one large park whose firewood operation was managed by the friends group and they kept very good records......their average shrinkage rate was 23% and then on a holiday weekend someone cut the locks off all the boxes and got over $2000 in cash (their yearly profit).......We went in and now they make more than twice what they used to each year with far less work.   The Juice just was not worth the squeeze and Park Rangers and Camp hosts can now spend their time making their parks better instead of humping wood.

My model......The park gets 10% of the gross (before taxes)...20% if they fill the machines..... We provide the machines and the bagged wood....never run out, have the product available 24/7 and have no theft.  I get a captive customer base and no competition inside the park.

I know the main concessionaire for the Indiana state parks is very interested as they just contacted me....If I was up north.... I would put them in the Parks 9 or 10 months out of the year and then move them to large apartment complexes with woodburning fireplaces or C-stores near large residential areas and just pay the owners a monthly rental to lease their unused outdoor real estate.

We are definitely a Niche but unattended sales is the wave of the future...quick, easy....and no personal interaction.

Think outside the woodbox! 

Online mike_belben

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2018, 10:49:26 AM »
That is just amazing to me.  Do your parks require heat treated wood? Mine do and that was why i started with the kiln project that has languished to other pressing matters. 

I did the wholesale to retailer thing, i get $3.00 a bundle and they mark it to $6.  Sold 10 bundles to 3 different places just before 4th of july.  Two of them still have a few bundles left right now laying outside the door 24/7.  They even have a kindling packet rolled up in blank newsprint paper in the center. You know its a low demand item when it doesnt even get stolen.  Discouraging for me.    If there is a market here in my area for bundles it is only in the state parks which i havent got treated wood to try yet in there.   The local private owned campgrounds all make a good chunk of their proceeds selling their own deadfall.  They were my first stop, no interest.  Not one bundle sold via online advertising either, not even a tirekicking penpal.   :(
Revelation 3:20

Offline woodshax

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2018, 12:05:54 PM »
Hi Mike,

No, Texas does not have any restrictions on firewood....but they are starting to go in that direction.....and I am urging the Parks to begin, as it further helps my business model as they start to restrict campers from bringing in wood.   Right now I source from within 50 mile of each park (seems like a lot of states use this distance) and I will start supplementing with "kiln dried" (to the same standard as Heat treated) but it will take me a bit to get all the regulatory requirements down to get the USDA certification for heat treated.....I am also starting to use a product called Speedy Blaze....which is a compressed wood USDA stamped product..... as a green way to spur them along the decision cycle  

Offline bigblue12v

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2018, 01:22:53 PM »
Woodshax, wow I'm very intrigued by your bundle vending machine! Would you mind PM me and we exchange numbers and shoot me some pictures? Thanks for the awesome info!
Lots of junk not enough time.. full time mechanic part time logger, firewood junkie, outside boiler owner, meat smoker enthusiast, fabricator, dad, husband

Online mike_belben

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2018, 03:36:10 PM »
I was too and googled them, seems to be a texas phenomenon.  Looks pretty expensive upfront but i can see how its gonna be part of doing business, like it or not.  I cant fathom how much more candy and soda is sold by debit card than real cash at rest areas and such. 
Revelation 3:20

Offline Pclem

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2018, 08:13:00 PM »
We've been producing kiln dried firewood for close to 10 years now. The last 5 full time, my wife and I. Had 30 some c stores selling package wood up until last year. For us, the margins are too thin for packaged wood for a family business. I didn't want to go big time and hire employees just to hope we could make it work. We still sell 5-600 bundles/week to 2 campgrounds in the summer. It's much better dropping off 3 or 4 skids in 1 place and not driving around to 30 stores. We're finding better margins with homeowners with "fireplace and stove wood". Not alot of guys want to spend the extra time making nice wood. Obviously, the kiln allows us to produce "perfect" wood, to the tune of an extra 35-$45/ cord to dry. We're still trying to figure things out ourselves.  We've wasted so much money financing, cleaning out IRA's, and telling myself next year will be better. I believe a big business guy could do it, but I've come to realize big business isn't for me with the stress of employees and debt. Live and learn. I hope and pray the next chapter turns out better. Good luck bigblue
Dyna SC16. powersplit. supersplitter. firewood kilns.bobcat T190. ford 4000 with forwarding trailer. a bunch of saws, and a question on my sanity for walking away from a steady paycheck

Offline TKehl

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2018, 09:01:54 PM »
Long time firewood user, don't sell much, but sure have put a pencil to it often enough.  ::)  You are an a similar path from where I was.  My decision though was to keep the day job (for now) and get a sawmill with firewood as side $.

I think there is room to make money in firewood selling premium dry wood to homeowners (& Hickory to BBQ restaurants) by the face cord and stacked.  (No discounts for full cord, just $ times #.)  I think there is also room to sell green wood off the processor by the dump truck/trailer load.  In between gets tight unless it's a COLD winter and you are the last one with dry wood.  Though Woodshax has sure found a niche.  ;)

I think it would be a great supplement to a second enterprise.  (Rental houses, real estate, cattle, fence building, etc.)  

Firewood sounds great now.  Will it still sound great when you are 50?  60?  That's great if it is, but it sucks if you count on it still being okay.  Just my $.02.  ;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 stavebuyer

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2018, 04:58:19 AM »
bigblue12v;

I have travelled a pretty similar path. After a 10 year stint in the computer world I quit my day job and started logging. Thankfully I had a somewhat understanding spouse who had a job with insurance. Some very lean years starting out. Over that last 30 plus years I have logged, bought timber, sawmilled, and ran log yards. Was up to 14 employees a couple years back. Another current thread on insurance was the reason I changed directions.
Insurance Inspection in Sawmills and Milling

Two years ago I started selling firewood to clean up veneer cut off blocks and some oddball pallet logs that had accumulated around the log yard. 

First with a box store splitter I already owned for personal use, them a Super Split Kinetic, Eastonmade 22-28 with box wedge, elevator, and then Dyna Processor. Roughly 700 full cords in the last 12 months. I sell it picked at the log yard. I enjoy the firewood more than most the other aspects of my business.

Firewood log supply is the limiting factor. Log markets and weather are constantly changing. Right now I am out of firewood and logs to make it from. The extended wet weather and strong demand for pallet cants has raised low grade log prices to the point you cant justify putting them into firewood. As of now I am processing logs that I am harvesting myself doing timber stand improvement on lands I own.

A couple observations about the synergy of businesses. I sold my interest in the sawmill and lumber grading operation to my partner and bought his interest in the log yard and timberlands a couple years back. We still work closely on a number of things but no longer "owning the mill" has certainly impacted the competitive stature of the log yard. I think you will find the same if you divest your logging. Changing markets may make firewood production less attractive to your partner. Lets say he gets a deal on some standing walnut veneer tract 2 hours away. That's going to make his equipment payment and put you without logs to process.

 I enjoy going to the woods and doing the TSI work but its starving the processor. I spend most of time with the firewood but it really wouldn't be viable for me if was stand alone.

Offline woodshax

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2018, 07:56:06 AM »
Thanks for the comments guys, yeah we found a niche and are working hard to develop it.....I am sure it can be replicated elsewhere and I have machines in Illinois and about to send one to Alaska and Washington state.....but I am not here to hawk the machine....I have way too much respect for Jeff and what he has done here to do that.....I just want to provide our lessons learned and an example to get people thinking about how they can find and fill an unmet need in their area...."premium firewood?"....."on demand firewood?"..... "Vegan, gluten free, dolphin safe firewood"  whatever it is.   As mentioned...the wholesale bundle route has too small a margin and is very seasonal.....location, location, location.....where do people burn firewood every day no matter what the temperature?  for us it was campsites......and once a camper gets settled in to their little plot of nature....they do not want to leave, so being able to put down their beer and stumble over to the machine and use their apple watch to magically get a pile of wood works well......having a trusted source of local or heat treated wood so the parks can restrict campers from bringing in their own is exactly what the Naturalists and park planners are looking for. My passion is to get the word out to other Vets and Service Disabled Vets that with a strong work ethic they can be successful.....if my silly little idea helps or helps others think about innovative ways to differentiate themselves from the pack and better support their families.....awesome!  

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2018, 10:51:15 AM »
This has turned into a really good thread.  Lots to think about.  smiley_thumbsup
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Offline woodshax

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2018, 10:14:19 AM »
Yep, there are lots of ideas out there.....but once the thread slips off the front page....it takes a few months to re-energize when someone else has a bundle question

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #16 on: October 25, 2018, 08:56:16 PM »
I sell the brute force firewood processors and I am a sponsor on the forestry forum.  This last june 2 guys from university of north carolina called me and asked me to bring a firewood processor to their firewood business forum in Michigan and asked me to be a speaker.  There was a guy there speaking about how he used to sell thousands of face cords of firewood a year at 50 to 60 bucks a face cord, they could never seem to get ahead enough for all their work.  They eventually cut back their volume and concentrated on 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 face cords delivered and stacked.  They bought nice looking small firewood racks, did a lot of marketing to condos, subdivsions etc. They "loan" or "rent" the racks to customers and fill them on request. Most are thanksgiving, christmas, new years, etc. customers or just want a little wood a couple times a year for winter fires.  Last year they averaged $150.00 per face cord delivered and stacked. They don't work near as hard, easier on their trucks, less labor intensive (except the stacking) which they charge for anyways. I think they sold 4 or 500 face cords last year.  If I remember correctly they have a nursery type business, and the firewood was a small part of their business plan.  If I can find the link, or figure out how to get you guys in touch, it was really a good informative 20 minute talk.  I think the guys business was in illinois, or indiana. I demo my processors often on my property and next year I will be filling my firewood from my demonstrations in bags.  The last 2 years I have sold numerous bean bags filled with firewood, about 1/2 to 5/8 face cord per bag.  I routinely get 50 bucks a bag picked up.  The people that buy it use it for camping when they are up for a weekend or on vacation.  Some guys that run out of wood in the spring buy a couple of bags.  I charge a 20 dollar deposit on the bags if we just load the bag on trailer or in pick up truck.  Most people just hand unload the bag into their vehicle. I am planning on getting a rock grapple bucket and will make a funnel type box that will fit over the bag so I can fill bags at one time, many guys want to cut more than 1/2 face cord while they are doing a demo on a processor. I will let them cut a good amount of wood, which I will then bag and sell. 

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #17 on: October 26, 2018, 07:53:49 AM »
Glassman,

Good information....We built  frames that holds those bags open and have one of our suppliers who splits it and tosses it on the conveyor and they drop right into the bag and then skid steer to the trailer using the bag handles and the forks....very quick and efficient.....a skid steer would let you put the bags right into the bed of the customer's pickup.  For our other suppliers, they get the frames and then as they cut they throw into the bags and we come out with skid steer and trailers and just haul them away....reduces the touch time for everyone.

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #18 on: October 26, 2018, 11:21:29 AM »
Thank you to everyone so far on all the good input and information!

I'm not sure what to do... not looking for anyone here to make the decision for me per say, just hoping to find persuading factors I haven't thought of or ran across. Maybe I'm just plain crazy lol
Smashed a nice saw yesterday. Then our trucker texted 45 minutes later and said he's done find someone else. Just that morning he was telling me he was driving for a sawmill part time and they were begging him to come full time. Consistent work, nicer trucks, etc. Whatever... We've been working on putting together a tri-axle truck to haul ourselves, in addition to the single axle truck that isn't really adequate on a volume basis. Finally wrapping up a job where rain kept shutting us down (raining again now, scheduled to continue all weekend) there's about 10-12 semi loads of logs left to get hauled out. We've been rained out so much the past month or two that it's starting to stress the finances which makes it even harder to get the new truck finished. But we have plenty of work lined up for the winter if the weather cooperates we should get back on top. Next landowner is extremely impatient and has pestered me every 2-3 days for 2 weeks now. I'm certain he'll be a pain in the butt... The following job there's a catch we found out about AFTER the contract was signed by the landowner... Now it has to be sent to California to be approved by an heir to the estate before we can begin. We really need that job. lots of good timber on it and good ground. Waiting to get the contract back from the attorney. Other jobs are landlocked by crop fields and can only be cut when crops are out which means mud season. There's no good freezes here in our part of the state, very rarely anyway. Logging used to be fun. Now it's just lots of stress.... Everyone tells me I need a hobby... I reply, well, i have one... It's work! Everytime I get a hobby I turn it into a job and it ruins it. I'm not good at dumping money into something that can't/won't pay me back.

Relying on firewood for a full time income scares me to death. Log supply issues, low cord prices, and heavily seasonal sales are all huge concerns to me. I see a lot of potential in the area, but maybe I'm disillusioned. It would take a lot of start up money... I've always said that if you want to be self employed you need to have at least 1 year of wages for yourself set aside before you start, in addition to having your equipment. I didn't follow that advice when I started the logging business and all worked out luckily. But I wouldn't count on that with the firewood business. It takes too much time and energy to really make it a side job, if your goal for the firewood really is to make it full time in the relative near future.

I think this is my short checklist for going full time with it here:
Retail outlets (nursery/Greenhouse businesses in town, gas stations, campgrounds, etc.)
Full year supply of seasoned inventory
Possibly a better processing location, or at minimum, a good bit of dirt and stone work to existing location
Guaranteed log suppliers
Kinetic splitter or box wedge unit
Bundling machine
Bagging setup
Swap a dumping flatbed with custom sides onto the 5500 (not necessary but likely most ideal delivery option I currently have) if needing more capacity in future for bundle/bag deliveries, add a dump trailer behind it.

Right now I've lost many sales to people who are looking for a smaller amount in town or just out of my area, everytime the conversation goes like this:
"I'm looking for 1 rick (face cord) delivered"
me: "ok where are you located?"
"in such-and-such town"
me: "ok, the wood is $50, the delivery is another $50"
"too much, i found it elsewhere for $50 delivered"
me "ok, thanks for your interest. This is a business, not a hobby. We will still be in business next year if the other guy gets tired of working for peanuts. Sorry I can't drive a dump truck 30 miles one way for free"

If I was in town, I could justify getting pretty close to the lower prices and get more business that way, but I'm not so sure these people will really be willing to pay even $10 more unless you lure them in with having seasoned wood. I'm pretty sure a lot of people would stop in and pickup a small amount if you were on a main road and visible. That would be where it's at, keep delivery overhead out of the equation. If in town, you could say well, the wood is this much, the delivery is this much, or free delivery if you buy 2 face cords instead of 1. Or we have seasoned wood in a nice convenient clean bag for $xx delivered. It can sit in your yard, you don't need to pack it into your garage to stay dry, and no mess from a dumped loose load. I am not sure how many people would go for that but I can see it working. The bags aren't cheap though... It would be hard to get people to pay the right amount extra. Just having seasoned wood  would sell a lot more for that matter, I lose several interested people to that fact.... It's amazing to me how little seasoned wood is out there. I feel like most of our customers don't even have a choice but to buy the green wood because no one else around is big enough to deliver them multiple cords reliably. Let alone find a source like that selling seasoned wood. Our problem is the extra handling, storage and getting a year ahead of it all to do that. I sure wish I had a yard closer to town with a good lot to work with. Put the processor in a shed, have a building to do bundles and such in..... If I won the lottery I wouldn't just sit around, I'd invest and build more business.. lol

Sorry for all the rambling and thinking out loud....
Lots of junk not enough time.. full time mechanic part time logger, firewood junkie, outside boiler owner, meat smoker enthusiast, fabricator, dad, husband

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Re: Long Post- What would you do.. Firewood business related
« Reply #19 on: October 26, 2018, 11:41:10 AM »
My experience in my area- people don't know what dry wood is, and sellers are happy to tell them their's is "seasoned" (what does that even mean?) and thatxs what I have to compete with. I tell people, I split it last spring, I'm not calling it dry. If I can set up some sort of firewood kiln, and sell it for a decent profit, I think I could sell as much as I could make. The decent profit is the part I'm trying to see if it is achievable. Folks up here will only pay so much of a premium for a good product before they will start going back to wet junk.
Too many irons in the fire


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