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Author Topic: How to get a job at a sawmill  (Read 11081 times)

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Offline panhandle

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How to get a job at a sawmill
« on: January 13, 2012, 04:55:27 PM »
I'd like to work for a sawmilling company, but I have no experience in the field. Do relatively small scale sawmills ever hire grunts (for offbearing, for example) and then give them progressively more responsibility? Without buying a mill, how else might I gain experience milling? Thanks!

Offline beenthere

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2012, 05:23:21 PM »
Welcome to the forum.

Any sawmills, of the size you might be interested in, in your neighborhood?

I'd suggest visiting them, and inquire about how they work, and volunteer to help sometime. Don't know about "hiring" but that might come too.  I suspect most small sawmillers would welcome an inquisitive mind and body. Look at the size of the operation, and consider that small operators prolly like being small and with themselves. Also respect that having a greenhorn around a working mill is somewhat of a liability - possibly getting hurt or causing something to break due to now being familiar with what is happening or what may happen next. Some sawmillers want customers but don't want visitors. ;)
I's running a small circle mill once, when a knowledgable volunteer stopped by to "help" offbear. He was going to be "helpful" and gig back the carriage knees when behind the saw blade. Managed to gig ahead rather than back, causing an oak 4x4 to catch the circular blade on the back side. That 8' 4x4 caught on top of that saw blade and it went flying past myself and a volunteer log hand, then through two apple trees and came to rest about 100' away. Two of us were very lucky that day.
Other suggestions may be forthcoming. Visiting shows where sawmills are demo'd may work for you too.
south central Wisconsin
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Offline Jeff

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2012, 06:35:27 PM »
If most sawmills were like us, we didn't necessarily want someone with sawmill experience when hiring for the "grunt" jobs. Although a knowledge of wood species and such things is a pretty handy thing to have, we were more concerned with whether a guy worked hard, worked smart, and showed up everyday and was willing to learn what he needed to know about the job he was hired for rather than hire someone who already thought he knew how the place should be ran.
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Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2012, 06:38:01 PM »
You only get experience in a mill from the bottom.  We've often tried to hire guys to work, but stacking lumber doesn't seem to be their cup of tea.  We haven't been able to find any decent help for years.  Currently our lumber stacker is a 61 year old man.  He gets pretty tired by the end of the day.

The only ones that get a chance to go beyond lumber stacker is someone who shows an interest in the operation.  That means you go out and ask questions, help out while the other guys are standing around.  I've only had a few guys that took even a remote interest in sawing. 

You just have to apply and get started.  Then apply yourself by showing interest.  You have to be at work on time and you can't take any sick leave. 
Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Offline millwright

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2012, 07:20:47 PM »
Have you thought of possibly getting a used mill and going into business for yourself,                                                     I

Offline Magicman

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2012, 07:52:47 PM »
First, Welcome to the Forestry Forum, panhandle.

The common thread among the above answers is work.  Pay attention to the work operations.  The second time it happens, you should either be doing it, or handing the worker what he needs.  Keep your eyes open and be eager to provide a solid day's labor.
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Offline POSTON WIDEHEAD

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2012, 08:13:19 PM »
Magic Man....You're a slave driver!     smiley_whip smiley_whip smiley_whip smiley_whip smiley_whip
The older I get I wish my body could Re-Gen.

Offline Magicman

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2012, 08:46:58 PM »
I have absolutely no patience for or with a worker with his hands in his pockets.

I was listening to my Son talking to his 13 year old last weekend.  "Be observant.  Watch what I am doing.  What will I do next?  Have what I will need and be ready to hand it to me."

That is why he and I work so well together.  We also play well together.   :)
Knothole Sawmill, LLC     '98 Wood-Mizer LT40SuperHydraulic   WM Million BF Club Member   WM Pro Sawyer Network

Never allow your "need" to make money to exceed your "desire" to provide quality service.....The Magicman

Offline Cedarman

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2012, 09:47:29 PM »
Jeff and MM have it right. We usually have 5 to 8 people working.  The floaters are my wife and daughter.
I just hired one a couple days ago. At 18, he doesn't know squat.  That is just fine.  We will teach him everything we want him to know.  The absolutely worst person is one who already knows how I want it done.  He is the one who will make the most mistakes and cause the most rework.
Go with the attitude that you are going to make your employer as much money as possible.  He may start you cheap, but you have to prove yourself.  It won't take long and you will take on more and more responcibility as opportunities present themselves.
Be on time, be on time, be on time. Nothing causes more frustration than wondering if someone is going to show up.
Always call, always call if you are going to be late or something came up.  Flat tires do happen.
If you are not sure of what to do or how to do something, ask.
I have never minded if someone, even if they should know, asks me about something, such as which face of lumber gets planed for a customer etc.
It is my job to make sure my employees have unambiguous instructions.
If I say cut the board into 2 equal pieces, it can be done length wise or cross cut or even at a diagonal 2 different ways to be technical.
Comunication is very important and it goes both ways.
If I say keep stickers in a straight vertical line, then that is something that should be learned quickly.  Sorting lumber into 20 different piles can take a good bit to learn.
Small mills with just a few employees can be a great place to learn.  Learn safety too.
I am in the pink when sawing cedar.

Offline sawguy21

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2012, 10:31:53 PM »
Do you have decent size mills in your area? Turn over can be high in entry level positions but if you stick it out it can be rewarding.
I saw a help wanted ad at the local unemployment insurance office. The job was a 150 miles away but at the time I couldn't afford to be picky. I made the call and showed up with a hard hat, steel toe work boots and a positive attitude.
I started at the bottom on the green chain. It paid decent, the work was steady but boring as h**l. Also noisy,dusty and COLD, central B.C. gets that way in winter. :D
old age and treachery will always overcome youth and enthusiasm

Offline Ironwood

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2012, 10:41:02 PM »
All good answers, BUT also look thru the extensive information achived here, there is ALOT of wisdom here, as well as technical stuff. Learn, learn learn, and a........be on time as Cedar said.

 Ironwood
There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love to do, there is only scarcity of resolve to make it happen.- Wayne Dyer

Offline Woodchuck53

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2012, 11:00:54 PM »
Welcome and there is an answer to just about any thing wood related.

When my kids were comeing up they worked from fire wood to stacking lumber. When it was time to "pay them" I told them that they earned a wage and would receive it. Show me that you can earn a wage by being were you said you would be and doing it right the first time. Be the first there and the last to leave and never stand around. A shovel or broom is also considered work because it keeps your work area clean and safe for the real "work" They both learned well and have great jobs with a lot of responsibility. They are also appreciative of what mom and I taught them.

You will find a rough and ready crowd around a sawmill that will show you a wealth of things beyond the work that they set forth for yopu. Stay safe and keep your eyes and ears open. Worked for me.
Case 1030 w/ Ford FEL, NH 3930 w/Ford FEL, Ford 801 backhoe/loader, TMC 4000# forklift, Stihl 090G-60" bar, 039AV, and 038, Corley 52" circle saw, 15" AMT planer Corley edger, F-350 1 ton, Ford 8000, 20' deck for loader and hauling, F-800 40' bucket truck, C60 Chevy 6 yd. dump truck.

Offline Bill Gaiche

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2012, 11:19:12 PM »
panhandle, welcome aboard. All the info that you have been given has been tried and its all worthy. I give you an A for effort first for being intrested in timber. Not many people can do or are intrested in this kind of work. Its hard and can be boring, but there are paybacks for all the effort that you put into it. You cant see all that you will incounter at this point, but it will provide you with a lot of different kinds of experience that you can use the rest of your life trust me, you will never be sorry. You may not find the sweet spot at first but dont give up. Thats part of learning the trade. If you are really intrested you will be rewarded for your efforts. Good luck, bg

Offline Dave VH

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2012, 07:59:51 AM »
go to where you want to work and give them the first day or week, or whatever free.  It makes them feel like they aren't taking a risk to hire you.  As long as you are a reliable hard worker, you'll get hired.  I've done it in the past, I'm doing it now.  Not for a job this time, just to learn more.
  I hire workers all of the time in construction, reliable and hard working is a rare combo.  That is simply a decision on the person.
  Good luck
I cut it twice and it's still too short

Offline sealark37

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2012, 08:25:47 AM »
Find out who has a mill in your area.  Visit them and tell the owner that you want to get some work experience around a sawmill.  They all can use some help.  Show up when you agree to.  Bring your own water and lunch.  Don't wear shower shoes.  When the mill is running, keep one eye on the sawyer at all times.  Learn his non-verbal signals.  Be careful with his equipment.  Be respectful to his customers.  Some will let you work for free forever.  Most will offer to pay you when you demonstrate your usefulness.  You won't get rich, but you will get hooked on saw dust.  Regards, Clark :)

Offline Mooseherder

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #15 on: January 14, 2012, 09:28:33 AM »
I got a job cleaning the debarker area at a Blier's Cedar fence mill at 13 years old because we were dirt poor.  My friend Armand helped me get that job and we both did it for a while until we graduated to working inside the mill.  His Uncle was a Millwright there which probably explains how we were allowed to do this.  Back in 1973 the laws weren't enforced like the child labor laws today. :D
I graduated to running the machine that put the dog ears on the top of the fence boards.  The two knives took the ears off once you slid the board into the switched sweet spot in the top center of the board.
The knives were six feet away from where I was standing so I'm sure they felt it was okay for a 13 year old to do or they chose to ignore that fact. :D 
The grocery store was hiring 14 year olds for after school and that was much closer to my house so that ended that chapter.   That mill did burn down a few years later.
I own the edger that was in that mill.  It was part of the equipment of the operation I bought a few years ago.  It is in storage waiting for revival.

Good luck with your search.  I'm sure someone will be willing to let you chip in.
Lane Circle Mill
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Offline pinehillstacker

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #16 on: January 14, 2012, 07:29:28 PM »
All you have to do to get a job at a sawmill is tell them you'll work on the green chain stacking lumber.  ;)  Not the best pay in the world, but you learn a lot about grade/species, etc.  Take a big lunch and an even bigger jug of water.  ;D 8)
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Offline Brucer

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2012, 08:14:24 PM »
In addition to all the above, when I went to inquire I was wearing work boots (not brand new), I had safety glasses tucked in one shirt pocket, earplugs in another shirt pocket, and used gloves hanging in my back pocket where the boss couldn't see them. Also had a lunch and jug of water in the truck.

Boss: "Well, I suppose I could use some help, if you're up for it. When can you start?"
Me: "Now, if you'd like."

 ;D ;D
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Offline Cedarman

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2012, 09:35:32 PM »
Summing up what Brucer said, "Plan Ahead".

When I was 15 there was a lot of small square hay baled in our area of central Indiana.  I would help as needed, but it wasn't steady.  One day after finishing for one farmer I was riding my bike by a hay field where they were putting hay from ground onto the wagon.  Very strange for our area as all hay was loaded straight from the baler onto the wagon.
There was a problem with wagons and they had to bale it on the ground or something like that.
I asked if they needed help and the head guy (one driving tractor) said no.  So I started throwing hay anyway. I knew how to throw bales and make them do what I wanted them to do.  We finished in about 15 minutes and the driver asked if I wanted to work the next day.  Of course.  He was a custom hay baler and needed a good hand.  I helped every summer for 5 years.  Usually just June and first 1/2 of July until detasseling came on.
Pay was excellent for summer work.
Just because I didn't take no for an answer and went ahead and worked that 15 minutes for free.
I am in the pink when sawing cedar.

Offline islandlogger

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Re: How to get a job at a sawmill
« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2012, 10:10:28 PM »
All mill owners/operations are different, all areas are different but I say yes it is quite possible to start at the low end of the chain and work your way up but like mentioned several times you gotta prove your self and earn your way up the line. I've posted a few times on this forum about my off loader, when he first started working for me he had never been around a mill in his life, within a few weeks he was easily able to second guess me and know what I would need or what the next step was going to be and would have things ready, he NEVER had his hands in his pocket and was always go go go....and as importently he asked questions: "why did you do that? how would we go about this?" etc...he learned and he observed and he worked his butt off. So, came the day where I opened up a log and then motioned him to the business end of the mill and said "go for it, you've watched me do it, cut me a bunch of 1x..." he made a few mistakes BUT he learnt from them right away....now I'm at the point where I set up the mill at times and get a job started and let him finish it off while I go work other jobs, he proved him self, he worked his way up, it can happen!!

Best of luck

islandlogger


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