Forum > Sawmills and Milling

Many Question about starting sawmill business

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Hello everyone. I have been lurking at this sight and woodweb for several weeks now and am finally ready to ask some questions. So far the best info I have been able to find on the small sawmill business has come from you and woodweb.
     First some basic background.  I am in the military and am planning on gettting out in the middle of next year.  My wife and I are ready to settle down and call some place home permanently.  I could get out of the Navy and get a job in corporate America but that is not much more appealing than staying in the Navy.  To make a long story short, I am an avid woodworker, like the outdoors, and think that I could wake up in the morning and feel good about running a sawmill.  I am thinking along the lines, that if I can find a job I love I will never have to work another day (someone famous said that I think).
     My question list is literally endless but here are some I would love to hear some opinions on:

1) Does it matter hugely where I start this business? I think most people who do this have lived where they are for some time.  I have moved around alot in my life and there is no place that my wife and I have to move home to, but we both loved Tennessee when we went to school there.  We are thinking Tennessee, Kentucky or Alabama. She has family in Kentucky, I have family in Alabama.
2) If I am willing to work hard and do a good job, can I make a living? I am hoping to maybe do more than just sawing. Eventually I would like to saw, kiln dry, plane, mould?, maybe try retailing on a small scale to hobbyists, and a little tree farming. I have read alot about milling rates(seems 20-30 cents a bf is the norm) and by simply running the numbers it seems possible to make 50k+ a year IF you can keep your saw busy.

These are just 2 of hundreds of questions I have.  Please I would love to hear any ideas.

P.S. So far I have read The Woodlot Management Handbook, the Good Woodcutter's Guide, plus a large painful part of The Forest Landowner's Guide to Fed taxes. All 3 were useful but, not really what I was hoping for. Any reading suggestions would be great.  

Welcome Keith! I am sure, in fact I know, you will get good info here. I'll let the portable mill owners do most of the answering as I run commercial, but I would recommend looking through the older posts in the forum, and there are some excellent articles in our knowledge base. Button is at the top of every page.  

We're looking forward to your questions and your company, and be ready for some questions from us! (Like where ya stationed now?)

Again Keith, welcome to the Forestry forum!

welcome Keith, we here will talk about this saw stuff.  if you get customers you can make a living.  you will also work hard for your can o peas.  but they will taste very good at the end of the day, or still taste good cold in the middle.  IMHO your location will matter.  number of sawyers close and tree species/desireability will make a difference.  along with your own personal drive/getgo. you will also have to figure out what to do with low grade and waste.  honestly, i have much more fun at this than my day job.  so welcome again and keep askin. :P

 I am stationed in NAS Corpus Christi.  We don't have many trees down here.  Thanks for the warm welcome.

Welcome, Keith.  You have chose a a rewarding yet hard working occupation after the military.  It sounds as though you have basically decised what general geographic area you want to reside in as well as what type of sawing you want to do.  Some of your next decisions, I would think, would center around the following: tree availability where you will live, speciies specific for what you want to market, the market base in that area you will reside, the number of other mills in the area you will be competing with, initial costs involved in getting started, etc.  ::) I would not consider anything less than $75,000 for start-up. :-[  That includes a mill, and some equipment to handle the logs.  If you decide to be mobile with your mill you will need a vehicle to tow the critter around that is dependable enough to get you back home.  If you are stationary, you will need space to store logs and lumber as well as the waste materials produced.  But what ever you do make sure you have a market for what it is you want to produce.  The best of luck to you in your venture. ;)


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