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Author Topic: getting rich with a sawmill  (Read 3130 times)

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Offline petefrom bearswamp

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getting rich with a sawmill
« on: July 20, 2022, 05:35:41 PM »
Had a call last week from a young friend about buying a sawmill.
How many times have we experienced this?
He is buying 40 acres with 20 acres of woods and wants to saw his own lumber for his use and to sell.
I know him well and he is not afraid of hard work but has zero business sense.
There are a lot of Amish around here with mills and they sell maybe not cheap, but cheaper than I could sell when I was milling.
I DID discourage him.
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Offline Dave Shepard

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2022, 05:47:12 PM »
Reminds me of the young man who bought a tri-axle dump truck from someone who was retiring. After a year of running the truck, the young man ran into the guy he bought it from. He asked him when you start making money with the truck. "When you sell it!"
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Offline Walnut Beast

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2022, 06:08:27 PM »
I would say go for it and get a hydraulic mill that holds or exceeds it’s value. Saw lumber and sell later 

Online stavebuyer

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2022, 06:48:20 PM »
Wise words from a man with 60 or so year's experience..

Offline Magicman

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2022, 07:42:12 PM »
I bought my sawmill from a guy that bought it with the intention of making a living with it.  He sawed for two years and then it sat idle with a For Sale sign on it for a year after he got a real job and went back to work.

I have done quite well with it but I have never gotten rich nor made enough to call it a living.  For me it has been a very good side/part time business.
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Offline Southside

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2022, 07:47:38 PM »
Just like farming, it's not a job, it's a lifestyle choice. For some it's not the right choice. 
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Offline Crossroads

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2022, 08:07:19 PM »
Roughly 8 years ago when I bought my first mill, I had a bunch of cedar tree’s on my property and I wanted to put them to use. After a while I decided to try to make a little money on the side with it. That started doing well, so I upgraded to a bigger better new mill. At some point I decided I could make a go of running it full time. Do I see as a way to get rich? Absolutely not! Has it been providing a good living for my family for the last year and a half? Yes! Will it continue? I have no idea, with all the new mills in the area, I have a feeling that it will slow down for a while. I’m definitely not putting all of my eggs in one basket. Between the mill, the excavator/skiddy and a contractor with an open invitation to work with him. I should be able to ride it out. 
With the right fulcrum and enough leverage, you can move the world!

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Offline Acem

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2022, 09:43:01 PM »
You can make money with a sawmill however like anything most of the money is in marketing.

Peace sells, who's buying?

Offline thecfarm

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2022, 09:47:17 PM »
I have a manual mill. 
I want a building I start the chainsaw and cut what I need and start the sawmill up. 
The only trouble I have with a manual mill is the Honda motor on it. The fuel pump needs to replaced every few years.
Now if he buys a mill, he will need something to get the logs out of the woods.
It has started!!!!
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Offline fluidpowerpro

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2022, 10:11:26 PM »
I have done quite well with it but I have never gotten rich nor made enough to call it a living.  For me it has been a very good side/part time business.
???
If I was someone wanting to try to make a living with a mobile mill, and I had followed this forum for any length of time, and having seen how much wood you can cut, this would scare the heck out of me. If you couldn't make a living at it, then I wonder who could. Maybe it's because the definition of "a living" is different depending on who you're talking to?
Change is hard....
Especially when a jar full of it falls off the top shelf and hits your head!

Offline KWood255

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2022, 10:15:42 PM »
For me, the mill is the easy part. The biggest expense is in the supporting equipment an maintenance. Blade costs are getting worse all the time, not to mention the price of logs and delivery. 

In my little bit of experience, it would be very difficult to produce enough lumber to pay the bills without having reliable and efficient machinery to feed the mill, and handle the finished product. 

I do not know what the perfect supporting equipment is…I have a 75hp Kubota tractor with several attachments as well as a 3.5 ton mini excavator, 20’ flat deck trailer and a Timberjack 230 cable skidder. I still feel like I’m missing something, but I’m reluctant to invest too much more into a market which appears to be dwindling slightly across the continent. 


Offline fluidpowerpro

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2022, 10:31:14 PM »
Ignore my last post. I realize now that Magic wasn't say he couldn't have, just that he hasn't. Like Gilda said... Never Mind!
Change is hard....
Especially when a jar full of it falls off the top shelf and hits your head!

Offline Magicman

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2022, 10:43:05 PM »
If you couldn't make a living at it, then I wonder who could.
Tom, what I may "could" do and what I choose to do are two different things.  I decided after my first year's sawing that I would not buy logs nor saw and sell lumber.  Also I had no place to set up and saw customer's logs so I decided to only do portable sawing.  Both of these decisions limited my sawing.  I also pick and choose my jobs, more so now than in the past.

100Mbf seems like a good round number to shoot for but lets break it down.  1/3 for the sawmill, (repairs, replacements, blades, fuel, etc) 1/3 for taxes & insurance, advertisement, etc. and 1/3 for me.  @ $400Mbf = $40K so my 1/3 = $13K.  This year I will saw around 200Mbf so that kicks it up to $26K.  Good but it depends upon one's definition of a "living".
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Offline fluidpowerpro

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2022, 10:48:17 PM »
Yes, I realized that I misinterpreted what your post actually said. My apologies.
Change is hard....
Especially when a jar full of it falls off the top shelf and hits your head!

Offline Magicman

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2022, 10:58:15 PM »
Oh no, no apology nor retraction necessary.  You asked a legitimate question and we must realize that there are many members and guest that are reading both the question and the answer and trying to figure out how to get rich. 

It's a business and a tough business.  Everything done with a log is hard work, dangerous, and there are no simple rules because each of our situations and markets are different.  Each of us have to develop our own business and find our own niche.
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Never allow your "need" to make money to exceed your "desire" to provide quality service.....The Magicman

Offline OlJarhead

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2022, 11:58:37 PM »
wait!  what!?  I can't get rich working part time?

 now you tell me! lol
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Offline longtime lurker

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2022, 03:43:45 AM »
I know guys that made some serious money in this industry.

But none of them ever got there sawing logs, nor even marketing it (and this list of people I know includes some who were major operators back in the day). In every case they made that money off the real estate. Buy the timberland or commercial real estate... saw enough logs and sell enough wood to stay ahead of the interest for a few decades... sell the real estate. It's like farming... the money is in the land and the crop or critters are just a way to pay the bills while the land appreciates in value.

You can still make a good living in this business in you work smart and long and hard, but the kind of money you can retire knowing your grandkids are set with comes from dirt not saws.
The quickest way to make a million dollars with a sawmill is to start with two million.

Offline Ianab

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2022, 05:05:42 AM »
What's the old story?

How do you make a small fortune in "X"?




Start with a large fortune  :D

Can you make some money sawing wood? Of course. But if getting rich was easy, everyone would be doing it. 
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Offline Quebecnewf

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #18 on: July 21, 2022, 05:51:47 AM »
Been sawing ( part time ) for 30 years . 
Get rich sawing ?   No not in my case .

Love sawing ? Yes 

Do it for free ? Probably 
Going sawing again today . Yay going to be a great day .

Quebecnewf 

Offline Bruno of NH

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #19 on: July 21, 2022, 06:12:33 AM »
It's a lot of hard work.
Marketing is a large part after you figure out how to make nice lumber.
I went through alot as a contractor wanting to stay small you can only make so much.
I enjoy my new life style the Woodmizer probably saved my life. If I didn't get it I was going down fast emotionally and fiscally. 
There is some new mills opening near me , I'm not worried about it.
I can do firewood, build stuff from my lumber .
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Offline Peter Drouin

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #20 on: July 21, 2022, 06:30:43 AM »
I started back in the 80s on the road. all that traffic sucks. Customers can't pile logs. even when I told them where to pile them.
Now I saw from home. Best thing I did.
I make enough to pay all the bills and keep the Hot Rod in gas.
:D :D
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Offline Cedarman

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #21 on: July 21, 2022, 08:42:10 AM »
My last day job was in 1982.  Bought a WM in 83. Started sawing cedar full time in 89.  Built a big building and bought a 1/4 million dollars in equipment with bank help.  At one time 1/2 million in debt. Built mill in Alabama for son, quit that after 8 years and Aaron moved to Ok where we started a mulch business.  Another 1/2 million in debt.  But today, 4 kids through college,  300 acres, nice house, new pickup truck,  who knows how much all the sawmill, knuckleboom, skidder, knuckleboom trailer etc.  I have plenty of cash to retire and am out of debt in Indiana.  Can't say that for Oklahoma as we just expanded for a third time.
Did I work my butt off for 35 years and little cash to spend, yes, but I enjoy every minute of it.
Still working most days.  Started today at 7 moving logs, sharpening blades, answering e-mails and will  be busy until about 7 tonight.  But breaks thrown in and a good nap in the afternoon while it is hot.  So I am not actually working all day.
My big break came when we quit sawing commodity cedar and started custom sawing for people.
The internet let the whole world find me.  I became a price setter rather than a price taker.
I am in the pink when sawing cedar.

Offline Joe Hillmann

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #22 on: July 21, 2022, 11:13:52 AM »
Another way to make money with a sawmill is to mill things others don't/won't/can't and then charge accordingly.

At one time I was sawing logs that had a lot of curve in them into slabs and half logs for curved benches and corner counters.  I was selling them $100 to $300 each.  I think if I had tried I could have developed a pretty good market for them and modified my mill with a rotating table to make them easier to cut.  I think I could have made fairly good money that way but I had other irons in the fire and didn't pursue it.

I now modified my mill to be able to cut 40 foot long.  I have had several people ask me to to cut for them because they can't find anyone else to cut long enough for there needs.  I think I could name nearly any price and have more work than I can handle if that was the direction I wanted to go.

I am sure there are other specialty milling methods you can do that don't have you competing to be the lowest price, but those are two I have experience with that could work.

Another option could be to have unusual species of lumber and market it to high end woodworker. 

Offline booman

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #23 on: July 26, 2022, 09:05:48 PM »
How to make a million dollars with a sawmill?   Start with 2 million.
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Offline mudfarmer

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #24 on: July 26, 2022, 09:31:54 PM »
Wait a second! You can get rich with these things? That doesn't sound right  :-X

Offline moodnacreek

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #25 on: July 26, 2022, 10:06:06 PM »
Bought a Bell Saw late in 1979 and slowly learned to saw part time. In 1994 bought 3 old mills and put 1 together on concrete footings this time and put a building over it. Built it up every year: edger, slabwood saw, mud saw, conveyers, flippers, sweeps, green chain, etc. By 1999 my wife got a job at the college and I closed my little body shop and went full time . It was almost worth being broke and off concrete. Made enough for fuel and logs. I don't think any young man could raise a family and buy a small home on a sawmill alone. Today I am still building up my sawmill because I can. With the high lumber prices and no real competition and no pressure I can't just quit. This is the cleanest work I have ever done and I like it.

Offline YellowHammer

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #26 on: July 26, 2022, 11:06:32 PM »
I’m not sure how to answer the question without sounding like bragging.  What’s the definition of rich?  Making enough money to retire early from two high paying full time engineering jobs and make more money than the paychecks from both combined?  

I know more than several of the guys on this Forum have made millions in the business, and so have I.  Just this year, we are ranked the highest grade producer of hardwood lumber in the state of Alabama.  We sell to people from all over the country.  We are listed in Dunn and Bradstreet, and well known lumber companies, like Woodcraft, have asked us to be their supplier.

I started with a chainsaw mill, sawing until lunchtime, until I would throw up.  I called the chainsaw mill the “Puker”.  Even though we had two jobs while we built this one, it always had to stand in its own, it had to be a legitimate, healthy business, not a hobby supplemented with our personal income.  I used to have to hustle to make a hundred bucks a week.  I remember my wife asking me when I said I was going to make money doing this “Who in the heck is going to drive all the way out here just to buy wood?” We actually nicknamed our business “The Lemonade Stand” and but eventually called it an equally downplayed name of “Hobby Hardwood.”

The sawmill doesn’t make the money, the guy or gal running it does. 

The sawmill is a tool, nothing more, nothing less.  No more than saying “buy a basketball, and you’ll be rich and play in the pros, or buy a fast car and you’ll be a winner at NASCAR, or buy a table saw and get rich making furniture” or anything like that.  

I actually get asked this question fairly often by people who just bought a new mill, especially since the Youtubers have found me.  I always try to encourage people.   

“Can you make millions and get rich with a sawmill?” Sure, yep, definitely.  

“Will you make millions and get rich with a sawmill?” That’s up to you. 
YellowHammerisms:

Take steps to save steps.

If it won’t roll, its not a log; it’s still a tree.  Sawmills cut logs, not trees.

Kiln drying wood: When the cookies are burned, they’re burned, and you can’t fix them.  So don’t burn the cookies.

Sawing is fun for the first couple hundred boards.

Offline moodnacreek

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #27 on: July 27, 2022, 08:26:42 AM »
Those who have become well off often did not make the money with what they started with. When you are self employed you get exposed to many opertunities.  Many small sawmills wound up being mulch or building supply operators . Loggers can become some kind of land company . The economy , your health, your ambition and luck are very important.

Online stavebuyer

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #28 on: July 27, 2022, 11:57:25 AM »
A huge factor is the amount of support you get or need to provide for family. If you are living in your parents basement, have a wife with good a job and family health insurance, or early retired with a pension so that you can re-invest your profits you can indeed prosper. If the money your making with a manual mill needs to buy shoes for the young'ins, and put tires on the wife's mini-van instead of going towards an edger you will work yourself to death and never get anywhere.

Offline Cedarman

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #29 on: July 27, 2022, 12:58:39 PM »
My business is predicated on 3 things.  Log supply.  Production ability.  Markets.  I spend my time balancing those 3. Right now log supply is a problem.  Production is second and the phone rings off the hook for sales. Production means having the right equipment.  You multiply your efforts by having employees which has included wife and kids at times.  Yes employees are headaches, but you cannot run a sawmill, resaw, edger and stack lumber at the same time with just yourself.
Stress is high, but the monetary rewards have been great.
We closed our Alabama mill about 15 years ago and started a mulch operation in Oklahoma.  It has taken off beyond our wildest expectations.  We now have many thousands of acres of trees to grind.  We changed our focus from mulch to animal bedding and cannot keep up.
Having an entrepreneurial son made it happen.  Some of you have met OKmulch.
All because I made a hasty decision in 1983 to buy an LT30 manual (no hydraulic mills at the time). Little did I know that mill would control my life.
I am in the pink when sawing cedar.

Offline YellowHammer

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #30 on: July 27, 2022, 01:10:30 PM »
Cedarman know his stuff, early on he visited me, and I learned a lot from him.  When he talks, I listen!  He probably still remembers me selling wood from a couple home made racks under the wing in my barn, standing in mud, thinking I was over my head. 

We built business in a phased appoarch, so that it didn't get investment from other incomes, and limited capital investment until we had enough money to pay for it.  It had to support itself from day one.  We would work full time jobs, with kids, then come home and work the other full time job, 7 days a week.  More than once the guys at work would say I was "rolling in the dough" as they talked about going fishing that afternoon and with me going home to work another shift.  I told them to come home with me to find out "what it takes to run a home business, and it doesn't include going fishing..."

So work ethic is important, family support is important, but it's equally important that a business needs to be run like a business, hard decision must be made, and most people have no training or experience to run a business.  I have learned some hard lessons, and one of the most important ones was what an old timer mill operator told, me "more money was lost with a sloppy tape measure than made with a high end sawmill."  Meaning, it's the little things that add up and cost money.    

Unless a person is very experienced, in BOTH business and sawing or lumber production, I stand by statements I've made in the past, do not quit your day job, and don't expect a sawmill startup business to pay all the bills, unless there is absolutly no other choice.  The term "starving artist" is real, and so is the term "Starving Sawyer."

Around here, you can't throw a rock without hitting someone with a sawmill, either portable band mill or mega mill.  Some folks do incredibly well, some folks go under, and some tread water.  All in the same locale, same markets, same labor pool, same everything.  I know one sawmill startup, not more than a quarter mile from me, on my road, who told me, to my face, "he'd cut my customers off before they got to me."  He's also gone, and sold his property.

I spent many thousands of painful dollars a couple years ago to get a business analysis company to come in and see what I'm missing.  After going through everything, doing analysis after analysis, the next day the analysis guy, in his suit, told me he'd know more about my company than I do in a couple days.  I laughed and he asked, "Well, that last two loads of walnut, I see you sold them pretty quick despite you having to raise your price?  That right?" and I said "Yep, I marked it up and still sold all of it."  Then the analyst told me "I'm glad you ran out, because you lost a dollar a board foot on it!  You lost money on every single walnut board you sold, two full pallets of it."  Holy cow.  So he showed me and he was right.  I learned a lot that week, and I'm sure I'm still making mistakes, but not that one again.

 
YellowHammerisms:

Take steps to save steps.

If it won’t roll, its not a log; it’s still a tree.  Sawmills cut logs, not trees.

Kiln drying wood: When the cookies are burned, they’re burned, and you can’t fix them.  So don’t burn the cookies.

Sawing is fun for the first couple hundred boards.

Offline barbender

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #31 on: July 27, 2022, 02:36:36 PM »
I think it would take a very talented person with a ton of energy, and a great business mind to make a go of it from scratch with a mill. Like Stavebuyer said, when you are trying to support a family it seems every time you make a few bucks something comes up. I've been piddling with my mill for quite a few years now. It was probably only after about 10 years that I had made back what I paid for it. I worked too cheap, but I also didn't have my name out to where I had enough customers that I could name my prices. However the last 2-3 years, I've started to realize that my time is more valuable, or maybe I'm getting older and lazier (probably a combination of the two), and Covid definitely helped by jacking lumber prices through the roof. I raised my prices to where I make good money, and people just keep coming. My name is out in the community where if someone is looking for something specific, I have the reputation of being able to get the logs to saw and supply the product they are looking for.

 All of this has taken a lot of time to accomplish. A large part of where I am at is the fact I went to work for a logger for the last 11 years. I met tons of foresters, timber procurement people and other loggers (people in the professional world call this "networking") and now I have enough contacts that I can call and find the logs I need, I've built good relationships with all of these people and they know if they send me wood, the check will be in the mail. 

 All of that said, I wouldn't be able to support my family currently off of what I make with my sawmill and firewood operation. When everything is going good it can, but when something happens like my mill being down for a month and a half, it is really great to fall back on the nice income and health insurance that my wife's professional level job provides. It makes my life so much more stress free, and I wouldn't have attempted this without it. 
Too many irons in the fire

Online stavebuyer

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #32 on: July 27, 2022, 03:32:02 PM »
barbender just brought up a huge factor that can't be overstated and that is industry connections and reputation. In a hot market you may break in but it's small world indeed in the hardwood business and the number of new people who won't be around next year is lengthy. Established relationships and reputations are still a huge deal. Doesn't mean much to those who buy and sell on Craigslist or Facebook but its everything when you are needing to buy from professional loggers or sell to manufacturers.

Offline moodnacreek

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #33 on: July 27, 2022, 07:13:18 PM »
Without established relationships I would have no logs.

Offline OlJarhead

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #34 on: August 02, 2022, 09:59:56 AM »
I'll admit, I've done quite well ;)  Though I started milling for others with a full time job so it's different perhaps.  However, I paid for my mill (the LT40) in 13 months flat!  Though the mill technically didn't pay for itself for about 18 months -- the 13 months is just when I went from buying it to when the last payment was made.  I made regular payments from my job (so about $6000 worth) and the rest was from profit off the mill and the down-payment from selling the smaller mill (the SMLT10).

Working part time I make about $20k a year and if I was willing to work in the heat more, or when the roads get bad I could definitely double that but that's working 100% remote.  I don't sell lumber or have a lumber yard to mill for others, however, I can see that if I did I could definitely increase what I earn. 

Physically, however, I could run the mill full time.  Some days it's tough to walk or roll logs etc and so for me it's part time only and to assist in living without a full time job.
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Offline Magicman

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #35 on: August 02, 2022, 10:43:58 AM »
Last week I decided to very much limit my sawing during (Hot) August if not entirely not saw at all.  I am making some repairs, (more on that later) and will add the side support kit when it arrives.  (Looks like it finally shipped today)

Presently I am attending to a couple of medical issues that hopefully will not side line me for very long.

I have a large and a very large job waiting for me when I resume sawing, both for established repeat customers, so they ain't going away.  The very large one is for the "sand pit" customer but thankfully in a different location.  It will be sawing timbers again.

 smiley_old_guy
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Offline Walnut Beast

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #36 on: August 02, 2022, 02:52:44 PM »
Magic don’t jack yourself up for your Elk hunt over working yourself 

Offline longtime lurker

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #37 on: August 02, 2022, 04:57:11 PM »
I've done okay out of it... which is to say no-one has gone hungry and my kids both had the orthodontic work I never had as a kid. But there's been a few missed holidays and no fancy cars for me either.

But I'll also own there's a lot of prioritisation in that. Food and my family are important, the car I drive isn't and reinvesting my wages beyond the bare essential level back into the business is how I've grown it in the absence of mortgage backed finance. Though most success stories involve a fair bit of sweat and sacrifice in my experience ; it ain't all smarts and lucky breaks.

 
Same junker car, but we broke ground for a 150'x24' air drying shed yesterday

Im going with a cantilever design, it adds cost and complexity but no posts down one side is going to make stock handling a breeze.
The quickest way to make a million dollars with a sawmill is to start with two million.

Offline moodnacreek

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #38 on: August 02, 2022, 07:38:17 PM »
A big drying shed . That would be a dream come true for me, I have always needed one, a big one but not to happen here. Too close to the city and in a residential area with pre existing status and not allowed to expand. On the other hand able to sell for full retail unlike out in the country where I always want to be.  L.L., I think you may be winning our little contest after all!

Offline YellowHammer

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #39 on: August 02, 2022, 08:25:14 PM »
Longtime, I have always admired your moxie in what you do, and the fact that you can expand your operation speaks volumes.  

There are others on here as well, some of who I remember starting from scratch and just plain getting it done and doing well. 

As I said before, success is based more on the Sawyer than the sawmill.   
YellowHammerisms:

Take steps to save steps.

If it won’t roll, its not a log; it’s still a tree.  Sawmills cut logs, not trees.

Kiln drying wood: When the cookies are burned, they’re burned, and you can’t fix them.  So don’t burn the cookies.

Sawing is fun for the first couple hundred boards.

Offline Peter Drouin

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #40 on: August 02, 2022, 10:38:55 PM »
Shed are handy.


 

 

 

 

 

 
A&P saw Mill LLC.
45' of Wood Mizer, cutting since 1987.
License NH softwood grader.

Offline Southside

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #41 on: August 02, 2022, 10:42:31 PM »
Man rough summer you are having there Peter.   :D
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White Oak Meadows

Offline longtime lurker

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #42 on: August 02, 2022, 10:50:28 PM »
The drying shed is something I needed about 3 years back when I started to swing from strictly wholesale to doing retail as well. I have a love hate relationship with wholesale... it's a simple business model but the margins suck and I had to cut a lot of wood to get enough cash in the door post living expenses to repair cyclone damaged existing buildings to the point I could have customers walking into the place.

And the drying shed will be my typical staged construction... earthworks and the slab will happen over the next few months, followed by building a couple bays at a time as the budget allows. One of the great things about class 1 Australian hardwood is that it's durable - sitting in the weather won't hurt it although it might dry slow and I'll lose some to sun degrade - but at least it'll be on concrete and dry flat. I have a love hate relationship with doing things this way too... I can go into the bad trading times I see coming without much debt, but had I been able to borrow to do it a couple years back it would have paid itself off by now. Doing capital works from cashflow instead of spreading the pain over a decade via a loan is a bad way to do business: it's just plain dumb on so many levels.

There's a lot of built up frustration towards my family, because they won't sell me the place outright so I could borrow against it to do these major projects and I've had to do a lot of things a lot harder than they could have been done because of it. I cover the mortgage and pay the taxes on it and have all the headaches of ownership with none of the benefits. I've never been afraid of work but I could be in a lot better place for the same amount of effort had the handshake deal made 5 years ago been honoured.

There'll be a quarter million dollars worth of feedstock sitting on a concrete pad getting rained on here by Christmas. S'okay, it'll take an extra 6 months to dry then I can build a roof to get the next lot off faster without any degrade. My major asset aside from being an extremely proficient operator is that I'm awfully stubborn determined. Determined sounds more like a positive, yeah?:D :D :D
The quickest way to make a million dollars with a sawmill is to start with two million.

Offline Peter Drouin

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #43 on: August 03, 2022, 06:58:04 AM »
Longtime, I don't have all the info. But, If my family did that to me, I would stop paying everything, take my $$ and go find some land, and move. Hard but, in the long run you will be happier.
That’s the way I am, f-me, and you're on your own.
I wish you the best of luck.
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License NH softwood grader.

Offline customsawyer

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #44 on: August 04, 2022, 05:55:19 PM »
I have thought about my reply to this post for a few days. By some folks standards I have gotten rich (or done pretty well) with a sawmill. Keep in mind that my first sawmill was a LT40 super with the 42 hp diesel. Since I don't do anything small that was the best WM offered at the time, so that's what I got. I already had a tractor with FEL to help. A couple of years of that and I got a edger. Then I learned I needed something stronger than a tractor, so I got a few different pieces of equipment that was stronger. I then got a LT70 and a few years later I got another LT70. Then I added a kiln and several planers plus more rolling stock and different edgers. Then a resaw and some more planers and some more rolling stock. The point I'm getting at is that I didn't get where I'm at with just a sawmill like so many folks think they can.
There is a sawmill around every corner and down every dirt road in this area. I can't spit without hitting one. Every one of them has been over here to pick my brain and see what they can do better. I'm not worried about them because they don't have the ability to finish their product and they don't have the depth of contacts that I do.
The point I'm getting at is if your plan is to get a rich with just a sawmill you are setting yourself up for failure. It takes a whole lot more than a "sawmill"  to make it in this game.
If your plan is to produce for the whole sale market then I recommend something more productive than a portable mill. This game is about volume.
If your plan is to get into a niche, retail market. Than you are going to need a bunch more equipment to get your product finished for the end user. Just a sawmill isn't going to cut it.
You take any of the successful operations on this forum and they either have a lot more than a sawmill, or they offer a service of portable sawing. We all stay in our lanes. I don't do portable sawing and they don't offer T&G flooring. I get a half dozen calls a week for portable milling. I just pass on a phone number of a sawyer in that area.
I'm not trying to rain on someones dreams and say you can't make it with a sawmill. I'm proof that you can. I'm just recommending that you look at things a little deeper, than give it a go.  
 
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www.thecustomsawyer.com

Offline fluidpowerpro

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #45 on: August 04, 2022, 07:00:08 PM »
Shed are handy.

 (Image hidden from quote, click to view.)
 

Your lucky that those trees grew right where you needed the poles!
Change is hard....
Especially when a jar full of it falls off the top shelf and hits your head!

Offline caveman

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #46 on: August 04, 2022, 08:36:57 PM »
Jake, I appreciate the guidance you and a couple of others have given John and me over the years.  We have no aspirations of getting rich or even working the mill full time.  We both have used the mill to supplement our school board incomes.  He fixes copiers and I impersonate a teacher.  

I am up front with customers.  We do not intend to compete with the box stores on dimensional lumber.  Saying that, the past couple of years, we have sawn quite a bit of dimensional lumber.  We try to offer what the box stores do not.  We also sell quite a bit of our live edged slabs through a retail store, and we get a commission.  The store owner's cut is 10% more than what John or I get but she is open 48 hours a week and we go by and get a check every month.  When they buy at the store, I do not have to spend an hour with nickle and dime Pete, who shops for an hour and spends $10.  John and I work a lot of Saturdays and an occasional evening each week.  The show is at my house, so I deal with customers during the week when they have scheduled a visit.

I have a former student who is a fireman, but he does his wood business on his days off.  He does well and stays busy.  He has us and a couple of other sawyers saw for him.  He has a Nyle kiln, a CNC flattening machine with a 7" head, 25" Woodmaster planer and other tools.  He sells river table kits, builds custom furniture and sells wood.  He does incredibly well.  His IQ is up there too, which does not hurt.  I stopped by his place today after attending a funeral of a good friend.  He has a 22' Aquasport Osprey that he finished restoring two years ago.  He has 10 hours on the new motor because he spends his time away from his day job doing his woodworking job.

My goal was never to get rich.  A lot of us have more money than days left.  The benefit of having a sawmill for me is that I can earn extra money doing something I enjoy, and people appreciate while being close enough to fulfill my responsibilities I have attending to my family's needs (the past four years my parents have had some health challenges).
Caveman

Offline YellowHammer

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #47 on: August 04, 2022, 09:42:24 PM »
Jake speaks truth.  

I like that quote, I hadn't heard it before.  
"have more money than days left."  That says a lot.
YellowHammerisms:

Take steps to save steps.

If it won’t roll, its not a log; it’s still a tree.  Sawmills cut logs, not trees.

Kiln drying wood: When the cookies are burned, they’re burned, and you can’t fix them.  So don’t burn the cookies.

Sawing is fun for the first couple hundred boards.

Offline Peter Drouin

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #48 on: August 04, 2022, 09:43:59 PM »
Then you have a day when you break your watch' first
Then you hit steel in 2 logs and kill 4 blades, then a part falls of the mill'


 

 stop sawing and fix that.


 then go back to sawing after a few cuts.
The saw will run up the rpm up even when I have the switch in the off place to just idle. Spend time looking why.
Lost time, in fact I have no idea what time it is. ::)
The mill is down. I have to call WM to help. And that will be Friday. I think I need some parts. If they have them, I might get them next Tuesday, Maybe, So I'll be down some days.
Not all fun and money. And the chipper ran out of gas too, Go get some. Today it was an on and on one thing after another.
Not a good day here.
But a ride in the HOT ROD will clear my head and put a smile on my face. ;)
A&P saw Mill LLC.
45' of Wood Mizer, cutting since 1987.
License NH softwood grader.

Offline Walnut Beast

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #49 on: August 04, 2022, 11:14:46 PM »
Finished product is where the money is at. Like the big wheels say it takes big money to have all the other equipment to do that.  If it was easy everyone would be doing it. 

Offline moodnacreek

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #50 on: August 05, 2022, 06:46:19 AM »
Something breaks almost every day either in the sawmill or in the yard. To day I have help coming to finish the cedar that didn't get cut last year. I was in the mill til 10 last night, that's the way it goes.

Offline Southside

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #51 on: August 05, 2022, 07:19:57 AM »
Try farming. Stuff breaks, runs off, gets fetched up, floods, dries to a crisp, or just tries to kill you.  That's before noon. 

On a good note I have never had to call the vet at 2:00 AM because the sawmill was stuck in a mud hole trying to give birth to a baby sawmill.  :D
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Offline Nebraska

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #52 on: August 05, 2022, 07:38:41 AM »
Things like that  are why I have a tiny farm and a sawmill..... ;)

Offline metalspinner

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #53 on: August 05, 2022, 07:39:55 AM »
 :D :D
I do what the little voices in my wife's head tell me to do.

Offline Magicman

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #54 on: August 05, 2022, 08:49:27 AM »
New sawyers need to not be discouraged because they can not afford to have everything to begin with.

If you have a fully hydraulic sawmill, a good website, advertise, answer the phone, and are willing to travel wherever the logs take you, you can do very well with a startup totally portable sawmilling service.

My furthermost sawing job was 236 miles away and would be for 2-3 weeks, 2-3 times per year, lasted 4 years, and with the customer providing lodging at the Hampton Inn.  Oddly enough, this same repeat customer has now scheduled me to return, still sawing timbers, but to a much closer sawing location.  

Knocking down ~$3-4k+ gross per week ain't rich but it ain't too shabby for one man with no support equipment.
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Offline moodnacreek

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #55 on: August 05, 2022, 12:12:59 PM »
Try farming. Stuff breaks, runs off, gets fetched up, floods, dries to a crisp, or just tries to kill you.  That's before noon.

On a good note I have never had to call the vet at 2:00 AM because the sawmill was stuck in a mud hole trying to give birth to a baby sawmill.  :D
I grew up on a very small farm and worked on a dairy farm later and thought that would be for me until I discovered hunting and fishing. So I eventually settled  for a sawmill. Alot of the same problems but not 7 days a week with the animals. Compared to dairy it is resting.

Offline Peter Drouin

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #56 on: August 05, 2022, 12:45:28 PM »
I'm all fix, thanks for all the extra parts I have on hand. 8)
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Offline Walnut Beast

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #57 on: August 05, 2022, 01:07:14 PM »
New sawyers need to not be discouraged because they can not afford to have everything to begin with.

If you have a fully hydraulic sawmill, a good website, advertise, answer the phone, and are willing to travel wherever the logs take you, you can do very well with a startup totally portable sawmilling service.

My furthermost sawing job was 236 miles away and would be for 2-3 weeks, 2-3 times per year, lasted 4 years, and with the customer providing lodging at the Hampton Inn.  Oddly enough, this same repeat customer has now scheduled me to return, still sawing timbers, but to a much closer sawing location.  

Knocking down ~$3-4k+ gross per week ain't rich but it ain't too shabby for one man with no support equipment.
I’m confused on the numbers from your post early on when the thread got started.
3 to 4 k + a week is quite different than these numbers. 100Mbf seems like a good round number to shoot for but lets break it down.  1/3 for the sawmill, (repairs, replacements, blades, fuel, etc) 1/3 for taxes & insurance, advertisement, etc. and 1/3 for me.  @ $400Mbf = $40K so my 1/3 = $13K.  This year I will saw around 200Mbf so that kicks it up to $26K.  Good but it depends upon one's definition of a "living".

Offline MattM

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #58 on: August 05, 2022, 02:38:51 PM »
I assume that it's because he doesn't saw full time. He grosses 3-4k a week but only works part of the year. 

Sawmilling is like anything else in life, how much you make depends on the person doing the work and what they put into it. Some people can get rich selling or doing just about anything and I've known lot of tradesmen making between 150k-200k CAD that lived paycheck to paycheck and had nothing to show for it.

Offline sherpa

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #59 on: August 05, 2022, 03:23:05 PM »
"Getting rich" is all in perspective interestingly enough!  I can say after 27 years of sawing and processing wood I have done well.  The key is finding a niche and sticking with it.  I will say it has supplemented my income and came in handy to pay for extra things - mostly travel softball for my daughters!
I enjoy the work and the relationships I have build over the years with customers and I am never without work with the mill, kiln or planer!

Offline Walnut Beast

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #60 on: August 05, 2022, 04:42:28 PM »
I assume that it's because he doesn't saw full time. He grosses 3-4k a week but only works part of the year.

Sawmilling is like anything else in life, how much you make depends on the person doing the work and what they put into it. Some people can get rich selling or doing just about anything and I've known lot of tradesmen making between 150k-200k CAD that lived paycheck to paycheck and had nothing to show for it.
I would like to hear from the guys full time that are successfully making that 12 to 16 thousand + a month portable sawing 

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #61 on: August 05, 2022, 06:03:34 PM »
I’m confused on the numbers from your post early on when the thread got started.
No need to be confused because I said:  
and are willing to travel wherever the logs take you
I am old and only part time.  Remember that I only "portable saw" and sell nothing.  In addition to saying "No", I am passing jobs that I don't want to saw to another sawyer.  I also chose to be off for the past 2 weeks when I could have been sawing.  I have already sawed over 100Mbf this year and that is part time and this is only the first week of August.

The sawing is there but you have gotta find it and be willing to travel and at times live out of a suitcase.

I was also referencing off of a couple of previous replies regarding growing and having support equipment.  If you have nothing then in order to get big you start with what you have and grow.
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Never allow your "need" to make money to exceed your "desire" to provide quality service.....The Magicman

Offline longtime lurker

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #62 on: August 05, 2022, 07:20:53 PM »
I did it, but using what's considered a portable sawmill working fixed.
Took me... ohhhh about three weeks... right at the start to figure out that mobile operations were hard work because the lack of log handling equipment and secondary processing options meant my income was limited by the customers equipment. I shifted to static operations and having the customers send me logs real fast, and once i was static sawing for myself as well was easy.

There's this idea that you have to be all one thing or all the other to make money with a saw, either a mega mill or some niche market processor with all the toys to value add out the wazoo. But as with a lot of things that's not really true, it's just the outliers at either end. Ive always found that the secret to making money with a saw was KSIW... keep saw in wood... and that its not the amount of equipment you have but the amount of work you put through it that matters.

So I had a little dozer and got a portable sawmill with a roof over it, and I ran that saw hard. Then a loader, then a truck.
Then a sliding table saw and a thicknesser to tidy up mistakes.
Then more shed to hold my own stock.
Then a skidder and a bigger truck.
Then more shed to enlarge the green mill.
Then a kiln.
Then another skidder.
Then more shed.
Then resaws to make it all faster
And so it goes.

Now I'm vertically integrated to a large degree.. skidders and dozer for log supply for when I can't get logs elsewhere ( though my preference is always to buy them in/ engage a logger), we hack them and stack them and sell them as anything from rough sawn green product to finished mouldings, and if I can't do it in house I buy it in or subcontract it out but i make a couple percent every which way.

I've been told from the time I started I had not enough saw for what I do, and I agree with that.  But I did it anyway and I'll cut whatever logs I can lay hands on from wholesale framing and downgrade work to high end cabinet and joinery timber direct to end user. KSIW.

You want to make money with a saw then saw, keep the blade in logs 8 hours a day. Cut so much that stacking wood means staff cuz you can't let go of the feed lever with the work you've got booked in. Feed it logs until kilns and dry mill equipment means yet more staff cuz the green mill crew are task saturated, meanwhile don't fret about some other guy who's got that gear making a buck as well. Saw until you've worn a mill out then buy a better one and do it all faster. KSIW.

My greenmill operation makes money with or without the dry mill/ value added/retail part.
My limited dry mill/value added/retail operation takes some of that money and multiplies it exponentially. It'll grow, cuz I'm good, and being forced to play in the wholesale space for years made me cost efficient in ways few small mills are and fibre efficient in a way no big mill can be.
My logging operation is limited by lack of staff, but here's me heading off for a Saturday in the wilderness listening to the warble of a white breasted stihl while the greenmill crew point stakes and process byproduct. Cuz we need logs and I can't always get what I need or wait for a contractor, and there's no time through the week for anything much except butchering logs.

KSIW... I saw that phrase here years ago and it stuck, because it's true. Just keep on sawing, don't be sucked into the trap of saying I need x,y and z to make money because I'm little while what you have - which is a saw- sits idle half the week. Run that thing until it pays for the additional equipment.

Worked for me. But I'm mad, everyone knows that. :D

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

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #63 on: August 05, 2022, 09:32:16 PM »
I just sent a small donation to MM for the annual fundraiser.  After going thru this thread, I figure I got way more than my ROI in just one session.

Dale
TK 1600, small sugaring operation, a bench full of J'reds, a tired ford 1710, new to us JD 5065e, 2 Honda 4 whlrs, a Can-Am 580 on tracks, and a very understanding wife.

Offline moodnacreek

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #64 on: August 05, 2022, 09:36:03 PM »
I know 4 guys who started out portable mini band, then fixed location and went to circle. 3 of them kept the band for special work. The biggest mistake I made was a truck and picker on the road and chasing logs other people cut. I started to hate just about everyone I picked up from. One problem is that I was always out with the truck when customers where looking for me. Over time I started buying from loggers and that kept me at the sawmill where I should have been all along. For a long time I did not really know what I was doing but I could saw and had a lot of energy plus another income. Going portable down here is impossible, many have tried. In the north you have straight softwood logs and land owners with some common sense so it is possible there.

Offline customsawyer

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #65 on: August 06, 2022, 06:25:31 PM »
I'm not try to discourage anyone. I'm just saying that it takes time to work up the customer base and depth of contacts. It's easier now with websites and social media but don't expect to have every week booked the first year. You will get out of this what you put into it. The successful guys on here have spent years working up to where they are at. Most of us are diversified. Mine is extremely diversified. I'm set up this way so I don't have to say no unless I want to.   
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Offline Walnut Beast

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #66 on: August 06, 2022, 07:15:13 PM »
Another BIG factor is emergency cash!! This does people in!! A thought comes to mind recently. A guy that got started in mulching had a new Deere skid and mulcher with a used gooseneck and Ford Dually. Everything was going good with all expenses but then his fuel delivery system went out on the truck and was going to be 12k. He couldn’t get out of the hole and he’s selling everything and waiting to see if the dealer will take the skid back and sell as a demo with less than 400 hrs. 

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Re: getting rich with a sawmill
« Reply #67 on: August 06, 2022, 09:58:06 PM »
Being diversified is absolutely essential as a small operation. It brings it's own set of issues, especially if quality help is hard to find, but if you are able to do many things nobody else around can, then you will have the business. 

We have several very different revenue streams in our business, the mill and farm side compliment each other in many ways. 

Right now I am streamlining the mill side of things in order to expand the farm side, it will actually produce more product but less variety. If need be I still will have the unused capacity on the mill side.

As a small guy you need to be flexible and willing to adapt as necessary.
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