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

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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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License NH softwood grader.

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.
2019 LT15G25WIDE, 2013 LT35HDG25, Stihl MS880 with 59" bar with Alaskan sawmill attachment.  John Deere 5045 tractor with forks, bucket and grapple.  Many chainsaws.

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.

Offline 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

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

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.


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