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Author Topic: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers  (Read 1721 times)

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Offline brysonfarmer

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Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« on: October 13, 2020, 01:05:23 AM »
Hello Guys,

I'm about to start logging my farm land this winter. I have a logger buddy who will fall the trees and skid the logs, also a buddy with a band saw mill. I live in Alberta on a couple acres - farm is in Quebec. Plan is to mill lumber and transport to Alberta. Rail freight is cheap. About 1200 dollars per sea can (20 ton load capacity each sea can)- two days loading time and two days unloading included in quote. Milling costs is 300 dollars per 1000 board feet. Skidder and falling - I can work out a deal and give the guy some logs. Plus cash. Trees are red oak, white oak, beech, Sugar Maple - have over 350 acres. Big stuff - never been logged. The bush needs to be thinned and properly managed. Also have big eastern white pine, some stuff over 50 inches in diameter. Don't know what I will do with those since the hardwood is worth more money. Maybe do some slabs? Sell the logs?

Can I properly air dry stickered stacks of wood 6 x 6 x 8 feet long? I read on here that 48 inches wide works best however to best utilize the space in the sea cans I need 6 foot wide stacks. I can place 4 stacks of hardwood in each sea can. I can put each lift of lumber in a three sided building (30 x 60). Dry it there for 6 months. Then load sea cans. Think convertible sea cans (open top) lift (crane) the stacks of wood and place them in each. Leave the slings under each lift so it can be lifted out of the sea cans in Alberta.

How heavy will each lift be? Will I be over limit? 40,000 lbs max in each can.
Should I mill 8/4 or 4/4 boards?
I plan on milling some slabs as well at some point.
Waste from the mill will be sold as fire wood.
Any ideas on how I should go about this? 
This is a retirement thing for me. Hardwood lumber is worth a lot of money in western Canada compared to the east where it is plentiful. 
I work overseas all the time - just turned 60. Currently writing this sitting in my hotel room in Kuwait waiting out 14 day quarantine period before I can get on the refinery site.
Thanks






Offline ljohnsaw

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2020, 01:15:26 AM »
First question I'd ask, Does the wood need to be sterilized to transport (kiln dried)?  That would alter your plans/cost a little.  What are you planning on doing with the wood (you ask if 8/4 or 4/4 cut size)?  Your use will determine what you should be cutting.

The weight of green oak (from the Tool Box) is 5.2 lbs/board-ft.  Assuming when dry it is about half?  Maybe @Don p can chime in here.  Also, you are saying you will make 6' x 6' x 8' stacks (dry-stack, no stickers?) and put up 4 of them in a container.  One stack is 3,456 bd-ft x 4 stacks is 13,824 bd-ft times 2.5 lbs/bd-ft = 34,560 pounds. If I did the math right, you will be looking at 35,000 pounds.  Why only 6' high?  Can't do 8'?  Might be able to squeeze a few more pounds of lumber in there.
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Offline brysonfarmer

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2020, 01:18:48 AM »
First question I'd ask, Does the wood need to be sterilized to transport (kiln dried)?  That would alter your plans/cost a little.  What are you planning on doing with the wood (you ask if 8/4 or 4/4 cut size)?  Your use will determine what you should be cutting.
I checked into whether the wood needed to be kiln dried however air dried lumber without bark is fine to transport across provincial borders. My end use is simply selling raw air dried lumber. 

Offline sawguy21

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2020, 04:31:29 AM »
I am wondering why you would use containers to ship across the country. Why not plastic wrap or simply tarp? It would be a lot cheaper and easier. You are right, hardwood fetches a premium in the west but how are you planning to sell? Retail it yourself or sell to a broker by the load?
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Offline nativewolf

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2020, 09:14:29 AM »
Great idea but I'm going to throw some cold cold Alberta Ice on it.    Assume the market is efficient...why is hardwood lumber expensive in Alberta.  That usually means a lack of demand or that you are seeing the price of oil in one market and refined diesel in another  But anyway..lets say you are onto to something.

You are looking to take advantage of an arbitrage, like buying oil in Kuwait and sending to Amsterdam.  You sure would not distill it all and send it all to Amsterdam though would you?  You'd have a mountain of gasoline (petrol) and little market for it compared to diesel.  Instead you'd ship oil and let the refiner that had markets figure it out. If you are really sneaky and know the markets better on both sides of things than maybe you can make it work.  Guys have made good livings doing just that.  In our case the barrel of oil is a log.  

Ship logs!  Container stuffing logs is old hat, lots of folks can do it for you.  Given that the market has already done some teaching for you just copy them: ship grade logs, sell everything else locally in the east (bridge timbers, firewood, pallet wood, etc).  This puts the logs close to you and your ability to sell sawn products.

Lots of ways an arbitrage could fail though but this is one approach:

Once in Alberta layout your log yard, get a pond and sink them all or end treat the logs (no humidity out there so they will check a bit) with anchor seal.  Find a good sawyer that understood sawing quality hardwood lumber. Be prepared to add value by kiln drying and surface planing.

I imagine that with lots of hard work this could pay off but on the other hand this is not rocket science not is it difficult nor that expensive.  So the arbitrage may not really be there, instead it could just be a justified increase in a product price due to a lack of markets (small shallow markets are expensive), transportation, etc.   Or perhaps there is a great market and a chance to build a business like @YellowHammer .  To test this from Kuwait simply start calling and selling lumber.  You can always get a container of lumber sawn to your specs in Michigan or Ontario shipped to Alberta for not too much.  Just go ahead and sell lumber, find out what sells the best and have it delivered to your place, sort it out when you get home and make deliveries.  You'll find out if the arbitrage is actually there.  

Problems I see:

The big problem I see is that you are conflating a farm you own with big timber in one area with a retail arbitrage in another.  Lets start with the farm, the buyers for the really premium products from your forest (veneer logs) are in the east.  This is the single greatest arbitrage you have available.  If you have premium white oak, red oak, birch, and sugar maple than sawing it is a good way to immediately take a 90-50% loss on the tree.  You need someone that knows timber to grade the logs and market them-that's the job of a good logger/forester..a good logger not some hack with a chainsaw and skidder but someone like @ehp .  The bottom 12' of 1/3 of the harvested trees is worth 25% of the value of your harvest if you have big timber.  If it is really as good as you say...I'm interested in seeing it-not kidding.

Another problem is the harvest.  There is a reason there are not too many guys like @ehp around, it is hard work to properly fell the trees and not scar up the save trees. In other words to extract a dividend and not sell assets, a high graded property is really just an asset sale.  A proper harvest can extract the value and barely impact the asset value, that's the talent you need, not someone that will work for peanuts.  Expect to pay top $ for a great logger.  You would have to take on the job of a mill owner/logger, finding the best buyers for your harvest by splitting out the harvest into all the maximum value sorts (likely 3 different veneer buyers, pallet, firewood, bridge timbers, low grade sawlogs to be sent to Alberta, high grade sawlogs sent to Alberta, low grade sawlogs sent to local mill, high grade sawlogs sent to local mill). Booking someone like @ehp for a big job like this could be an issue, you'd have to be prepared for them to work for over a year on 300 acres depending on how you were doing it and what the trees really look like.  Bucking veneer can take a long time, buck and recut and recut is not uncommon as you work the issues out of the log until it is a premium log.  Marking a 300 acre veneer log harvest is a job unto itself.  Be prepared to pay for a quality forester to spend some weeks doing this.  A quality forester costs the same thing as a quality accountant, lawyer, engineer, etc.  It costs $.  My point here is that selling a forest is simple.  Managing a forest sustainably is not but maximizes the trifecta of asset value, revenue, and sustainability.  

Then there is the milling.  Milling quality hardwood lumber is a bit of an art, something learned with experience.  Finishing the lumber properly is another art.  You'll pay for quality.  $0.30 for quality sawing at scale is possible ( I assume canadian $?) but that is to get a rough sawn product and most retail buyers want it surfaced (planing and surfacing all 4 sides) and kiln dried.  There is another costs for all of these, lots of threads on this but just keep doubling your $0.30.  @YellowHammer does a great job on his threads breaking down his cost of value added work and the premium he charges to show a profit.

Still reading?  Then you really are in quarantine in Kuwait. :D

My suggestion and it is free and thus worthless:  Make a bunch of sales calls to hardwood lumber buyers (cabinet shops, carpenters, etc )in Alberta.  Find out what they want (species, grade, size), how much they need, when they need it, and what they currently pay.  Call a quality hardwood mill in Canada or Michigan and see what a container of that sawn product would run. Just a rough way to test the idea that there is an arbitrage.  And it has to be apples to apples- the dimensions and surface treatments, grade and dimensions.  2" thick wood can cost 2x that of a 1" thick material on a board foot basis.  Make sure you are getting exactly the same quotes.

At the same time hire a consulting forester to do an appraisal of your forests.  Be prepared to pay some $, a good assessment is a time consuming process.  Don't have this done in conjunction with any timber sale process.  Pay them cold hard cash. You'll want a detailed assessment and if possible you want someone to get out to the forest and saw up a couple of recently downed trees (something from the last windstorm or flood) so you can get an idea of the wood quality.  Nothing like seeing a cross section at 11' of a 24" white oak to know if you have money or not.  Warning a consulting forester rarely understand the really high end or low end markets.  In my area they mis price long rough logs by 40% (lower than market), they mis price veneer by up to 200%.   Rather this assessment is just going to give you a rough guess as to volume and value-rough rough rough guess.


Once you have explored the idea of arbitrage and understand the value of your forest you'll be prepared to make a plan.  Your arbitrage idea is completely separate from your farm...just making that clear.  I would really enjoy seeing pictures of your forests.  
Liking Walnut

Offline brysonfarmer

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2020, 12:21:56 PM »
Nativewolf - that was quite a reply...I read through it a couple times lol! Lets review..keep in mind I'm a novice forester. But I have been a very successful business man my whole life.
Arbitrage - Alberta is an expensive place. There is a big market for premium hardwood lumber and slabs. High demand low supply keeps prices up. I have seen Oak/maple live edge hardwood slabs (3" x 40" x 96") selling here for 3500 (Canadian) dollars. Rough cut 8/4 white oak quarter sawn for 14 dollars a board foot (kilned dried). Same stuff sells in the east...lucky to get 4-5 dollars a board foot for it. 

Veneer Logs - Selling in the east. What's the most I could sell a good veneer tree for? $3 dollars a board foot (I really don't know)? I think I could sell all the rough lumber I can mill for 5-6 dollars a board foot? I know I would have additional costs for milling. Handling logs around my acreage is out of the question - too bulky and heavy. I have been asked to sell logs to sawyers here in Alberta. Maybe something I look into once I get going.

Forrester - Forestry stewardship is my focus not decimation. Have a good friend that has been through my bush and he is mentoring me. According to him there are a number of good veneer trees and he is trying to get me to sell to him but there isn't enough money in it. Why wouldn't I take a 30 inch red Oak and cut slabs and lumber out of it - wouldn't it be worth more? Have some huge white oak as well - line trees dividing properties. But they're too big to get on a mill.

Sawyer - another friend. Sawing logs for 45 years. Will set up a portable mill on my property. Stack and band the lumber. Just have to figure out the weight per stack. In a sea can you're limited to 37.5 feet long x 7.2 wide x 7.5 high. So I was thinking 6 x 6 x 8 foot lumber x 4 lifts in each can (maybe try some 9 foot long lumber if I have the wiggle room). I could go higher but what's the weight factor?

PM me and you can visit anytime. 


Offline customsawyer

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2020, 01:41:25 PM »
I'm not going to get to deep in all of this but want to point out one thing. If you are cutting large thick oak slabs they are going to take a long time to air dry, unless you get them to a vacuum kiln. A solar kiln will help but not much. They are going to move on you unless you put lots of weight on them. If you ship all 8 ft. long slabs the first customer will want a 10 ft. long one.
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Offline ehp

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2020, 02:13:13 PM »
I would think your on the west side of Quebec and not that far north to have those trees . One thing do not count out those pine white pine , If there 4 ft plus on the stump, sound and straight those are worth good money plus they scale huge compared to hardwood . 40,000 pounds of white oak is not very much so you need to figure that into account as well cause the rail car will have alot more air inside it than wood . Another thing you should look at is places like southern ontario that sell the boards you want to sell or anything else in wood. There is tons of it for sale cause everybody seen 5 years ago it was making big money for a board, now everyone is dumping the stuff on the open market for next to nothing , stuff that was $10 a ft now is $2 a ft for the same board . You need to find everything out on what its going to really cost to have it ready to sell on your end out west and be honest with yourself and figure out what money really is in it and how long to get your money back . Black walnut is huge around here and there are barns full of every type of way you can cut a walnut log and the price just keeps dropping . I'm not saying it cannot be done cause it can and has been just take your time and make sure everything is thought out well , Finished product also makes the most sense to be shipped , your not shipping waste and if its dried you get more product in rail car per load 

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2020, 02:22:54 PM »
I just looked on a map where you are, yep right where I figured you would be , just over the border from Ontario . You should have good timber in that area , Im not sure on the white oak but it could be , maybe bur oak but lots call that white oak . When I did my scaling lic. we use to go to 2 mills right by you . Course was out of Pembroke . What NW and I call white oak I donot see much north of me for say a 1 1/2 driving time . Your about 5 to 6 hours away from me now 

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2020, 02:26:05 PM »
I see lots of stuff I get 50% or more in dollar value on the butt log 

Offline brysonfarmer

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2020, 04:34:23 PM »
EHP - Yes I'm just across the river from Cobden, Ontario. My property borders the Ottawa river. I will do my due diligence and go from there. I have 200 eastern white Pine trees that have over a thousand board feet in each. That's what my forester friend has told me. He offered a thousand dollars per tree however I have to pay for falling/skidding and scaling then transport to the mill...so let's say I net 600 bucks a tree maybe 400 is more likely? Better off to saw it up for lumber and slabs and make twice or three times that if that is possible? But how to mill it? Too big for my buddy's mill. He's 66 years young and has been doing this all his life and he said he has never seen a stand of pine trees as big as these...says trees this big were logged out a hundred years ago. Also he said I would be hard pressed to find a mill that could take trees this big..nothing around Pembroke, he says. I was in China for a couple months last autumn working oil and gas - have been talking with an import/exporter over there. It may lead to something regarding exporting logs for a log home.

I suspect more Bur Oak than white Oak. After googling the differences in the leaves etc. What's the difference in value?

Any value in Beech wood? Quite a bit of larger Beech as well and they tend to die off when they get over 20-24" so I should thin out the larger ones.

Lots of sugar maple and soft maple.

There is Basswood and white ash also some black ash, yellow and white birch but the vast majority of hardwood big timber is red/white oak, maple and beech.


Offline ehp

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2020, 07:33:05 AM »
I cut alot of whitepine with over a 1000 feet in them here , Here the mill has another mill setup out back just for these kind of trees and can cut up to 50 ft long , they are cut into big square timbers and sold over seas . Beech is a low grade in most places and same thing , make as many of the logs into square timber logs , here I cut them up to 25 ft long and get $450/1000 for them , Burr oak here is in bad shape cause most have died or are on their way out . I have only seen 1 burr oak butt go for veneer cause most burr are full of pin knots , here logs that make square bigger timbers are worth the most again and not just by abit , in some cases its twice the value as burr oak for lumber . I donot know if the veneer mill is running just inside Ontario from you but its owned by China and they only pay rotory price to start with , Amex is a ways from you as well but they only want the best stuff. Trucking the logs is the big factor as it cost lots fast to move. Take your time and do not make any fast choices and it will work out for you , yes you do have good white pine in your area 

Offline Southside

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2020, 08:56:23 AM »
Well I own a sawmill, actually two, and if someone offered me $1 / BF across the board for pine logs I would not hesitate to sell them.  I would then take some of that money and buy $0.30 BF logs and turn them into $2.50 BF profiled interior wall board, ship lap, V match, etc. rather than truck, load, rail, and unload them that many miles away.    
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Offline ehp

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2020, 10:01:35 AM »
I get $825/1000 on pine logs that are 26 inch on top end as long as there 24 ft or longer so on big pine that I can get 40 ft long big timbers out of them I get more and the log is measured in 3 places so I do not take a beating from taper . Selling your product is the biggest part of logging , some days it feels like your one of 2 roosters in the barn yard going to have a big fight to see who is going to come out a head. Yes Bryson is up north but because of the Ottawa River which is a good size river it changes the growing season and the soil . He should have good yellow birch as well 

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2020, 10:34:28 AM »
It is very hard to be in two places at once. 


Helpers dont show up for hard labor at cheap rates unless theyre illegal immigrants.


A tree sold on the stump for $1/foot may be a better deal than selling it as KD, planed boards on the other side of the country for $5/ft.  If time and ease are a factor, one in hand is better than 2 in bush. 


These trusted guys youre depending on for the job to work could die or be injured, throwing it all off track. 



Not saying you arent on to something, just pointing out challenges.  Who is going to transport the lumber packs to the rail yard and load them, who is going to unload, transport and store on the other end? Are you going to hand load and sticker in a container? Or sticker and band then load with a machine?  What machine, how much is rent, who will operate, who fixes the pack that breaks a band etc etc etc.



I just saw a vid yesterday i cant find now of an export yard with a wall of cants stacked up and 2 wheeled excavators with buckets and chain slings hanging off the bucket heel,  pulling cants off and looping two at a time then whipping them into the cans lightning fast, quicker than a knuckle boom i bet, trucks lined up.


In my opinion, sawing them into cants will ensure you arent shipping bark and air, it will keep the wood flat by the perfect weighting and contact of all lumber with other lumber on all sides, slow unintended drying by removing airspace in between, minimize bugs and maximize future useage.  The next processor in alberta can saw it in to whatever they want except live edge.  



You can sell the green cants quickly as if it were a log to recoup your harvest handling and transport costs immediately, rather than investing much more steps to make into finished wood.  If you arent in the wood finishing business it may be an inefficient operation for you to wade into and years may go by recouping this money.  You may flood this alberta market yourself!   


Guessing that any plan will work is speculative and as you know from your years in business, speculators are subject to going belly up on bad gambles.  A more sound business strategy is to find the buyer BEFORE cutting.  Logs store best on the stump, the train will always be there when you find your buyers, there will always be a guy with a saw and skidder as the manufacturers cant let the tree slaying industry slow down.  


With an order in hand, you know how to cut for best $$.  I try to buy my deli meat at a discount from the mistake bin. That is to say custom cut is maybe $6 a pound, but if that lady says no i said thin slice, well that pound of land-o-lakes white american that just got cut heavy now gets marked down to $3 or 4 to try making a sale on the open market. It has to be cheap to entice a buyer to buy what they normally dont.  No different than selling metal or wood.  Custom cuts bring premiums so sell custom cuts by the order, cash or wire deposit up front.  Discount for a container load. 



One election could change the entire business landscape too.  Id still consider soliciting stump bids while the economy is high and interest low. Or atleast quasi high, strange, uncharted.  Certain inflation and uncertain economic futures are pushing money in strange directions.  You may get some good bid offers with a really connected timber seller representing your interests.  Fly NW and EHP over for a cruise and youll probably come out with aces. 
Revelation 13:11-18

Offline ehp

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2020, 12:41:30 PM »
Mike , I know that area quite well as I use to live and log about 3 hours from it . Now Im 5 or 6 hours. He is in Quebec so they have different rules than us here in Ontario. I know its harder to truck logs using trucks from here to go into Quebec and I have no ides on what can be on logging there. Getting rid of the high grade is easy, getting rid of the lower grade is the hard part and make money , yes you can firewood it but most places can only handle so much wood and he is more than a couple miles from Hull or Montreal to sell it . One thing to me thou is if your going to saw your logs into boards for looking at you really do not want the clear high grade stuff cause its just to plain to look at, stuff that is rough with knots or limbs on log then saw it makes by far the best looking stuff for tables and things . But it all comes back to how much of that stuff can you sell  

Offline moodnacreek

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2020, 08:02:54 PM »
Sounds like a winter operation especially if hard maple. If the sawn lumber goes in containers to0 green in warm weather that will not work. The hard maple can only stay on sticks a short time before it must be restickered and allowed to breathe . The pine will blue stain in spring and summer.

Offline brysonfarmer

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2020, 11:59:15 PM »
Thanks for all the ideas and suggestions guys! I have talked to end use buyers. Black Forest Wood Products in Calgary, Windsor Plywood, plus another local guy who makes a living (he's 40 and quit his full time job 5 years ago and does this full time) buying old barns in Saskatchewan, ripping the timber off them and then sell the boards on Kijiji here in Alberta. He's expanding into an industrial area with a shop 5 minutes from me. He must be making a go of it.

I'm just looking for something to do for retirement. I enjoy spending time on my farm in Quebec and would like to be there 6 months a year. I also enjoy hunting and mountain sledding in Alberta plus my kids are here.

I intend to make a 20-25 thousand dollar investment cutting trees and milling lumber and bringing it to Alberta - and see where that takes me. See what I can learn along the way. I can accept that risk. It won't make or break me by any means.

I just have to figure out when I can start cutting trees...I'm so busy with my current business it's hard to break away right now. This all may have to wait until winter 2022. 

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2020, 04:45:40 PM »
Well it sounds like fun if you can make it work.    


Tell the kijiji guy to look up "barnwood bricks" in sparta TN.  They make tiles out of barnboards too short to sell for planking and seem to do well. 
Revelation 13:11-18

Offline skrepp

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Re: Moving Lumber in Sea Containers
« Reply #19 on: August 11, 2022, 05:55:07 PM »
Hey Brysonfarmer, did you ever get this set up? If you did, give me a shout


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