The Forestry Forum

General Forestry => Sawmills and Milling => Topic started by: Jcald327 on January 13, 2020, 07:59:21 AM

Title: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Jcald327 on January 13, 2020, 07:59:21 AM
So with my wealth of sawing experience, (where is the eye roll emoji) I have been contacted about a possible long term gig cutting ties (7x9 and some smaller, as well as cedar cant production, and some dedicated slab work).  I operate a lucas 827 with slabbing attachment and extension rails.  

 I know has been covered before, but after consulting a few of the regulars here, I was advised to throw another head scratcher to the forum.

So first part of the question, would anyone in their right mind take a job cutting ties with a lucas?  I know at one point they offered a 9 inch (to 9.5 inch blade for exactly this reason).  I just see this as 6-10 pass cut whereas a bandmill would be able to make it in 4, but I should be able to get away with only a single roll on the cant vs 4.  I'm slower on my deep cuts than a band mill, but not to the point where a band mill (at least a modestly sized hydraulic unit) would be significantly faster with the log turns.  

The prospected employer (a  forestry management service) would like to pay 30 cents a bf on the majority of production (ties), and do all site prep / staging but I'm responsible for help.  I told him my prices range from 30-50c a bf, depending on size of product of course and whether or not I was providing help, attempting to maintain 45$ an hour by myself, and 60$ an hour with help.  This should allow me to bump up to at least 35 cents a bf, but I don't know if there is room to get to 40 (which gets my help to 15ish an hour with 4 ties an hour).  
    Neither on of us area really keen on lifting ties at all, so working though trying to figure out if there is a bobcat/ forklift or any other material handling on site, but it may be a case for some extended bunks out the side to slide the ties on and down, possibly by boat winch attached to trailer hitch(2 logs on the mill at a time, nearly end to end, making  target of 35 per day, and 2 piles ~ 17 ties).

I know in the old days a nickle a bf was good for help, if you can get 200 bdft he makes 10, so on, I'm just really wondering if I will be able to consistently make more than 3-3.5 ties an hour with facing passes, deep cut verticals, and then flipping and shimming (we're working on putting a scissor jack under the each bunk end on plates for stability, and using them as a poor mans toe board, driving them with an impact).

Thanks again for being here FF, and for putting up with all my ridiculous questions.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Southside on January 13, 2020, 08:40:58 AM
In a nutshell, don't do it. Ties are a volume game and you need everything to be mechanically handled in order to make it work and not get hurt. The "long term" part of the deal will suddenly stop the day the tie buyer shuts off incoming ties. It's the same move over and over in that world. 
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Dan_Shade on January 13, 2020, 08:46:33 AM
I would not make a commitment beyond a week to see how good or bad it is.  It could be the longest week of your life (or the best). 

From what you have described, it sounds slow and labor intensive. 

Efficient material handling (logs and ties) is required to make money, otherwise you spend a lot of time waiting for the next cut.  You have to keep the blade in the wood to make money. 
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Jeff on January 13, 2020, 08:56:31 AM
Listen to Jim. I was the sawyer in a large automated commercial mill where we had everything we needed to handle ties, and it was still a pain because you will end up handling multiple times. Tie markets are fickle. And what they take and what they wont changes on what current inventory provides.  Just wait until you have to start sorting 300 lb ties because the rules changed on the quality. The worse i remember is when we were working on the last bundlr of 7 by 9 ties and the buyer called up without warning and said they were full up for probably 6 weeks, but would take 6 by 8s. We had no choice, since that was the egg basket, to put every tie back on the mill and resize.

Dont do it. 
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Jcald327 on January 13, 2020, 09:15:40 AM
Well now this is why y'all make the big bucks.  When I'm rolling in dough after a decade or 2 of hard work, I'm going to remember FF ;)

I guess I'm going to attempt to price myself out of this job, 40 cents a bf, paid for what I cut, regardless of whether it meets inspection when they go to sell, 50 cents a mile for travel, and guaranteed money regardless of market (ie I get paid by the log regardless of whether they are sitting on a trailer load they cant sell).

I think I can rig a tie unloader from my bunks in an hour or 2 out in the garage. But you guys are making this sound like the terrible venture I was kinda thinking it would be.  Oh the dollar signs that cloud ones judgment.


Thank you gentlemen, I owe you my back ;) (and my knee thanks you as well)
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: WV Sawmiller on January 13, 2020, 09:33:00 AM
   Read Jeff's post real carefully. If you do agree to cut ties be sure you know the rules such as centering heart, kind of wood etc or better yet just put that back on the customer that rejects are on him (unless it is an obvious sawing failure or such). Or possibly just specify cutting the items you can excel (and make money at) on cutting. Good luck.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Southside on January 13, 2020, 09:50:54 AM
Before you even do that ask him why he came to you. The reason is likely that it's because nobody else will do it, Jeff gave you a very valid reason as to why. 

I have turned down the opportunity to saw ties. The only money was from the depreciation of my equipment and that's not profit. 

The money in ties comes from getting any grade out of the side lumber, something you are not going to get custom sawing. 
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: ButchC on January 13, 2020, 10:45:50 AM
I work part time at an Amish mill that has a tie contract and while I am not privy to the exact dollars it is CHEAP work and they will toss out your bundles for all manner of defects. The only time they make ties is when they lack orders for other finished product, that tells the story I guess. 
 Be sure you know exactly what they accept and what they will not and do not stake anything important on that income, that's my take from the Amish which seems to concur with ithers here.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: SawyerTed on January 13, 2020, 11:22:57 AM
I've been approached to saw ties.  I don't see how to make money at it and it isn't reliable. The average number of ties per hour to cover costs isn't possible with the equipment I have without paying helpers.  Making tie size timbers requires two helpers at my mill or the going is slow and the work is exceptionally hard.  I think I would attempt to saw some ties if you haven't done it before and just see how you like it and how long it takes.  

Even if I buy logs, I make more sawing utility lumber than I ever could sawing ties at what I was offered.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Jcald327 on January 13, 2020, 11:42:31 AM
Yea the response here is an overwhelming no, across the board.  Email has been dispatched declining tie work.  If the want slabs and whatnot, I'm good, but not touching the ties. 

Thanks again FF 
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Ron Wenrich on January 13, 2020, 11:43:33 AM
I sawed ties for a good many years.  I ran an automated circle mill and could break down a tie log in a couple of minutes.  There was no handling of slabs and we also cut lumber off the side cuts.  I maintained long term buying from our tie buyers due to the quality of tie I made.  The quality of tie depended on the quality of log coming in.  Not every log made a tie.  Shake, rot, splits, and wane will kill a tie quality.  Sometimes you can saw around your defects, sometimes you can't .  Produce poor quality ties and you'll lose a buyer.  

What happens to those rejects, and how do you get paid?  I sawed my rejects into another product before it left my headblocks.  The ones that were too bad got tossed into the chipper.  

To make money, you'll need good support equipment and a way of producing volume.  I'm not sure you can do that with a swing mill and at that price level.  
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: moodnacreek on January 13, 2020, 12:52:59 PM
Watch a video of a hurdle or other mill sawing out ties and see what your up against.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Tom the Sawyer on January 13, 2020, 01:08:28 PM
 
(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/19572/red_flag.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1357579292)
 

Ties and pallet stock are a low-margin endeavor for a high-production mill setup.  Glad to see you turned that opportunity away.  ;)
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: taylorsmissbeehaven on January 13, 2020, 01:17:04 PM
I had a long time customer call me a year or so  ago and ask if I would be interested in cutting ties from logs ff a new pasture they cleared. He would stage the logs, provide a tractor and help me.I gave a price per tie that made him cry. I just couldnt do it for less. A few months ago, he called again and wanted to know if I could cut posts for a new structure on the farm. They needed to be the same dimensions as the ties a year before but twice as long. :D :D Same price again and same tears again. I guess he thought I would do better if they were for him. There is definitely not enough meet on the bone for a sawyer a "broker"!!! JMTC Brian
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Jcald327 on January 13, 2020, 05:01:55 PM
Spent the day bucking logs from a windstorm a while back, and the local mill is paying 45 - 75 cents a bf for clear lumber, and alot of these are.  Going to load with a bobcat next week and make a few trips (20 miles) and make more in 2-3 days of work running a chainsaw than I would have in a week or possibly 2 cutting and moving ties, without putting the first hour on my mill.  Although the husky 395 was no fun throwing around for 4-5 hours today, I dont want to think about tie after tie after tie.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: sawmilllawyer on January 13, 2020, 10:02:17 PM
Good on you! JCald.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: barbender on January 13, 2020, 11:03:10 PM
I wouldn't want to get into sawing ties, and I definitely wouldn't want to do it with a swing mill. I can't see how that would work very well at all.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: stavebuyer on January 14, 2020, 04:58:20 AM
While I would not recommend a swing mill for sawing of ties I will say that I did very, very well financially by sawing them. I owned the logs and graded my lumber. A tie is no different than any other wholesale market. Supply and demand rule; pricing dictates what products and species are chased. If you have been in the hardwood lumber business more than a short time you will have seen almost every product and species boom and bust. Supply is short, panic buying until market is saturated, panic price drop and zero demand, repeat.

Small world. Business relationships can and do matter. Make your buyer bid, beg, and pay a premium in strong markets, always push the quality standard and you can be expect to be "rewarded" when the market turns to favor the buyer.

If you want to succeed cutting ties you need to want to cut a good tie. You have to have a better quality log than most realize to cut a good tie. Too many think a "tie log" is whatever is left after you cut the grade log(s) off. Ties are a graded product that needs to meet or exceed the grade standards. 

Jump into to cutting ties as a last resort because you can't sell flooring lumber or 4x6s and you will most likely not have a favorable outcome. 


Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: WV Sawmiller on January 14, 2020, 09:03:31 AM
   Please don't forget the original question was to saw logs into ties for a customer. He is not selling the ties or any side lumber, just sawing them for a client. The question is it profitable for him to saw slabs, ties and lumber using his current swingblade equipment.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: TKehl on January 14, 2020, 09:35:09 AM
From a different perspective, if ties are bringing $0.50-.55/ board foot.  ($25 ish per tie with sloppy quick math and I am not up to date on current prices.)  If you are sawing even at $0.30/board foot, that only leaves $0.20-.25 to buy logs?  Most anything that will make a tie around here will bring more than that on the stump!  So, where is he getting the logs? 
 
My hunch is that these are logs rejected from a larger operation and knows a lot about the sawmill biz or else a tree service and knows very little.  Either way, would expect metal or other defects.

On the flip side, there could still be a lot of potential working for this client on the other options, just ties are not the ticket here.  ;)
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: WV Sawmiller on January 14, 2020, 10:00:23 AM
   Not buying logs. Not selling lumber. Just sawing for a customer. Not worried about profit or loss from the product. Is it worth his time and effort to saw stated items with equipment he has on hand?
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: stavebuyer on January 14, 2020, 10:55:57 AM
I have paid people "per tie" to saw ties from my logs. Flat rate. Culls were my problem. Numbers on my end wouldn't work in all markets but the contract sawyers always wanted more. More than a few ran LT15's. Have paid as much as $15 per tie to have logs 4 sided. If you can't figure out to how to make that work you aren't looking to saw.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: TKehl on January 14, 2020, 11:03:33 AM
WV, I am aware of that and I agree with you.   :)

But by looking at the other side of the coin here, it raises more questions that require answers before proceeding.   ;)  
If it's junk for quality that is the log owners responsibility to which they will wise up quick as they loose money and gig over.  If junk for metal, that is the sawmillers responsibility which he needs to be aware of.  Either way, I think it only makes the situation worse for ties.  Just not a game to play without equipment.

Again, on the other hand, they could be your best customer for other things! 
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Ron Wenrich on January 14, 2020, 11:23:56 AM
Junk logs make junk ties.  If you're sawing by the tie, you're only interested in sawing ties, not quality.  Sometimes good looking logs turn out junky.  There's more to sawing a good tie than throwing a log on a mill and slabbing 4 sides.  

I sawed by the bf for 35 yrs.  My job was to get the highest dollar value out of a log that I could.  You can do that when you have enough diversity in your markets.  Sawing solely for ties is a prescription for problems on both sides of the equation.  When markets get tight, the quality of ties has to go up to keep on sending ties.  Same happens with all markets.  Sloppy sawyers end up going broke.  
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Bandmill Bandit on January 14, 2020, 11:47:50 AM
i Did a contract where ties were the primary product needed but were NOT the primary product Produced. The logs were average of 12" small end with about a 1/3 around 16" all 12' length. The owner wanted the max lumber yield out of the logs in general with as many #2 & 3 ties as we could get. 

Was a fun job. We ran at about a 35-40% of finished timber in decent ties.

He actually ended up making almost as much on the second cut slabs/wind boards as he did on the ties on that job.    
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: tacks Y on January 14, 2020, 12:48:58 PM
No smart advice here. But there is a large mill in my area cutting ties because they are making more money at it. With lumber prices down, go where the money is. 
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: moodnacreek on January 14, 2020, 01:14:02 PM
There is always more to it than what meets the eye. High speed equipment, low payments, good log supply, cheap fuel, reliable help but most of all markets for bark, chips, sawdust and maybe fire wood. The ties or side boards could just break even if the residuals sell.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Jcald327 on January 14, 2020, 11:33:07 PM
So this guy is persistent.
I pushed myself in the 42 to 49 cent per bf range, and pretty sure I even quoted 45 an hour for me, 60 with 1 helper, and 75 with a second, and said I was out on ties.  The prices I gave allowed for 3 to 4 ties an hour depending on help.

Customer/employer here runs a forestry company.  His explanation is he is pulling 10mbf of logs off of these jobs daily, with about 1mbf being of tie quality.  All of his off cuts are used for something other than mulch (dont remember off hand but apparently that market does very well with the rainy year the almanac is predicting), he even sells his dust and chips for bedding.  He said he used to run a bandmill before 'moving up'.  I really never expected to get a response but what do I know anyway.

Well I got a response this evening stating he was gonna keep my info for large log slabs and such, and then asked if he had a bandmill, and the equipment to minimize lifting / manual labor (which was a key point in the tire talks) if I'd be interested in running the mill for him.  I've never heard of non owner operators on portable mills but I suppose it happens.  What's the rate here?  I don't claim to be a wiz at it by any means, but I'm a quick learn, an avid 23 tabs on google kind of researcher, and a sponge.  I know the only true experience comes from putting the blade in the log, but I feel that with a little guidance and training I can be ready to knock out quality product in a few weeks.  At this point in my life I'm past the 12$ an hour stuff that used to be part of my 60-80 hour a week grind, and am REALLY focusing on being a good husband, and a great FATHER.  I would be willing to work to the tune of 20-25 an hour depending on how he manages travel time (as some jobs may be local, and some up to 2.5 hours out) a few (read 3) days a week, just need to keep up with his production expectations.

Time will tell haha
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: stavebuyer on January 15, 2020, 10:13:14 AM
The guy is persistent because as of now ties are by far the best market for most logs that will make them. The flooring market is overloaded; low pricing and quotas. You could easily justify the wage level you indicated operating a hydraulic mill.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: timbour on January 15, 2020, 11:10:58 AM
Out of curiosity what species of logs are used now for RR ties and how are they preserved if creosote is no longer used.  I assume it is something akin to pressure treated and preserved SYP?

thanks
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Ron Wenrich on January 15, 2020, 11:26:30 AM
If he wants to be an owner, then you're going to be either an employee or a sub contractor.  If you're an employee, then figure out the price you want per hour.  Make sure you get health care and a 401k and a decent vacation schedule as well as overtime pay for over 40 hrs.  That's what any decent mfg job has.

As a sub contractor, then you can charge per bf.  You'll have to cover insurances, SS taxes, retirement, etc from the earnings.  But, then you have to figure out who does the repairs and saw sharpening.  I didn't do repairs as a sub contractor.  Not my expertise.  

If you're into cutting ties, he might want to consider getting a portable circle mill that can punch out 100 ties per day.  It brings the cost down.  
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Jcald327 on January 15, 2020, 06:17:52 PM
Talked to him some more today, hes already spoken to his 'business partner's and the bank about a bandmill.  Hes looking at a Baker 3638 diesel.  Not super impressed by the speed of the hydraulics for something in a production setting, but also like it better than moving things by hand.  He threw out the arbitrary number 'if I was paying you say 20$ an hour', which leads me to believe he would be willing to pay 24-26 as I wouldn't arbitrarily give a price higher than I was willing to pay if I was looking to hire someone.  He expects 400bf an hour with a skid loader of some kind, and a 3rd body for off loading.  He wants a truck load every other day 8-9mbf.  Looking at mostly 4/4 stock, and ties (I'm not sure how his conversation has evolved away from ties, to 4/4 stock).   Says hes getting mostly hickory these days.  

I'm at 60$ an hour for 3 people, 25 me, 20 for my 60 year old drive anything on wheels operator, and 15 for his son, as an offloader.  He wants to subcontract the whole job, what I do with the money (in terms of pay or taxes) is up to me. 
Still very leery of the whole endeavor honestly.  I dont know that I'm ready to meet large scale productions expectations, where every cut/board/tie/flitch/cant/pile of sawdust is accounted for towards the bottom line.  
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Tom the Sawyer on January 15, 2020, 06:28:07 PM
Don't forget about taxes, insurance, taxes, unemployment, taxes, benefits, etc.  Three people banking on the learning curve associated with new bandsaw mill operators... risky.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Bandmill Bandit on January 15, 2020, 06:33:22 PM
Baker builds a good mill but 400 BF/hr average 8 hours a day will be a fairly long stretch. I can see about 300 BF as a reasonable target with that mill UNLESS you have a full suite of auto mechanical material handling to go with it.  

Also those labour rates seem a bit on the stingy side.

That mill with operator should bill out at around a $100 an hour PLUS any extra bodies and iron. 
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Southside on January 15, 2020, 07:15:58 PM
Absolutely no way I would do that. You are not going to get consistent production of 400 BF/ hr with that set up. Throw in an edger, a sort table, power take away conveyors, ditch the Hickory and 300 / hr would be closer to an 8 hour average. 

He wants someone to make him rich. 
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: WV Sawmiller on January 15, 2020, 08:27:11 PM
   Maybe offer to saw them for $10 each for ties and $.30/bf for 4/4 lumber with him providing the mill, skid steer and having the logs staged for quick and easy access. If my math is right he says he's expecting 9.5 ties per hour. I can see that in a circle mill with conveyors constantly bringing the logs and removing the slabs and finished ties. Its hard for me to believe your helpers can load and unload you quick enough to do that.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: SawyerTed on January 15, 2020, 08:46:48 PM
400 bdft per hour to make 4,000 per day.  Sounds like 12-14 hour work days assuming everything runs perfectly.  There's refueling sawmill and support machines, blade changes, lube tank to refill, slabs to move after they accumulate, stacks of ties and lumber to move, daily maintenance, clean up, blade sharpening, unloading and loading trucks etc. and nobody has had lunch yet.

I don't believe your man is not providing sufficient equipment or manpower to reach the 4,500 bdft per day goal. The sawmill is just one piece of the puzzle.  A skid steer is not an ideal log handler nor is it an ideal finished goods handler for production. A wheel loader with grapple forks for logs and a telehandler with forks for finished goods movement and loading would be my choices.  Even a big skid steer just doesn't have the capacity to be an efficient choice-think one log at a time.  Have you ever tried to unload a log truck with a skid steer?

A log deck will be a must and a live deck almost a necessity. 

With those kinds of production goals, two helpers at the mill and one driving equipment seems to required.  Every time the sawyer steps away from the mill, production goes down. 

Those labor rates are low in my opinion.  Maybe starting out those rates are appropriate but long term help will be hard to keep.  
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: EOTE on January 15, 2020, 08:59:34 PM
Maybe this will be some help...I tracked my time and board feet very closely sawing approximately 50K board feet, albeit by myself on a WM LT40... Included onloading logs, sawing, offloading, but not stickering, palletizing, sawmill maintenance, fueling, etc.  Sawing was split between 2x material and 1x boards.  My total labor worked out to .86 minutes per board foot.  

I know there's probably less sawing passes for ties but there are offsets as well.  Hope it helps.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Bandmill Bandit on January 15, 2020, 09:03:16 PM
 Also 300BF/hr is a reasonable TOTAL BF output per hour NOT the tie out put which I would expect to be at about 40% of total BF out put.

AND to get a consistent 300BF/hr every things would need to be ticking like a Rolex watch everyday all day all week.

Also to get additional 4X material out of logs that you are targeting for ties you pretty much need 12" small end minimum to do that assumming your cutting 6"x9" ties.  

If you are cutting ONLY ties, AND you are ONLY making 4 cuts per tie to get there 6 minutes is doable but not on an hour in hour out basis. AND your logs gota be pretty much sorted and bucked so that you ONLY get the prefect tie logs which would likely be about 40%(and that is a bit generous) max of the logs in yard.

You would need them sorted to that spec and stacked before you ever start the mill.

If it was me looking at doing it with my equipment;

$100 an hour for me and the mill
$20 an hour per laborer
$80 an hour bobcat/FEL with grapple and forks

All processing including milling, bucking, staging, loading, unloading, sorting, banding et. el.  is also billed at $100 an hour plus the helpers and the hourly rate for additional equipment used to process.

I wouldn't touch it for a BF price. Too many unknowns! 

Sawyer Ted was typing the same time as I was and is pretty much saying exactly what I am saying in more detail.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Jcald327 on January 15, 2020, 11:11:23 PM
Really this is where I am at as well, hourly all the way because I dont want to get into any of the problems assuming perfect production in an imperfect world.  
I think he told me today hes running through 25-30 tons of material a day, and when he contacted me originally it was 10mbf a day with 1mbf being clear straight tie worthy logs.  But 1mbf of millable lumber does not 400bf an hour make day in and day out.  Pulling from bakers website on the mill, it claims I believe 5000-8000bf a day with 3 people, no indication if this is 8, 12, or even 14 hour workdays.  He said hes run this model mill before and turned 3000bf a day 'with a lot of breaks' by himself, but even on an 8 hour day this doesnt make 400bf hour.  

If I broke it down to an 8 hour day, and cut bakers numbers in half, your looking at 312bf an hour, and this is a super subjective target. 4 roll tie logs @ 44 bf a pop 9 an hour, sounds do able but hard, honestly giving the log loader a minute to load, another minute to unload, and 7 minutes to level, cut, rotate, repeat.  But cutting a 36 inch log (let's just assume a perfect 36 inch x 8 foot cylinder) is 675 bf, and 35 cuts if in slab form, and a minute down, 30 seconds back and 10 seconds to adjust and send the carriage back on it's way and your way above your target.

He claims everything will be setup ideally, with all logs trimmed and organized, big end all facing same direction, with a huge supply logs staged, bucked to the same 8'10 inch length, and the work divided out daily (ie all logs staged for the day will be 4/4, the next day they may all be tie logs, but no switching every other log).

***disclaimer as I know those are over simplified perfect world have no bearing equations, just showing the big differences depensing on his expectations, and why I would rather go hourly***

Maybe a skid steer was an assumption on my part, as he only really outlined material handling equipment, and not specifically a skid loader.  

60 $ an hour puts his cost at 15 cents a bf with a 400bf yeild and 20 cents a bf at 300.  

I've asked for a meet and greet to feel him out completely, as numbers, expectations, and production numbers(both expected, and available logs) keeps changing.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Southside on January 15, 2020, 11:47:18 PM
Again - why did he approach you?  Nothing against you personally, but why you?  Also what magic contract does he have with mother nature, loggers, and the tie buyers to make all of this happen so perfectly all the time?  Not trying to be negative but I can bring you one town over from where I am and show you an operation that a year ago had two guys working in less than ideal conditions, but they were working, over the summer and fall they blew up like a soda bottle going over the rockies, rented kilns, a whole facility, hired oodles of laborers, had multiple truck loads of material coming in daily, now all of their equipment is for sale and they are flat busted.  Want to know what they were sawing?  Commodity hardwood lumber, including 4/4 and ties on a brand new 3665.  It's a nice mill, I may go look at it as they need cash. 
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: stavebuyer on January 16, 2020, 04:57:20 AM
The current tie market peaked a couple months back. The collapse of the flooring market has pushed some of the big grade mills into sawing ties so the bust will be sooner rather than later. If I had the logs and equipment I'd ride it while it lasted but no way I would borrow or buy to jump in.

I rolled my own LT70DCS into a super before Wood-mizer made them. Live deck, inclined conveyor, transfer table, edger, green chain, barn sweep, chipper, sawdust blower and 3.5 men(dedicated wheel loader half time on mill and half time on lumber grading side).

We sawed +/- 100 logs a day. 75-80 made ties. Almost 50% 4/4 side lumber. Wouldn't touch a hickory. Mostly oak. 30-35K ft per week(multi-year real world numbers). 40 hour weeks including breakdowns and cleanup.

I am a log broker. I hand picked the logs most profitable to saw for the equipment and markets I had out of several hundred thousand board feet per week going through my yards.

A lot of people in the business with big mills told me it wouldn't work. They were wrong.

LT70DCS - YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxwF7SiM4Ws&t=301s)



LT70DCS - YouTube (http://youtu.be/XxwF7SiM4Ws)


Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: SawyerTed on January 16, 2020, 07:14:07 AM
Southside’s question is a good one.  When I was approached, I had been sawing about 8 or ten months.  I believe my inexperience was the reason the guy came to me, thinking I might be swayed by the money he was talking about.  I’m pretty sure I was going to add capacity over his regular mill.  As soon as demand declined I was going to be cut loose.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Jcald327 on January 16, 2020, 07:37:41 AM
I'm not sure what made him choose me.  Currently I am the only one on craigslist, but that's not common.  Maybe it's because I almost bit at 30 cents a bf so he thinks I'll be cheap, or maybe it's because I am (although I have yet to give him a price to run his mill vs our mill).  Possibly because he knows my overhead is low, and someone with a high woodmizer hydraulic payment may want to take the difference between customers mill (60$ hour) and their own mill (100-120$ hour with help) to put towards payoff.  

As to the magical contract skill, I know he had the next 5 months lined up already, and hes looking at partnering with a log yard in his operating area to cut boards and ties from what they have there too.  Theres also a claim that overseas buyers are stopping by multiple times a week and hes working on setting up the export side as well.  From everything hes saying, hes growing exponentially and he cant fill the orders he already has, but I am still quite suspect to the whole gig.

You guys are really good at planting the seeds of doubt, and I'm not mad about it.  I like to think every plan will flourish into fruition, although this is rarely the case.

***edit***
This may just be a ploy where he thinks I will jump the sign on money and not account for all the other parts of, for all intents and purposes, owning a business (as a 1099 contractor with employees).  But I am not someone who is easily taken advantage of, I work for fair wages, but those are my take home after everything is accounted for wages, and do not take kindly to nickle and diming.  I would assume for everyone to make fair wages all things considered we may be closer to 25c a bf, or 100$ hr.  And after he factors machine cost, wear and tear, expendables, and handling equipment operating costs, we may not make a deal.
****Edit****
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: moodnacreek on January 16, 2020, 08:06:34 AM
From my experience and these posts it shows that many small sawmills don't just saw lumber [like I do].  There is usually another source of income. Buying and selling logs, metal roofing, firewood, building pallets, fence posts etc. Moodna creek sawmill only survived because the Mrs. worked at the local collage.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Jcald327 on January 16, 2020, 08:39:38 AM
From my experience and these posts it shows that many small sawmills don't just saw lumber [like I do].  There is usually another source of income. Buying and selling logs, metal roofing, firewood, building pallets, fence posts etc. Moodna creek sawmill only survived because the Mrs. worked at the local collage.
I would love to do this full time, but I dont think a lucas is going to compete with a hydraulic bandmill, and the local amish presence.  I think I would need to charge between 65-85 an hour to account for maintenance, expendables, and down time to replace a full time job.  I only need roughly half that with my military disability, but there are plenty of other jobs that will prove to be less stressful than running your own business, and foot the required bill income wise.  
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Ron Wenrich on January 16, 2020, 11:45:34 AM
He couldn't get the Amish to do the sawing for him?  Generally, its hard to beat their prices.  

From what I've read on the Forum, hickory is the devil's wood on a bandmill.   I know my production dropped on days where we run solid hickory.  Your blade isn't going to stay sharp very long, especially in unbarked logs.  After sawing for 10 hrs/day, you'll spend how many more hours sharpening blades?

It also sounds like some days you'll be cutting grade and some days ties.  That sounds a bit different than originally planned.  More saw passes per log will reduce your production.  Then there is that pesky problem of edging.  400bf/hr means that you'll have to have some hrs with much more than that to make up for the ones that have less.  To make your trailerload every other day is going to mean you'll be spending more time at the mill than at home.

Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: moodnacreek on January 16, 2020, 01:08:28 PM
If there was an Amish mill within 2 hours of here, I would be doomed.
Title: Re: Reality check, BF pricing and railroad ties
Post by: Jcald327 on January 16, 2020, 01:52:18 PM
The amish around here, at least on smaller jobs, are around 40cents a BF, and will cut/slab however you want from beams to slabs to 3/4 boards for board and batten.  Not sure how they price big runs like this, or how prevalent their presence is in the nashville area (where this job/s would be) vs up in the fort campbell/hopkinsville area.