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Author Topic: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer  (Read 9130 times)

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Offline SawyerTed

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #180 on: November 02, 2019, 10:10:55 PM »
We have around 300 acres of property in the Northwest Piedmont of NC.  Much of it has mature hardwood and pine forests.  We spent 28 years cutting saw logs into firewood.  For 28 years I kept saying ďwe need a sawmillĒ.

I finally got serious about it a couple years after I retired.  I went from thinking a manual mill would do to realizing a hydraulic mill was necessary to do what I needed.

Once I got the mill I spent several weeks sawing junk logs into lumber.  Most of that lumber warped, crooked, bowed and or split. Iím still burning some of that lumber - it became what forum members call designer firewood.  

After those first few weeks of sawing whatever I had on hand for learning, I started trying to fill a cut list of lumber I wanted for projects.  Thatís when word started getting out that I had a sawmill.   It was then I realized I needed to be serious about the business side of things too.

So like others Iím self taught with lots of help from this forum and I learn something new nearly everyday.
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Offline Southside

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #181 on: November 02, 2019, 10:52:00 PM »
Similar story.  Bought my 35 to "save some money" on a number of farm and house related projects that had to be done.  I had a Sgt in the 90's who had a WM and I had done a little off bearing for him now and then, but aside from that knew nothing about sawmills.  Chewed through some low grade stuff from my own wood lot and some a local tree service was happy to have a dumping ground for and one day someone stopped in and asked if I could cut some lumber for them, then another called and asked me to bring the mill to them to saw up some logs.  The learning curve grew with each log and reading on here, talking with the guys, etc.  

Now the 35 lives as a re-saw and the lumber operation has become a full time job - sad thing is some of those projects are still waiting to be completed.  The saving grace is I told my wife they would be done by August - I just never specified which year. Be careful as you venture down this journey, the sound of a band in the wood is a Siren Song.   
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Offline stavebuyer

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #182 on: November 03, 2019, 04:42:25 AM »
I know you bought your mill with the intent to custom saw. Before wearing my own hat; I bought standing timber and logs for some of the major players in the hardwood market. Per unit production costs for the "big bands" gets pretty low and the sales opportunity to offer trailer load lots sorted to the nth degree(like say light pink colored black oak, no mineral, 5/4, 10" & wider FAS/1F KD S2S).

A little guy can't compete. True, a little guy couldn't fill the above order. But the little band can fill the order for the buyer who only needs 500bf/ft of the same material and pays a premium because its now a retail qauntity. A thin kerf band has a very high per unit cost of operation but along with that comes the highest yield percentage. You get more out of the same log to sell. If its going to pay;
a.) saw the highest value log you can so the extra yield is worth a premium
b.) own log and the gain or charge as much for sawing as if you did

10% extra yield on $4.00 a  bd ft Walnut material is a lot more than 10% extra yield on $.40 a bd ft pallet cants. 

I did well sawing ties but I hand picked the logs that yielded a high percentage of upper grade side lumber which was more or less all overrun. At first glance I was buying tie logs at $.40 and selling sawn ties @ $.60 leaving a rather slim margin. In reality, I was sawing a 7x9 tie out of a 13" log(doyle scale=40 bd/ft) and generating 15 ft of grade side lumber that averaged 1C or better in grade at $750+mbf. So that's a tie 42'x.60=25.20 plus 15' 1C oak @ .$75 = 11.25 so sales total= 57ft sawn $36.45 less log cost of 40'x.40=$16.00 leaving a gross of $20.45 to saw 57'. My actual margin was $.358 per bd ft sawn. Not get rich quick but wholesale market paid weekly all I could saw. A viable business. If the same 13" log was sweet gum that the side lumber went for frame stock my lumber would have only been worth $3.75. Same amount of work but $7.50 less in my pocket. The sweet gum needed to go to a circle mill who would do very well with it because of lower production costs. Probably 4 heavy slabs and move on to the next one might maximize the profit in that scenario.

Today ties are $35 and Red Oak lumber is about worthless. Markets change daily but the principle remains the same. Your costs are high end; so your product needs to be premium. Premium does not always mean FAS walnut and white oak. It can also mean cutting a bench or table top from the stuff you salvaged from the cut off pile.

The trap to avoid is competing with the "guy down the road" who saws or sells for $.25 a foot. Let him and send all the tire kickers, cheap skates, and time wasters his way. 



Offline Florida boy

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #183 on: November 03, 2019, 08:14:10 AM »
As far as the actual cutting goes, listen! 
  Really , just listen to the sound of the band.
The sound it produces tells me right away if something is off or out of whack . But I only have a manual mill so I'm right there pushin'  watching and listening. Next biggest is how the blade enters and exits the cut for me along with how the board/cant acts while cutting. Bows up, down,  to the side ... thing to learn is junk in junk out bad logs usually make bad lumber . And it's hard to cut anything with a dull blade.
   Best of luck!

Offline SawyerTed

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #184 on: November 03, 2019, 10:10:58 AM »
I graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in Industrial and Technical Education.  I taught electronics at ECU for a time before moving with my wife to her family farm and teaching high school Industral Arts/Technology Education for 5 years.  I spent about 23 years in administration of Vocational/Career and Technical Education at the local and state level.  During all that time I've been a part-time builder, woodworker and part-time farmer.  I retired and piddled around for two years with a couple of jobs, doing remodeling work and helping flip houses.  Sawmilling is another chapter in my life of "doing things".  I like the "hands on and mind on" activity of running the mill.  Like others have said the interactions with others during the day is as important as the business of being a sawyer.

When I started my business, my intentions were to just do portable sawing much like @Magicman.  As it has worked out, one third of my business is portable, one third is sales of 1x and 2x standard air dried rough cut lumber, and about one third custom cut lumber (both hardwoods and softwoods). I have sufficient requests for kiln dried material that warrants a kiln as my next step.  After the kiln will come planing services.  In my mind (versus written business plan) my plan has been to pay myself back for the mill and the new truck, then add the kiln, then add the planer/dust collection.  So far I'm on schedule in my mind.  Business plan-wise I'm About 18 months ahead of plan.
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Offline samandothers

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #185 on: November 03, 2019, 10:40:17 AM »
I have sufficient requests for kiln dried material that warrants a kiln as my next step.  

Are you leaning toward a particular type?

Offline ManjiSann

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #186 on: November 03, 2019, 05:25:53 PM »
To Jeep and all the other Vets out there, thank you for your service!

I just wanted to say thanks Jeep for starting this thread and everyone that's contributed, it's been an awesome read and I look forward to seeing how it all unfolds!

Brandon 
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Offline SawyerTed

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #187 on: November 03, 2019, 06:13:44 PM »
I have sufficient requests for kiln dried material that warrants a kiln as my next step.  

Are you leaning toward a particular type?
The Nyle L200M is the way I'm leaning now.
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Offline YellowHammer

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #188 on: November 03, 2019, 09:16:53 PM »
The Nyle 200M is an excellent kiln.  I'm not aware of any better in that class.
YellowHammerisms:

Take steps to save steps.

If it wonít roll, its not a log; itís still a piece of tree.  Sawmills cut logs, not pieces of trees.

Kiln drying wood: When the cookies are burned, theyíre burned, and you canít fix them.  Donít burn the cookies.

Offline Southside

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #189 on: November 03, 2019, 09:22:18 PM »
Agreed - and the published capability is very conservative.  
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Offline jeepcj779

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #190 on: November 03, 2019, 11:14:36 PM »
For you seasoned sawyers, for someone running multiple small custom kiln loads (not production style), would you recommend having a couple Nyle L53 systems vs a single L200? My thinking is that might allow for more efficient drying of smaller loads, even though the 2000 has 3-4 times the capacity of the 53.

Offline Southside

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #191 on: November 04, 2019, 12:23:34 AM »
I have looked into what you are suggesting there, but to me the determining factor becomes capitol cost / BF of capacity. For me the cost of the kiln itself was just under half the completed project cost, and that was with me doing all the work and owning the heavy equipment needed to do ground prep, etc. If you have to rent / hire those costs that 1/3 to 1/4 capacity limit becomes quite expensive in the big picture.

Personally I feel it would be a better investment to build one or more solar kilns to have ahead of the 200. This way you can have multiple drying schedules that can be finished in the 200 at the same time taking advantage of it's larger capacity. 
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Riehl Edger
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Enough cows to ensure there is no spare time.
White Oak Meadows

Offline jeepcj779

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #192 on: November 04, 2019, 12:50:22 AM »
I think you are correct. I think I mentioned it many posts ago: I will start with a couple solar kilns. If I need a powered kiln in the future, I can cross that bridge when I come to it.

Offline alan gage

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #193 on: November 04, 2019, 09:36:55 AM »
I read and studied a lot before I got my first mill. All that paled in comparison to the education I got actually cutting logs. That doesn't mean it isn't time well spent. It's just that a lot of what you read won't sink in until you get some experience. Then things you struggled to understand in writing become apparent.

Work on getting all the "other stuff" ready while you're waiting for your mill. Make sure you have lots of flat storage space for air drying. Line up some low grade/undesirable logs to make stickers and lumber pallets. These are what you should saw first. It's not fun or sexy but if you saw the fun and sexy stuff first you'll suddenly find you don't have a way to stack and store it properly. You'll learn a lot sawing stickers and pallet stringers first. You'll see stress in the lumber as the boards are being sawn and how you can control it to bow or crook as well as learning all the controls and functions. When you think you've got enough stickers cut twice as many again.

I had quite a bit of time between acquiring my mill and getting it repaired and running. I did lots of reading. Had it all planned in my head. How I was going to use the whole log efficiently, throwing away nothing usable. How I'd set up roller tables to help me move the slabs, flitches, and lumber to the awaiting pallets. How everything would always be in tip top shape on the mill. How I'd keep sawdust under control.....

Most of that hasn't happened. The reality of how much time is required for milling set in once I started milling. If all you were doing was sawing it wouldn't be so bad. It's all the other stuff that takes away your time and diverts your attention. When I see members here with efficient operations it looks like it should be so easy. But it's not. It's not an easy thing to look at a huge pile of logs that you really want to saw and tell yourself that instead you're going to spend a week or more rearranging the sawmill setup, building pallets, cutting stickers, and doing all the other things that would make your life easier. Instead you tell yourself that you'll just cut up a few logs to get the lumber that you need right now for your project and you'll do all that other stuff just as soon as you have time. I'm still waiting until I have time.

Alan
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Offline Nebraska

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #194 on: November 04, 2019, 09:56:50 AM »
I read and studied a lot before I got my first mill. All that paled in comparison to the education I got actually cutting logs. That doesn't mean it isn't time well spent. It's just that a lot of what you read won't sink in until you get some experience. Then things you struggled to understand in writing become apparent.

Work on getting all the "other stuff" ready while you're waiting for your mill. Make sure you have lots of flat storage space for air drying. Line up some low grade/undesirable logs to make stickers and lumber pallets. These are what you should saw first. It's not fun or sexy but if you saw the fun and sexy stuff first you'll suddenly find you don't have a way to stack and store it properly. You'll learn a lot sawing stickers and pallet stringers first. You'll see stress in the lumber as the boards are being sawn and how you can control it to bow or crook as well as learning all the controls and functions. When you think you've got enough stickers cut twice as many again.

I had quite a bit of time between acquiring my mill and getting it repaired and running. I did lots of reading. Had it all planned in my head. How I was going to use the whole log efficiently, throwing away nothing usable. How I'd set up roller tables to help me move the slabs, flitches, and lumber to the awaiting pallets. How everything would always be in tip top shape on the mill. How I'd keep sawdust under control.....

Most of that hasn't happened. The reality of how much time is required for milling set in once I started milling. If all you were doing was sawing it wouldn't be so bad. It's all the other stuff that takes away your time and diverts your attention. When I see members here with efficient operations it looks like it should be so easy. But it's not. It's not an easy thing to look at a huge pile of logs that you really want to saw and tell yourself that instead you're going to spend a week or more rearranging the sawmill setup, building pallets, cutting stickers, and doing all the other things that would make your life easier. Instead you tell yourself that you'll just cut up a few logs to get the lumber that you need right now for your project and you'll do all that other stuff just as soon as you have time. I'm still waiting until I have time.

Alan
Amen to that,  Alan is 100% spot on.

Offline DWyatt

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #195 on: November 04, 2019, 04:19:28 PM »
One of the biggest things that I can add is have a dedicated place to set the mill up permanently even if you plan to do portable sawing. I store my mill at my parents because they have a huge barn. This is great until I want to saw. They live 20 minutes away, a 1 hr round trip if I am picking the mill up and bringing it back to my place to saw. Then an hour and a half of lost time between set up, clean up, and tear down of the mill. Now all of the sudden you wasted 2.5 hours of the 10 hours of usable time and you are left with a pile of sawdust, a pile of edgings and slabs,and a pile of lumber and you spent a quarter of your time that day doing things that yielded nothing. For me right now it basically means that I cannot mill during the week with the day job being super busy and everything gets packed into the weekends. It is a terribly inefficient system until I get a roof big enough to store the mill at my house.

Offline jeepcj779

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #196 on: November 04, 2019, 04:58:28 PM »
The first thing I will be milling is stickers (I forget who said to do that). I read that is a good way to get used to the controls and learn something about how the wood moves when you mill it. Second will be wood for a couple lean-to shelters on two of my barns.

Offline Oddman

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #197 on: November 04, 2019, 09:11:49 PM »
I figured I would take a log or 2 and turn them into stickers, never happened...I learned how to take them out of edgings. Takes a while doing it all on the mill but I have very little actual waste. Best time investment was building a shed right at the mill, my mill is stationary. It's a 2 minute walk from the house and shop but having all the tools, gas, blades, chainsaw, etc, there at the mill in a large cabinet is a huge time saver.
And I would agree completely with Alan, until your actually sawing there is very little fertile ground for the book learning to take root in. Spend this time learning tree species, walking your woodlot, aquiring/fixing support equipment, learn to sharpen a chainsaw, get prepared for blade maintenance, just all that other "stuff"...learning to become a sawyer is part learning your mill, part learning your timber, and taking the 2 and getting what you need out of them in the most efficient manner possible. There are so many variables in all this that it is tough to put on paper what it is you need to learn, hence we learn by doing. God bless you Jeep, it's a real fun ride!

Offline jeepcj779

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #198 on: June 13, 2020, 01:40:37 AM »
Update: Here is a quick recap. Its been a while since I posted anything to this thread:

  I am retiring from the military. I was supposed to be starting terminal leave tomorrow, but due to COVID-19, my retirement is delayed by a couple months. I had one shoulder replaced about 17 months ago, and had the other replaced 2 weeks ago (low frequency vibration+military stuff+crappy genes=crappy shoulders). The left shoulder turned out really well, and the right (most recent) is already doing better than the left was at this stage in the recovery. I don't expect to have physical limitations even with the bilateral replacements based on the functionality I have with my left shoulder.
  Anyway, I stated earlier in the thread that I put a deposit on an LT-50 last October, with expected deliver in July. I let Wood-Mizer Carolina know today that I would not be taking delivery until September or October due to both the shoulder surgery and the delayed retirement.
  With the "best deal ever" on the LT-40 Super, I am wondering if two vertical back stops and chain turner are worth the $3000 extra I am paying for the LT50 over the claw and the claw and the pivoting back stops of the current-deal LT40. I know there is some utility to having the four pivoting back stops for short logs, but I don't know if the utility gained vs the vertical stops and chain turner is worth changing my order. I don't think it will be, as long as more than 75% of the logs I saw are 8+ ft. I plan to saw mostly mobile sawing other peoples' logs.
 I would like to tap in to the collective wisdom of the forum to confirm or deny my instinct here.

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Re: Questions from a Prospective Sawyer
« Reply #199 on: June 13, 2020, 02:33:03 AM »
I would think that if you have dodgy shoulders, get all the power assist gizmos you can? Sawing is hard work simply because you have to move heavy stuff. The more you can do that with machinery, the longer your shoulders will last. 
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