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Author Topic: Startup portable sawmill  (Read 2086 times)

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Offline Jakewhaley19

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Startup portable sawmill
« on: November 06, 2019, 06:10:29 PM »
I am a 27year old 6'3 245 and work construction so I am used to being outside in all conditions and working with lumber and beams but I have a wife and three kids hoping to be debt free soon if I sell my house my question is if I want to start this what would it take realistically to support a family with a sawmill and how do I determime the market in my area for portable sawmilling. Also is it worth all the time money to also invest in a kiln to start with or add it on later I live near gatlinburg tn and have 20 acres of property fully wooded and the construction company always clears lots for houses so plenty of free logs
Wanting to learn as much as I can while I can

Offline PAmizerman

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2019, 07:03:45 PM »
I would go into with the mindset of it being a side job. You will know soon enough if it can be done full-time
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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2019, 07:32:33 PM »
   Good luck and welcome. I would also try to contact Nathan at @123maxbars  and look at his operation and compare notes with him. I don't think he is that far from you. I think Nathan is mostly stationary now but he knows/has learned a lot about sawing, woodworking, marketing and maybe even Kiln ops. You might want to off-bear for him a few trips and see if you can pick his brain. If he is stationary and you are mobile you two may be able to refer back and forth of customers needing what the other has to offer. 
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline YellowHammer

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2019, 07:34:51 PM »
Donít quit your day job!

You will be under pressure to produce money to feed your family.  Bad decisions or no decisions will be made.  Itís extremely rare for any business to be profitable from day one.  Most business donít become profitable for many months, if not years.  We are talking positive net profit, not gross profit.  

There is a lot more to running a successful sawmill business than running a sawmill.  Look at it as an apprentice program by going at it part time.  How are you at marketing?  Knocking on doors, schmoozing customers?    

Get a good sawmill.  Work long hours.  Work weekends.  Build a good reputation.  Understand the business.  Make some money.  Then make some more money.  Make connections.  Make and sell product on schedule, because your bills will come in on schedule.  When you are ready, and you will know when, then jump in head first and start paddling.  

Taxi before you take off.  

My two cents...,


 
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Offline 123maxbars

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2019, 07:52:13 PM »
Donít quit your day job!

You will be under pressure to produce money to feed your family.  Bad decisions or no decisions will be made.  Itís extremely rare for any business to be profitable from day one.  Most business donít become profitable for many months, if not years.  We are talking positive net profit, not gross profit.  

There is a lot more to running a successful sawmill business than running a sawmill.  Look at it as an apprentice program by going at it part time.  How are you at marketing?  Knocking on doors, schmoozing customers?    

Get a good sawmill.  Work long hours.  Work weekends.  Build a good reputation.  Understand the business.  Make some money.  Then make some more money.  Make connections.  Make and sell product on schedule, because your bills will come in on schedule.  When you are ready, and you will know when, then jump in head first and start paddling.  

Taxi before you take off.  

My two cents...,


 
What he said x10
One think I have learned in going full time three years ago, everything takes four times as much time/effort to complete when you are in this business. 
Good Luck, and also ready everything about forestry/trees you can get your hands on, sawmilling is the easy part. 
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Offline Southside

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2019, 09:00:47 PM »
the construction company always clears lots for houses so plenty of free logs


You have been given spot on advice here by folks who are doing it so the wise man would heed it.  As to the part of your post I quoted above, free logs are worth exactly what you paid for them, or in some cases even less.  

First, a log is not a log, is not a log.  Just because it's made of wood and round-ish does not mean it will produce lumber that someone will pay for.  Second is species, you are only going to sell so much gum - and unless you have the ability to add value to it and market it to the right customer, it won't be selling for much,  Add onto that the way many house lots are cleared - whack the stem with an excavator bucket, and cut the pine log at 7'4" because that was convenient, plus they are not getting paid to carefully deal with your free tree, and you just became the free traveling dump that picks up. 

Start slow, figure out what works in your area.  WRITE DOWN your business plan, just do it in pencil because it will change.  I think all of the guys I know who are in this business are not doing exactly what they started off planning to do.  They kept the concept but changed the goal to what actually makes the money, I know I sure have.  

Welcome to the Forum, pull up a stump and hang around, lot of great folks here. 
Franklin buncher and skidder
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Offline Jakewhaley19

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2019, 09:23:15 PM »
I reallyappreciate all of you for taking time to respond I think starting off slow is key but how to I test the market in my area and if its part time should I still get a decent size mill amd if so what is decent size to yall
Wanting to learn as much as I can while I can

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2019, 09:40:36 PM »
   I suggest you read everything here on this thread. You will find a lot of what works and what does not. Everything from business cards to contracts to blades to use to insurance to equipment needed to sawing techniques to wood profiles and so much more is in there somewhere. 

    You might check the local Craigslist and Facebook and see what is listed for sale and in the wanted sections. That might give you some indications as to competition and potential markets in your area. Check to see what other sawyers and mills are operating in your area and see what services they offer and any gaps they don't cover which may be opportunities for you. No matter what you offer customers are going to want something you don't offer. Being able to refer them to an arborist or a  kiln or slabber may actually help you get the part of the business you are chasing.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline Southside

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2019, 09:53:00 PM »
That's a really hard question to answer without knowing your finances.  If you want to try the portable avenue then a hydraulic mill is honestly the only answer to success.  There is nothing wrong with a manual mill, but production will be very slow and customers don't appreciate or understand that these days.  Now if you are sawing on your time, and your location then speed does not matter in the sense of a customer standing there watching you, it does matter in terms of revenue / hour but that is a different conversation.

I started with an LT35 for three reasons, 1) It is hydraulic, a great compromise of capacity, speed, and ease of set up, so it makes for a great starter mill.  2) I found a one year old machine at a great deal.  3) I had the cash to buy it so even when it sat without making a dime I didn't have to worry about making a payment that month.  

A well cared for, name brand, mill will hold it's value.  That is good and bad.  Good if you are looking at trying something for a while with the possible idea that you might sell / upgrade down the road and bad if you are buying and looking for a $500 deal.  

If you were standing here today asking me what to do I would tell you to look at what you can comfortably afford to spend, compare a couple models in that price range, then find a couple of sawyers with similar mills to what you are looking at and some higher end and lower end - then spend a couple of days and visit several operations.  Go to the guy with a complete manual mill and get a first hand knowledge of what that is like.  Find one that you are serious about and see what it can do in experienced hands, then find a higher priced one and see the difference - mostly so you don't begin to experience mission creep and talk yourself into more than you need at this point.  

This will also give you an idea on possible market opportunities that may fit for your location.  
Franklin buncher and skidder
JD Processor
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Offline YellowHammer

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2019, 10:24:38 PM »
WM hydraulic from an LT35 to an LT50.
Look in Craigslist to see who your competition is.

How to find money is something you have to answer.  I guarantee it will change every day.  You must have multiple ways.  

If you really want to play, hereís how I started.  You must set a reasonable starter goal and achieve it. Then increase the goal.  

I had a sawmill.  I told myself I was going to make $100 in 1 weeks time.  Every week.  I knocked on doors, I went to the local coops, other local businesses that needed wood. I did everything and anything I could do to make that $100.

When that became easy, I upped the goal to $500 per week, then $1,000 them $5,000, then $10,000, etc.  

You canít just say ďI am going to make money,Ē you have to get down the the nuts and bolts of actually doing it.

If it was easy to make lots of money with a sawmill, everybody who owns one would be rich.  
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Offline jeepcj779

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2019, 01:01:32 AM »
  I am looking to start working as a sawyer as well. I can tell you I would not want to start a sawmill business and have to depend on that business's success to pay my bills or feed my kids because I have no experience and don't know what the market is like. The advice given not to quit your day job is right on the money. You will incur costs to start up to the tune of $10,000-$20,000 at a minimum buying a used mill, and more than that for new if you are buying a hydraulic mill. You may be able to finance and spread that cost over years, but you will then have to make money to make the payments. There are other things you will need that will cost you $ as well.
 If I were in your position, I would start small (maybe purchase a used portable manual mill), only doing work on the weekends or in your spare time (while keeping you day job). This way you can figure out how to use the mill before butchering anyone else's logs. You may have some issues using a manual mill for "production" work at first, but you should explain that beforehand to any customers who hire you.
 Tools, infrastructure, equipment, waste management, insurance, etc. will all incur costs in terms of both time and/or money.
 Take look at the thread I created to ask questions about getting started http://forestryforum.com/board/index.php?topic=107252.0. There are likely many answers there to questions you don't know you have yet. Even better, check out OldJarheads Milling Thread  http://forestryforum.com/board/index.php?topic=89720.0. Read it start to finish, and take notes. He made the journey from running a small manual mill to a successful business running a LT40 hydraulic mill, and in the process paid for the mill, a 3/4 ton truck, and two campers. I learned a lot reading his thread, and it was enjoyable to boot.
 Good luck to you.

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2019, 04:28:40 AM »
 
 By all means keep your day job until you get your business started good.  Saying that I should have started milling at 25 years old rather than when I was 55.   Steve
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Offline Jakewhaley19

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2019, 06:33:12 AM »
Hey you guys are awsome this is the kind of community I want to be a part of that gives you honest answers with some incouagement thanks to all of you but lord willing in a year's time I will have a small house and land completely debt free so I may be able to buy a mill and pay it off with my day job pretty fast I think an lt35 hydraulic used is what I am looking at
Wanting to learn as much as I can while I can

Offline nativewolf

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2019, 06:48:24 AM »
As long as the sawyers are giving advice I can give some from a foresters/land managers perspective.  Right in the beginning you listed your height and weight.  I don't view physical size to be an advantage in the sawmilling or logging business.  The best cutters I know are wiry somewhat lean smaller guys, there is one good one that is 6'4" but his back is killing him today, not enough bending when he was young. Magicman is as savvy a portable sawyer as you'll find and he's not the largest fellow.    

The name of the game is to keep the body healthy and minimize the impact and abuse your body takes.  Save your body so that when critical it is a strength but do not rely on it to do activities that you could/should have mechanized.  This is a business that can easily destroy knees, backs, feet, etc.  Wear ear protection so you can hear your grandchildren laugh and whistle, read all the sawmill safety tips on old threads.  

After trying out milling and finding a niche (so many of them) look at doing everything possible to mechanize and automate your workflow.  You are already carrying a little extra weight (as many of us are) that is having an impact, you just don't know that.  Do what you can now to cut out a few calories and move a bit more (no elevators -there are always stairs, things like this) in cardio programs (several sawyers here do some light bike riding, walking, etc).  We probably all wish we had taken better care of our bodies when younger because at the end of the day there are physically demanding aspects of the jobs.  
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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2019, 07:24:46 AM »
I agree with "don't quit your day job". Start slow and work your way up. In your area I would be looking into selling some to tourist, but you will also need to find some consistent locals to keep your monthly flow going. 
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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #15 on: November 07, 2019, 08:00:58 AM »
Welcome to the FF! Before I started my own business, I cut a lot of logs from my own land to learn how to make lumber. Running a sawmill is a skill, and only with practice do you become proficient at it. The customer is trusting you with there logs, and paying you there hard earned money to do quality work. You have to be confident in your ability before you jump in. Learn as much as you can about the business also, there's tons of good info here on the FF. Starting a small business is tough. I quit my day job over a year ago to be my own boss, and I've learned the hard way that there's no guaranteed paycheck in the bank every Friday. Things don't happen overnight, it takes time to become established, get repeat customers, and build a good reputation.
Under bark there's boards and beams, somewhere in between.
Cuttin' while its green, through a steady sawdust stream.
I'm chasing the sawdust dream.

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Offline Magicman

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #16 on: November 07, 2019, 08:07:46 AM »
"Startup portable sawmill" and "making a living/supporting a family" are two different subjects.  Keep your day job and keep your feet on solid ground while you establish your sawing ambitions.

Completing your profile with your location etc. would go a long way toward members being able to answer questions and give advice.  Remember that "unasked" questions are the only "dumb" questions so don't hesitate to ask away.   :P
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Never allow your "need" to make money to exceed your "desire" to provide quality service.....The Magicman

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #17 on: November 07, 2019, 08:20:56 AM »
   I am going to disagree with the info above about buying a used manual mill and learning on it. If you just want a hobby mill for personal use you can get by with a manual hobby mill if you have enough support equipment and enough time. We have members with manual mills (I keep thinking of LT15's) where the mill is a key part of their business but they are woodworkers, making beams, etc and have good support equipment like skid steers and such working at home and are not trying to make production. If you are only able to saw part time to start with you certainly want to be faster and more efficient and use your limited time effectively. When I was thinking about setting up my portable business I was trying to go cheap and buy a manual mill with log assist kits (Ramps and wenches, etc) and my wife and friends talked me into spending a little more and getting a hydraulic mill. I thank them every day and seriously doubt I'd have stayed with it using a manual mill. My ideal job is a 1-2 day job 25 miles or less from home where the customer has a weekend available to get his logs sawed and we go knock it out and I come on home. 

    Visiting others and going to trade shows and seeing how the mills and the different features work will be time well spent. Every time I go to a show I learn some little trick that makes my life easier and sawing more efficient.  Yellowhammer says it best "Take steps to save steps". You want to make sure every step you take produces something of value whether removing a slab, brushing sawdust away, picking up scraps, stacking a board, etc. Set up and operational procedures will make or break you.
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #18 on: November 07, 2019, 01:54:12 PM »
Considering on portable jobs you will get paid for what you produce, the more you produce, the more you get paid.

I had a manual LT15 when I started.  It didnít take long to realize there was actually very little time during the day when sawdust was coming out of the chute, even though I was working my tail off. 

So a year or so later, I bought LT-40 hydraulic and stacked up a days worth of logs to saw in preparation of the delivery, the same logs I would be sawing with my LT15.  So the WM guy shows up, towing the LT40 behind his pickup, sets the mill up before I can blink, chucks a log on there and has it cut down into boards before I know whatís happening.  He said he wanted to ďwarm it upĒ before I started with it.  Wow.  Within a very short period of time, a few hours or so, of me playing on my new mill, I went to get another log and realized that I was compeletly out of logs, not only was my quota done but I hadnít even broke a sweat. Wow.

My old LT-40 was not the fastest hydraulic mill out there, by any means.  

Get all the mill you canít afford. :D    


   

  
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Offline Bruno of NH

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #19 on: November 07, 2019, 06:27:50 PM »
I started with a manual mill and I never planed on portable work.
I built my business slowly learning as I went.
My first advice buy a hydraulic mill and keep your day job as you build your skills.
Save money and make money you will no when it's time.
I'm still figuring it out been in business my whole adult life.
If my health was better and could still do some building or snowplowing I would be much better off.I enjoy the retail side but would like to find a small wholesale account to help when slow.
In New Hampshire sawmilling and sales can be weather related.
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