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Author Topic: Startup portable sawmill  (Read 1970 times)

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Offline esteadle

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #20 on: November 07, 2019, 07:02:38 PM »
To make money cutting wood, you have to sell it. If you buy equipment, logs, and space to store it, and kiln and stickers and trailers and trucks to move it, you've invested a lot. But you still have to sell wood and turn it back into MONEY.

Wood is cyclical and leads the broader economy. A lot of clever business analysts look at the wood palette industry to predict economic cycles... More palette orders means more product shipments... Fewer palette order means fewer product shipments.

Right now, your President is waging a trade war with one of the biggest consumers of wood and wood products in the export market: China. In PA, the hardwood markets send between 40-60% of timber and manufactured lumber products to Export markets. 70% of that went to China before the trade war. However, since the trade war escalated, and tariffs were levied by both countries, the costs of our hardwoods are 25-40% higher than other suppliers, and that has caused the demand for exports to drop by over 50%. Less than 35% is going to China right now. Meaning, that lumber has to be sold somewhere else to make money. Where else to sell is an easy decision... local markets are cheap to ship to.

You are probably not going to sell into export markets right away. But... you will be selling into local markets at the same time that other, more experienced, and better equipped sellers who WERE selling into export markets, but who are now selling into YOUR market (because they have no other place to sell).

If I were starting my sawmill business today, I would think twice about it and I would think seriously about what else I could invest my money in.

Have you checked out the Chainsaws portion of the forum? You need a good chainsaw if you are managing 20 acres. :)
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Offline jeepcj779

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #21 on: November 08, 2019, 12:26:12 AM »
  Our President is wining a trade war with the Chinese, which, despite the current negative effects on timber prices, will be better for everyone in the end. When a trade deal is reached, tariffs will be removed, and it will also bring an end to the market fixing, currency manipulation, and unfair trade practices perpetrated by China. These behaviors have been allowed by previous administrations for years and have put the US at an economic disadvantage. A new trade agreement will give a boost to our already booming economy and create more opportunities for the type of business Jake is talking about. Demand from China will return, and domestic demand for those pallets you spoke of will also increase. Prices will rebound as a result. Maybe it is a good time to go into business.
Jake, here is another good thread to look in to: http://forestryforum.com/board/index.php?topic=100326.0

Offline YellowHammer

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #22 on: November 08, 2019, 12:14:24 PM »
This is why I said you have to set fixed monetary goals for your business.  In order to be successful in business, it’s important to be aware of all the factors involved with making profit, but use that knowledge to know where not to step, and also where to push.  

If you read the HMR, Hardwood Market Report, then you will know where the market is soft and where to get your foot in.  Remember, try to make a reasonable goal at first, $100 per week, for 6 months.  That is a lot harder than it sounds.  Every week, no skips, no breaks, no whatever.  Every week.  Then you will really learn your local market forces and which ones apply to your operation.  Outside forces are important, but the inside forces are what pays the bills every week.  

How do you do that?  Get in your vehicle and drive down the road and talk to anyone who might need a wood product.  Think out of the box.  If you don’t want to be a salesman then you will probably go out of business.  

You can do this well before you get a sawmill.  How many wedding planners are in your area?  They all want hardwood cookies for wedding, I sell mine from $5 to $10 and cut them with a chainsaw.  I don’t even need a sawmill to make them, or a kiln, for that matter.

How many concrete guys are in your area?  The ones in my area used to buy their forming wood from Lowes or similar.  They jumped at a chance of getting their wood at a significant savings from me.

How many taxidermists are in your area?  I sell character pieces to several.  Every fish mount and deer mount has a piece of wood behind it.  Where do they buy that from?  

These are just a few examples.  If you think these may be small potatoes, and aren’t classic sawmill business, then I will use Wal Mart as an example.  Even with all their money, they still sell $1 packs of gum and ball point pens.  It’s good business to diversify and cover every market you can, with what you have.  

In my case our business changed many times through years based on how I could make profit today, not a year from now.  It still does.  

I know the subject line is “startup portable sawmill.”  But I have to ask the question, why just that?  Should it be more like “Startup Sawmill Business?” 





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Online GAB

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #23 on: November 08, 2019, 05:30:59 PM »

WRITE DOWN your business plan, just do it in pencil because it will change. 
Southside's suggestion is a good one, however I suggest that you save all of them as you progress so if you want to you can go back and see where you have been you will be able to.
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Online GAB

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #24 on: November 08, 2019, 05:48:02 PM »
Jakewhaley19:
To what the others have said I'd like to add the following - If you can I would suggest seriously considering purchasing a wide head mill. They were not available in 2005 when I purchased my mill and a few times it would have been handy as there are jobs I had to pass on.
Also, knowing math (especially Trig.) and how to fixture things can be a great asset to you.
For example: how would you saw an octagonal post for a porch, or how would you saw a tapered octagonal post for a porch.
Prior to purchasing a sawmill I spent time with two individuals watching them, off bearing, asking questions, etc.  They each had their own operations, and both were completely different.  They helped me a lot.
Some sawmill designs are better to off bear than others.
Oh,and welcome to the FF and hope you learn a lot.
GAB
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #25 on: November 08, 2019, 06:22:08 PM »
   I agree with Gerald on getting the wide head. That will open up a lot more markets for slabs and such compared to a regular width head.
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Offline Southside

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #26 on: November 08, 2019, 08:01:21 PM »
I am going to be the odd one out here. You can't be all things to every part of the market. If you have a killer slab market then a wide head makes sense, just realize that your operating expenses will be higher, so if 2% of your market is live edge slabs then does it make sense to operate 98% of the time at a higher cost? 

My market is flooring, siding, and other specialty lumber, I don't market slabs at all, so neither of my mills have a wide head, not would I want one. A multi head re-saw and drum sander are next on my list as they will make me money every week. 

You are starting out and likely will change your operation along the way,  leave yourself room to adapt / change course as you figure it out. 
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Offline Jakewhaley19

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #27 on: November 10, 2019, 07:53:18 PM »
I have been reading all of these and I will not be buying a mill for about a year and a half so I have to go work witha guy down the road on his mill it's a stationary one but its not his business its a hobby but I will be able to get the fell for it. My biggest question is will I be able to work a full time job and run a part time sawmill without completely neglecting my family.
Wanting to learn as much as I can while I can

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #28 on: November 10, 2019, 08:25:13 PM »
Jake,

   We don't know your family situation so I don't see how we can answer your "neglect" the family question. You say you work construction but what kind of hours and what shifts do you work. (I assume construction is mostly day work but is it seasonal, do you work 4-10s of 5-8's, etc). I think most of us with kids look back and say we wish we had spent more time with our kids. My wife was lucky as a teacher she was at school with them all day and they were in her high school band so she spent lots of after hours time with them there too. I worked overseas in some real remote areas with longer breaks between hitches. The main thing no matter what your situation is to make sure you spend quality time with each of the kids and some may require more than the others. Its not fair but that is life. Good luck with the interning with your neighbor.

@Southside ,

   Can you please clarify your comment about the wide head costs. I'm reading your reply as wide head mills being significantly more expensive to operate. Are they? Based on what? Obviously they cost more to buy initially and the bands are longer but seems to me they would not have to make as many revolutions to to cut the same amount of wood. Most of the time my blade guides are only about extended about half way out and I assume that is even more the case with the wide head models. At least when you do have that occasional wider log you can cut it without extra Bibbying. @POSTON WIDEHEAD - Dave, you've had that wide model long enough to give a good experienced opinion on that. What % of the time are you using the wide feature? Are you seeing an increased cost when sawing "Normal" sized logs?
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Offline Southside

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #29 on: November 10, 2019, 08:49:16 PM »
WV - looking at it from a production perspective say I use 6 bands in a day sawing 3,000 ft, a non wide head band is $34.00 right now on the WM site, Turbo 7, .055, 1 1/2", 184", double hard.  A wide head band, same spec, is $38.30.  A difference of $4.30, x 6 / day = $25.80 / day additional cost or $554.00 / month.  Now I sharpen my own bands so obviously I normally get more than one use / band so that number is not an actual cash number, but the cost of owning the bands and using them adds up.

As far a revolutions or BF / band I don't think there is any difference.  The band will still be running at +/- 5,800 FPS and your forward speed is limited by the engine torque and band profile, so you are not going to saw any faster with a longer band reducing the number of call it "teeth used per cut".  

To qualify my original statement though my point is that there is a correct tool for every purpose and if one is say looking at a $20K used non wide head mill vs a $35K new wide head best to know how often you will need that extra 6" to justify both the operating expense and the additional purchase cost, for me making 6" wide flooring the math does not add up.  
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #30 on: November 10, 2019, 09:35:57 PM »
SS,

    Thanks for the response. I am still not clear on the FPS issue but that's not your fault. I just figured if I cut a piece of meat one slice with a 12" knife it will cut deeper than using a 6" knife with the same pressure on the stroke. If you are correct it seems to me the wide and normal head bands will cut a board off a 10' long X 12" diameter log at the same speed/time required then the wide head will have run about 25% further than the narrow one. I just figured you'd have to change the bands less often on the wide heads and if a 158" band would cut 500 bf I thought a 200" band would cut something like 600-650 bf between changes. 

    If the difference is having to buy new vs finding a good used mill you make a good point. I was assuming new costs only but assuming used wide vs normal would be the same except fewer wide are likely available used. 

     My thoughts are a wide head will cut narrow stuff just as good as a wide one with a normal head you are going to miss out on the occasional wide log. I get calls all the time where the customer wants me to cut his logs into lumber 12" or less wide but he has one special log that he'd like to get a 32" wide counter top out of it. I can't cut the counter top with my mill but I could cut both with a wide head mill. If I were just cutting slabs I'd want one of the new slab cutting monsters. :D
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Offline Southside

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #31 on: November 10, 2019, 11:35:53 PM »
you are going to miss out on the occasional wide log


You are correct, I may not be able to saw as wide of a slab as a wide head model, but that occasional log does not justify the constant expense I would incur, and to me it's about how much I keep, not how much I make at the end of the week that drives business decisions.  Of course, when the log is just a tad too wide for the wide head and the customer wants a single slab out of it then you are in the same boat.  

The other thing I find about those monsters is that production rate or BF / Hour drops like a cantilever head without the bottom cam follower, sorry too soon? :D .  They are miserable to maneuver around, roll on the mill, etc., those monster slabs are heavy as all get out, honestly I hate sawing them.  Give me 24" logs all day long and I can hammer.

Like I said, this is my experience in what works for my business model, a guy making single piece counter tops, table blanks, etc has a completely different market and if WM put full hydraulics onto one of those slab monsters then that would probably be the ticket.  When folks come looking for big, dry, slabs I actually send them down to another FF member who is set up for that, complete with kiln, a big planer, etc.  
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Offline nativewolf

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #32 on: November 11, 2019, 07:23:28 AM »
 Our President is wining a trade war with the Chinese, which, despite the current negative effects on timber prices, will be better for everyone in the end. When a trade deal is reached, tariffs will be removed, and it will also bring an end to the market fixing, currency manipulation, and unfair trade practices perpetrated by China. These behaviors have been allowed by previous administrations for years and have put the US at an economic disadvantage. A new trade agreement will give a boost to our already booming economy and create more opportunities for the type of business Jake is talking about. Demand from China will return, and domestic demand for those pallets you spoke of will also increase. Prices will rebound as a result. Maybe it is a good time to go into business.
Jake, here is another good thread to look in to: http://forestryforum.com/board/index.php?topic=100326.0
Not sure that such a political tone is appropriate on this thread.  That said I don't see any evidence that anyone is winning any "trade war".  @esteadle is stating facts on the negative impacts of the trade war and he didn't even note that hardwood forest products took the single greatest hit on a percent basis of anything.  If you purchase a sawmill and make plans for your product you absolutely should have some clarity on where the product will be marketed and the effort required.   AND the risks involved.  So much risk that entities like Norwest are retrenching and the Appalachian mills are rumored to be for sale.  Log exporters are sawing fence boards, etc.  As a portable sawmiller you're capped at an income of X many dollars- basically requiring you to be able to saw as many hours as you have income needs.  If you do part time and have a regular job that leaves weekends and evenings (family time) to be out at clients.  Something to think about.  In my mind @magicman has done just about as well as someone can do, he's retired  :D.  Ok not really but he does not have to depend on the mill to support his family.  I really think not being portable is the best choice for a person with family obligations and a job.  You might be surprised at how many logs make their way to you.

Know your local market- examples- @Magicman saws locally-this is not  global market, @Southside and @YellowHammer have well developed specialized local markets and are real experts.  If you can identify a local specialty market you'll be much safer from the impacts of trade disputes.  If you are a logger today the product market is tough, all low grade wood products have been adversely impacted by the trade wars and the markets are just flooded.  That has trickled up into things such as pallets, tie prices, etc.  By August of this year I had 3 buyers announce their plans to enter the fence board market as a way of consuming low grade redoak and keeping people busy.  Further, 3 more locals bought wide sawmills to make slabs.  Combined that stopped me from buying a mill.  Glad I hadn't received it.  My real niche is bespoke land management solutions and for me a mill was just a means to productize low grade material.  Now I am getting bugged by these guys trying to dump fence boards on my clients and badgered by wide slabbing guys who think I somehow have a need for a thousand slabs.

I can't speak to all local markets but one thing I would strongly caution...the wide slabbing market is, to me, oversupplied.  The cost to get into that business is low.  The quality of products coming from most suppliers is terrible.  Wide slabbing requires being willing and able to sit on inventory for a few years while it air dries or it requires a fancy vac kiln and some air drying.  I have been to some yards where they have literally thousands and thousands of slabs drying- maybe over an acre piled high and deep.  Secondly the export market has begun buying big uglies...only a matter of time before some of those reenter the US wood markets as dried and finished slab tables.  The only hope I see for this market is if someone siphons off a few hundred thousand slabs and sells them into California, TX, and S Florida maybe sparking a mini boom or if this becomes the thing to own in Dubai- the middle east has quite a few large homes and excess capital.  I know 2 really good live edge table makers-both have sold their slabbing mills as it is just so much easier to simply buy slabs.  They focus on the planning and sanding of 30-40" slabs they buy air dried or kiln dried.  Folks like @tule peak timber are in a different class of millers but again, it is a specialty market.  Lastly if you are doing portable slabbing and the log is huge how does your client deal with a 3" thick 30" wide 10' long slab of red oak.  Talk about a back breaker.  

The reason I expect slabs to re-enter the US market is that most homes in Asia are just too small for a large slab table.  Only the 1% of 1% have homes the size of the avg American home. 

Liking Walnut

Offline SawyerTed

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #33 on: November 11, 2019, 09:54:02 AM »
This is just a question regarding the slab market. 

Is the “slab” furniture/bar demand based on a fashion trend that will run its course and taper to a small but steady demand?  Are we already there?

I don’t know the answer or have an opinion on the national or regional level.  I do have almost 2 years operating a portable milling operation so I have a handle on the answer for my situation.

It seems those who have been in this business for several years would have a good feel for the answer.  I know I get a request to saw wide slabs every few weeks.  

Fortunately, there appears to be a steady demand for utility lumber and out building framing and siding. Around 70% of my sawing is for trailer decking, barn framing, fencing, siding, dump truck side boards etc.  The other 30% is sawing for other purposes including about 3% of all being for live edge “slabs”.  My requests for wide slabs don’t justify the upgrade in mills.  This is especially true if this is a fashion trend trend that runs its course. 
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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #34 on: November 11, 2019, 09:55:20 AM »
We sold our Lucas super slabber and our LT-70 wide last year.........It has proven to be a good move.
  VERY good advise above on this thread............ :)
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Offline jeepcj779

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #35 on: November 11, 2019, 11:50:20 AM »



Political tone was imparted by the previous poster with the "your president" remark. I was stating my opinion on the trade war and the potential for a positive outcome. Past administrations have been both republican and democrat. What was political about that? If you would like to continue this discussion and keep it out of this thread, feel free to PM me.

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #36 on: November 11, 2019, 01:00:54 PM »
You only get so many chances to be a good dad and good husband. Nothing else I can say matters to me more. Best of luck with your adventure.

Offline jeepcj779

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #37 on: November 11, 2019, 01:12:46 PM »
Jakewhaley19,
 Some of the major sawmill manufacturers put out some good products for research. I started my research about a year and a half out, so you're timing is good for getting started I think. Norwood puts out a pretty informative booklet "The Ultimate Guide to Portable Sawmills". I think you can request or order it from their web site. Timberking also has a booklet called "How to Set Up and Run a Profitable Custom Sawing Business". The Timberking booklet has some good stuff near the back that will help you to visualize what your expenses might look like and how increases and decreases in working hours affects your bottom line. Good basic information in both about wood characteristics and sawing techniques.

Offline Magicman

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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #38 on: November 11, 2019, 03:47:19 PM »
Wood-Mizer also has (or had) various booklets aimed toward a potential sawyer.  I know that I "wore the covers" off of mine because the FF was not available to me at the time.  They do have an album of videos.

I am completing 17 years of portable sawing and have over 2MMbf (as in million) of lumber sawn under my belt.  My website is my principal advertising medium and I do not refuse any sawing job that the customer is willing to pay for.  258 miles is the furtherest paying job that I have sawn and I went there twice.  236 is the next furtherest and I think that I have been to that job location 8 different times and each time was for 2-3 weeks.  I have gone over 200 many times.  I gave away a 179 mile job and a 386 mile job this year.  Yes, I could have sawn both of them but my already committed sawing schedule would not allow it.  Choose your poison and take your medicine.

I can fairly easily saw 25" two live edged slabs.  If the customer wants wider than that, saw one live edge bookmatched slabs.  To me, that is the best and prettiest anyway.  Any competent woodworker can make one glue joint.  ;D

My mentality and business profile is not for everyone, but it works for me.  Not a living, but a good sideline gig.  Heck, I am 'posed to be retired. 
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Re: Startup portable sawmill
« Reply #39 on: November 11, 2019, 04:13:50 PM »
Here is the link to the Woodmizer stuff:

https://woodmizer.com/us/Resources/Magazines-Guides

The guides are at the bottom of the page, but you need to supply contact information to get them.


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Sawmill startup

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19 Replies
4161 Views
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Sawmill Startup

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4 Replies
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Startup Sawmill Business in East Texas

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12 Replies
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Portable Sawmill Special Deal - SAVE 10% on your Sawmill!

Started by HSV on Peterson Portable Sawmills

1 Replies
1614 Views
Last post March 10, 2015, 10:34:01 PM
by jamieotter
 


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