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Author Topic: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?  (Read 876 times)

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Offline TreadsActual

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Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« on: February 20, 2020, 03:10:46 PM »
Hi everyone,

I own and operate a stair tread shop, five employees total. Iím considering purchasing an LT 40 super and Vacutherm kiln. We purchase enough rough lumber each week that sawing my own would more than pay for the equipment, and would not approach max capacity for either pieces of equipment. I have room in my shop for both. Anyone else sawing for themselves? Thanks in advance.
Only rich farmers can afford cheap fences.

Offline btulloh

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Re: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2020, 03:36:26 PM »
I saw for myself, as do many others here. The whole range of sawyers is well represented on the FF. It all comes down to the economics of the situation and everyone has to evaluate what makes sense for theirs. Sounds like youíre in the process of doing just that. 

Welcome aboard the Forestry Forum train. Thereís a lot of good knowledge and good people here. 

Offline Southside

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Re: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2020, 06:55:42 PM »
A big question you need to answer is what are you going to do with the lumber that does not meet your grade for the treads? Do you have a market for low grade? If so do the economics still pencil out when you figure in the actual cost of what you need?

As you are aware the further down the line to a finished product you produce the greater the profit potential. Starting with a log and sawing lumber is the lowest return potential in the chain of production. You will have losses along the way both off the mill and in the kiln. 

Now, if you could hand pick air dried, rough sawn lumber and finish it in your kiln you could eliminate a lot of risk and reduce your costs. 
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Offline moodnacreek

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Re: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2020, 07:55:15 PM »
I can't beat Southsides advise here, buy the kiln, wait on the sawmill.

Offline EOTE

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Re: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2020, 09:25:57 PM »
Moodnacreek, keep in mind all the unknowns or things you haven't thought about.  

A good case in point is my story.  My wife and I bought 30 acres of land to build our retirement home on.  Long story short, we cleared 2 to 3 acres and had a huge pile of logs and came up with the bright(?) idea to buy a sawmill and cut all those trees into lumber for our home.

So we bought an WM LT40 Hydraulic and a box of blades.  It wasn't long before we realized we needed to store the wood, dry the wood, size and grade the wood, plane the wood, and on and on and on. Not only that but we had to drop an additional 100 trees for the rest of the lumber for our house, and a drying house and sawmill house.  Now, 2 years later, I am a lot wiser and more experienced.

Also, not all trees grew up to be lumber. Some grew up to be firewood and some to be mulch.  There is a lot of waste along the way as well that you have to deal with such as the slabs you take off the log to create the cant.  Lots of the lumber ends up being less than stellar.  

I am not saying this to discourage you.  I am saying to weigh the long term cost in time, materials, etc.  

Would I do it again?  There were times when I was sawing log after log after log that I started questioning whether I did the right thing.  But ultimately I am glad I did because I gained new skills, met a lot of new people, and have lots of stories to tell (not as many as Magicman but I am working on it. :) )  I am also proud of my accomplishments and am in better physical shape too.

So think it through, do the research, and then pull the trigger.

EOTE (End of the Earth - i.e. last place on the road in the middle of nowhere)  Retired.  Old guys rule!
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Offline YellowHammer

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Re: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2020, 10:09:27 PM »
Although sawing and drying seems simple, there is a significant learning curve for both. So trying to do both at the same time to develop and produce a critical path item for your company could be problematic, at best.  I'd only pick one to start with.

The whole production aspect of sawing is very time consuming, starting with acquiring logs, moving and handling them, learning proper sawing techniques, actually sawing, sorting, mill maintenance, blade maintenance, and dealing with unsuitable, low grade wood.  

Kiln drying, on the other hand, is not time consuming, other than to load and unload it.  The majority of the time, it runs unattended, with a little bit of basic monitoring every day.  Much less labor and time required than sawing logs.

 
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Offline Brad_bb

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Re: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2020, 11:02:57 PM »
When someone has a sawmill, the next thing they want is a kiln, then machines to convert it planed lumber, then they want to say make tables.  I always caution them.  You can do one or two things well, but few people can do more than that and still be efficient.

We tend to be more efficient doing one thing.  Even one thing can have many facets to keep you busy.  Milling requires figuring out how to get a regular source for logs in order to keep sawing.  You've also got to build lumber drying pallets, make stickers, dispose of waste as well of a host of other duties.  

If you have good help and you can afford to split your resources, great.  But if it's you that has to do most of everything, be very careful about splitting your time.
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Offline Ianab

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Re: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2020, 01:12:02 AM »
Now, if you could hand pick air dried, rough sawn lumber and finish it in your kiln you could eliminate a lot of risk and reduce your costs.


That was going to be my suggestion. First step would be to get your own kiln and buy in green rough sawn, selecting the grade you need. Advantage of starting with a kiln is that it doesn't take a lot of man hours to operate. Sure you have to load / monitor / unload it, but for the rest of the week the kiln just sits there humming away, and turning cheap green lumber into more valuable dry lumber.

This doesn't preclude you buying a mill later, or if you don't, the kiln should still pay for itself over time.

Another option once you have a kiln running is to get a load of logs delivered and hire in a portable mill to saw them. That would let you judge how the logistics / manpower / recovery % are going to work out. From there you have three possible outcomes. 
1 - You go back to buying green lumber and drying it. Maybe it's just too much hassle to run a mill onsite. 
2 - You hire the portable guy to come back a few days every month. Could work as long as it's financially viable for both parties. 
3 - You can see that it's going to work for you, and buy a mill. 

Either way, you haven't committed until you have taken a "test drive". 

One of my computer clients runs a "full" operation, from their log truck collecting logs from the landing, through to building you a fence / shed / house from it. But they have a pretty large operation with about 50 staff over 3 sites including a full hardware store / lumber yard and their own kilns and treatment plant etc. This means they have outlets for ALL the wood that comes in the gate, down to truck loads of firewood from the slabs. Bark and sawdust also get sold, so about the only thing wasted is the smell of the pine. But being a larger operation they have the staff to run the separate operations, with a bit of overlap
Weekend warrior, Peterson JP test pilot, Dolmar 7900 and Stihl MS310 saws and  the usual collection of power tools :)

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2020, 09:27:15 AM »
   Are you guys suggesting the OP hand select the lumber at the lumber yard then dry it or buy a stack of lumber and select the best/appropriate boards for KD? The former is fine if the lumber yard can/will accommodate. If the latter, what does he do with the excess lumber that did not meet his grade requirements?
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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: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2020, 10:11:31 AM »
My suggestion is to work with someone set up like yourself, knows how to produce good lumber, has a market for lower grade stuff, and does not run a kiln. Both parties can make more money in an arrangement like that. 
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Offline moodnacreek

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Re: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2020, 01:09:26 PM »
Lots of unknowns, always shooting from the hip. But the guy already has a business and employees. If he had a kiln and was near me, well I got a pile of  red oak butts and no market! I could make him a deal the Godfather would approve and sell him nice air dried oak off sticks to get the kiln started and then saw the best of what I got and sticker for him. Unless of course he has a woodlot full of clear hardwood logs and a lot of time to play.

Offline YellowHammer

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Re: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2020, 01:22:24 PM »
I do it quite often with many of quality mills around here.  I put in an order for FAS better of several species, they saw and grade it out, I pay them for the green wood, and bring it home to air dry. 

I am forced to do it because some of the sawmills here wonít sell me logs, but they will sort and saw high grade lumber to my specs.  
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Offline moodnacreek

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Re: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2020, 07:19:14 PM »
People specialize in some process and then get mechanized. Now to come in and crash their party may not be wise. If you do it cheaper than them only the consumer wins.

Offline YellowHammer

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Re: Anyone sawing wood for themselves?
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2020, 07:44:37 PM »
Most big pro sawmills gladly sell green wood, the question is what price is fair.  To that end, I always refer to the Hardwood Market Report.  Itís the gold standard, and lists the actual commodity price for green and kiln dried wood, by species and area.  

Most professional mills, if asked, will give out prices using the HMR as a basis.  So I can call any mill in the country and ask what is their rate for ďFAS and Better, No Sort, White OakĒ and they will generally reply with ďHMR + 10%Ē or something like that.  

Even the hardwood mills that kiln dry their wood will sell green if asked.  To them, money is money, and thatís their business.  

The nice thing about dealing with these big professional mills is that I can get wood in any stage I want, from log, to dead green rough sawn, to kiln dried S3S.  We all talk the same language, and Iím just another high grade lumber or log buyer. 

I use them as a safety valve, when Iím in a production bind, like just this last December, when one of my kilns died in the busiest time of the year.  So I pick up the phone and make deals.  I bought walnut from Missouri, cherry from Pennsylvania, and Paudak from overseas.  
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