How we got started in the sawmill business,


My dad was a logger and I had three uncles that ran sawmills from part time to full time so you could say I grew up with sawdust on the brain.

In ’77 we bought 140 acres of the family farm and in ’82 built a house in the middle of it. Each year I would find really nice red oak trees that had died. We didn’t really have a way to market them so we ended up cutting them up for firewood. Then the Great Flood of ’93 took our "retirement trees" away from us. We had about an acre grove of young walnut trees about 12" DBH and 30’ to the first limb – probably 30 in all. The major stream that ran through the farm undercut and laid these trees over into a rack heap in the bend of the stream.

It was then that I decided to get a sawmill. It took me six months to talk Mary into it but we got a Wood-Mizer LT40 manual mill in the spring of 94. We pulled all the walnut out of the rack heap we could and sawed it up – plus some other lumber for the farm for our use.

My brother-in-law wanted us to saw him some farm lumber so we took the mill over to his house and set up. Even though it was on a back road and in an obscure spot, people could get a glimpse of the mill and us sawing as they drove by. The first few days were not productive because people would stop to see what that machine was and what we were doing with it. Without really wanting to, I got five more sawing jobs. People were bringing logs to the mill there to have them sawed before we were able to get back home with the mill.

About mid summer ’94, Mary could see that we were making some income from the mill and proudly announced one morning that she was going to quit her job as an accounting manager and an insurance company. This was my plan but she beat me to the jump. I still have my office job for financial security reasons like pension, insurance, etc.

Well, everything keep growing and expanding with the sawmill business. We started selling lumber and then got some grade lumber dried and started selling that. Then the customers wanted it planed so we got a planer. We built buildings, got a bigger tractor with 4WD, got a flat bed truck, then later a new Dodge 3500 flat bed, two blade edger, added to the buildings, expanded the log lot, started selling grade lumber off the mill to brokers, started making specialty products like survey stakes, etc. We also added another 75 of all wooded acres to our farm.

Mary trained in lumber and log grading and started buying the logs. When she took up sawing so in 2000, we bought a used Wood-Mizer LT40HD35G Super with some intentions of using it on mobile sawing jobs while leaving out LT40G18 manual mill set up in the shed. We would run one or the other mill and sometime both at the same time - depending on the need at the time.

At the end of 2001, we made another major business decision. We sold the two mills and installed a new 2002 Wood-Mizer LT40HDE25 Super Hydraulic 3ph electric mill with Accuset and Command Control. To get three-phase power, we decided to install a rotary phase converter. It was a lot to figure out but it works well.

She’s about taken over the business except for maintaining the equipment and moving the slabs, etc. She still lets me do that.

We'd like to add another building that would be closeable during bad weather and more support equipment to reduce the amount of brute labor involved in running a sawmill. Having the time is the major obstacle.