If you’re considering the purchase of a mill to cut your own lumber or to start a sawmilling business, we’ve come up with a list of ten good reasons to continue that train of thought (or perhaps to help you sell the notion to a spouse or business partner).
10. A bandsaw mill is the most efficient way to convert logs into lumber. Many band sawmills have a 1/8” thick kerf—half that of circle sawmills. Portable bandsaw mills yield eight 1” boards for every seven produced on circle sawmills. Whether you are buying logs or cutting them yourself, the 15% increase in yield means better use of the resource and a better overall return your investment.
9. The variety and options for mills make it possible to find a sawmill to meet any of a number of needs. There is no need to bet the farm on a sawmill business. You can start small and run the bandsaw mill as a hobby or to provide lumber for your own building and woodworking projects. As you develop your skills and find a market niche, you can increase your output by adding a log deck, hydraulic log handling, support equipment and possibly hiring some help to move and load logs.
8. Portable sawmills often make use of wood, which would otherwise go to waste and sawmilling is actually a green business making use of wood in a very sustainable way. One of the greenest parts of running a small sawmill is turning “trash” wood into useful lumber. Loggers leave behind anything they can’t sell to sawmills. This includes logs which are too short, too crooked or odd species—exactly the logs many custom woodworkers want for their creations. Urban trees are a particularly rich source of logs for small sawmills. Commercial mills won’t accept urban logs because they often have metal embedded in them. You may ruin a blade or two on nails, but the blades can usually be re-sharpened or economically replaced. Even if the blade is ruined, the replacement cost is about $30. Furthermore, every board you produce is one less that will come from a clear-cut commercial harvest.
7. Operating a bandsaw mill makes it economically possible to manage woodlands for sustainable lumber production. Commercial loggers need between 20 and 60 acres to make it worthwhile to bring in their equipment and typically take all merchantable lumber. A portable sawmill increases the value of the trees you harvest, making it practical to selectively harvest trees at their peak value, remove cull trees and salvage dead and dying trees.
6. In a rural area, a small sawmill business is a great way to get to know your neighbors. You are not the only one frustrated by the high price and low quality of wood available at the lumberyard. Local farmers and ranchers also need trailer decking, barn siding, building material and fencing. When word gets out you run a portable sawmill, they will contact you about lumber. Woodworkers are always on the lookout for unusual wood for their projects and will likely stop by from time-to-time just to see what you have new in your stacks of wood.
5. A sawmill gives you access to quality and species of wood, which would otherwise be unavailable. Commercial sawmills can’t take time to cut odd species to sell to specialty markets and wide flitch cuts are out of the question for them. That’s where the bandsaw comes in. You can cut each log for its best use. Quarter-sawn sycamore, for example, has a beautiful pattern and sells at a premium as “American lacewood”. Flitch cut walnut crotches have a unique feather grain highly desirable for gun stocks and furniture. Sassafras, mulberry, Osage orange, persimmon and other minor species each have their unique qualities giving them their own special value, if you are willing to take the time to do the research.
4. Portable sawmills provide the potential for good income and business growth. Even when the housing market and standard lumber prices are down, the demand for specialty wood products remains. Small sawmills have the flexibility to mill the most profitable wood at any given time, whether it is flooring, railroad ties, dunnage, construction materials or custom lumber for area farmers or woodworkers. Selling your wood online via Craigslist or Kijiji is also now a very viable option, thereby significantly extending your market. With a good business plan and a willingness to work hard, you can build a thriving business.
3. A portable sawmill is an excellent family project. Simply putting a sawmill together can provide entertainment. Whether your children just hand you nuts and bolts or are old enough to help read and interpret instructions, it can be a good personal and learning experience. Milling lumber is a great way for the family to work together, develop a work ethic and learn about mechanical systems. A number of band saw operators are third or fourth generation sawyers. Bandsaw mills offer opportunities to span generations, whether continuing a family tradition or starting a new one.
2. Running a mobile sawmill is a great way to get fresh air and exercise. Many agree there is no substitute for working outside with nature. The options available allow you to get as much exercise as you want. Loading and turning logs, cranking the head height, pushing the blade through the log and offbearing exercise the core muscles, plus a few you probably didn’t even know you had! If you are producing a lot of lumber and want to give those muscles a rest, some bandmills offer hydraulic log handling options to ease the workload. Of course you can still turn the logs with a cant hook to keep those biceps in shape.
1. You want to and enjoy sawmilling! For less money than many people spend on golf clubs, a fishing boat, hunting supplies, or ATVs, you can own a personal portable sawmill and have the satisfaction of producing your own lumber for fun and profit.
Do you have any others to add to the list? We’d love to have you share them in the comments.