Shopping for a portable sawmill? Before you break out the checkbook, there are a few things to know. Having this important information can mean the difference in paying $4,000 or over $40,000 for a unit.
So why is there such a variation in price for different sawmill models? One reason is where they’re made – a Chinese-made mill may be cheaper, but generally isn’t going to stand up to the wear, tear and weather associated with sawmilling. Then, much like a vehicle, the final price comes down to accessories; naturally, the more extras you get on your machine, the more expensive it will be. But, on the other side of the coin, accessories can increase your sawmill’s productivity. You have to balance the cost versus the benefits. During that analysis, different factors will come into play, including whether you plan to use the machine for personal milling or as the basis for a business where saved time equals more profit. For the latter group, this is the time to sit down, develop a business plan and a budget. Ignoring either your plan or budget can be disastrous for the business.
Sawmill accessories can vary from simple attachments such as bed extensions, to trailer systems, to toe boards, to lap siding systems … all the way to fully hydraulic log handling equipment.
Many sawmill models come pretty much in a take-it-or-leave-it configuration; they are either pretty basic, fully loaded, or somewhere in the middle. Ideally, you want to start with a mill in a basic configuration and have the flexibility to add different attachments later on. There are a couple good reasons for this. First, it costs less to get started milling with a basic bandmill. Second, when you start your career as a sawyer (whether hobbyist or professional), you never know where it will take you. If you can add capacity and features later on. Your sawmill can grow with your milling operation. Not many companies offer this level of customization, but one sawmill manufacturer that we know of does.
Whether or not to go with hydraulics is a fairly major decision and one that can easily add thousands of dollars to the overall cost of a unit. But it can also dramatically increase your productivity. For some, this is an easy decision given the amount of time and labor hydraulics will save. Hydraulic portable sawmill accessories can reduce costs associated with other pieces of equipment required to lift, handle and manipulate logs on and around the mill.
Even the category of hydraulics can be broken down to different features with different cost factors. Each has to be weighed to determine if the added expense will pay off in the long run.
Although most modern portable sawmills come equipped with some added features, you might feel the urge to tack on a few more things. In the end, it has to be cost-effective based on your specific needs and those of your business. Your best bet is to talk to an experienced sawmill dealer or other sawyers and discuss what you will be using the equipment for to see if added expenses can be justified.
I’ve noticed something else, as I’ve used the mill. As I get older, the logs seem to be getting heavier, and hydraulics look more attractive. The log loader and turner are on my short list.