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Portable Sawmills
A Valuable Asset for Small Woodland Owners

Natural disasters, insect damage and prior poor management practices can dramatically reduce the value of woodlands requiring immediate consideration to minimize the loss of the devalued trees. Fortunately, for most small woodland owners, windfalls usually do not occur in numbers large enough to require sending a full load of recovered logs to the mill. However, achieving the optimal value from randomly downed logs can be a problem. Likewise, insect killed trees, damaged or poorly formed stems pose similar challenges to recovery of the existing value without incurring excessive expense. While most agree it is a shame to cut good logs into firewood or let them rot, options in the past have sometimes been limited. Today, many forested land owners are finding portable, thin-kerf band sawmills can provide environmentally and economically sound answers to the challenges presented to owners of less than premium value trees.

Dan Cassens carefully considered these issues on his 200 acre wood lot. Near Lafayette, Indiana. As a professor of wood products processing at Purdue University, he was keenly aware that "wolf trees" sprinkled throughout his woodlot and those killed by insects, contained much valuable lumber. He also knew that commercial harvesting and milling would not be cost effective. Dan's solution was to purchase a Wood-Mizer LT40 portable thin-kerf band saw to make lumber for his personal use or to be sold.

Like Dan Cassens, many woodland owners throughout the nation have found. That portable saw mills are a significant management tool that maximizes options, optimizes resource utilization and increases revenues while producing a positive environmental contribution.

Portable Thin-Kerf Milling Profits the Small Woodland Owner

When first introduced commercially 25 years ago, portable thin-kerf band sawmills drew little attention from the commercial forest industry. However, the low cost, ease of operation and the capacity to produce fine quality lumber, led to enthusiastic acceptance by farmers, wood lands owners, and others wanting to saw relatively small quantities of inexpensive lumber to support personal needs.

More importantly, the availability of this new technology provided a tool. To profitably turn previously "useless and worthless" trees into valuable lumber with an initial investment less than the cost of a small tractor. The highly portable mills are easily towed behind a small pickup, set up. In minutes and can be operated by a single operator to produce quality lumber from logs conventional sawmills cannot or will not accept.

The thin blades often yield 30-200% more lumber from a log than log scale would indicate and more lumber enhances value and profit achieved.

It is common for a small woodland owner to purchase one of these mills for his own use anticipating that others may also benefit. Dan Cassens purchased Wood-Mizer's LT40 thin-kerf mill to saw lumber for his personal use knowing that others would also pay for the service he could provide as a part-time custom sawyerJay Glime a Medford, Wisconsin resident started initially by custom sawmilling with a portable LT40 and today operates a full scale production operation. For Jay, what began in 1993 as a way to supplement his income, has grown into a profitable full time grade lumber business. Mills equipped with hydraulic lifting arms, clamps and log turners. Eliminate much of the labor from milling logs as large as 36 inches in diameter and up to 21 feet long. Oversized logs can be split with a chainsaw prior to milling. Optional features enhance the mill's usability including computerized setworks, debarkers, lubrication systems, automatic clutches and attachments to cut shakes or beveled siding.

Environmental Benefits - A Significant Bonus

Several tangible and measurable environmental benefits are realized by utilizing thin-kerf sawmills.

Although there is considerable controversy regarding greenhouse emissions and global warming, most agree that where greenhouse gases can be reduced with little difficulty or expense, they should be. Portable sawmills can, and do, play an important role in some of the carbon mitigation strategies many believe to be critical to atmospheric carbon reduction.

Portable sawmills often utilize raw materials that otherwise would be left to rot, burn or at best, be processed into chips, all of which eventually release significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. A double benefit is realized as the need for harvests in healthy forests is reduced so more healthy trees are allowed to remain standing. Those remaining trees "scrub" carbon from the air and release oxygen providing significant environmental enhancement.

Portable Thin-Kerf Sawmilling - An Alternative to Commercial Harvests

Portable mills allow landowners flexibility to manage small woodlands for optimal long term production. Individual trees can be profitably removed and milled to improve future stands vs harvesting larger volumes of timber to pay for logging and full load shipment to mills. A better alternative than shipping "poor quality" logs to mills willing to pay minimal amounts, portable mills can glean much valuable lumber "on-site" for the owner's personal use or for sale to others.

Thin-Kerf Mills Have a Successful Record

With perhaps 50,000 or more very thin-kerf units operating world wide today, portable thin-kerf sawmilling has proven its viability as both a profitable business venture and an important asset for those seeking to enhance the earth's environment.

For small woodland owners, portable thin-kerf sawmills provide flexibility in management and harvesting practices. Greater short and long term yields can be realized from trees harvested and positive environmental benefits are achieved.

Biographical Information: Jeff Mullins is an Oregon Small Woodlands Association member who pastors a rural church in northwest Oregon where he lives with his wife and children. He is a regular contributor to a number of forest and timber publications and has recently purchased a portable sawmill himself.


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