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Thread: Economics of milling vs store bought hardwoods?

  1. #16
    One last thing is, while in straight up dollars and cents you may not come out ahead, this is true.
    On the other hand, you do have complete control of the process, how ever messy it may be.
    Cutting the grain where and how you want, sizing pieces for your needs, etc. This is the stuff that's hard to calculate. When you buy wood, most times, you're at their mercy.
    Doing it all yourself, you can cut, keep and pitch what you want to.
    Firewood is a bonus

  2. #17
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    In recent months several small sawmill operators have created you tube content on the theme of "Why I have stopped running my mill". It is about economics.
    The logistics of even a small saw mill operation are expensive. I am trying to keep alive the hope of incorporating Dads old Woodmizer into my operation. Processing your own wood is very satisfying. The ability to control every step of the process adds value to speciality wood products. Trying to make it pay becomes a tough and demanding full time job.
    Old Standard Wood in Fulton MO has created a niche for their Woodmizer operation. I bought pine boards for roof decking from Trees To Dreams, A father and son Woodmizer operation in Cannan NH. Those two gentlemen work very hard to create surprisingly affordable lumber. They also hustle to find additional work for the fleet of equipment their operation requires. The same is true for several mills around central MO, Starr Farm Timber products, Missouri-Pacific Lumber Co., Cardwell Lumber,... they are all hustling all day 5-7 days a week. I am going to keep the Woodmizer running until my hobbies become too expensive. She who balances the checkbook says "That ship sailed a while ago".
    Best Regards, Maurice

  3. #18
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    There is a difference between running a sawmill to generate income vs. a hobby that might pay for itself. The later is where I'm at. My mill has paid for itself a couple of times over in lumber sales and by custom milling for others. The downside is the time it takes away from actual woodworking. There's no right or wrong answer, only what your personal objectives are.

    As for getting better quality lumber, cut just the way you want it, maybe. It's hard to source clear logs if you don't own some forest. It's hard to move logs if you don't have at least a log dolly and ATV, etc. You can't take an Alaskan mill to the log if it's sitting in someone's yard, you have to move it. It takes quite a lot of experience to read a log to know how best to cut it. Quarter sawing is another level of effort with, by its very nature, very low yield of wide boards. Drying losses are another factor that reduce yield by 10 to 20%, sometimes more. Yes, I make "free" lumber for the cost of my time and a little gas and mill maintenance. The % of high quality lumber, however, probably is less than 30%, which is why I sell as much of the rest as possible. I get a lot of firewood from it, though, so that's a bonus if you burn wood. If not, getting rid of the slab wood is a headache, as it is for most small mills.

    Anyone considering milling as a low cost means of getting high quality lumber should consider all the factors involved in deciding if it makes sense for them.

    John

  4. #19
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    My brother gained access to a pretty nice mill that hadn't been used in years. It even had a stack of logs he could have. Cost him about $200 to get it going, and a couple days labor. Then he had fun milling some logs. I got some nice Maple and he has a few stacks of lumber stacked and drying. He might use some of it someday. The mill languishes again.

  5. #20
    Wow what a great post! All thoughts I've had. Though I would greatly enjoy milling I have very little woodworking time as it is. At least I can do that inside even if outside isn't cooperating due to rain early sunsets etc. As part of Nick's original question, if he were to mill there would be a need to dry somehow.

    What about the economics of buying the wood green and having your own kiln to dry it?

  6. #21
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    While never owning a mill I’ve done things a couple ways in getting wood milled. Back East in MA I found an old fella with a mill and he came onto my sisters place to cut two beautiful 30” WO’s. I paid him straight up and had all the wood. Here in CA a friend has a mill and I took a 30” BW off my foothill property. We split the wood pretty much 50-50. Again, in my estimation it was a fair deal as he had to bring his rig to pick and haul the log and then cut it. A mill is a lot of effort, money and space for it, associated gear & the wood itself. A close friend of mine from Calistoga milled all kinds of trees out of the valley for about 30 yrs. He had developed connections with road crews, town & county folks, etc to find out what was going to be coming down. I’ll be skiing with him on Wed and will see what info he can provide an report back.

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel O'Neill View Post
    Wow what a great post! All thoughts I've had. Though I would greatly enjoy milling I have very little woodworking time as it is. At least I can do that inside even if outside isn't cooperating due to rain early sunsets etc. As part of Nick's original question, if he were to mill there would be a need to dry somehow.

    What about the economics of buying the wood green and having your own kiln to dry it?
    That could be a much better approach if you have some small-time sawyers nearby and the space to put up a solar kiln, and then of course a means to store it. I often mill logs for people and they deal with the green lumber. One of them has a solar kiln. We are both happy with the arrangement.

    If you get to choose the lumber it could be a very good deal. If someone forces you to buy all the lumber from a log, or a "lift" of lumber that you can't look it, however, the deal might not be nearly as good.

    John

  8. #23
    The big city near me, Sacramento, (the city of trees) has a non profit tree foundation for maintaining the city's trees.
    https://sactree.org/about/
    They do offer milling services, as well as sell slabs but they are expensive.
    "Limited custom milling is available starting at $125 per hour with a one-hour minimum and potential additional fees. "

    I don't know if such a service is available in others locations, might be worth a little research.

  9. I bought my mill in 2021 while employed full time. I get logs from my sister in law who runs a nearby golf course. Lots of oaks and cherry a bit of walnut and maple. I've milled about 50 logs 18' - 30' and never hit any metal. I enjoy getting and milling but never counted on the tedium of stacking so that they're fully supported. That's just a boring pain. And how boring is it making stickers? I'm retired now and planning on making a kiln but not really sure about solar kilns in Michigan. Anyway I recently built a roubo workbench and wanted a thick hard maple top. I didn't have any thick maple so I bit the bullet and bought from a local mill. They say that hard maple is relatively cheap but $1400 just for the top was a bitter pill. The base is all self harvested indoor dried cherry and it came out beautiful. I've made many projects out of my stock and am quickly moving toward a break even on the Woodland Mills saw mill. I still enjoy it but doubt I could ever make a profit with it.

  10. #25
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    I hope someone in the DC area snags some of the Yoshino Cherry that is being removed. It is not highly desirable for lumber but would be a fun novelty. Turning the trees into mulch is the plan according to what I heard on NPR.

    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart...ise-180983999/
    Last edited by Maurice Mcmurry; 03-28-2024 at 8:53 AM. Reason: link
    Best Regards, Maurice

  11. #26
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    I considered this early on in my woodworking life as a hobbyist. We have a lot of storm-downed trees each year. I decided it was the time one needs to expend that was the critical factor, not the potential cost savings. Hours to produce a couple of BF of usable material just wasn't worth it. It would have taken me a considerable investment in equipment to make it more efficient, and I decided I'd rather make things with that time and money. As a hobby in itself (i've met a few guys like that) - that would be a different story.
    Last edited by Stan Calow; 04-01-2024 at 9:12 AM.
    < insert spurious quote here >

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