Customer Stories

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Restoring Men Through Christ, a Sawmill and a Woodshop

By Greg Wetterlin, Director at Restoration Sawmill and Hardwoods
Photography by Erika Wetterlin

When Restoration Men’s Residential Ministry opened in 2016 with the goal of helping men overcome addiction, the financial model was simple – provide excellent addiction help without financial burden by teaching men to work hard and support the resources that they were receiving. At this point, we had no idea who Wood-Mizer was and how important of a partner they would become. 

The ministry is housed on a beautiful 100-acre property in Lafayette, Indiana. It started with one house with the capacity to help 6 men seeking freedom from addiction. Although the goal from the outset was to start a business with the men that would support the ministry, no plan had been settled when the first men arrived. At the beginning, the plan was to start cleaning up and caring for the property which included an old 1800s barn. Part of cleaning up the property involved cutting down some dead trees including one that was a walnut tree. I knew nothing about lumber or woodworking, but the volunteer working with me when the tree was taken down knew that walnut was valuable lumber. He told me that it was a real shame to cut walnut into firewood and wished that we knew someone with a sawmill.

That’s where Wood-Mizer became an invaluable partner in our mission of helping men overcome addiction.

That one walnut tree sent our ministry in a direction that we are still heading. Days after the walnut tree came down, a friend from church brought out his 1990s LT40 Wood-Mizer sawmill. From there, we wondered if there was a way to repair the 1800s barn with fallen trees on the property. Another volunteer mentioned that his brother owned a Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmill and we were able to borrow it for 2 months to complete the project. The only goal at the time was to cut enough lumber to repair the barn floor. We had never dreamed or thought of starting a sawmill or custom woodworking business, but that’s exactly what happened.

After 2 months of having a blast borrowing the LT15 sawmill and cutting any log we could get our hands on, a church member who volunteered at Restoration looked at all the lumber that had been milled and estimated that it was worth between $15,000 and $20,000. At first, I didn’t believe him. I had no clue what lumber cost, let alone hardwood lumber. I started doing some research and found out he was right! That’s what led me to reach out to Wood-Mizer and I took the opportunity to explain that a sawmill would help men trying to overcome addiction by providing an opportunity to learn hard work and help support the resources they were receiving at Restoration. In June of 2017, we purchased an LT40WIDE hydraulic sawmill.

We had considered lots of options for business ideas up to this point. The problem with most of those ideas was that they were capital intensive without much promise for quick and sustained return. Therefore, they would require more traditional funding than we were set-up to make or were willing to do at this point in the ministry’s life. The Wood-Mizer made it a safe investment that wasn’t capital heavy and had already proved the ability of returning on the investment by immediately being able to saw lumber to sell and saw lumber for customers.

More than just financially making sense, the sawmill operation provided a nice balance of fast paced, hard work for the men coming to Restoration without having a tremendously steep learning curve. The work has also been perfect for men seeking freedom from addiction because for many of them drugs or alcohol has been where they have turned to for comfort, satisfaction and pleasure. Many men wrapped up in addiction haven’t been taught or ever experienced the satisfaction and joy of working hard in order to serve others. The sawmill has become a perfect hands on place to help them learn exactly what Jesus Christ taught in His word, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), and to “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23) 

Restoration Sawmill and Hardwoods, the name of the non-profit business, quickly grew beyond just sawing lumber and we began making custom wood furniture and products. In this way, the men got the satisfaction of seeing wood go all the way from log, to lumber to final product, and finally to the end user. When men are stuck in addictions, they are consumed with serving themselves rather than working hard to bless and serve others. That’s one of the most important lessons to learn in order to live in freedom from addiction.

The growing pains of starting a new business became a powerful parable for the men in the program. As you get into something new there are always new challenges. For the first year of the program, I was the only staff member and my woodworking experience and knowledge was little to none. A couple of the volunteers had construction knowledge, but no one was a furniture builder. But through lots of reading, YouTube videos, networking and plenty of trial and error, we’ve become furniture makers training men coming out of addiction how to also make furniture.

The model that we have is quite unique when you think about it. We accept men into the program and employ them in our sawmill business. These are men that a typical business wouldn’t hire or give a second chance. While they are here, we train them how to be good employees, how to serve others, how to work hard even when no one is looking, how to develop a learner’s mindset and how to solve problems. Then when they are valuable employees, we graduate them from the program and they move on to other places of employment. It’s kind of backwards, but that’s the goal of Restoration—take men who are struggling and teach them how to thrive through the transformational power of Jesus Christ and then send them back to be productive and service oriented in their communities, churches and families.

In 2018, because of need for long-term residential programs is so significant—especially programs that are not going to enslave people in debt—we raised $200,000 in order to expand the ministry to a second house in order to double the capacity of the program from 6 to 12 men. Because the work is such a key component of the men’s growth and the financial model, the work for the men had to also be able to sustain 6 more residents. By God’s grace, Restoration Sawmill and Hardwoods had grown to the point of being able to justify having its own full-time staff member. We were even able to utilize money that was left over from the new house in order to build two wood kiln chambers, which can each dry 3,500 board feet of hardwood lumber at time. The ability to dry lumber for furniture has been one of the largest value adding improvements we’ve made.

What started with a large shop space with basic tools like a used table saw, a 12” chop saw and a collection of my own and volunteers’ tools, grew to be a full-fledged woodworking shop with the capability to dimension rough lumber and make custom furniture. The 12” portable planer that we borrowed when we dimensioned all the 2x4’s we cut on our sawmill to build a sawmill shed was replaced by a 20” planer. A 12” jointer was added to the repertoire, followed by a shaper, a 24” bandsaw, a table saw, an assortment of woodworking tools, and most recently a Wood-Mizer MP260 4-sided planer moulder. The story of each one of those tools is that men in the program worked hard, produced lumber and furniture that profited in order to be able to purchase those tools without going into debt.

Recently, we have connected with a couple of customers who have cleared trees in order to build their home. Rather than waste the trees, they’ve come to us to have their trees turned into usable wood for their home including hardwood flooring. At this point, sawing trees, drying the boards in our wood kiln, dimensioning and making tongue and groove boards was straight forward which we had often done for making interior barn doors. But being able to move at a pace fast enough to produce 4,000 square feet of flooring while providing competitive pricing demanded a machine capable of cutting our production time down significantly. Again, Wood-Mizer proved to be an integral partner so we purchased a MP260 planer/moulder and chip extractor. Not only have these flooring jobs more than paid for the machine, but the capabilities that it has opened up for us are enormous. 

Companies like Wood-Mizer and Wildcat Creek Tree Service in Lafayette, Indiana a tree service that has donated countless logs to Restoration Sawmill and Hardwoods—have been absolutely critical in helping Restoration men’s ministry accomplish their mission of helping men find freedom from addiction through Jesus Christ. 

Addiction takes a serious toll on the men, their families and communities. However, because of Wood-Mizer, there is real hope for men to be changed, and for their families and communities to be changed as a result. I genuinely believe that everything we do at Restoration from the biblical counseling, to Bible studies, to attendance at church, to making meals, to work in the sawmill is all part of helping men make the heart changes that will lead to the next 30, 40, 50 plus years of their life to be completely different. 

If you had asked me what Restoration would have looked like 3 years ago, I would have never guessed this is where the Lord would have taken it. It’s better than I could have ever dreamed.


 

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Wheeler Mission Producing Pallets to Change Lives

On the surface, Wheeler Mission Pallet and Industry operates as a typical pallet business by providing clients with standard and custom-sized pallets for shipment of goods. However, the organization exists primarily to restore men to health and wholeness through Christ-centered programs. “The business model that we have here, you’ll not find in any other pallet plant,” said Tom Porterfield, Wheeler Mission Pallet General Manager.

As part of Wheeler Mission Ministries, a men’s and women’s homeless shelter ministry since 1893, Wheeler Pallet is located on a residential recovery center called Camp Hunt just 50 miles southwest of Indianapolis, Indiana. Situated on 285 acres bordering a scenic and sprawling state forest, Camp Hunt is dedicated to the rehabilitation of men addicted to alcohol and drugs. "Our goal is to see men develop a life changing relationship with Christ," said Dwayne Gordon, Bloomington Area Director for Wheeler Mission Ministries.

 
The Camp Hunt campus includes a dormitory with nearly 40 beds for men in the program, cabins and homes for the staff to reside, chapel for prayer and worship, playground areas for visiting families to reconnect, cafeteria, nature trails for hiking, and a private lake for fishing and swimming. Although the camp offers many recreational activities to encourage a healthy lifestyle, the adult students all have defined jobs at the camp and spend each day developing a positive work ethic while learning essential life skills. All of the work done by the recovering students is designed to aid in establishing self-worth and respect while being part of a vibrant community. “Wheeler isn’t just concerned with getting these individuals free of their addictions, we are committed to these men becoming viable contributors to life,” said Porterfield.  As part of the 6-month program, men develop personal and professional skills such as being on time to work, attending chapel, and taking part in fellowship with others in the community.

All men of the program live on campus and invest a lot of labor into the camp such as maintaining the park like grounds, buildings, and lakefront. With only a limited number of maintenance jobs available, the full-fledged pallet operation Wheeler Pallet was established to give students of the program more opportunities to learn valuable work skills. Operating with approximately 20 workers at any given time, Wheeler Pallet produces and sells high-quality hardwood spec pallets, custom pallets, and cut stock which offset the cost of running the program. After the adult students finish their morning duties at the camp, they walk to the nearby pallet plant to work from 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every weekday. Workers are stationed in different areas of the operation including the cut-off saw, multi-head resaw, material handling, stringer notcher, groover, and assembly. A challenge facing the operation is a high turnover rate due to the 6-month timeframe of the program. “Just when they are getting proficient at what they do, we help them find another place of employment,” said Porterfield. “It’s a backward business model from any other pallet plant or any other business you’ll be around.” Even with a high turnover rate and constant training, the operation remains productive. 

First, cants are loaded, automatically sorted, and then cut to length on a newly installed cut-off saw line. Next, the cants travel on a conveyor and are fed directly into a Wood-Mizer four-head industrial resaw with a merry go-round system to produce stringers and deck boards. The multi-head resaw has been a centerpiece of the operation since the start and has processed millions of board feet of pallet components for the business over the years. Stringers and deck boards produced from the resaw are sorted and sent to a notcher or groover before assembly. Depending on the size of pallet, the components are taken to one of four assembly stations where they are fastened by pneumatic nailers.

Running the operation this way for the past several years has resulted in the assembly of 14,000 board feet of material per day on average. “We build a lot of low-volume, large custom pallets so some days it is not unusual to build six to nine different pallet footprints,” said Porterfield. Although Wheeler Pallet produces standard 48” x 40” or 48” x 45” pallets, they have found a niche in producing large custom pallets for clients. “The bulk of our business is pallets with stringers 124 or 148 inches long,” said Porterfield. “We have one pallet called the ‘behemoth’ that is 251 inches long by 112 inches wide. We may average 400 pallets per day, but if they were all spec, it would be more like 1,200 pallets.”

 

Improvements such as the cut-off saw line has provided benefits not only to production but also to workforce development. “Before the cut-up line, we were doing everything by hand,” said Porterfield. “Lifting cants onto a conveyor, positioning them on a pop-up saw, cutting them to length and stacking them.” According to Production Manager Jerry Doss, the addition of the cut-off saw line has reduced the labor needs for this stage of the operation from four people to one which enables the three other workers to learn another part of the manufacturing process and build their skillset. 

Wheeler Pallet also has found value by providing heat-treated pallets, which is becoming more in demand due to the growing needs of clients to ship internationally. According to Doss, almost half of their pallets are heat-treated in their own kiln. “Several years ago, we had to ship the pallets off-site to be kiln-dried,” said Doss. “We realized we could get our return on investment in less than two years by building our own kiln and doing it all here.” The dry kiln is heated by a wood burning stove that resourcefully utilizes extra pieces from the cut-off saw. Pallets are kiln-dried for a minimum of 40 minutes to ensure they are HT certified. Off-cuts from the operation are also used around the camp to heat the dormitories and cabins where the adult students and staff reside.

Since the beginning of Wheeler Mission Pallets, nearly 400 men have completed the program at Camp Hunt and many graduates have since become involved with the camp. Today, out of the 15 full-time staff at Camp Hunt, 12 of them have been graduates of the program. “They understand where these men are coming from, what they are fighting, and the challenges that are ahead of them,” said Porterfield. “The love, compassion, and commitment from them is amazing.” By utilizing a workforce that some have written off, Wheeler Mission Pallets is continuing to make a difference, one pallet and one life at a time.

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Wood-Mizer Missions Team Visits Costa Rica

Teaming up with Youth with a Mission (YWAM), several Wood-Mizer employees and family members travelled to Costa Rica to build a housing structure for visiting missionaries in the area. Here are a few first-hand experiences from the mission team’s travels.

Dave Meyer

My wife, Rose, and I went on the trip because we feel it’s important to share the blessings and talents God has given us with others. As James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Our primary task was to start building a cabin, but we also felled a huge tree, cut and treated lumber, pulled weeds, dug post holes, and cleared brush. The full impact of our efforts won’t be realized until the cabin is completed and used to house missionary couples coming to learn the skills needed to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of the poor in developing nations. 

Some of my most memorable moments of the trip were experiencing the local food and culture, meeting new friends, strengthening existing friendships, running a sawmill for the first time, and literally saving a life. However, the biggest take away for me is knowing that, in a small way, we helped spread the word of Christ to remote corners of the world. The trip was the first opportunity Rose and I have had to share a missions trip experience together without our children and are definitely planning on going on many more. Rose and I went on the first two Wood-Mizer sponsored missions trips. I went on the Poland trip in 1999 and she went on the Ukraine trip in 2000. The experience moved us to start a Sr. High missions program at our church where we are now preparing for our 18th missions trip this summer.

Tim Volz

I can say that the Costa Rica trip was amazing! Sure I was taken out of my comfort zone a bit, because I was eating unfamiliar foods and living in a different culture for a week. Since I have been on other mission trips before I was prepared, but this trip was different for me, because my daughter Savanna was able to enjoy this trip with me! I was able to build a stronger bond with her as we worked as teammates of the mission team. This allowed me to forget all about being out of my comfort zone. I believe the Lord had a hand in how great we worked as a team and allowing us to help others while building friendships with the YWAM staff that will last forever! 

Recently I was able to host our friend Lukas from YWAM Costa Rica at my house and show him our culture and it was the first time I’ve ever done anything like that. It too was amazing…what a great feeling! At Wood-Mizer, I deal with helping others improve their life at work. This trip allowed me to better understand that we need to get out of our comfort zones in daily life, thus continuously improving ourselves….trying to become the best version of ourselves as God challenges us to do! What a blessing it is to improve ourselves while helping others.

Deanna Bunten

In my heart and in my mind, I always wanted to go on a mission trip to serve others and the Lord while stretching myself spiritually. I really didn’t know where to start because missionary work wasn’t familiar territory for me. The Wood-Mizer mission trip to YWAM Heredia provided an excellent opportunity for both my 16 year old son, Evan, and I to give our gifts of time and labor. Spending a week together, Evan and I worked alongside each other and our Wood-Mizer team doing many construction projects at the camp that will allow them to further their outreach. We worked, talked, ate, laughed, dreamed, prayed and played. All the while, witnessing not just God’s love at work through the mission, but in our own lives as we received the biggest blessing of time spent together.

 
 
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Building Churches and Schools in Papua New Guinea

By Jesse Pryor, Missionary to Papua New Guinea

It’s around 6 am and the bug’s chirping and the bat wing flapping give way to the singing of birds in the dense foliage above us. When an adult-sized bat flaps its 4-6’ wingspan in the middle of the night, you hear it. Trust me on that!

Yesterday had been a long day for the six members of the sawmill crew. We had loaded the various pieces of the Wood-Mizer LT15 Sawmill into our 50’ dugout canoe. The 40hp outboard motor had run well with no mechanical issues. However, the trip had been eventful because of a tree that was hanging low across one particular spot in the river. The mast of the sawmill just would not make it under the low-hanging limb. Fortunately we had a chain hoist and a chainsaw that allowed us to cut and pull the tree out of the way.

So after five hours on the river, we arrived at the pre-determined location of this milling trip’s timber stand. The mill is carried in sections back to the site, after the chainsaw operators had felled two of the trees. We have found that felling is crucial before you set up the mill in the jungle. No one wants to carry the mill once it’s together, especially if it’s in the way of an oncoming tree!! The next morning, two of the crew begin boiling water and cooking in the fire pit to start the morning breakfast meal. It was good that the log owners built the hut the day before while we were felling the trees and carrying the LT15 sawmill to the site, otherwise we would not have had someplace to sleep off of the ground during the night. Poisonous snakes make poor bunkmates. They live on the ground, so all the huts are built on stilts. It just makes sense.

The rest of us begin assembling the sawmill. We selected the site last night and spent the last hours of the day using axes and machetes to clear the site. This makes setup a lot easier. Experience has also taught us to carry four boards with us to put the feet of the stands on. When you work in the swamp and rainforest, the "feet" sometimes find a soft spot. We have four particular boards that we lay down for the tracks to sit on. These boards have been augured out to the exact spacing and diameter of the "feet." We mill hardwoods, namely ironwood or Kwila (to the locals), so the better anchored the mill is the better. We drive two stakes at the very ends of the track to keep it from moving when we begin to roll the logs on.

The LT15 is now level and ready to go. Check the oil in the engine! We are in the middle of nowhere, literally! So any damage to equipment, especially from negligence, is very bad. Any damage to that engine, and the whole trip will have to be abandoned. We normally let it idle for five minutes while we roll the log on the mill. The agreement we always have with the landowners/tree owners is always a one-to-one exchange. One tree milled for us to mill for our projects, and one tree milled for their use allows for both sides to benefit equally. Part of the agreement is that they are there to help with the moving of the logs (no forklifts here) and the positioning of the logs on the mill. They also help with timber stacking.

While the mill is warming up after the log is clamped and ready to go, it’s time to talk safety. We lay out the safety rules of working around the mill. Where and when you should approach the mill are just a couple of the topics we discuss. OK, the engine has idled way past five minutes now, but that’s alright. Someone had to take the water container back to the river to fill it so the blade would be washed and cooled properly. We had checked the blade before we cut the first piece, but after the first time through it’s time to make sure that everything is in order. We’re good to go!

The operator starts to mill up the first section of log. It’s the job of the operator and the "water boy" to mill the log, and give the directions to the local guys working with the sawmill crew. The rest of us go back to the hut for a little meal. We’re going to be working all day in the heat. It’s important to stay hydrated and fed. The guys in the crew have specific roles. Three of the guys have been trained to operate the sawmill. They are the only ones that can accurately read a tape measure, consistently. Two other guys operate the chainsaw.

The calm of the jungle for a few short weeks is replaced by the whine of a chainsaw, the noise of a diesel engine, and the yells of the men as they shout directions at each other. There is a brief lull though. One of the bearings in the blade guide has gone bad. We take about 30 minutes to replace it. Fortunately for us we always have an ample supply of what I call consumable parts on standby! Wherever the LT15 goes, so does the large box of spare parts. No local hardware, or Wood-Mizer outlet nearby here! We’re off and running again! A few hours later the pile of finished lumber has steadily grown larger. Everyone is grinning from ear to ear, while the sawmill just keeps on cutting away. Scraps are claimed for someone to whittle out an oar for paddling on the river. No one goes home empty handed, that’s for sure. Another lull in the action, a 15 minute rain shower passes. We are in the jungle and they don’t call it the rainforest for nothing!

Days start early, around 6am, because that is when the first light starts to show. We keep busy until 6pm, when the sun starts to set. That leaves us with about 30 minutes to bathe in the river, and prepare supper. No indoor plumbing here, and swimming after dark might lead to an encounter with a crocodile! The day is beginning to wind down. The spring in our step just isn’t quite the same at the end of the day when it has been 90F with very high humidity. Heat index says it felt like 114F. I would say that an estimate like that is not to far off judging by the way I feel.

We light the kerosene lamp before we head off to the river. We won’t get back from our "bath" till after dark. So having a light helps with preparation of supper, and finding your way back. Things are quiet again. It’s a nice "cool" evening. The bugs start the chirping again. The guys laugh and joke about the day’s work. It always amazes me how exhausted people can be so happy. We know that we are a few steps closer to finishing up, and look forward to the day we wrap it up here and head back to our home in Samban, a small village in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. It’s good to sit and rest after being on our feet and working all day. A bat shrieks nearby very near to the ground by our hut. One of the guys grins as he grabs his spear. I guess bat is on the menu tonight!

 

Jungle Milling Tips

1. Keep the chainsaw handy when transporting your sawmill upriver.

2. Build the hut before you start sawing, and make sure your sleeping bunks are off the ground.

3. Stay hydrated and fed.

4. Bring spare parts for everything.

5. A large bat will make a tasty dinner.

About the Author: Born and raised in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, Jesse Pryor returned as a missionary with his wife Karie and three children to continue the work begun by Jesse’s parents John and Bonita Pryor. They are working within the church to strengthen discipleship and Sunday School programs. With the help of the locals and the sawmill crew, Jesse has put his experience in the construction field to good use, and they have completed churches, schools, and medical facilities in the remote jungle.

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Reducing Poverty in Zambia with One Small Sawmill

Born to Methodist missionaries, John Enright has spent his entire life living and working in Congo and Zambia as a pastor, teacher, pilot, and pioneer of sustainable economic development projects. He was raised speaking several tribal languages and has a thorough grasp of African culture. The Enrights were forced to flee Congo at the beginning of the war that began in 1998. They rebuilt their ministry near Ndola, Zambia, where they run an informal vocational school, children’s school, and pastor’s school, among other varied programs. Their Kafakumba training complex was built to be a central hub for positive change in Central Africa. 

John works alongside locals to build businesses that are profitable, reproducible, sustainable, and not fully dependent on his future involvement. Starting with an initial concept, John and his colleagues develop the business ideas themselves and work to create a solid model. John’s successful business projects so far are Tilapia fish farming, growing aloe vera, banana plantations, livestock, and a woodworking shop. Although John has experienced success with these projects, his honey project is defying all expectations for growth. The project is based on a co-op business model, and produced 100 tons of processed honey in 2014, with 200 tons estimated in 2015. Interestingly, the idea for the honey project grew out of the woodworking business. 

Utilizing Local Timber

A huge problem in Africa is the misuse of natural resources. Timber is being exported at an alarming rate with very little of the real timber value improving the local economies. In Central Africa, the biggest threat to timber stands is not foreign markets, however – it is charcoal production. “Starving villagers are far removed from the world wide environmental debate,” John reminds us. “They are forced to find every means possible of feeding themselves and their families. In order to convince the Zambians to preserve the forests and natural resources, we must demonstrate how it is their best interest, both long and short term, to preserve the world around them.” 

Another complication is that finished timber for use in construction or woodworking is traditionally processed by a few large and inefficient sawmills running outdated equipment. Poor infrastructure makes obtaining timber difficult and expensive for locals that lack disposable income. In the early 1980’s, the inventor of the Wood-Mizer portable sawmill, Don Laskowski, donated a sawmill to John’s mission work. The small sawmills install easily in remote areas and allow anyone to produce their own timber easily, efficiently, and locally.  John was able to establish a small workshop to produce local timber, doors, and windows that were affordable to the community, thus demonstrating that wood is a valuable resource people in Africa can use to better their lives significantly, without resorting to exporting the logs or converting them into charcoal. John’s idea for the honey project resulted from brainstorming what could become of the timber scraps from the woodworking shop. Again, he sought to find a higher purpose for an undervalued resource – scrap lumber could be used to build beehives.

 

 

Bee Sweet Honey Company

The beehive project was started more than eight years ago. They learned a lot in the first few years, like how to hang the hives in trees to reduce the risk of theft, and contamination by termites and honey badgers. They also worked on the design of the hive to maximize honey cleanliness and ease of collection. “What we’re trying to make is a beehive that is Africa-friendly,” John explains. “So the beehive is very different from a beehive you would see in America or Europe.” As they settled on a hive design that would meet the range of challenges they encountered, they began experimenting with how to organize the business model. Gradually, they developed a co-op business model to maximize the number of people who could benefit from the business, but also guarantee quality control and streamline distribution efforts of the final product. “When we started out, we made a lot of mistakes,” John recalls, “But we have slowly gotten to the point where the system works. We call it a micro-franchise. The villager does what he can do, we do what we can do, others are doing marketing, and everybody wins.”

Participants with Bee Sweet Honey Company are villagers who are given a set number of beehives, and their principle responsibilities are to bait the hive and ensure it is not stolen. John explains that the ideal number of hives to be operated by a single individual is 25, but that some are operating as many as 250 hives. The new beehives owner signs a contract which explains their mutual responsibilities clearly. John’s team visits the participating villagers twice a year in spring and autumn to harvest the honey and pay the participants based on the quantity of honey harvested. In 2014, more than $100,000 was paid out to participants. More will be paid out in the future as new hive owners bring in their first harvests, and others grow their existing number of hives. “We do not do beekeeping; we only do honey-gathering,” John shares. “As long as there are bees going in and out, you harvest it twice a year. It is a simple system, but then it allows them to send their kids to school, to put a tin roof on their house, and to have a decent living.” 

 

Africa-friendly Beehive Production

John employs 18 full-time workers in the beehive production workshop. Each hive costs approximately $20 to produce, all costs considered. The wood used for the beehives comes from the wood workshop and from cheap scrap logs that are locally sourced. The logs are split in half on the Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmill and then run through resaws to produce boards of consistent thicknesses. The fresh boards are then cut on chop saws to the required lengths. John insists that the importance of the small sawmill cannot be overemphasized. “All of this stems from the fact that the Wood-Mizer sawmills are giving us quality boards, cut to specific specifications, which allows us to make these hives. None of this would be possible without the sawmill. It is an essential link in a chain that has now become a substantial benefit to thousands of people.”

 

During the dry season, the boards are laid outside in the sun to dry out for two days, and then they are placed in a vertical jig and are glued on-edge to form the side panels of the hive. “The bees don’t care if it’s pretty,” John laughs as he demonstrates the gluing method. The panels are trimmed to their final dimensions on a table saw. Then the various components are packaged for shipment. Final assembly of the hives is done after shipment to reduce shipping costs. A metal jig is included for easy assembly of the hives on site, and then the assembled hive is secured together with recycled metal wire. The hook that hangs the hive from the tree branch is made of recycled rebar sourced from nearby mining companies. A simple rope pulley system enables the hives to be raised and lowered from the ground, eliminating climbing.

Growth and Future

Although Bee Sweet has been producing honey for their local Zambian market for several years, they hope that real growth and greater profits will start when they obtain organic certification for their honey from the European Union, opening up international markets for the honey. As of the summer of 2015, more than 10,000 individuals from all over northern Zambia are participating, and more than 50,000 beehives are now in the field. They have found that each hive will produce approximately 33 pounds of honey annually, which adds up to a lot of honey by the end of the year. Over one hundred tons were harvested in the spring of 2015, and it is hoped that much of it will be sold internationally, the remainder will be sold locally for lower prices. “The honey project is unique,” John remarks. “It allows a very simple person to produce organically certified honey that can be sold all over the world. [They are] now creating organic honey, and organic wax and is being paid accordingly – not charity. Very exciting! Our share of the revenue goes into the foundation that then launches projects somewhere else and many other projects that we have launched – schools, clinics, and things like that.”

 

Currently, John’s workshop is capable of producing components for more than 200 hives each day when timber supplies are available. They would like to be able to produce 500 a day, so they have purchased a new Wood-Mizer TVS twin-vertical sawmill that will help them double capacity. “We would like to see other organizations take this technology,” John shares. “I could see the beehive project becoming a huge creator of wealth, empowerment, and a huge blessing throughout Africa.” John shares that that are groups currently replicating the honey project in Honduras, Ethiopia, Congo, and Malawi. They are currently experimenting with several other business ideas designed for rural people. People who do well with the beehive program can then expand into additional business programs. “Africa needs people to realize they are living in the garden of Eden,” John says. “This is a place where they can not only survive, but thrive! People are catching that vision.”

Visit www.beesweetltd.com for more information.

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One Small Sawmill Creates Positive Change in the Congo Jungle

By Glen Chapman, Missionary in Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo is among the very poorest countries in the world. In the UN’s Human Development Index, Congo ranked almost last. The Congolese make an average of 50 cents a day, whereas the average level of poverty is $2 a day.

Because of the difficulties of the war, the infrastructure of Congo had all collapsed. There is very little employment, and very little to give people hope. It’s hard to understand a level of poverty where you don’t have tables or chairs, and your children have to eat their meals on the ground because their table has been destroyed and turned into a coffin to hold a revered loved one who has passed on.

My name is Glen Chapman, and I’m a second-generation missionary to Kikongo with American Baptist International Ministries. My wife, Rita, is a third-generation missionary. Her grandparents went over to the Belgian Congo in 1924. Rita and I arrived as children in 1957 when it was still the Belgian Congo. We grew up there and began our ministry 25 years ago. We’ve seen a lot of changes in the time we’ve been there, but our mission in Congo is still to cross cultural boundaries and make disciples of Jesus Christ.

We mostly work in rural leadership training. Rural is distinguished from urban because, generally, when a villager is called into the ministry, he goes to the capital city. Once he studies there, he stays. Because of this, we have hundreds of churches with multiple pastors in the city. However, in the villages, we have hundreds of churches without any pastoral leadership at all. So our objective is to train people in a rural setting so that they remain rural.

Life in Kikongo is not much different than it was for our grandparents generations ago. Besides being involved in leadership training, we’re also involved in human development projects. That’s where the lumber mill comes in and provides for the needs of the people. Our Wood-Mizer sawmill has really played a key role in bringing development and hope to our Congolese villages in the midst of their poverty.

As a child growing up in Congo, I remember going away to high school in the capital city. In the summers, I came home for vacation. I spent these summers working in the woodshop with the old carpenters who had been trained by the Belgians.

That was a formative time in my life. Being able to work with the carpenters was a great experience. But when I became an adult and returned to the village, the commercial lumber mills that had furnished the lumber no longer existed. If someone needed lumber, he had to go to the city, buy his boards, and send it to his home in a truck.

So, the lumber was virtually unavailable to the villagers at that time. What furniture villagers had in the past was wearing out. There were no longer desks in the schools. If anyone had a table in the house, it was probably destroyed to make a coffin at some point. My friends would complain that they didn’t have a chair on which to seat their guests and their children ate their meals on the ground.

I looked around. We had plenty of trees, so why didn’t we have lumber? I talked with my old carpenter friends and they took me out to the forest. Here, sawyers dug holes beneath the trees and tried to saw boards that turned out rough and very crooked. One man was in the pit while the other man was on top. The man in the pit would get sawdust showered all over him, so he couldn’t maintain a straight cut. It was difficult to make furniture from these boards.

Somewhere along the line, I heard about Wood-Mizer. I saw the inefficiency of our lumber cutting methods and knew it was time to purchase a sawmill. I came back to the States and purchased an LT25.

When the mill arrived in August of 1998, war broke out on the East side of the country. A lot of the missionaries were being evacuated. Just as we began to cut our first trees and I showed the Congolese the usefulness of our sawmill, we were told we had to evacuate as well because the foreign armies were so close to our village. It was a very tense time.

I looked at this project that had been a dream. The mill had just arrived—how could I leave when this dream was just beginning to be fulfilled? I put my wife and children on a plane, and they were evacuated to South Africa. I stayed on at Kikongo.

As the armies advanced across the country, we were experiencing new birth in Kikongo. We were rebuilding while the rest of the country was in the process of destroying. To deal with the loneliness of having my family gone, we discovered the process of using the new mill.

 

All the villagers were thrilled. There had never been an industry in the area. All of a sudden, the children who previously could not have been employed were now working at the mill and learning how to be carpenters. People with carpentry skills arrived and cut lumber. Boat builders arrived and began to build boats. We were just a little village that offered hope in the midst of the despair around us.

That was the first year we used the mill, and we continued to use it for eight more years. After that, we purchased an LT15 sawmill because its portability helped in an area where we had no trucks to pull it around. We could take it apart and carry the different sections by hand. The war continued, and it turned out to be Africa’s First World War. We were the only foreigners at our mission station during this time. The government did not normally look in favor upon the Westerners, but they favored us personally because we were providing lumber. The officials began to come to us for their wood.

The mill helped provide diplomacy and offered credibility to the church and to our work. We furnished lumber to all the villages around us. The Roman Catholics bought our lumber to build desks for their schools, the government officials purchased our lumber to use in the capital city—it was vibrant.

The process for cutting the lumber is simple. The villagers cut down the logs, float them down the river to us, and then we roll them up onto the mill. The logs that we roll up onto the mill are far larger than what the mill was originally designed for, but it’s so durable that it has been able to hold up to the beatings we give it. Sometimes we use an ax to make the log small enough to fit on the mill. 

Once we cut the lumber, people purchase it and take it downriver. We’re very strategically located on the Wamba River for lumber supply and demand.

We’ve been working with the mills for fourteen years now, and what’s amazing is that the people who work on the mills are not mechanics, but they’re able to maintain these mills with simple organizational maintenance.

 

Once we had lumber, the boat builders started to arrive. I wanted to use smaller-sized boats, so we built different sizes to be more economical. Once our boats showed up at different ports, word got around that lumber was available at Kikongo.

 

Since there wasn’t lumber available anywhere else, a man showed up and said he needed a boat. When he told us the capacity of the boat he needed, we were shocked. We wondered if we would ever be able to build something so large in Kikongo.

But sure enough, we produced enough lumber for the boat. The problem was getting the boat into the water. Our community made an announcement in church that on a certain day, they would make a lot of coffee, and if you came down and provided assistance pushing the boat into the water, you’d get some coffee.

 
 

We had a big party that day, as all the young men put their hands on the boat and pushed it. Once it got over the lip of the hill, the weight of the boat drove it into the water. It was an unbelievable moment. To realize it really worked was an amazing thing. Everyone jumped on the boat. We celebrated, and eventually the boat went to the mighty Congo River and we never saw it again.


I think probably 150 young men showed up to help. We’ve never built any boats that size since then, but we’ve been able to build a number of boats in the area.

Along with the boats, we’ve built about five or six bridges. Kikongo is located on a hill with rivers on either side, so we’re in a sort of peninsula. Almost any direction you go, you have to cross a body of water. The bridges have provided access to the hospital and other places that otherwise would have been difficult to get to.
 

I was on an early morning bike ride once, and there was a crowd of women in the middle of the trail. They wouldn’t let me pass because a woman was giving birth in the middle of the trail. I asked them why they hadn’t gone to the hospital earlier. They said the bridge was too rickety, and they weren’t able to cross. I organized the village and said, “Give us two logs. We’ll cut the lumber, and together we can build a bridge.”

 

So they floated two logs to us and we designed the bridge and cut it to length. All the villagers picked up a piece of wood, we carried it to the site, and built the bridge. Now people have a way to get to the hospital, rather than balancing themselves on the rickety old log bridge.

The mill has provided dignity to the lives of the villagers. Poverty is so devastating out there. And it’s more than just hunger—it’s the dignity of being able to have a place to sit down. The lumber mill has been able to provide dignity to Congo because people can take advantage of their own resources and turn them into something useful and valuable.

It’s honoring if you can bury your relatives in coffins, rather than just wrapping them in cloth. We buried a local chief recently, and everyone was so appreciative that this chief could be buried with dignity—not just in cast-off scraps of wood, but with the best lumber. That really brought honor to the people and the chiefs they buried.

On a day of Thanksgiving where everybody was offering produce of the earth, we decided that we would offer our own portion of lumber. We brought a symbolic board to the church, on which we wrote how many boards would be offered to the church.

In Congo, when you give your offering, you have to dance down the aisle to present it. Our carpenters danced with their symbolic board as they brought it down the aisle. It was exciting for everyone.

The mill is owned and operated by the Pastoral School. Students can work at the mill in the afternoons and pay off tuition fees—in this way, the Wood-Mizer is helping the students go through school. In order to be a pastor in a rural setting, you need to be bi-vocational, so the lumber mill enables the students to become bi-vocational.

 

When our students come, they come poor. But after they’ve been at Kikongo, they always leave much better off than when they came. They want to take all the things they’ve built—furniture, beds, tables—back to their own villages. We have to restrict how much wood and furniture students put on the boat when they go back! It’s because of the mill that they’ve been able to produce these things through training.

 

Life is pretty discouraging in Congo—a lot of things can get us down. But whenever I need encouragement, I walk down to the river and I sense the excitement and enthusiasm at the mill. There’s progress here, there’s change. And that’s encouraging for me. I’m not a builder, but I’ve enabled the Congolese to build and become carpenters.

Wood-Mizer will probably be one of my biggest legacies out there. I’ll be remembered because of the sawmill every bit as much as being a pastor. Wood-Mizer is playing a major role in helping the Congolese improve and rebuild their country. We can continue to provide villagers with the tools they need to maintain their dignity and repair the country.

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Diversification Brings Profitability for English Farmer

Henry Brown has worked the Grange Farm with his father and now as sole proprietor in the village of Rosedale Abbey in England for more than 20 years. On the 300-acre farm located in the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, Henry and his wife manage 400 mule breeding sheep, 1,200 pigs, horses, two bed & breakfast cottages, and a timber business. “I have such a varied job description,” Henry laughs. “Whether it is managing the cottages, the farming side, the timber side, every day is different.” However, diversity to keep the farm consistently profitable was not always the case. 

“As a young man, it’s a great idea to spend your days farming, running around on quadbikes, tractors, and it all seems great fun,” recalls Henry. “The next minute, you have a wife and children. And suddenly, it was appearing [to us] that a hill farm was not going to generate the income that our family required.”

In the early 2000s, Henry and his wife began looking into ways they could supplement farming to raise their profits. “[Profitability] while farming is a common problem, certainly up in these areas,” Henry shares. “I have two or three friends that have also diversified – one into steel fabricating and another into stone. I wanted to make sure that when I diversified into something else, that it was actually a love, and not just because I had to do it.” His wife Jane had always wanted to run a bed & breakfast and holiday cottage. Together, they remodeled an old barn into a charming B&B, which they now rent out to people looking to get away from the bustle of city life.


Henry had gone through a forestry apprenticeship at nearby Castle Howard and decided that he could make a go of producing timber after working with a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill for a year. He went on to purchase a basic but competent Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmill because of his low budget. “People are shocked when they see what [the sawmill] turns out, what it can produce,” Henry shares. “It was good to start with a mill like the LT15 to open up the marketplace, without having to spend vast amounts of money not knowing what the return would be. We started up slowly, just processing some oak locally for people. And it’s grown ever since.”
 

Timber can be a difficult market to get into, as established sawmill companies often have very loyal customers. Henry differentiated his services by being available for consultations and to make deliveries on weekends and being open to try anything to satisfy the client’s needs. “We get a lot of different projects put in front of us,” shares Henry. “And we never have the attitude of, oh, that can’t be done. I like a challenge! We have a varied client base, which I love – everyone from builders, architects, landscape gardeners, all the way to your weekend woodworking enthusiast.” Clients visit, inspect the logs that Henry keeps in stock, and can browse already dried timber to find the perfect piece they are looking for to complete a project. “There was one gentleman who came and ordered a large load of ash – nothing unusual about that,” Henry relates. “But it was for 10mm (2/5") by 75mm (3") strips… he was building coracle (small, rounded) boats! He folds and intertwines the ash around.”

Approximately 75% of the timber Henry processes is oak, in addition to larch and silver birch. “Most customers like to know where their new beams or garden furniture is coming from,” says Henry. “We like to source our timber locally. For example, I acquired a beautiful piece of sycamore that was destined to be chopped and burned, and milled it instead. It had stunning grain timber with stunning character in it. Here, there is no waste.” After several years, Henry decided to upgrade to a larger Wood-Mizer portable sawmill. “I wanted to start to push the business on,” Henry recalls. “I had a herd of Aberdeen Angus cows, which were inside six months a year and were not generating a vast profit. I sat down and decided I would rather grow my timber business. Selling the herd allowed the introduction of the [portable mill], and it has certainly produced a larger profit on a yearly basis than the herd had."


“Being able to go out and do mobile milling has helped to grow the business,” explains Henry. “We are not on a main route, so that ability to do mobile sawmilling did open up our name. We also revamped the website, and it helped dramatically. In this last year, I have been astounded at how busy we’ve been!” Adding a kiln to dry timber for use in indoor projects has really helped to expand what he can offer clients. “My love is with the small interior and exterior finishes, that’s where I see the business going over the years,” says Henry. “That is an area I would like to develop – showing wood off in its true, natural look. The great thing is, with this type of sawmill, you can do that. There are so many angles that you can mill a piece of timber on it. For a wedding, we cut oblique disks, because we could stand the log up and cut slices from it.”

 
With the timber business expanding, Henry is considering hiring someone full time to manage the farm for him, which will free him up to focus on the timber side, which is his passion. To others interested in doing what he has done, he shares the following advice - “If you are going to buy a sawmill, know the direction that you are going to take it in. When I started here, we focused on the oak route, nothing else.” He mentions that although they have received requests, they have turned down work for post-and-rails and flooring, choosing instead to focus and grow their niche for tailored projects for specialist clients.

 

Product models, specifications, and availability may vary by territory.

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Converting Illegally-Logged Timber into 146,000 School Desks in the Philippines

In the 20th century, the Philippines lost most of its thick forest cover to over logging. Recent administrations have implemented regulation, logging bans, and new policies that have reversed that trend, but the remaining forests are still under threat from illegal logging that is taking place.

When logs are illegally felled and transported to other countries, this denies local Philippines the benefit of their own good timber. Over the last few years, the Philippines has made great efforts to curb illegal logging. Aerial and water borne surveillance assist in determining where agents will make raids on suspicious activities, while road checkpoints target timber in transit. These activities have resulted in the confiscation of illegally-logged timber and the prosecution of those responsible.

 

Through these raids and checkpoint stops, approximately 66000 cubic meters (28.5 million bd. ft.) of high quality timber was confiscated from 2010 to 2014 alone.

Confiscated timber was stored throughout the Philippines, usually not far from where it had been intercepted, in order to serve as evidence during legal proceedings. Once the legal requirements were fulfilled, officials were faced with a dilemma – what to do with the massive stockpiles of high quality timber scattered throughout the island nation before the wood eventually deteriorated?

While many logs are caught before they are transported, the government keeps the logs outdoors, subject to rain and excess sunlight, causing the logs to rot until they are unsalvageable. Such a resource should not be wasted by the very process set up by the government to serve the people—and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) determined to find a way to use these logs for the Filipino community before they lost their purpose.

And this is not a problem only confined to the Philippines. As countries worldwide in Asia, Africa and South America fight back against deforestation and illegal logging, the problem of what to do with the confiscated timber is a pressing issue. The whole point of anti-illegal logging programs is to preserve our resource for the future. So what about the timber already cut and intercepted? As officials in the Philippines watched these beautiful timbers rotting, they came up with an idea that the rest of the world would do well to pay attention to.

At that time public schools across the Philippines lacked at least 2.5 million chairs. In 2010, the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA), Department of Education (DepEd), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and DENR proposed the P-Noy Bayanihan Project that government-confiscated logs could be used to build new furnishings for local schools.

The mission of DENR, TESDA, DepEd and PAGCOR was simple. They wanted to take the logs that had been confiscated, salvage them, mill them, and create school tables and chairs for local schools. They began by cutting the wood and sending it away to be refurbished, but eventually they were able to begin manufacturing the furniture themselves. It was a complete turnaround for the Filipino community. The Forest Products and Development Institute-Department of Science and Technology (FPRDI-DOST) was also tapped by DENR to convert confiscated logs into lumber and transported them to TESDA, Agusan del Sur. 

 

A collaborative project between DENR and FPRDI-DOST entitled: ‘Sawmilling of Ten Million Board Feet of Logs and Flitches in CARAGA for Use of DepEd in the Manufacture of School Desks and Chairs’ was implented. Ten million board feet is more than 23,000 cubic meters of wood! And this is just from the Caraga region of the Philippines – a fraction of the whole country.

 

“We were able to convert confiscated logs and flitches into lumber and fabricated school desks and chairs,” Dr. Eusebio shares. After testing the chairs, the team was surprised to find that the properties in their salvaged wood were almost the same as finer, healthier wood. “The DENR Regional Office in CARAGA donated some school chairs in CARAGA.” Other schools benefited as well.

 

But just how big of an impact did the project have on the environment? Consider this: the average 3,000 square-foot timber frame house takes around 15,000 board feet of timber to build. The project has already scaled that amount and cut nearly 4 million board feet of timber. With so much excess illegal wood, DENR and FPRDI-DOST have found a way to create a beneficial, economical, and rewarding purpose for the confiscated logs.

 

“Since 2011, more than 146,000 pieces of school furniture have been produced and 369 school buildings have been repaired using seized timber products.” 

 

Before the project began, Dr. Eusebio and the team had one saw mill. However, after the project was conceptualized, the team decided to buy five more units of Wood-Mizer portable sawmills. “If you use a regular chainsaw,” Eusebio shares, “you will lose 5 mm of wood because of the blade. But if you use the Wood-Mizer, you only lose 1 mm.”

Dr. Eusebio also recognized the efficiency of sawmills because they take up so little energy. In Kenya, the energy efficiency and minimal wastage of the Wood-Mizer machines impressed forestry officials so much that they banned new sawmillers from using any other kind of sawmill in their businesses. As reported in The Star, Kenya in April, 2016, the Kenyan Forestry Service issued new rules in order to more effectively combat illegal logging operations, by requiring licensed sawmillers to use thin-kerf sawmills only.

“In the new rules by KFS, saw millers licensed to cut trees in gazetted forests must use the Wood-Mizer machine as opposed to ordinary saws. KFS says the new machine produces more timber from a log than ordinary ones.”

The logs that are able to be salvaged from illegal logging confiscation are used to grow the woodworking factory and train people. The DENR now has ten Wood-Mizer sawmills and they have been deployed all over the vast country. They transport these sawmills to places where illegally-felled logs have been stored after confiscation.

Eusebio concludes. “I hope that the forest will once again become green, just like 50 years ago. If you look at the statistics, it’s very sad to learn that we have very few forested areas left. But now the number is going back up because of the National Greening Program.”

After six years of nonstop processing of illegally felled trees and production of something better for the economy and the environment, the National Greening Program and DENR were able to work and not only build thousands of chairs and tables, but also find a way to grow and manage the forests around them.

 

Future Impact for Other Countries

There are many countries trying to stop the process of illegal logging completely. But the Philippines found a unique, creative, and economical way to address the problem and solve it with a different method. Maybe we can gain a better perspective from DENR and FPRDI-DOST on how to better problem-solve in our own communities, and how to help our own environments through community outreach.

 

Important to remember though is that many illegal loggers are not large corporations – they’re simple farmers or villagers who do not have many opportunities to generate income. “A lot of illegal loggers are simple people who are mainly trying to feed their own children. Especially for our upland dwellers, wood is their source of income that allows their children to go to school.” shares Teodulfo Delgado, Engineer with the College of Forests & Natural Resources in Los Banos, Philippines. Hand-in-hand with enforcement of anti-illegal logging regulation needs to come provisions for better economic development.

Additional References:

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/180877/seized-logs-to-find-use-as-chairs-tables-for-schools 
http://www.philstar.com/good-news/774042/chairs-public-schools-illegal-logs
http://www.philstar.com/cebu-news/2015/05/15/1454993/denr-7-illegal-tree-cutting-still-rampant 
http://www.denr.gov.ph/news-and-features/latest-news/2056-denr-optimistic-to-achieve-zero-illegal-logging-hotspot-target-by-2016.html 
http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/09/10/14/denr-taps-nbi-fight-vs-illegal-logging

 

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Making Major League Baseball Bats From Forest To Field

Why swing with an old bat, when you can swing with a Young one. In the mountains of North Carolina, the family-owned and operated Young Bat Company handcrafts wooden baseball bats from forest to field for everyone from little leaguers to Hall of Fame caliber players. 

Established in 1993 by entrepreneur and passionate woodworker Chris Young, Young Bat Company (YBC) grew from making a few dozen bats to more than 100,000 bats per year in the late 1990s. During this time, high-profile baseball players including Cal Ripken Jr., Frank Thomas, Tony Gwynn, Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, and more could be seen representing the YBC logo on their baseball bats. After a 12-year retirement the company returned to the field in 2017 and is ran today by Chris’ son, Tom Young, and his childhood best friend, Cody Siniard, who make custom wooden bats in addition to baseball inspired novelty items including bat mugs and other handcrafted products.

 

 
 

 

The History of Young Bat Company

With a lifelong passion for woodworking and baseball, Chris Young moved from Florida to the mountains of North Carolina in 1972, bought a sawmill and started making furniture, cabinets, musical instruments, and homes. “I like working with wood because I love to create things,” shared Chris. “There’s just something about it, no board is the same. I love to cut into a log, one that looks like its rotten makes the most beautiful boards you’ve ever seen.”

 

 

 

Over the years, Chris would take Tom and Cody to attend Atlanta Braves games because they were the closest professional baseball team to Brevard, North Carolina where his shop was located. “I had a woodworking shop, so I decided to start making my own bats and get them signed by players,” shared Chris. The players thought the walnut and cherry bats Chris made were beautiful, so he decided to get approved by the MLB and began making game bats for the Braves players. “Chipper Jones, Javier Lopez, Tom Glavin, and Greg Maddux all used our bats,” shared Chris. “I would go down to the stadium and see all the visiting teams. It didn’t take long that we had someone on almost every team using Young bats.”

 

 
 
 
 

 

In a few short years, Chris went from turning a bat in his backyard woodshop to expanding to a full production facility with 17 employees making 100,000 bats per year. Both Tom and Cody grew up learning a lot from Chris about sawing and woodworking. “We were making bats for high school, college, pro players and even started private labeling for companies like Mizuno and X-bats,” shared Tom. “I remember as a kid working on projects with Cody and my dad. Wood was a part of our lives and I always cherished that because you knew when dad made that saw go, he was making something special.”

 

 

In 2005, Chris grew tired of mass-producing bats and decided to sell the woodworking equipment from YBC. “It just got into more production rather than doing more custom things and I kind of lost the handmade part of it,” shared Chris. The company downsized to where Chris could handcraft custom bats, stools, rocking chairs, and beds out of bats for loved ones. For the next 12 years, Chris remained focused on custom single projects until his son, Tom, moved back to North Carolina in order to be closer to family and friends as well as jumpstart the business his father started. Along with his childhood best friend Cody Siniard, Tom influenced his dad to reopen the family business. “I was excited to get my dad fired up about going from forest to field,” shared Tom. Chris fell in love with the idea of working with his son alongside the whole woodworking process and Young Bat Company was re-established in 2017.

 

 

Mountain Made in North Carolina 

Previously owning two Wood-Mizer sawmills during the 1990s and 2000s, the first piece of equipment YBC purchased after restarting the company was a new Wood-Mizer sawmill in order to make baseball bats from natural round logs on-site rather than buying processed material. “Our core philosophy is quality products that are handcrafted from forest to field,” said Tom. “We started with a sawmill, added a kiln, then lathes, and before you know it we have some contracts with big box retailers and seeing a lot of our bats and bat mugs in MLB stadiums again. We’re just excited to see the growth.”

 

 
 
 

 

Every Young baseball bat starts when logs are brought in and milled on the company’s Wood-Mizer LT40 hydraulic wide portable sawmill into approximately 3” wide by 3” high by 40” long solid wood square billets. The billet is stickered and stacked for air drying before going into one of two Wood-Mizer KD250 dehumidification kilns to reduce the moisture content to around 8% to 10%. 

 

 
 
 

Once properly dried, the material is turned from a square billet to a round dowel on a Hawker/Dayton dowel machine. The dowels are then weighed, graded and staged for which product will be made from them. When the product design is determined, the dowels are hand-selected based on weight, species, grade, and pattern to be turned on the lathe into a bat. From there, the bats are sanded, cut to length, hand painted/finished, and laser engraved before it heads out the door to the baseball field.

 

 
 
 

YBC uses a variety of wood for their products including northern white ash, red oak, hickory, and European beech but they primarily work with hard rock maple due to the density and flexibility it provides for the bats. “It gives a nice trampoline effect and you get a nice pop with your bat,” explains Tom. “It’s the most common wood species used by MLB players so we feel like it embodies us at Young Bat because we want to provide our customers with an authentic experience.”

 

 
 
 

 

YBC has a small and talented team where everyone owns part of the company and contributes in a variety of ways. “The love, sweat, tears and hard work we have put into the business is one of the reasons we have been so successful to this point. We have a great team,” shares Tom. “John is the master of everything, he can hand cut any product that we need and fix any machine that’s broken. Cody designs every product you see. He’s been able to take the passion we all have for making baseball bats and show it to the world through his designs and products. Andrew and Jimmy are the utility players who saw with John, sand, and hand finish all of our products for that perfect handcrafted look.”

 

 
 
 

 

Expanding Products and the Future

In addition to producing a wide range of custom baseball bats, YBC realized that every piece of wood cut from a log doesn’t meet the necessary grade to become a finished bat. “We needed to have secondary products that would support our bats and also lend more items to fans that could have something that was baseball related,” explained Tom. “So we created what’s called a bat mug.” A bat mug is a 12-ounce mug made out of a hollowed out bat barrel. The mug has quickly become one of YBC’s core products and has provided the opportunity to make more baseball inspired wood products like wooden shot glasses, bottle openers, cutting boards, and more. “We jumped into this baseball novelty area,” explained Tom. “If you think about it, there’s a lot more baseball fans than players. While we have a lot of players that swing bats, they all have ten or so family members who follow and support them.”

 

 
 
 

 

For Chris, his passion for woodworking and baseball is something he’s still able to share with others through Young Bat Company. “The greatest part about Tom being a part of this is since he was a baby, he was around me working with wood,” shares Chris. “Working with my son now is just wonderful.” Tom and Cody see a bright future where YBC will continue long enough so that their children can become involved in the family business just as they did. “Young Bat Company is a family-oriented business that really brings home what it means to be made in America and made in the mountains,” shares Tom. “We’ve made our stamp and continue to build a legacy in the baseball community.”

 

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From Sawing Raw Logs to Moulding Finished Flooring in Scotland

Just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland, Sandy Crook has retired from his full time arborist business to spend more time with what he really enjoys, seeing timber turned into final products. With his full complement of Wood-Mizer sawmills and new MP360 planer/moulder, he can do everything in-house.


Sandy Crook arborist business in Edinburgh

For 17 years, Sandy ran a successful arborist business in Scotland. Now he’s ready to settle down, and his version of ‘retirement’ is building his own house among the rolling green hills west of Edinburgh, while investing in more Wood-Mizer equipment.


View of Edinburgh Scotland

Creating unique handmade wood pieces

“I had built up my range of equipment, forestry mulchers, chippers, grinders, stump grinders…but after reaching a certain age, it started to hurt, and bureaucracy kicked in as well.” Sandy laughs, reflecting on his arborist career. “It was just too much and it wasn’t enjoyable anymore. So I sold a lot of my equipment and instead bought sawmills to focus on doing what I enjoy.”


WM1000 Industrial Headrig cutting large log

Wood-Mizer BMS500 Bandsaw Blade Sharpener

Two men planing wood on Wood-Mizer MP360 Planer Moulder

Sandy has a LT40 portable sawmill, plus a WM1000 wide capacity sawmill, which was the first of its kind in Scotland. “The WM1000 is for breaking down large timber to make table tops and furniture,” Sandy shares. “And I have an LT40 that’s mobile to be able to go onsite, whether for contract milling or just milling for myself. And just recently I’ve bought a MP360 Planer/Moulder from Wood-Mizer.”


LT40 Portable Sawmill easily transported

Wood-Mizer WM1000 blade sawing through tough wood

The MP360 planes and moulds boards on all four sides at once - a necessary step in producing finished wood products from rough sawn lumber. This ability to plane and mould timber was previously missing from Sandy’s workshop. “I was starting to make tables, and I had customers looking for tongue-in-groove and such,” Sandy shares. “I looked around and did a lot of research on the internet, and the MP360 covered everything - all the bases I needed.”


Planing wood on Wood-Mizer MP360 Planer Moulder

One of the main reasons that Sandy was attracted to the MP360 was for its ease of use and its flexibility to handle different kinds of moulding projects in large or small quantities. “I don’t want to spend half a day adjusting the machine to do half an hour’s cutting,” Sandy says. “With the MP360, I can be moulding big timber one minute, and then be making tongue-in-groove the next. It’s a ten minute job to switch out a couple of knives. Its ease of use and compactness make it a very user-friendly machine.”


Custom built wooden bird houses using Wood-Mizer equipment

Now with his planer/moulder in place in the workshop, he can handle just about any custom timber projects that come his way. “Customers come into the yard and pick a log,” Sandy says. “I personally felled them all, so I know the history of each one. I put it on the WM1000, and break it down into cants. Then I resaw it on the LT40, and finally I put it through the planer/moulder to their specification. By having it all in-house, the MP360 planer/moulder will help me diversify into a much larger market. I fell trees and I produce a finished product.”


Top view of Wood-Mizer LT40 Portable Sawmill in action

Stack of smooth wood boards

Sandy is planning to build a house next to his current workshop and equipment barn. The MP360 will be put to good use throughout the build.


Wood workshop with handcrafted furniture and small pieces

Simple easy to use control panel for MP360 Planer Moulder

“I’m also going to be building a house on site, so I can do my own design, I can do my own skirting boards [baseboards] and basically the whole interior design,” Sandy shares. “My house is going to be unique inside. Just about everything is going to be wood - tables, skirting boards, railings, staircases. And I have a lot of elm, so probably elm floorboards. Running my tree surgeon [arborist] business I’ve managed to collect some unique hardwoods, which I intend to use the WM1000 to break down, plus using the LT40 and MP360 moulder/planer.”


Sandy Crook and wife posing with WM1000 Industrial Sawmill in Scotland

Landscape view of outdoor space with log piles and LT40 Portable Sawmill

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Family Sawmilling Business Producing Pallet and Grade Lumber in Northwest Ohio

The family-owned and operated L. Garbers & Sons Sawmill in Northwest Ohio was established in 1997 by Luther and Kathryn Garbers and their two sons David and Marty. What started out as a side business with a portable sawmill has grown into a full-time operation with a high-production industrial sawmilling system producing pallet material, cut stock, blocking, and grade lumber in Wauseon, Ohio.

L. Garbers & Sons Sawmill

During the formative years of the business, Luther, David and Marty both farmed and worked separate full-time jobs so they were only able to help their father at the mill on weekends and holidays, but their interest in sawing started at a young age. “We both love sawing lumber and it’s a joy to run the mill,” said David. “It all started when we were kids running our grandfather’s mill. We’ve grown up with it in our blood.” When Luther passed away in 2002 and farming profits started to decline, the brothers turned their focus to sawmilling and began working full-time at the family mill. “Our dad always told us to produce quality material and you will always have work,” said David. “That’s been true and we’ve held to that since the start.”

 

In addition to having decades of experience running sawmill equipment, L. Garbers & Sons has relied on Wood-Mizer equipment for more than 20 years to produce accurate, consistent material by maintaining thickness, reducing waves or variation, and minimizing wane. “We’ve always received comments about the quality and consistency of our material and Wood-Mizer contributes a great deal to our quality,” said Marty. “The quality of how they construct their mills and their engineering help you maintain your production as well as your quality of cutting.”

In addition to providing quality material, L. Garbers & Sons has grown throughout the decades by sawing a variety of material and taking smaller jobs to get their foot in the door with a potential for securing larger jobs with clients. For example, the business entered the pallet board business by first doing trailer planking for a trucking company who eventually started a steel coil shipping business and contracted all pallet work to L. Garbers & Sons. “If one product is a little slower, another product will pick up,” said David. “We try to keep our eggs in different baskets.” The business processes and sells material to a range of clients including pallet stock to the pallet industry, blocking to the railroad and steel industry, and grade lumber to clients throughout Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Missouri.

 

Upgrading to a WM4500 Industrial Sawmilling System

While L. Garbers & Sons has remained flexible to produce whatever the market demands, one constant has been operating with Wood-Mizer sawmilling equipment. The company started with a Wood-Mizer LT40 hydraulic portable sawmill before securing a large contract for producing pallet stock. This led to an upgrade to an LT40 super hydraulic portable sawmill to meet production demands. After more than 1 ½ million board feet on the LT40 super portable sawmill in just a few years, the operation upgraded again to an LT300 sawmill – Wood-Mizer’s largest industrial mill at the time. Sixteen years later, the company operates today with an industrial sawmilling system that includes a Wood-Mizer WM4500 sawmill, EG400 board edger, and material handling equipment. They also maintain their own blades on-site with Wood-Mizer blade sharpening and setting equipment. “The WM4500 was huge for us, kind of like a present for paying our dues and working our way up,” said David.

The installation of the WM4500 was completed in approximately three days and David and Marty were both trained by Wood-Mizer technicians how to operate the new machinery. “What I like most about the WM4500 is the powered toeboard rollers,” said Marty. “It is much nicer shifting the log back and forth on the deck how you want and the dual chain turners are able to handle the logs so much easier.”

L. Garbers & Sons fits their sawmill equipment with Wood-Mizer Turbo 7 blades. “We’ve always had the best results with Wood-Mizer blades. We are running the 2” wide Turbo 7 blades with the 1-1/4” tooth spacing and we really like them for the ability to cut faster with the same surface quality,” said Marty. “We’ve tried other blades but didn’t see the quality like we do with Wood-Mizer.”

The company also sharpens their blades daily in-house with Wood-Mizer blade sharpening and setting equipment which has helped reduce costs and provide consistent cut quality. “Maintaining our blades in house tends to save money when you don’t have to worry about shipping them out,” said Marty. “We can also control the quality of blades that we are using and we can change the tooth set based on the species we are sawing.”

 

Processing Grade and Pallet Material

The sawmill business runs eight hours a day, five days a week with five employees doing a variety of work including milling, edging, running the chop saw, and sharpening blades. "The WM4500 is a lot heavier built which makes it a lot easier handling bigger and longer logs,” said Marty.

A variety of grade and pallet quality logs are supplied from Ohio and nearby states including Michigan and Indiana. Grade quality logs tend to come from longer distances because there is more money in the finished material than pallet quality logs that generally come from shorter distances. “We primarily saw walnut, red and white oak, cottonwood, cherry, maple, sassafras, and hickory,” said Marty.

First, logs are unloaded and scaled for board footage before being sorted for grade or pallet quality. If they are grade quality, logs are also sorted by species. On the WM4500 sawmill, logs are milled into various sized cants and boards depending on the customer needs and sent to a transfer deck. For boards that need to be edged, the transfer deck sends material to a green chain that goes to the EG400 board edger. “The EG400 edger has a larger width capacity, laser lines, and presets for quickly setting the right board width. Plus cutting speed is a lot faster which has sped up production,” shared Marty. For straight edged material off the mill, the transfer deck sends material to a large chop saw to cut to the correct length. Material is then stacked and prepared to send out to clients.

David’s advice for start-up sawmill operations is to work hard, market your business to grow your customer base, and to be patient during good times and bad. For the future, the company is looking to invest in a log debarker, a second sawmill, or even a grade resaw system in order to improve efficiency. For now, L. Garbers & Sons continues to focus on quality and consistency in everything they do. “Do a quality job and you will always have work,” said Marty. “We’ve heard from many different customers that they buy from places with good quality and consistency. That’s something we always try to strive for and is a pride of ours. That philosophy has kept us work in even some of the leanest times.”

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Handcrafting Zen Chairs in Japan

At the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan, world-renowned woodworker Tak Yoshino creates custom, handcrafted chairs that promote proper and healthy posture through the practice of Zen. As a result of his chairs receiving worldwide acclaim and an increasing number of woodworkers learning Japanese carpentry from Tak, he is currently building a woodworking school with sustainably harvested timber from his own forest.


Restaurant with custom built wood chairs

Zen Chairs and the Art of Woodworking

By Tak Yoshino

I was introduced to Zen through my wife's disease and decided to create a chair that promotes Zen meditation. The chairs that I create for my clients makes the sitter aware of observing proper, healthy posture. I do not create chairs simply as an art, but so that my clients can become healthy once again by observing proper sitting posture with the heart of Zen.

Custom made wooden lay-down chair

Custom handcrafted chair in Japan

I make Zen chairs through my desire to share joy with others. I feel that there is a commonality between Zen and woodworking. The most important thing in Zen is to face yourself at the present moment. In woodworking as well, you focus on the sensations you feel from the vibrations and sounds coming from the blade when sharpening, and on how the tool is coming in contact with the whetstone, and you are not thinking about anything else. In this state you are, in essence, inside of nothing. I feel that this line of work is extremely similar to Zen, which is the world of nothingness.


Custom wooden chairs and benches

If you then mix in something intentional or egoic, you end up not being able to execute your task effectively. In that sense, woodworking is extremely similar to Zen training and practice. Woodworking, which is the act of processing wood, is basically a harmony between the wood, the tools and yourself. But if you try to overpower the wood and self-centeredly believe that the design must be a certain way, then you completely lose that harmony and the end product does not turn out beautiful. I feel that the perfect balance between these three elements produce the greatest performance that produces the best, most beautiful woodwork.


Woodworker Tak Yoshino working

Custom handmade chair top

 

 

 

Teaching Japanese Carpentry to a New Generation

 

 

After I participated in the Furniture Society in 2014, various young foreign woodworkers started expressing interest in visiting my workshop to learn the art of Japanese carpentry. Since then, I have been offering short workshops that span two to three days about once a month to foreign visitors.

The number of foreign woodworkers wishing to learn the Japanese technology gradually kept increasing. From these reasons, I want to create a woodworking exchange center (Mt. Fuji School of Woodworking) where people from all over the world can come and interact by creating a new workshop using the 100 pillars and 100 beams that I extracted from my own forest.


Woodworker Tak Yoshino carving wood

 

 

My ideal workshop is spacious without any pillars to create a wide, expansive work space. When there are pillars, the materials can easily bump into each other. A long beam is required to create such a space without any pillars. The big advantage I have is being able to create them from my own forest.


Woodworker Tak Yoshino using LT15 sawmill

 

 

 

I have been using a Wood-Mizer LT15 portable sawmill. It is extremely compact and performs well. In Japanese lumber sawing, the sawmill machines are fixated, and instead the logs are moved. Its philosophy is completely the opposite of Wood-Mizer's. Wood-Mizer's philosophy entails moving light sawmill machines and fixate heavy logs. I was very surprised to find that such a simple system can saw up the logs.


Woodworker Tak Yoshino turning a log on LT15 sawmill

 

 

 

The Role of Sustainable Forestry in Woodworking

 

 

My forest was mostly left unattended for 70 years after the war had ended, so there were quite a lot of pine trees growing. Since there were too many pine trees, other types of trees were not able to grow.  Therefore, my family and colleagues worked together to reduce the number of pine trees. By doing so, sunlight is now able to reach the forest floor, and buds of hardwoods that haven't had a chance to see sunlight until now are now sprouting.

The Japanese forestry industry has been steadily declining, and the number of lumber producers has also been on the same trend. There were three lumber producers in our town before, but they are all gone now. As of now, you need to travel to a distant town one or two hours away to do some lumber sawing. With a Wood-Mizer sawmill, you can easily do it right on your own property.


LT15 portable sawmill in Japan with Wood-Mizer hat

 

 

If it is too much for me to handle, I can simply share it with several other people, which will promote great use out of the trees in the region, and I believe that it would have a significant impact in sustaining the forest. My message to fellow woodworkers is that we, the woodworkers, should produce our craft by thoroughly understanding the forest, lumber, and furniture.

 

 

As the users of trees, we must first understand and learn about the forest. I feel that it is our mission to fulfill an intermediary role between the forest and clients by serving as their bridge, and having the clients understand the culture of trees, such as sustainability.


Tak Yoshino with wife and 3 children and dog

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Valley View Cedar Producer Builds Sawmill Business in British Columbia

Photography by Kelly Funk

Cedar is a highly-valued building material for its appearance, durability, and pleasing aroma. Walk onto any freshly installed cedar deck or relax in a sauna, and its value is obvious. Valley View Industries is located in close proximity to western red cedar country on a two-acre site in Kamloops, British Columbia. It is leveraging both its location and extensive knowledge to supply high-quality cedar wood products throughout North America and Japan. The business also works with douglas fir, maple, and oak, but cedar is their bread and butter, representing about 85 percent of production.

 

 

Producing a variety of cedar products

Both a building contractor and cedar wood product supplier, Valley View Industries’ building materials are manufactured either from raw logs or from rough lumber that they remanufacture into cedar fencing, decking and more refined lumber products. “Cedar is very good for its natural resistance to rot and decay,” says Nick Price, Valley View Industries owner.


 

 

Nick is carrying on the family tradition started 30 years ago by his father, Norm, who founded the business. He is maintaining the company’s reputation for installing products like log gazebos, decks, hot tub enclosures, saunas, pergolas, sheds, cabins, fences, and more. About half of their business is custom cutting and installation while the other half is stockpiling popular cedar products for retail sales.




 

 

Wood-Mizer sawmill improves production and yield

Valley View Industries operates with several pieces of Wood-Mizer sawmill equipment, which gives them the capability of producing all of their own structural building components in-house. They now have control over both product quality and delivery. With their Wood-Mizer LT40 portable sawmill and supporting equipment, they have reduced delivery times of their building structures and building materials to customer sites by a month. Operating with 16 employees, which includes three installation crews, Valley View Industries generally offers installation within a couple hours of their location, but they have gone as far as Saskatchewan and the Yukon to satisfy client needs.

Nick says that he chose Wood-Mizer sawmilling equipment because the company has a good reputation. Prior to purchasing his Wood-Mizer, he used a smaller brand. “With our Wood-Mizer sawmill, we can cut in three or four hours what used to take us a week," Nick says. "It’s night and day. Even though we are so busy and we are booked for so many weeks ahead, we are still producing much quicker, at a higher volume and at a higher quality than we were previously. With its hydraulic capabilities and the price point, we just felt it was the way to go. We have been very happy with it.”


 

 

They have evolved from only producing about 15 percent of their product needs in-house to 100 percent, and there is also a lot less waste with their new operation. “Before with our old sawmill, we’d have really wavy cuts on some boards that we’d just have to reject,” Nick says. “We’d basically have to throw quality wood into the scrap pile. With the new mill, you know that you are going to get an accurate cut every time.”

The company selected the wide LT40 model which can saw logs up to 36” in diameter into 34" wide boards. The smallest diameter log they process has about a 12” top, but on average, they deal with logs that are about 24” diameter. The logs are shipped to the yard in 65’ lengths and then they are bucked by hand according to the company's needs. Most building material is manufactured from logs measuring 8’ to 16’. “We have the bed extension on the mill for longer material that allows us to go up to 26’ long,” says Nick.


 

 

Support equipment grows business and product catalog

The sawmill is powered with a diesel engine and is equipped to hydraulically load, clamp, and turn logs on the sawmill bed. Nick says that leveling, clamping and rotating logs now takes seconds compared to several minutes with his old sawmill.  The Accuset 2 setworks and Command Control systems on the mill manage sawing functions like automatically setting the blade location for specific cuts in 1/16” increments. “This is really a great feature for custom orders where a customer maybe wants a 7/16ths inch thickness,” says Nick. “We can just set the head and then knock out production.”

Nick’s sawmill also has the debarker, which Nick says is an essential component for his operation because cedar is notorious for accumulating rocks and mud around the base of the log. The debarker helps to extend saw blade sharpening intervals and lifespan. In terms of blade selection, he uses a standard, economy-grade, 1-1/2” blade for the first cuts to create a stack of cants. Then he will switch to a RazorTip blade for sawing the cants into final lumber products. “We find that by taking this approach, the blades last a bit longer and we get a nicer finish on our products,” says Nick.


 

 

In addition to the LT40 sawmill, they also own a Wood-Mizer EG200 twin blade board edger to improve any boards that have wane or bark on the edges. “From our sawing and edging process, we create a stockpile of wood measuring anywhere from 1” X 4” lumber to 6” X 6” timbers,” says Nick. “From there, our employees, who are actually working on building projects, will pick out of those piles. So, if they are building, for example, a pergola, they will pick out all they need for that order, and then take the pieces into our shop for preparation.”


 

 

Producing cedar structures often involves more than simply producing dimensional lumber and timbers. Debarked and custom-tapered cedar logs are often part of a construction project and have great customer appeal as a retail product. So the company has invested in a Lathe-Mizer and tenon kit add-on for their mill. The lathe allows them to produce tapered and specially shaped cedar logs directly on the mill that can be fit together for either structural support or appearance applications. For example, the Lathe-Mizer can produce perfectly round, hexagon, octagon and triangle log shapes.

Fundamentally, Nick says that they have a variety of equipment they need from Wood-Mizer to carry on all aspects of the wood product side of their business to continue to operate efficiently and successfully.

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From Portable to Production Sawmilling in New York State

Photography by Brody Wheeler

On the outskirts of Buffalo, New York in the small town of Holland, is the hard-working family sawmilling business Holland Timber Company. Owned and operated by Luke and Megan Eames, the mill is run on a 68-acre parcel of land that has been in the family since the early 1950s. In addition to Megan as the head sawyer and Luke running the board edger, Holland Timber Company is a family affair with both Luke and Megan’s parents assisting with lumber shipments, equipment maintenance, and building structures on the property. Starting as a portable sawmill for homeowners, the business has evolved to a production mill supplying cabinetry, flooring, and pallet manufacturers throughout the Northeast United States. With a combination of finding their niche and building strong relationships with local foresters and clients, Luke and Megan have built Holland Timber Company from the ground up into a successful sawmill operation.

 

Holland Timber Company woodworking sign

 

Growing Roots with Foresters & Wholesale Manufacturers

Introduced to sawmilling at age 14 on his parent’s 1995 Wood-Mizer LT40 portable sawmill, Luke worked small, custom portable milling jobs through college where he received a degree in Finance and Megan received a degree in Law during the same time. After graduation and working an office job for several years, Luke realized that wasn’t the career path he had dreamed of. “I couldn’t handle being inside all day,” shares Luke. In 2015, Holland Timber Company was established by Luke and Megan with the same LT40 portable sawmill from Luke’s childhood. “A big reason why we started the business is that we love sawing, but it’s our own business and we can keep it flexible,” shares Luke. “If we want to take a day off, we can do it. Before with our office jobs, we would work 50 weeks in the year just to get two weeks off.”

 

Luke and Megan Eames of Holland Timber Company

 

Starting out as a strictly portable sawmilling operation, Luke found that connecting with loggers in his area and sawing dimensional lumber brought in a steadier income because larger wholesalers buy lumber more consistently. “Once we got hooked up with the loggers, we started really filling up the log yard,” explains Luke. “After a lot of cold calls and establishing ourselves as a quality lumber producer, we now have a few larger buyers that support our business.”

 

Luke stacking cut boards

 

Holland Timber Company purchases logs a variety of ways including direct contact with landowners with timber stands, bid sheets from forestry consultants & foresters, and working directly with loggers. They have found success in purchasing smaller stands that larger operations don’t want to deal with. “We like to have a good stock of everything,” explains Luke. “With the wholesalers, we have a list of what they are consistently buying. When we put a bid on a stand, we generally already have the lumber sold.”

 

Luke lifting trunks using a tractor

 

Luke and Megan work with a local forester who finds available timber stands that would fit the operation’s current needs. “Traditionally, any tree that is 12” diameter or above is marked for harvest,” shares Luke. “Instead, our forester marks 16” to 24” diameter trees that are more mature and shading out other vegetation below. It’s important to us that he performs a sustainable management cut instead of saying ‘that tree is large enough, let’s just take it.’"

 

Luke with Wood-Mizer LT70 Wide sawmill operation

 

Today, 90% of the operation is producing and selling dimensional lumber to flooring, cabinet, and pallet wholesale manufacturers, while the remaining 10% is timber and custom sawing for landowners and professional woodworkers that could be used for tables, timber framing, siding, barn building, garden beds, fencing, and more. In addition, Megan runs a crafts business called Crafty Duck Creations which provides custom wood signs using a Digital Wood Carver CNC machine. “I like to think of myself as a creative person and I hate to see piles of scrap getting bigger and bigger when I know I can use the unique pieces,” shares Megan.

 

Megan from Holland Timber Company moving dimensioned boards

 

Upgrading the Mill & Increasing Production

In 2017, Luke traded in the LT40 sawmill, along with his custom ordered Dodge Challenger Scat Pack, to upgrade to the LT70 Super Hydraulic Wide portable sawmill, and says the move was well worth it. “The LT70 sawmill is the spotlight of the production,” shares Luke. “The main reason we upgraded to the LT70 was for the production capabilities. We produce about three times as much lumber from upgrading which has allowed us to pick up other contracts and jobs that wouldn’t have been able to in the past. Having the LT40 sawmill, being 23 years old, it ran great right up until the day we sold it. That was a determining factor of staying with Wood-Mizer was because the mills are built strong and built right. We’ve received jobs just because we own a Wood-Mizer. People know the name and the quality lumber it produces.”

 

Wood-Mizer LT70 Wide sawmill in action

Wood-Mizer LT70 Wide sawmill cutting with laser and material dragback

 

Working with a variety of red oak, white oak, hard maple, soft maple, ash, hickory, cherry, hemlock, larch, white pine, and spruce, Holland Timber Company runs Wood-Mizer’s exclusive DoubleHard Turbo 7 blade on the LT70. “Turbo 7 is the best blade I’ve ever run,” shared Luke. “I can run pine and switch over to cut a white oak or maple and it cuts great.”

 

Wood-Mizer stack of DoubleHard Turbo blades

 

The business also operates with a Wood-Mizer EG200 twin-blade board edger which Luke says works “hand in hand” with the LT70. Both the mill and edger run about 6 hours per day and can produce up to 4,000 board feet per day depending on what is being sawed. “The mill is actually paying for itself by one additional monthly contract that we have,” said Luke. “In about two days’ worth of work per month on this contract, our mill payment is covered. This doesn’t include any other additional lumber cut per week for wholesalers or any additional jobs picked up throughout the month.”

 

Megan sawing lumber on Wood-Mizer LT70 Wide sawmill

 

To improve efficiency, Megan has changed the way she breaks down the logs in order to increase speed and reduce the amount of material that needs to go through their board edger. “We pick the best grade side first, take a slab cut, and take one more cut for the edge, then start rolling from there,” said Megan. “Each side of the log will get two cuts on it. After everything is thinned out we can cut more like a resaw from there. Another nice thing about the Wood-Mizer is that we can be very flexible on what we saw. We can go from 4/4 wholesale lumber and switch right over to custom timber cutting very quickly and easily.”

 

Luke using Wood-Mizer EG200 board edger

 

Additional equipment includes a range of secondhand material handling equipment acquired from out-of-business larger conventional mills in the area. The equipment has been modified by Luke, his father, and father-in-law to meet the operation’s needs and has been a cost-effective approach to growing the business. “A drop belt pulls lumber from the mill and separates useable lumber from scrap,” explains Luke. “All scrap is fed to the lower level that feeds into a 48” chipper. The upper level feeds lumber onto decks and conveyors to transfer everything to the edger and stacking piles. All material handling equipment is run by Onan genset with a 1964 Ford 300 engine.”

 

Luke moving log scraps at Holland Timber Company worksite

 

Future Plans & Branching Out

Holland Timber Company is planning to build their own finish shop, retail store, and a small kiln in order to have controlled lumber drying on-site. “We want to offer options to homeowners of using trees from their land to put back into their homes. More and more people are requesting this,” shares Luke. “We’re also looking to put in a planer/moulder and offer services of milled lumber products and unique flooring options that you can’t buy at the big box stores.” With more people looking for 10” and 12” wide plank flooring with character, Holland Timber Company plans to supply this custom material that isn’t available at larger wholesalers because it isn’t something the traditional lumber market finds valuable. “For example, we have around 1,000 feet of red oak and its beautiful because it has pin knots all throughout it,” explains Luke. “The problem with the wholesalers is they are going to look at it and say its all defective, but its beautiful stuff that people are wanting.”

 

Full view of Holland Timber Company woodworking operation

 

By establishing strong connections with both suppliers and clients, Luke and Megan have built a solid foundation to continue to grow their operation. For advice, it all comes down to producing a quality product and providing quality service. “There are so many different directions you can go with sawmilling,” shares Luke. “You can focus on just doing unique slab work and make a decent living or you can do straight pine sawing. Once you find a niche and you make yourself standout by producing good quality products, people will find you and your business will take off.”

 

Luke of Holland Timber Company speaking on the phone smiling

 

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Making End Grain Cutting Boards in Nova Scotia


Located on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, Larch Wood handcrafts wooden end grain cutting boards from sustainably managed and harvested larch trees. In addition to its beautiful coloring and grain patterns, Larch Wood specializes in end grain cutting boards because they are durable and feature a self-healing cutting surface.

“When you buy a cutting board from us you should expect to end up with something that you’re going to enjoy using, it’s going to be a focal point in your kitchen, and you’re going to be able to pass it onto your children.” – Don Beamish, General Manager Larch Wood Canada





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Sawmilling and Horse Logging in Western North Carolina

Photography by Tommy White

Sometimes the size of a business is less important than the potential impact a company can have on the community it serves. Mountain Works Sustainable Development in Western North Carolina is a case in point. As explained by Ian Snider, one of the company’s owners, Mountain Works’ core approach to business revolves around its function as a demonstration project seeking to bring about change in the way most forestry and agriculture is done in America. “Our vision is to realize an equitable, sustainable, and diverse livelihood for all mountain communities through direct participation in their native ecosystem,” Ian says.


Wooden barn built by Mountain Works Sustainable Development

Demonstrating a Grand Vision

It is one thing to have a grand vision, but it is quite another thing to demonstrate the vision can become a reality. “You can talk all day about vision,” Ian puts forward, “But if there is no alternative to the standard ways of doing things, you’re just talking to yourself.” Mountain Works concentrates on proving that alternatives to the standard way of doing things actually do exist and can form the base of an economically viable “life-way” based on sustainability.


Wood-Mizer LT35 Hydraulic Sawmill

Because sustainability, as a lifestyle choice, touches on nearly every aspect of life, Mountain Works was created by Ian to be more than a single focus company. Mountain Works offers what Ian and his wife and partner Kelly call “A broad range of micro-enterprises operating throughout the community.” To achieve this, they partner with other community businesses to provide forestry consulting, home and small building construction services, lumber and timber framing products, grass-fed lamb and beef, horse logging, and other services related directly or indirectly to the headings of “Farm, Forest and Frame.” “Our goal is to address the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of future generations,” Ian comments. “That means working for better resource management, reduced energy consumption, and a lighter touch on the land.”


Mountain Works owners with horse used for sustainable horse logging

Crotched wood slabs cut on Wood-Mizer sawmill

Sustainable Woodland Management with Horsepower and a Portable Sawmill

Horses and thin-kerf portable sawmilling have been two of the most important tools in the Mountain Works arsenal as the company works to build viability while remaining true to its vision for sustainability. “My first exposure to Wood-Mizer came about ten years ago,” Ian says. “My wife and I married in 2008, just in time to see the mills cut the loggers off because of the recession. We were doing our best to get by selling firewood and a few logs to people using them to inoculate mushrooms. One day a lady called and asked if I could do some logging for her. I told her that would be great but the mills weren’t taking logs. She told me she didn’t want to sell the timber, she wanted to use the lumber to build a custom home and wondered if we could do that. We did, and have had Design, Harvest, Saw, and Build projects ever since. Hiring a local Wood-Mizer made us recession-proof.”


Wood-Mizer LT35 Hydraulic Sawmill with slabs

The idea of using horses to achieve Ian’s vision of a sustainable life came about as the result of Ian attending a seminar on horse logging while a graduate student at Appalachian State University. “That demonstration checked a number of boxes for me,” he comments. He saw the use of true “horsepower” as the key to enabling him to pursue his interest in exploring ways to reduce energy consumption, better manage the earth’s resources, and provide for sustainable forestry in the mountain region he calls home.


Mountain Works at sawmill site guiding horse to carry logs

Work horses and the company’s Wood-Mizer LT35 hydraulic sawmill utilized in tandem, are essential to the effort. “I’m not anti-machine at all,” Ian says, “It’s just that when it comes to low impact logging, horses have a lot of advantages. We can remove logs with the least amount of damage to remaining trees and can be more strategic with soil impact.” After Ian’s “recession-proof” job he knew buying his own Wood-Mizer sawmill would be vital to Mountain Works’ success. “Our LT35 has been invaluable to us,” Ian comments. “We can saw logs for others, mill out all sorts of products for sale, or for use in our custom building projects. It’s been good debt.”


Wooden barn built by Mountain Works

Also vital to Ian is the Wood-Mizer’s ability to contribute to the sustainability of the forest. Because good forestry involves removing insect and weather damaged trees as well as other fiber conventional mills turn away, the ability to turn “waste wood” into high value products is a fundamental need for any effort to improve forest health. “Wood-Mizer is, like my company, a people-oriented company,” Ian says. “When I talk with Joe Whitley at Wood-Mizer Carolina, I’m talking to someone who understands what southern mountain life is all about. That’s very important to me.”


Wood-Mizer LT35 Hydraulic Sawmill cutting

Educating Future Generations

The value of Ian Snider’s approach to sustainable forestry and organic agriculture is demonstrated by the fact that Ian is, today, the Forest Practitioner in Residence at Appalachian State University’s 369 acre farm & forest. With his colleagues, he teaches the principles of Silvicology and Agro-Ecology. He says the horses are an integral part of the team. “So far as I know, Appalachian State University is the only public university in the nation teaching draft animal power as fundamental to sustainable woodland management.” Snider’s business vision influences his educational one as well. “We are developing strategic partnerships regionally and even globally to steward mountain forests into the future,” Ian says. “Without working towards sustainable forest landscapes, our collective future is bleak.”


Wooden bridge built by Mountain Works

Mountain Works Sustainable Development in Western North Carolina

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Urban Sawmilling in Hawaii

Kamuela Hardwoods started in Hawaii as a collaboration between an ISA Certified Arborist, Josh Greenspan, and a sustainable building consultant, Alex Woodbury. Together they teamed up to save logs from the landfills and create lumber for themselves and others. “We started this business to take an underutilized resource that was being wasted and turn it something that could be used in the community," said Alex. It started as a hobby with an Alaskan mill in Josh’s backyard, and almost a decade later it has become a much larger operation which includes Wood- Mizer LT70SUPER and WM1000 sawmills, EG200 edger, and BMS250 with BMT250 blade sharpening and setting equipment.

Alex jokes that when first meeting Josh, he found him 100 feet up in a neighbor’s eucalyptus tree and they got to talking about tree work, woodwork and milling. The conversation started a friendship that ultimately forged a business relationship, and the two are salvaging one urban tree at a time. “Up until recently, as much as 33% of our waste stream produced by our small island population of under 200,000 people was in the form of green waste, and in that green waste was an untold number of millable urban trees,” said Alex. “For almost a decade we’ve been diverting some of that waste and producing beautiful sustainable lumber with it.”

Working as a strictly salvage sawmill provides them the opportunity to come across many hard and soft wood species which are lesser known to woodworkers and builders. Many of the species are an abundant and sustainable material choice in Hawaii, and Kamuela Hardwoods takes pride in helping to expand the number of species woodworkers use in their projects. “Our slogans are respect your elders and know your roots. It’s an homage to these trees. Most of what we’re in taking on a daily basis are decades old, sometimes they are centuries old. Day in and day out, every tree we cut, every log we saw, we’re paying respect to that tree, that elder,” said Alex.

 

Hawaii is geographically isolated with its predominant industry being tourism followed by development. Most building materials on the islands are imported from overseas. This environmentally taxing method is part of what drives this unique sawmill business to provide a diverse list of locally milled products from specialty slabs for restaurant bar tops and dining tables to utility grade building material, flooring, trim and molding, fence posts, statement beams, down to turning stock and instrument sets for Hawaii’s traditional ukulele crafters. Kamuela Hardwoods also has the unique ability to provide a whole host of “rainforest hardwood” species that were planted locally rather than cut out of rain forests half a world away.

 

 

“Back when it was a hobby we used an Alaskan chainsaw mill, but it produced massive waste, a hard pill to swallow on a valuable saw log,” said Josh and Alex. “It was also dangerous and required inefficient use of our labor. Parts were hard to come by and there was costly down time for repair and maintenance.”

When it came time for an upgrade, the team chose Wood-Mizer sawmill equipment. With the addition of a Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmill, production went way up and with the thin-kerf blades, waste went way down. They began producing more material than could be used by them alone, and started to sell locally. At first they sold to a “friends and family” customer base, but it grew exponentially. The lumber sales paid for the mill in no time. After a few years on the LT15 they had developed a large enough market that they were having trouble keeping up with demand and decided to ramp up to a fully hydraulic Wood-Mizer LT70 Super Wide portable sawmill. It was quite a leap they say, but a complete game changer. Orders that previously took days or weeks were now filled within hours. “The best equipment for the job is the key to our success, and that equipment has Wood-Mizer written all over it,” said Josh. Looking out across their Wood-Mizer mills, and a sea of almost a half a million board feet of milled product, the two constantly talk about how their “hobby” got a little out of control.

 

 

Josh and Alex are also passionate woodworkers, and their milling is influenced by their passion for the trade. Josh is an avid and prolific bowl turner and he relishes the ease and speed at which he can break down logs on his Wood-Mizer into bowl blanks for turning side grain bowls. He’s currently working on a few massive 36” bowls. In addition, Alex recently completed a small residential project for himself that is full of the fruits of their labor. “It’s our showcase, the cabinetry, interior and exterior trim, structural posts, decking T&G ceiling material, stair treads, flooring, we milled it all,” said Alex. “Some of the material even came off of my property.”

The production increase resulting from their LT70 Super Wide sawmill enabled them to add more sawmill equipment to further grow the business. Alex and Josh installed a Wood-Mizer WM1000 sawmill with a capacity of 67” along with an Wood- Mizer EG200 twin-blade edger in order to expand their custom milling services. “We’re dealing with tropical urban canopy trees with massive base logs and limbs,” said Josh. “Having the pair of big mills allows us to break down base logs with the WM1000 and mill up the rest on the LT70. With both running at the same time there is very little wasted material.”

 

 

 

 

Kamuela Hardwoods regularly mills more than 40 different species of trees ranging from softwoods to some of the hardest and most dense tropical woods in the world. “The durable and tough Wood-Mizer Bi-Metal blades are critical for the cutting of urban trees, as metal is often encountered in the logs,” said Alex. “For extremely hard tropical hardwoods, the RazorTip blades work best.” After years of using Wood-Mizer’s ReSharp blade sharpening service, they decided to add an automated Wood-Mizer BMS250 blade sharpener and BMT250 tooth setter to maintain their own blades. “Frankly being in Hawaii, the shipping was killing us, so we took it on in house and the sharpeners are awesome,” said Alex.

 

The Kamuela Hardwoods team is made up of family and friends with three full time employees and three part time employees currently running the operation. “Our friends and neighbors are all so stoked, and everyone has been super supportive of the whole concept since day one,” said Josh. Several local interior designers, builders and architects frequent the mill with their respective clients to find the perfect material for their projects.

The growth has been fast, and the WM1000 and LT70 mills have provided a leap in production. The next step for this team is a larger warehouse for showcasing the products, and a few self-loading trucks to streamline the procurement process. According to the Kamuela team, the most rewarding aspect of their sawmill business is the ability to produce a sustainable local product in Hawaii, an isolated and shipping dependent place.

By reducing the amount of rainforest hardwoods being shipped in from Asia, Africa, and Central and South America, Kamuela Hardwoods is providing islanders with a high quality sustainable local alternative. “We’ve had a lot of help along the way and we want to thank everyone who has encouraged and helped us along this journey," said Alex and Josh.

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The Building of Noah's Ark

And God said to Noah, “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood - the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth... Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.”- Excerpts from Genesis 6, ESV

The Ark is one of the most iconic religious symbols in the world. Flood legends exist everywhere people do, with more than 200 cultures around the world preserving some kind of flood or ark story. So when the founders of The Ark Encounter were considering their next big project, the Ark was at the top of the list.

The inspiration for the project began with the founder’s desire to create a family-friendly attraction that would encourage people to reconsider the Bible’s relevance in our day and age. The now completed reconstruction of Noah’s Ark in Williamstown, Kentucky took just over one year and a half to build and is considered the largest freestanding timber frame structure in the world with a total of 3.1 million board feet of timber used in its construction. A football field and a half long, the volume of the Ark is the equivalent of 500 standard semi-truck trailers and features three levels of exhibits with a 600-seat restaurant being prepped for the top deck. The Ark’s maximum capacity is 10,000 people, however organizers plan to limit it to 3,000 inside at any one time.

 

The Design

The vision originated with Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, and Patrick Marsh - a world-renowned art director whose designs include the Jaws and King Kong attractions at Universal Studios in Florida, among other high profile projects around the world. The Ark project began on paper with the combination of Patrick Marsh’s vision and the building and architectural expertise from the Indiana-based Troyer Group that had built the American Countryside Farmers Market in Elkhart, Indiana- the largest wood-pegged barn in the country. LeRoy Troyer of the Troyer Group spearheaded the architectural plan for The Ark Encounter and recruited Amish builders from previous projects to head up the heavy timber framing and carpentry work for the Ark.

 

The very first design question was a simple one – how long is a cubit? Based on the distance from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger, various cubit lengths existed in the past. For the Ark project, the Hebrew cubit length of 20.4 inches was used – making the overall size of the Ark itself 510 feet long, 50 feet tall, and 85 feet wide.

 

Supplying the Timber

One of the biggest challenges facing the project was the question of who was going to be able to supply all the wood in the quantities and sizes required. Enter Colorado Timberframe, a company just outside of Denver that claims to have “the largest and most technologically advanced timber frame manufacturing facility in North America.” Their massive factory bursts with the latest technologies in timber frame equipment that includes an extended Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmill.

 

Keenan Tompkins, owner of Colorado Timberframe, received a text message from one of his employees that said, “If we have the largest timber frame manufacturing facility in North America, why aren’t we cutting the largest timber frame?” Keenan did some research and contacted The Troyer Group. The timing could not have been more perfect with the Ark design nearing completion and the Troyer Group actively looking for a company to provide the required timber. “They were still trying to figure out if one company could actually handle the volume of the project,” said Keenan. “We told them we had the capability of doing the entire project. We’re the only company that can do the sizes of the timbers that they had, and actually fabricate all the timbers.”

 

Sawmilling the Material

Colorado Timberframe was awarded the contract and immediately got to work. With 1.5 million board feet of heavy timbers required for the construction of the timber frame itself, each individual timber element needed to be sized precisely. Highly accurate joints and holes needed to be cut into each timber so the whole frame could be assembled on schedule. “We had to add staff, because we ended up running three shifts and working 24 hours a day, 6 days a week for about a year,” Keenan recalls. “The crew consisted of 25 guys in the shop for about a year – hand cutters, machine operators, and yard guys. That doesn’t count our install crew. We had another 10 guys that worked alongside the Amish at the Ark site.”

 

All of the square-cut timbers used inside the Ark are douglas fir harvested and milled in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, Canada. “All in all, there were 120 semi-trailer loads of timber,” said Keenan. “We brought in all this rough-sawn, squared timber and the engineering plans had very specific size requirements for the final timber sizes. Half of the timber had to be resized before it was milled on the CNC machine. So that’s where we really worked the Wood-Mizer for a year. About half of the Ark timber frame passed through the LT15.”
 

TheLT15 sawmill is part of Wood-Mizer’s entry level range of sawmills, often purchased by woodworking hobbyists or first time sawyers. However, due to the ability to saw any length of timber with unlimited bed extensions, the LT15 is also used by companies like Colorado Timberframe for strictly commercial purposes. “The LT15 sawmill was an essential part of the process,” said Keenan. “It was both the resizing of the timbers for the Ark, and since the timbers for this project were so huge, we had to custom make our own pallets. So all the pallets were made on the LT15 by ripping down all the offcuts and waste material. You can imagine how many pallets were needed for 1.5 million board feet of timber!”

Standard Wood-Mizer 4 degree and 10 degree DoubleHard bandsaw blades were used throughout the project, however, the blades were customized to achieve the rustic surface finish the Ark planners were looking for on the beams. “They wanted the wood to have a rustic character to look like rough-sawn timbers,” shared Keenan. “We had to modify the blade to get the same rough sawn finish that you would get from a mill.”

 

 

Further Preparations

Once the beams were the correct size, the machining process would begin – notches, holes and more would be bored into each beam with maximum precision, thanks to Colorado Timberframe’s new CNC machine. “The timber would go through the K2I Hundegger CNC machine. We have a four foot wide track, so it can do beams four foot wide to up to 20 inches tall, and 60 feet long. We got that machine for large commercial projects. It does all the traditional timber frame connections - mortise and tenon joints, as well as drillings and slot cuts, and any kind of recesses or notches that the timbers need to accommodate either wood connections or steel plates.”

 

But not all the timber needed to be squared-up. The Ark design plan called for 66 massive lodge pole logs running from the bottom floor to the top of the Ark – 55 feet long. A significant number of the logs used for the columns were standing dead engelmann spruce from Utah. “We made a deliberate and concentrated effort to incorporate as many reclaimed logs as possible,” shared Keenan. “The spruce logs were standing dead, and responsibly harvested.” Colorado Timberframe built a special jig in order to rotate the massive lodge pole logs and cut all the needed joinery, which was done by hand and took their team of six men two full days to complete one log.

Miraculously, Colorado Timberframe delivered the timber requirements on schedule, working on the project for just over a year, in addition to continuing to build custom timber frame homes and structures for other clients.” They did some pretty incredible things with wood before the invention of steel and concrete,” Keenan reflects. “So it’s kind of going back to incorporating and using that, but applying it in a modern context.”

 

Keenan shared that even though The Ark Encounter was a huge project, the key to being successful was project management, organization and scheduling to ensure the company didn’t get overwhelmed with the magnitude of the project. “Henning Mund, our German master timber framer and my partner –we could not have done it without him,” said Keenan. “I personally believe that he’s the best timber framer in the country.”

 

The Construction

1,200 miles east of Colorado Timberframe’s facility, excavation at the Ark site began in August 2014 in Kentucky with 500,000 yards of dirt removed to clear the area for the Ark. Foundation work began in February 2015 and the “Ark raising” began in June 2015.

 

 

The Ark plan called for the timber structure to be set 12 feet off the ground on 102 concrete pillars. As the timber arrived in Kentucky, construction began on the massive timber frame structure itself. Like any other timber frame structure, the Ark frame was divided up into a series of 2D sections called “bents”. As each “slice” or bent is assembled and put into place, then the 3D structure begins to grow. Bent assembly was done on the ground using raised wooden platforms to keep all the various timber elements aligned as they were joined like a giant puzzle. 

 

 

The first bent weighed 25,000 pounds and took two weeks to assemble and put into place. Two smaller cranes lifted it upright and then a large crane lifted the bent into place on the concrete pillars. As the Amish construction crew got faster with each bent, by the end of the project, bents were being assembled and installed at the rate of two per week. As the project neared completion, Orie Lehman, one of the Amish carpenters that oversaw the timber framing set up his Wood-Mizer LT40 portable sawmill at the Ark site in order to cut all the timber needed for the hundreds of benches placed inside and outside the Ark.

 

 

 

Construction Facts

• Ark weight – 31,600,000 pounds (15,800 tons)
• The fire exits are rated to handle up to 10,000 people
• 5,000 sheets of drawings of every aspect of the structure
• Parking lot holds up to 4,000 cars
• 600-seat restaurant is under construction on the roof
• 15,150 sheets of plywood
• 290,000 board feet of bamboo flooring
• 67,467 drilled holes in beams
• 95 tons of steel plates and connectors
• 3.1 million board feet of timber used for the structure
• 5,435 heavy timber beams
• 300,000 screws
• 50,000 pegs and bolts

 

Visiting the Ark

The Ark Encounter is now open to the general public and reports that more than 300,000 people have visited within the first two months. Next to the Ark Encounter is a petting zoo and a massive zipline course, but these attractions are just the beginning for what they have planned for the future.

 

The Ark Encounter has been referred to as the 8th wonder of the world and required hundreds of people directly working together towards a common goal – crafting the largest freestanding timber frame structure in the world. With the necessary skillset, equipment, and dedication from companies such as Colorado Timberframe and the Troyer Group, the breath-taking Ark Encounter project can now be enjoyed by visitors coming from around the world. 

 

 

Wood-Mizer Sawmills at the Ark

In addition to the LT15 sawmill from Colorado Timberframe, at least two other Wood-Mizer sawmills were involved in the Ark project. An LT70 sawmill was used to cut the first beams used in the inaugural “Peg and Beam” ceremony for the project commencement. An LT40 portable sawmill was also used on-site during the final months of the project to produce bench material and additional finishing items that could be processed from leftover timber.

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Former Electrician Builds Dream Home in Remote Canada

Working as an electrician on high end custom homes in Oregon for more than a decade, Nathan Shewchuk realized there must be more to life. “I was tired of the city and wanted nothing more than to move into a remote part of Canada and build a house, so I did,” said Nathan. With eight years of hard work and dedication, along with a few helpers and a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill, Nathan accomplished his lifelong dream of building his own home.

 

 

Nathan’s story begins in 2007 when he purchased land in British Columbia in order to start building his home. Nathan found that he could either buy lumber and transport it to his remote location or produce lumber himself utilizing local timber from his land. “I looked into a few different sawmills but found nothing compared to Wood-Mizer,” said Nathan. “I thought that this was the only way to go, what a handy tool.” Without any previous sawing experience, Nathan purchased an LT40 Hydraulic Portable Sawmill and was set to continue his new life chapter. “I just went in headfirst and figured it out,” he said. “I spent basically my whole life in the trades, framing, and finish carpentry, so [building and woodworking] wasn’t anything new to me.”

 

 

Nathan wanted 100% of the wood in his home to be sawed on his Wood-Mizer sawmill, so that meant lots of trips to the kiln and many years of drying lumber. “It took eight years, that’s from clearing the property to the last nail,” he said. The first year of construction, Nathan completed the roof and milled all the cedar materials needed for the windows and doors of his home. With help from his neighbor and master finish carpenter, Kit, the windows and doors were completed and Nathan was able to move into his home for the first time that Fall. “The Wood-Mizer was a wonderful tool, it was perfect for the job,” he said.

 

 

 

Over the next few years, Nathan milled birch and douglas fir needed for the rest of the interior of his home and worked on all the finishing woodwork needed for the windows. He also built a rock fireplace and shower and milled all the tongue and groove wood for the walls and ceiling. After eight years of hard work building and sawing 100% of the 22,000 board feet of douglas fir, larch, birch and cedar on his LT40 Hydraulic Portable Sawmill, Nathan had finally finished his dream home and woodworking shop. With help from many friends and neighbors, Nathan completed his home from the ground up just how he had dreamed. “My neighbor, Kit did all the cabinets, doors and finish carpentry and my friend Doug was there hand-in-hand for carpentry work and many brainstorming nights,” said Nathan. “Many people helped along the way and I am very fortunate to have a lot of good friends.” 

 

 

Nathan estimates he saved between $70,000 and $80,000 by sawing his own lumber for his home that features a 1,200-square-foot living space, 1,500-square-foot woodworking shop, and 500-square-foot deck. “I get an overwhelming response to my home,” said Nathan. “All in all, I had the time of my life and owe many people for their knowledge and skills. This would not have happened without that.”As for the future, Nathan can’t wait to get onto his next project.

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Building a Cabin with a Portable Sawmill

By Billy Reeder, Cabin People

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” - Henry David Thoreau

The world is still dark when I wake. There is only the faintest hint of red on the eastern horizon as I flip on the lights of the cabin. It’s cold outside. As daylight begins to emerge, the greyness of early morning is reflected on the frost that covers our world. I slowly make my way down the stairs to add wood to the stove and pour myself a cup of coffee. My wife, Paula, is already up getting ready for school with bacon and eggs frying on the stove. After breakfast, we say our goodbyes as she heads off to teach her students and I walk down the hill to the shed and get on my tractor to go feed cows before I also head to my day job.

 

 

By now, the sun is breaking over the horizon and a plume of smoke is rising from the flue. The world is waking up. The horses are kicking their feed buckets and nickering for my attention. The heifers, seeing me out, start working their way to their feed troughs. On most mornings, I can see a dozen or so deer grazing in our hay field below the cabin. I set my coffee mug into its holder as I crank the tractor to life.

 

 

This is our life. It’s a good life. It’s a life we worked hard to have. The financial crash of 2008 hit a little too close to home. Watching so many others lose their life savings and homes as the result of a financial system out of control, we realized how close we came to being part of that statistic.It was then that we decided we would choose a different life. A simple life. A good life. We wanted to invest in things that matter and get away from the things that offered an illusion of security and nothing more. We wanted to be self-reliant. But money was tight. We had a couple of things going for us.

 

 

A year earlier, I had purchased a Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmill to mill lumber for repairs around the farm and we had a plot of land that was mortgage free. But with it feeling like the world was falling apart around us, we decided to do what it takes to build a log cabin from scratch. 

1. It had to be built completely debt free.

2. There would be no deadline on when it would be finished.

3. It had to be built strong enough to endure generations of use.

4. It had to be beautiful.

So one night I sketched out a floor plan on a piece of paper and started searching for trees.

 

A few months before we made the decision to build, a wave of tornadoes blew through Arkansas and caused a swath of damage across the state. Part of that damage was in the Ozark National Forest about an hour north of the farm where the storm had blown over about 50 mature yellow pines. When I called the forest service, they offered me a salvage permit to log the trees. And over the course of a month I logged out the timber with nothing more than a chainsaw, a tractor and a utility trailer.

 

Then during what seemed like one of the hottest Arkansas summers in history, I cranked up the LT15 and began milling up the pine into lumber and 6” X 12” logs. It was over the course of the next four years, of working weekends and evenings and cutting out all the unessential expenses in our lives that the pile of pine logs became an 800-square foot log cabin. And when the last nail was driven, it was ours. Apart from some plywood, every stick of lumber in that cabin was milled by me.

 

 

I get asked fairly often where I learned to build a log cabin and the truth is that’s the wrong question. The knowledge of building the thing isn’t the hard part. You learn as you go. The hard part is getting over inertia. Newton’s first law of motion says that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by another force. That cabin wasn’t going to build itself.

 

The hardest part was getting up one day and actually doing something tangible to make it a reality. After that the hard part was dedicating what little free time I had to the cabin and learning to be okay with slow progress. It was cutting out things we used to consider necessities and working part time jobs to pay for materials. It was the cold weekends I slept in the cabin without windows or heat so I could save gas money and time driving back and forth. And it was stepping away from it when I was getting tired and sloppy. But then one day it was finished and as much as the landscape had changed, so had I. For the better.

 

 

I owe a lot to that LT15. Of all the tools at my disposal, it proved one of the most valuable at making my goal a reality. While not a big mill, it’s a workhorse. It chewed through every log I offered, no matter how hard, and never failed me. It isn’t complicated and it’s willing to work all day every day. And that’s the way I like it. And years later it’s still going strong as I mill lumber for barns, sheds, fences and other projects around the farm. That mill has saved me thousands of dollars in lumber.

And so we continue to build our world. A little at a time as money and time allow. Each day a little closer to being completely self-sufficient. Each day building the life that we want. A deliberate life. A good life.

Connect with Billy and Cabin People on Facebook and YouTube, or visit www.CabinPeople.com.

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