Customer Stories

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Building Santa’s Sleigh with a Wood-Mizer Portable Sawmill

By Chase Warner

Gregg Turk used to operate his Wood-Mizer portable sawmill to saw material for his fine furniture making and woodcarving business. After being struck with health problems, Gregg was forced to scale back his business and semi-retire. He then decided to try out a new vocation of being Santa Claus, but there was just one problem with the gig. When children saw Gregg’s Santa persona, they would ask, “Santa, where is your sleigh?” Gregg decided it was time to build Santa a proper sleigh.

 

Wood on Sawmill

 

With a little bit of Santa’s magic, the wood from a single poplar tree was transformed into Santa’s sleigh. Gregg did all of the woodworking himself and only contracted out the front bells, upholstery, and wiring system, all of which he still had a hand in designing.

 

Sleigh Furnished

Although the style of the sleigh may look old-fashioned, the dash is outfitted with the latest advances in technology to make Santa’s job a little easier. He has a GPS system, a computer to view the “Great Kids List” and images of space, a switch to activate the locking clamps to help hold the sleigh down when up on the rooftops, and even a liftoff sequence simulation with roaring speakers and fog!

 

Sleigh Frame

Sleigh Rear

 

Not long after Gregg began building, he was contacted by two local cities about being Santa for their Christmas events. Suddenly, the pressure was on. Although December was only a few months away, Gregg was determined to finish the sleigh in time. He worked on building the sleigh eight to ten hours a day and spent his evenings designing the parts he would build next. By milling 100% of the yellow and tulip poplar needed for the sleigh on his Wood-Mizer LT40 Hydraulic portable sawmill, Gregg estimates he saved more than $4,000 on the sleigh that measured 14’ long, 5’ 8” wide, and 7’ high.

 

Sleigh Carving

Sleigh Details

 

Needless to say, Gregg was exhausted at the end of this project, but the final result was worth it. Once the sleigh was completed, Gregg and his wife both sat on the floor of the workshop speechless at the masterpiece in front of them.

 

Sleigh Side

Sleigh Back

 

Gregg considers his sleigh the culmination of more than 35 years of woodworking and the best project he has ever undertaken. His Wood-Mizer sawmill allowed him to work with high grade material that he never could have purchased at a lumberyard and gave him flexibility in the sizing of his material. As Gregg says, “The combination of being a woodworker, a Santa Claus, and owning a Wood-Mizer sawmill allows you to be able to build anything you can imagine!”

Turk as Santa

Turk Sleigh

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Sustainable Logging and Sawmilling in Sandy, Oregon

By Jack Petree, Tradeworld Communications

Chuck Vance has spent the last thirty years shaping his 39 acres of forest near Sandy, Oregon. Chuck’s forest can provide enough logs each year to sustainably support his sawmill, benefiting his environmental goals and his community’s goals as well. Through those years he has sequestered more than 50 million pounds of CO2 equivalent in greenhouse gases.

 

Vance Trees

 

Forest Conservation

Being a conservationist and sawyer himself, Chuck spoke on the misconceptions of forest sustainability, explaining that, “No logger wants to cut the last tree, no fisherman wants to catch the last fish. Foresters, farmers, fishermen and women are the real and true stewards of the land. They should be praised for the difficult job that they do every day, a job from which everyone else benefits,” said Chuck.

 

Vance Sawmill

 

In the 1990s, a timber cutter by trade, Chuck was not happy with what he saw in forest management. “I had a lot of my own ideas on silviculture, so we looked for a place to buy,” he remembers. “I wanted a place that would allow me to ‘start from scratch’ on the forest I envisioned. I was working a logging job nearby and watched the timber on this place get harvested. Half the stumps were grubbed out, the slash and stump piles were machine stacked, then the ‘For Sale’ sign went up.”

After a lengthy negotiation, Chuck owned 39 acres of forest land, providing him with the fresh start he was looking for. His land was partially cleared while the rest of the acreage stayed covered with slash and stump piles amongst brush.

Chuck and his wife moved into a “shack on the site,” where they removed abandoned cars and "a mountain of trash,” then set a plan to reestablish a healthy, working forest. “Over the next two winters, we planted 16,000 seedlings, mainly Douglas fir, some western red cedar, and noble fir,” Chuck said. Volunteer alder also establish itself in scattered patches. Today those alder patches contain high value trees that Chuck plans to harvest in 2030. Chuck also aims to have an overall 80-year rotation rather than the typical 60-year rotation.

Sustainable Sawmilling

In 2004 Chuck began working exclusively for himself as Chuck Vance Logging and Millwork. This allowed him to run his own equipment and harvest as he saw fit, all the while aiming to improve forest health.

Sawmilling has become an ever-increasing part of Chuck’s strategy for his forest. He values the part Wood-Mizer plays in forest restoration, emphasizing that on-site sawmilling reduces carbon emissions related to harvest, while sawmilling for residents reduces carbon emissions related to transportation.

 

Vance Toolshed

 

Today, Chuck is on his third Wood-Mizer portable sawmill. “My first Wood Mizer was a used LT40 Hydraulic portable sawmill with a 24 horse Onan gas motor,” he says. “I ran it for 5 years then sold it for what I’d paid for it. My next mill was an LT40 Hydraulic portable sawmill with a 30 horse Kubota diesel. Four years ago, I bought an LT50 Hydraulic electric sawmill and have been running it steady since then.”

The main advantage Chuck gets from owning a Wood-Mizer LT50 Hydraulic portable sawmill, is the ability to mill his own trees. “There is a big advantage in sawing young, smallish, timber. There is virtually no defect,” shared Chuck. “Also, grade allowances are all about knot diameter, I get mostly select grades, about 75% or so. The volume is lower, but you are getting finished lumber from trees that needed thinning anyway.”

 

Vance Using Sawmill

 

Chuck estimates the actual “cut out” he gets from a log doubles the log’s scale at the mill. “I’m doing better on my logs by a factor of at least three,” he says pointing out that at today’s rates that is and extra $1,600 per thousand board feet return.

Investing in a converter also helped Chuck to cut costs. “I set up a converter / inverter. The power company installed a special transformer to give me an 800 Amp service from the single hot wire available. It all works very well, and super efficiently, my monthly power bill never exceeds $100 on the sawmill’s dedicated meter.”

Overall, he saw going electric as, “a great decision.” Since going electric things have been, “much quieter, much less vibration, no exhaust fumes to breathe, very much more user friendly, and much cheaper to run. Production is excellent as well, I mill approximately 300,000 board feet per year, with my one man show.”

 

Vance Motor

 

It is clear through his work, that Chuck has a passion for transforming his land into a sustainable, healthy forest. “If we want to think globally and act locally then we should all get behind intensive forest management. No management is the worst thing you can do. Get in there and shape it, sculpt it; We need to make our home a carefully attended to, beautiful, and productive, garden. With forestry, if you aren’t looking at it from a generational perspective then you aren’t focusing properly,” said Chuck.

To focus on the relationship sawmilling can have with the environment around him, Chuck explained that synergy is an important part of his work. “I really love synergy. When one aspect of a tree/farm operation contributes to the success of the whole, complementing another aspect of the farm in achieving an ultimate goal.”

 

Vance with Logs

 

An example of this is Chuck’s 600 blueberry bushes that benefit from the sawdust. “The deeper the sawdust the healthier the plants get,” he says. Synergy is even represented in his community as, “Friends, family, neighbors, customers and parishioners from our church come out and pick, no charge, all the blueberries they can use in the late summer.”

Through his way of sawmilling, Chuck balances both making a living and enhancing his forest. “The most important thing to me with my forest management is the future,” he declares. Chuck hopes through his forest conservation and sustainable harvesting, his land can benefit the community around him for generations to come.

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Sawmilling and Woodworking for Education in Wisconsin

By Olivia Eaker, Wood-Mizer

Located in Northern Wisconsin, in the small town of Antigo, Travis Allen and Logan Wells have dedicated their talents to teaching sawmilling and woodworking at Northcentral Technical College (NTC). In doing so, Travis and Logan have set their sights on educating and preparing the next generation of woodworkers and forest products professionals.

 

NTC instructors Travis and Logan have decades of experience in the wood products industry. From the East to the West coast, “I’ve been heavily involved with the forest products industry, whether that be on the primary end…or the secondary wood products manufacturing industry,” shared Travis.

 

Logan and Travis with Northcentral Tech College

 

In addition, Logan started in the forest products industry while still in high school. “I loved being in the woods and woodworking with my dad,” shared Logan. This interest inspired Logan to purchase a Wood-Mizer LT15 portable sawmill and start his own sawmill business before earning his degree in Forest Management at the University of Wisconsin - Madison and studying Hardwood Lumber Grading as a graduate student at Purdue University.

 

Northcentral Tech College kiln

Laying Down Roots

Travis came to Northcentral Technical College as an instructor around 2010 and was an integral part in developing their Wood Technology Center of Excellence. Travis explained that the purpose of the center is to help train the incumbent work force which he described as, “Employees that are currently employed with the forest products industry and also college students coming through our wood science program.”

 

Northcentral Technical College wooden sign

 

Antigo was clearly the perfect place for the Wood Technology Center, as Wisconsin is a large contributor in the forest products industry, and in 2006, Northcentral Technical College’s Wood Training Program was born.

 

Wood Technology Center CNC machine

Wood Technology Center at Northcentral Tech College

 

The Wood Technology Center of Excellence is home to the training facility for those looking to enter and grow in the forest products industry. Both Travis and Logan stressed the importance of hands-on opportunities and learning and how it plays into their program. “All the students coming through our program are hands-on learners,” said Travis. “So, to be able to have an affordable sawmill for students to work on and learn firsthand is just an excellent opportunity.”

Northcentral Technical College strives to prepare its students for the industry with a multitude of different woodworking equipment including a portable sawmill, CNC machines, wood drying kilns, and more. This is not your typical woodworking program that focuses on one specialty alone. “What makes this program unique is that students get to discover what area of the industry they enjoy,” said Logan.

 

Student sawing with a portable sawmill

Student edging with a sawmill edger

Choosing a Career in the Wood Products Industry

Second-year Wood Science Program student, Brandon Nilles, explained that this program really helped him discover where he wanted to go in his career path. “When I first signed up for this program, I really had no goals, I had no idea what I was going to do. I just knew I liked woodworking,” shared Brandon. Brandon’s story, like many other students attending the program, is a common journey.

 

Student using a sawmill log turner

Student with sawmill board edger

 

“As they get started, they know they like trees, they know they like making things with their hands and then they can kind of discover the path that’s right for them,” said Logan. Northcentral Technical College strives to inspire their students to discover their own paths by introducing them to all the possibilities the wood products industry has to offer.

 

Portable sawmill blade sawing at a school

Hands-On Opportunities and Continuing Education 

Logan clarified that getting the opportunity to work hands-on with woodworking equipment in a safe and supervised environment alongside industry professionals helps to engage students. Travis and Logan get the chance to not only teach them how to use the equipment but also how to troubleshoot any problems they may come across.

 

sawmill board edger at Northcentral Tech College

 

Brandon admitted that going into the program he did not know what to expect, but the abundance of woodworking equipment offered at The Wood Technology Center was able to open his eyes to the endless career possibilities in the forest products industry.

The program is dedicated to highlighting sawing, edging, and trimming, and to do so NTC partnered with Wood-Mizer to purchase an LT40 electric hydraulic sawmill as well as an EG200 twin-blade board edger. “We use this equipment for our students so they can learn how to apply NHLA standard grading rules while they are breaking down a log into lumber to maximize the profit of that log,” shared Travis.

 

Teaching at Northcentral Technical College

 

The Wood Technology Center is truly dedicated to making sure their students are well informed and experience all aspects of the forest products industry. “Aside from our college classes that we offer, we have a lot of continuing education classes. We offer classes on log grading and scaling, manufacturing lumber, setting up a moulder, as well as fine woodworking,” shared Logan.

With access to state-of-the-art equipment and experienced instructors like Travis and Logan, Northcentral Technical College is dedicated to continuing to help students find their own path in the woodworking and forest products industry.

Mesquite Treehouse Milled and Made in Southern Arizona

Mesquite Treehouse Milled and Made in Southern Arizona

By Amanda Buttram, Wood-Mizer Contributing Author

Mesquite trees are a dominant feature across the southern Arizona desert landscape, as these shrubby, irregular plants are a hardy survivor despite the environment’s harsh conditions. The inherently imperfect, dense timber of the Sonoran Desert Velvet Mesquite along with an introduction to the sawmill first drew Arthur and Valerie Flores away from other careers nearly two decades ago. In the 20 years since its beginning, this husband-and-wife team established the Tumacacori Mesquite Sawmill in Tumacacori, Arizona. “[We] now have the reputation as being Arizona’s oldest and largest supplier of responsibly harvested mesquite products,” said Arthur.

 

Mesquite treehouse in southern Arizona

 

When a local rancher explained a treehouse concept for his granddaughters designed to complement the organic, rustic environment of the southern Arizona area, Arthur and Valerie were intrigued with the idea of using mesquite lumber in its construction. The couple are no strangers to creating unique mesquite products themselves and are aware of the many ways indigenous Native Americans utilized various parts of the plant throughout history, but this treehouse idea seemed like a completely new concept. “The prospect of utilizing mesquite for the treehouse took it to a whole different level…twenty feet above ground level, to be exact!” explained Arthur.

 

Balcony of mesquite treehouse

 

The considerable interest this unique idea sparked within Arthur and Valerie led them to join the project team. “The design, engineering, and fabrication was done by The Treehouse Guys, LLC from Vermont. The crew, led by James ‘B-Fer’ Roth, spent approximately 10 weeks here in Arizona during the construction,” shared Arthur. In addition to the treehouse’s unique use of mesquite wood, the structure would also feature an outside deck for spectacular views of the mountainous desert landscape, and its interior would include a living area and bedroom loft, complete with running water and electricity.
 

 

Mesquite treehouse windows

 

All lumber used to create the treehouse was milled at Tumacacori Mesquite Sawmill with their Wood-Mizer LT40HD Super Hydraulic portable sawmill. Douglas fir was chosen for the treehouse’s floor joists, roof, and major structural support. More specifically, the material was old forest Douglas fir sourced from a Canadian pre-WWII barn, obtained and imported by the landowner, and brought to the sawmill on flatbed trucks. “The Douglas fir was relatively easy and took about a week to mill,” said Arthur.

 

Douglas fir treehouse support

 

The indigenous Sonoran Desert Velvet Mesquite used in the stair treads, siding, and stair and balcony rails was primarily sourced from the landowner’s property and other nearby ranches. “Much of this mesquite was cleared for the purpose of increasing farmland or cattle grazing,” explained Arthur. As mesquite is a more challenging wood to work with, it took about 10 weeks to mill to the specifications of The Treehouse Guys’ lead foreman.

 

Balcony of mesquite treehouse

Mesquite treehouse stairs

 

Arthur advises using the right tool for the job to set your project up for success. “For us, the LT40HD Super has and will always be the right tool for the job!” he said. Even with the correct tool on hand, mesquite is never easy to mill. “In general, we’re lucky to mill more than four slabs before needing a fresh blade!"

 

LT40HD Super sawmill in use

 

The completed Mesquite Treehouse sits around 20 feet above ground level and offers an under-roof area of approximately 700 square feet. “We are especially proud to have been a valuable team member of this unique project. The reaction of all who see the Mesquite Treehouse reaffirms our belief that we were a part of something special and unlike anything in southern Arizona,” shared Arthur.

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Mulberry Chapel Built on 450-Acre Farm in Georgia

By Amanda Buttram, Wood-Mizer Contributing Author

For the past 20 years, George Coker has been dreaming and planning the perfect addition to his 450-acre farm in Carnesville, Georgia. Building a chapel on the land had been a project he wanted to start for a long time, as it would provide the perfect venue to expand opportunities on the property. George’s chapel would offer a space to host weddings, events, and activities, allowing more people to enjoy the beauty of Crockett Creek Crossing Farm.

 

George Coker with Wood-Mizer hat

 

A life-long builder, carpenter, and hobbyist woodworker, George put his knowledge and skills to work crafting the farm’s newest feature. Much of the wood that makes up the chapel came from trees on the property where this new structure sits today. “Beams, rafters, and lathing were all sourced from loblolly pine cut on our farm,” George explained. “Benches were made of kiln-dried red maple from the farm as well.” This access to available timber was also a big factor in George’s initial decision to purchase a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill years ago.

 

Crockett Creek Crossing Farm in Georgia

Farm tractors hauled harvested timber to the sawmill that was set up across the farm and building site. George used his Wood-Mizer LT40 Hydraulic portable sawmill to cut all the wood needed for the chapel. “I’ve owned this sawmill for 20 years. The LT40 Hydraulic has convenient log handling without much manual handling. At 80 years old, I am able to maneuver the logs with a single assistant,” shared George.
 

George Coker and Wood-Mizer LT40 portable band sawmill

 

Once milled, each piece of wood was brought to the barn where it was air-dried with stickers, sanded, and stained. Corbel cuts were made using a portable bandsaw and the chapel’s octagonal posts were constructed out of reclaimed power poles. Tractors transported the finished material back across the farm to the building site George had chosen for the chapel.

After decades of dreaming and six months of work, the Mulberry Chapel was complete. The finished project was a stunning 40’ x 48’ open pavilion chapel with a 10’ x 12’ entry that is reminiscent of a country church house. The entry is capped by a custom bell tower and steeple welded from stainless steel sheet metal. Inside the bell tower sits a 14” antique locomotive brass bell, and atop the steeple is a custom cross adorned with dogwood flowers made by a family friend. The chapel sits in a picture-perfect location at the property’s highest point, nestled in the hardwood forest with sweeping views of the farm.

 

Crockett Creek Crossing Farm Chapel steeple

Crockett Creek Crossing Farm Chapel benches

Crockett Creek Crossing Farm Chapel at night

The Mulberry Chapel had been in George’s vision for Crockett Creek Crossing Farm for years, and it was finally brought to life with the help of a very special crew on board from start to finish. “The entire family provided labor,” shared George. His daughter, Carolee, drew the chapel’s blueprints, translating George’s dreams into a workable design. His son was instrumental to the assembly of the structure, and several other members of the Coker family were on-hand throughout the project, assisting with sanding and staining lumber as well as assembling all the timber on site.

 

Crockett Creek Crossing Farm Chapel wedding

Crockett Creek Crossing Farm Chapel wedding altar

 

With this masterpiece now complete, George has been able to bring his family together under the beams of Mulberry Chapel. The weekend before Crockett Creek Crossing Farm was set to host its first wedding in the new chapel, George’s family hosted a dedication for his granddaughter. “Beautiful spring weather contributed to the feelings of pride and love. All 175 guests were amazed by the construction and beauty of our chapel,” George recounted. For the future, George plans to continue sharing his passion of sawing, woodworking, and building with his family. “I look forward to demonstrating and training younger family members how to run the mill,” he said.

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Building Wooden Toy Cars in Michigan for Operation Christmas Child

Republished Courtesy of Samaritan's Purse, International Relief Ministry

Ken Postema lives in Western Michigan, USA about 15 miles east of Grand Rapids, on 10 wooded acres that he purchased 51 years ago when he was a senior in high school. Tall white pines, maples, tulip poplars, and hybrid poplars dot the lush, rolling landscape surrounding Ken’s beautifully handcrafted house, which he built himself. “Some of these hybrid poplars I planted 30 to 35 years ago,” Ken said. “I planted them for a reason, but I didn’t know what that reason was until last year.”

 

 

Last year, Ken built 10,000 toy wooden cars, all of them from downed hybrid poplars and white pines on his property. Why would he build so many? For Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes of course. This year he built 20,000. Ken, 69, is a retired book publisher and has dabbled in woodworking and other creative endeavors his entire life. When he was a teenager he built go-karts and an electric bicycle, and constructed his own bedroom. He learned woodworking from his father, a furniture builder.

 

Wooden cars for Operation Christmas Child

 

“I always looked over dad’s shoulder, and he shared with me many, many ideas, processes, and just the idea of how to work,” Ken said. Now, his dad, Robert, 91, helps put axles and wheels on the cars that Ken builds. Since April, he’s helped assemble over 17,000 cars, an average of around 100 per day. “It’s given him new strength and a reason to get up in the morning,” Ken said. “He’s encouraged knowing where the cars go and what the mission is all about, which is to help tell kids about Jesus.”

 

Ken and his dad Robert make wooden toy cars together

Ken's dad assembling wooden cars

 

Packing Shoeboxes for the First Time

Three years ago, Ken had never packed a shoebox. He didn’t even knew much about Operation Christmas Child. But when a friend, Steve Shattuck, invited Ken and his wife, Laura, to a shoebox packing party, they caught the vision of reaching children for Christ through shoebox gifts. After the event, they started talking and realized that with Ken’s woodworking skills they could create unique items to put in shoeboxes. But what should those items be?

 

Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes

 

Laura, a retired school teacher, had helped pack shoeboxes when she taught at an alternative high school and saw the impact it had on her students. “My students came from all kinds of backgrounds,” Laura said. “Many of them very troubled. Some had very difficult childhoods. But the chance to fill shoeboxes was amazing for them. They knew how important it was to have somebody love them. It was awesome!” Ken and Laura knew they wanted to create a quality item for kids in need and invite others to join them in the process. First, Ken crafted small wooden crosses to be worn as a necklace. He made around 3,000 of them with a laser, but they proved to be very labor intensive, so Steve challenged Ken to instead make a durable, wooden car. “I asked Steve how many he might need, and he said 10,000,” Ken said. “Wow, I thought. That’s a big number.” “I thought it was a ridiculous challenge,” Laura said. “But Ken didn’t think it was. And thankfully he didn’t because he figured out how to do it.”

 

Finished wooden car

Ken Postema with a finished wooden toy car

Papa’s Christmas Car Shop

Over several weeks in early 2020, Ken perfected the building process and began creating cars in his pole barn, which his grandkids quickly dubbed “Papa’s Christmas Car Shop.”

 

Logs prepared for the portable sawmill

Sawing logs on the Wood-Mizer portable sawmill

Sawing logs on the portable sawmill for wooden cars

Boards are made from the logs on the sawmill

 

“We start with a log that’s been blown down in the woods. It’s then put on a sawmill and cut into two-by-fours. They air dry for at least six months,” Ken said.

 

Boards going inside the Wood-Mizer planer moulder

The Wood-Mizer planer moulder turns boards into profiles for wooden cars

A custom-made axle jig

A custom-made wheel jig for assembling wooden cars

 

“Then they are put through a planer/molder, four sided, and it profiles the car. The molded sticks are then brought to a chop saw where individual cars are cut. The cars then go into a cement mixer that is filled with sanding sponges. Fifteen minutes later, they are all sanded smooth. Next, they go to a custom-built axle drill where I can drill holes for up to 1,000 cars in an hour.”

 

Ken's grandkids help assemble the wooden cars

Ken's Bible Study group help assemble the wooden cars

 

After the axle holes are drilled, Ken gets others involved. In addition to his dad, Ken’s seven grandchildren and several couples from his small group Bible study pitch in. He gives each of the couples a kit that contains 100 cars, 400 hundred wheels, and 400 axle pegs, which they assemble. Small group leaders Paul and Tammy Cannon assemble around 300 cars each week, and they’ve been able to share the Gospel and the mission of Operation Christmas Child with friends and neighbors who see them putting the cars together in their driveway. “It’s all about the Gospel message,” Paul said. “My prayer is that these cars will plant a seed in their hearts.”

 

Finished cars ready to send to Operation Christmas Child

 

After the cars are assembled, they are dipped in mineral oil to put a clear finish on them. The oil also protects the cars from scratches and from dirt sticking to them, which is very important to Ken and Laura. “The cars that we make here might be the first gift that some children have ever received,” Laura said. “That makes it even more important to us that we make the cars very durable and lasting.”

 

Grandchildren assembling Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes

Most of the cars that Ken builds are sent to various Operation Christmas Child Processing Centers to help fill shoeboxes that could use an extra item or two. His cars have thus far reached children in South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Pacific.

 

Creating Gospel Opportunities

Steve, who first challenged Ken two years ago to create 10,000 cars and then doubled the challenge to 20,000 this year, said creating the cars is “all about the Gospel. Every Operation Christmas Child box is a Gospel opportunity and that’s why we’re connected to it.” He also hopes that Ken’s story will inspire others across the country to create unique items for shoeboxes. “It might not be with cars. It might be making dolls or whatever they are passionate about,” he said. “They can be a part of creating wonderful gifts that create a Gospel opportunity for kids to hear about Jesus.”

 

Operation Christmas Child Collection Center in Michigan, USA

 

Ken, who is already at work building cars for next year’s shoebox season, agrees. “I hope we can encourage other woodworkers to get involved so we can make a million cars to put in shoeboxes, each one an expression of our love and God’s love for the kids.” 

You can be a part of giving children across the globe great joy and sharing with them the Good News of Jesus Christ by prayerfully packing a gift-filled shoebox with Samaritan's Purse! Learn more about Operation Christmas Child. National Collection Week in 2021 is November 15th - 22nd.

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Sawmilling in Trapper Creek, Alaska

Vickie Knapp shares her story of sawmilling in Trapper Creek, Alaska with her late husband and their Wood-Mizer LT40 portable sawmill. After successfully sawing wood siding for her cabin, Vickie plans to finish the cabin interior, build a porch, and continue making beautiful things out of wood with her sawmill.

"When you take a rough, ugly old log, make a cant out of it, and cut the rough part off. You start slicing boards up and they're beautiful. You make order out of chaos. You take something that's not very usable and you make something extremely usable out of it. Wood is beautiful. There's just something nice about wood because each piece is different. If you take a beautiful piece of wood and you turn it into a coffee table, it becomes a piece of art.”

“I live in Trapper Creek, Alaska. Trapper Creek exists because the Petersville Road is there. The Petersville Road exists because it served the mining community of Cache Creek. Homesteaders came in, my mother came in with me and my brother, and that's how I came to be here.”

“Back in the early 1980s, my husband borrowed a Wood-Mizer from one of his friends because he was building one of the first scribe-built log cabins in Trapper Creek and he needed a sawmill to cut wood for the roof and the floor and stuff like that. After he borrowed the Wood-Mizer, he thought so much of it that he always wanted one. When he got the chance, he bought an LT40 (sawmill) and he loved it. It was like his baby, it was like the most fun thing he ever had in his life. I used to help him with it, I was the grunt that pulled the slabs off. Little by little, I kind of learned how to do it.”

“That sawmill had been sitting unused for more than 10 years because my husband had gotten progressively older and sicker. I pulled that (sawmill) over, changed the gas, changed the oil, and it started right up. After my husband passed away, I moved to this new place so I could have electricity. I wanted to put my own lumber on the outside for economical reasons and for aesthetic reasons.”

“I went out and everybody gave me lots of ‘you can do it Vickie’ and so I did. I got a log up there and sawed the first edge off the first slab off the top and I ran inside and called somebody and said ‘you won't believe it. I just sawed a board, I did it!’ Then I went back out and I squared up a cant and everything. I finally got a big pile of lumber and I had a team of guys that helped me. They came over and started nailing it up which they had never done before and they did a very nice job. I put siding on my cabin! I sawed every piece of that lumber up there.”

“The first thing I'm going to do now is saw dimensional lumber and put it on the inside of my cabin. My next project is to build a 10-foot porch on the front of my cabin. I can make all the joists and rafters and everything that I need. No one else will ever have what you have and it's a piece of art and it's extremely valuable. Not only that, but in your heart if you do something, that's what we’re here as humans to do. To make things beautiful and create things of value. That's what a sawmill can help you do.”

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Expanding the Narrow Gate Through Woodworking

Expanding the Narrow Gate Through Woodworking

Established by Bill and Stacy Spencer in 2004, the Narrow Gate Foundation has helped more than 500 young men discover a relationship with Jesus Christ while finding and pursuing their life’s purpose. With multiple facets of the foundation including the Narrow Gate Lodge, Narrow Gate Trading Co., and Narrow Gate Exchange initiatives, the organization reaches well-beyond their Headquarters in Tennessee, USA to impact communities across the world. 

Finding Purpose 

In 2002, Bill and Stacy were running a small software development business when they were invited to a dinner at a church by a client. That was the 1-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center in the United States. One of the survivors was in attendance and shared her testimony of becoming a believer in Jesus Christ. That night, Bill and Stacy encountered God’s presence for the first time. 

While spending more time serving within the church, Bill and Stacy were asked to help with a homeless ministry and met a 42-year-old homeless man named Donald. Donald had cerebral palsy and had just checked out of a drug rehabilitation center with nowhere to go, so the Spencer’s invited him to stay at their home. After a few months, Donald had decided that he wanted to become a pastor so Bill and Stacy drove him to Florida to get connected with an organization to follow his calling. 

“When we dropped Donald off, Stacy and I had tears in our eyes, because we realized it wasn’t his life we were changing, it was ours,” said Bill. “We had found it, we weren’t looking for it, and there was no plan. We were just trying to be available for God to do whatever he wanted to do for our lives. He wanted us to find our purpose, by helping other people find their purpose. That’s the upside-down economy of God when you give the thing that you’re desperately seeking, and you wind up receiving it back.” 

Narrow Gate Lodge 

“Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” are two of the most important questions we face in our lives. Finding these answers are at the foundation of The Narrow Gate Lodge. The residential ministry that serves as the centerpiece of Narrow Gate allows young men to live and work together for 8 months while pursuing biblical training, personal discipleship, and new life skills. This enables them to pause from the distractions of daily life to discover who Jesus says they are and their calling for the future. 

Since 2004, Narrow Gate has helped more than 500 young men to find their purpose and have a generational impact on their families and communities in a positive way. “When God unveils that path, our goal is to get beneath that and support it with everything we have,” said Bill. “We’re teaching them how to think, the discipline and value of hard work, and how to fall so desperately in love with God and the idea of eternity so that permeates everything they do and everywhere they go.” 

Narrow Gate Trading Co. 

With 128 acres of property including dozens of acres of timber, Narrow Gate was setup as a prime location for a woodworking operation. Although it was nothing but a dream at the time, this interest reached an 87-year-old local woodworker, Tom Yontz, who donated his entire woodshop and woodworking equipment for Narrow Gate to get started. “We had no master plan, we just waited for God’s plan and simply followed it,” said Bill. 

However, even with equipment to process and finish boards into finished projects, Narrow Gate was still relying on purchasing costly lumber instead of sawing logs and producing lumber themselves. Wood-Mizer caught the attention of Narrow Gate which led to their interest in having their own portable sawmill. 

Today, Narrow Gate uses two Wood-Mizer portable sawmills including an LT15 and an LT35 Hydraulic portable sawmill which enables them to saw their own logs into lumber either from harvested trees on their own property or from donated logs from local arborists. “We are taking things other people were going to dispose of and we are populating our log yard with it,” said Bill. “We’ve gone from nothing where we had to go to lumber yards and buy material to teach woodworking with, to having zero cost material, teach milling to our guys, have the education byproduct of lumber, put into our kiln and dry in weeks instead of years, and use in our woodshop to use the same metaphor of transformation,” said Bill. 

Through hands-on craftsmanship including working with wood, metal, and leather, Narrow Gate is able to create marketable products to fund the ministry with minimal cost for materials. Handmade products including wood cutting boards, wood furniture, leather journals, and more are crafted and sold to provide free tuition for all men attending the program in addition to supplies, equipment, and resources needed to continue running the ministry. Having a portable sawmill has opened opportunities to create products to sell while also build structures and projects around Narrow Gate including a new 9,000 square foot woodshop from cedar harvested on their own property. 

“What happens inside of a living organism like a tree, you take it down, peel back the layers and you begin to discover inside is absolutely beautiful,” said Bill. “It’s a metaphor of what we do with the guys, as we begin to peel those layers back, as we put their hands on the saw and we get them to load up a log to turn into a cant so they can saw boards out of it, they see what’s happening inside of them in metaphor in that log that’s in front of them. From that we take it to our woodshop and create something that is beautiful and useful out of trees that were standing and dead or spalted. What was headed for the trash heap now becomes the resource for something useful and beautiful that will last for generations. We do that with wood, leather, and metal, we just use it to help guys understand what God is doing in their life.” 

Narrow Gate Exchange 

A newer part of Narrow Gate is the Narrow Gate Exchange program that exists to provide a training environment where international men are equipped to build and sustain businesses in their home communities to alleviate poverty and make disciples of Jesus Christ. 

The program identifies potential students through close connections with non-profit organizations or ministries and rely on them to select and recommend individuals who meet certain criteria. In addition to the selection process, two major obstacles that exist are appropriately training woodworking techniques and business skills while also providing the woodworking equipment necessary to profitably produce lumber and finished wood furniture that stay within their communities. “Our goal is to champion people that we train by bringing them to the US to step out of poverty, and receive world class training,” said Narrow Gate Artisan Education Director Grant Batson. “This enables them to go back home with the skills and knowledge they’ve gained and truly impact their community for generations.” 

Narrow Gate provides an intensive training program that involves craftsmanship, business skills, and discovering their purpose of discipleship. The training takes place on Narrow Gate’s 128-acre property that includes a new 9,000 square foot woodshop, two Wood-Mizer sawmills, and a close fellowship with the students and volunteers with the Narrow Gate Lodge for support. After students have graduated, Wood-Mizer assists in providing portable sawmill support packages that enables the students to return home with the equipment and training necessary to have sustainable success in their communities.

While pandemic concerns prevented international travel for recent Narrow Gate Exchange students, there is a tremendous success story with their first student and graduate Davis Muhairwe from Uganda. After graduating and returning home, Davis has trained his 7 employees to better use their Wood-Mizer LT15 portable sawmill and has instructed them on proper woodworking techniques. Davis and his team have received several large orders for furniture including a recent order for 100 desks from their hometown of Kyenjojo, Uganda's local school district. Using the best business practices he learned while walking through the Exchange curriculum, Davis' woodworking business is making a profit and doing well, creating employment for the 7 men on his team and forever impacting their lives and the lives of their families.

What started as a calling to help one man pursue his God-given purpose, has turned into something much greater to expand the “Narrow Gate” through woodworking. For more information, visit narrowgate.org.

 

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Sawing Lumber for Cabins in Michigan

Steve Kesti, the owner of Backwoods Lumber located in the Upper Peninsula region of Michigan, recalls first becoming interested in woodworking as far back as childhood. “Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to build a cabin in the woods,” said Steve. Carpentry continued to play a role in his life while growing up. His father was a carpenter, and after taking a carpentry class in high school, Steve followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a carpenter himself. “I worked my way up until, eventually, I was running jobs and building houses for other people,” said Steve. In addition to his building expertise, Steve makes time for his other calling: volunteer firefighting.

After purchasing property in the Upper Peninsula, Steve realized he had the perfect opportunity to make his childhood dream come true. “I looked around at all my trees and decided I was going to build that cabin and fulfill that dream,” said Steve. At the time, Steve only possessed a chainsaw mill, and shares that the cabin took the whole summer to build. Nonetheless, the cabin build was a success. “People would come and look at it and would say ‘Oh, you should build these for a living,’” said Steve. At that time, Steve realized that he could start a business building cabins and make dreams come true for others. However, he needed to upgrade his chainsaw mill in order to increase production, yield, and efficiency in milling. Having a long-time interest in Wood-Mizer, Steve made the decision to buy a Wood-Mizer LT40 Hydraulic portable sawmill to jump start his business.

The cabin business represented a career move that perfectly suited Steve’s motivations at the time. “I could work from home right here in the backyard, and people can come pick up their lumber and talk,” said Steve. “They see the kids and they like that when they are buying something, it is going to the little guy with a family.” In addition to the cabin business, Steve began to expand his business into cedar products, adding a Wood-Mizer MP260 planer/moulder to his operation to be able to make finished planed and profiled boards. The MP260 planes and moulds boards on all four sides at once for making flooring, paneling, trim, and more. Steve relies on his MP260 to make tongue and groove boards and other finished products beyond rough sawn lumber. The first year he milled cedar, he cut what he thought would be enough to make it through the winter, but his inventory only lasted until January. The next year, he cut twice as much, but that batch lasted only until October. “It’s been selling as fast as I can get it run through the planer,” said Steve.

Steve has been able to enjoy the versatility that his portable sawmill offers. Along with his business, he has used his sawmill for a variety of personal projects, including chicken coops, siding for new buildings, and sheds on his property. In the heavily forested region of the Upper Peninsula, the possibilities are endless for Steve with his portable sawmill. To keep the sawmill running as much as possible, Steve goes through his fair share of sawmill blades, leading to the purchase of a Wood-Mizer BMS250 bandsaw blade sharpener. “I run Wood-Mizer blades. I can just have about 30 blades on hand and, as they’re dull, I just sharpen them every night when I’m done sawing,” said Steve. “That really helps, having my own sharpening equipment. I just tailor them to my needs.” With the BMS250 bandsaw blade sharpener, Steve keeps his operation running as smooth as possible.

Another benefit that Steve has found with the purchase of his portable sawmill is access to the Wood-Mizer Pro Sawyer Network. The Pro Sawyer Network connects customers to local sawmills who might be able to fulfill their sawmilling needs. Due to his location in the Upper Peninsula, Steve was initially skeptical. “Being up in the sticks up here, I didn’t think it was going to work for me,” he explained. “But I’ve been surprised, there are people that have contacted me. When people think of portable sawmilling, they think of Wood-Mizer.”

Sharing his favorite aspects of his LT40 hydraulic portable sawmill, Steve says that the portability has been of great convenience to him. The hydraulic log handling is also popular with his customers. “You can just roll your logs right onto the log lifter,” said Steve. “Lifts them right onto the machine. The customers really like that.”

Between the ability to grow Backwoods Lumber from right in his backyard, and the satisfaction of completing personal projects around the property, the lifelong woodworker is happy with his investment in his portable sawmill and other woodworking equipment. “If somebody asked me if I would recommend Wood-Mizer, I would say absolutely,” Steve said. “It’s been wonderful. Fun to cut on, and it works really good for me.”

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Farming and Sawing Live Edge Slabs in Central Indiana

By Chase Warner, Wood-Mizer Contributing Author

Fourth-generation farmer Adrian Hood and his father Randy own and operate a Midwestern farm that has been in their family since the late 1800s. Throughout their farmland in Central and Southern Indiana, Hood Farms grows corn, soybeans, and hay while also raising cattle and goats. However, managing their traditional farm only occupies a small portion of their time. Throughout the last decade, the father and son team is focused on growing a successful sawmill business which includes the production of high-value live edge wood slabs, heirloom furniture, and dimensional lumber.
 

Hood Farms History

Located only 30 miles from Wood-Mizer headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Hood family’s relationship to the local sawmill equipment company began in the 1980s. “Our family started with Wood-Mizer more than 30 years ago,” said Adrian. “My grandfather Gene received a sawmill as a missionary in Papua New Guinea that’s still running there today. They recently built a church with lumber they cut.” 

The Hood’s connection to Wood-Mizer continued in 2012 when they needed additional pasture for their cattle, but the land near the pasture had overgrown into a heavily wooded area. Adrian hired a logger to help with the felling and removal of trees, but additional cleanup was required to remove dozens of leftover logs. “We started cutting firewood, because my only experience with wood was cutting firewood with my grandfather,” said Adrian. Throughout two Summers of cleaning up the pasture, Adrian realized that the logs he was cutting into firewood would sell for a higher value if they were sawn into lumber. “At the beginning, I knew nothing about what went into sawing,” said Adrian. In 2014, Adrian purchased a Wood-Mizer LT40 hydraulic portable sawmill that enabled him to turn logs he selectively harvested into valuable lumber and slabs instead of firewood.

Hood Farms and Sawmill

During the next several years, the demand for live edge slabs for residential and commercial furniture grew exponentially which led to Adrian producing larger wood slabs for tables, countertops, and more. “When we started making more slabs, we used a chainsaw mill,” said Adrian. “That was the worst time of my life with the backbreaking work it required. My dad and I used the chainsaw four to five days a week for two years. When we got busier and needed a more consistent product, we bought the WM1000.” The Wood-Mizer WM1000 sawmill is able to cut logs up to 67” in diameter and uses a thin-kerf sawmill blade to improve accuracy, reduce waste and increase yield. “We say every day we wish we would’ve bought the WM1000 a couple years sooner,” said Adrian. “The thing with the chainsaw mill is the first cut is just as fast but after that it slows way down. The consistency of the cut is so much better with a sawmill blade than it is with a chain and it has increased our efficiency by at least 50% while picking up about a slab more per log. I value the quality of product the mills produce, the ease of maintenance and reliability has held up really well even when working them hard. The Wood-Mizer mills have been bulletproof machines.”

In addition to working with tree services and loggers for consistent timber supply, most of their Indiana hardwood logs are harvested by Adrian and Randy within two hours from their sawmill. “Normally we will cut what we have for orders or what we are turning back into pasture and we will clean up the site as we go to be less invasive on the land,” said Adrian. After harvesting, logs are bucked to appropriate sawing lengths and transported to the sawmill operation. If logs are under 24” in diameter, they are staged for dimensional lumber on the LT40 hydraulic sawmill while any logs over 24” in diameter will be staged for the WM1000 sawmill to produce high-value live edge slabs. “Right now about 90% of our orders are unique one-of-a-kind slabs, but we are excited about the growth of our dimensional lumber,” said Adrian.

live edge wood slabs

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Adding Value Through Kiln Drying and Slab Flattening

As Adrian became a seasoned sawmiller, he realized the importance of proper drying to reduce the risk of wood warping, staining, or cracking. In addition to better quality, dried lumber typically sells for 30% more than green lumber. “From log to slab, drying, flattening and finishing, with every step in the lumber business, the product is worth more,” said Adrian.

While drying lumber is a bottleneck for some sawyers, Adrian saw this as an opportunity to invest in 2,000 and 6,000 board foot capacity plated vacuum kilns in order to provide a premium quality product. “The plated vacuum kilns are one of our biggest separators because they keep our slabs so flat compared to our competition,” said Adrian. “We can have a 2-1/4” slab off the mill and be finished drying at 1-7/8”. We baby our wood so it’s really flat, that’s made a big difference for us.” 

The increased speed in production is also a large factor. “Some of our slabs cut at 9/4 can be put in the kiln right after sawing and can be dried in 10 to 14 days depending on the species,” said Adrian. “With our kiln we can turnaround product in two weeks to a month whereas other kilns could take up to six months to completely dry.” Although the drying time is fast, the kilns require a lot of physical work as each layer is loaded manually and can take several days to completely load with two people. A lot of smaller companies don’t have a kiln due to their expense and labor, so Hood Farms also offers their kiln drying services for other sawmills in the area. 

While some slabs are sold kiln dried, others are sent to a recently installed Wood-Mizer SlabMizer slab flattening mill to be flattened and finished for furniture. The SlabMizer surfaces and flattens material up to 56” wide and 8” thick using a remote-controlled cutter head. Kraig Elliott, a local woodworker who subcontracts several projects with Hood Farms and Sawmill, was previously flattening material with a traditional router. “The slab flattener has been great because it saves time and is less physical work than the manual router I was using,” said Kraig. “The cutter head on our old router was 1-1/2” where the SlabMizer is 5” so it’s taking five times as much each pass. A wide slab that used to take several days to flatten now only takes about half a day. It’s been a great addition for us, we love it.”

Slab flattening mill

wide capacity router planer

wide slab flattener

wide slab flattener

Most of the slab business is sold to local contractors for restaurants and offices, but Hood Farms and Sawmill has also shipped slabs to more than 30 states throughout the United States. “A lot of our customers are people that are too small for big companies to deal with, and we love that,” said Adrian. “We often have people come by the farm to buy one single board at a time.” In addition, Adrian has found markets for byproducts of the sawmill operation including firewood for local restaurants and homeowners as well as sawdust for animal bedding. “We don’t have any waste, we use all of it.”

firewood processor

The Future of Hood Farms and Sawmill

For the future, Hood Farms and Sawmill has recently invested in a complete Wood-Mizer industrial sawmilling system to continue growing dimensional lumber sales. The system includes a WM4500 industrial sawmill, EG300 board edger, and material handling equipment to process Indiana hardwoods into dimensional grade lumber. “Anything that you can build in one day can collapse in one day,” said Randy. “We’ve built a great foundation for a business that we are hoping to have for Adrian’s son and on to future generations. We’ve taken a long time to get the groundwork done but one door will continue to open after another.” With new equipment and diversification of products, Hood Farms and Sawmill continues to grow and remain successful because of their commitment to their customers. “Relationships are what mean everything,” said Randy. “Treat others as you want to be treated, offer more service at a great price and quality and it won’t take long for people to show up at your door. That’s the way to build a business.”

Hood Farms and Sawmill

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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 when it started, 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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