By Rob Bird, Owner of Tasmanian Native Timbers
Tasmanian Native Timbers is a boutique family-owned sawmill and timber supply business based in the Northwest of Tasmania, Australia. Our sawmill had been operated at the same location for more than ten years when we took over the business from the previous owner. It has been run by the Bird family including myself, Helen and Nelson for just over 3 years.
We specialize in timbers native to Tasmania known locally as Specialty Timbers including Huon Pine, Myrtle, Sassafras, Blackwood, Celery Top Pine, and Silver Wattle. Our customers are cabinet makers, woodworkers, wood turners, crafts people, hobbyists, musical instrument makers, furniture makers, timber retailers, boat repairers, home renovators, builders, bee keepers, landscaper gardeners, and horse and property owners.
Upgrading the Sawmill
The previous owner operated a twin blade sawmill to cut dimensional lumber, the 2 circular blades have a cut width of almost 7mm (.25”) each, which is a waste of precious wood compared to the Wood-Mizer blades of around 1.5mm (.045”). The circular sawmill’s inability to cut thick live-edge slabs and accurate wide boards as well as the waste of wood when milling specialty timbers, led us to research bandsaw mills. Our band saw search criteria involved the following key points:
1. Must be easy to operate
2. Must be a reputable manufacturer
3. Must have a thin kerf blade to save wood waste
4. Must have an Australian representative
5. Must be able to obtain spare parts readily
6. Must be portable and easily setup
7. Must have a wide cut for live-edge slabs
Wood-Mizer met that criteria, we purchased an LT15WIDE gas-powered band sawmill, with power feed, and enough bed extensions to cut a log 9 meters (29 ½ feet) long. Operating the bandsaw has allowed our sawmill to broaden the range of products and services we supply to our customers.
For example, quarter sawing boards was difficult with the circle mill, and involved several manual log movements and cuts. We are now able to mill unusually-shaped logs that would normally end up as firewood. Instead, they are turned into high value boards and live-edge slabs, for musical instrument makers, crafts people and furniture makers. Our musical instrument makers demand quarter sawn boards and our furniture makers prefer the decorative grain in back sawn boards.
Tasmanian Native Timbers is not a high production sawmilling business, we focus on high-value and high quality live-edge slabs and boards. Our business also mills up customer’s logs on request, which often includes short logs, burls, stumps, resawing thick boards / slabs, and milling seasoned logs.
Some of the figure and grain in the local Tasmanian Specialty Timbers is breathtaking. A special species timber we cut is Huon Pine. The Huon Pine tree is a well-known and highly sort after timber for boat builders, due to its long slow growing period and low susceptibility to rot. The logs are often in excess of 1,000 years old and can only be obtained through licensed salvage operators.
Huon pine trees grow in wet temperate rainforests, especially on river banks or very wet areas. The timber contains methyl eugenol, a natural preserving oil which allows it to survive on, or under the forest floor for centuries. It also provides the timber with natural lubrication, allowing it to be bent, shaped or sculpted without splitting. Huon pine is waterproof and insect resistant. Our bandsaw with its thin kerf allows us to get maximum recovery when sawing this precious resource.
The LT15WIDE has transformed our business, allowing us to minimize waste for sustainability, custom-saw valuable Tasmanian Specialty Timbers, and broaden our range of saleable products. We are conscious of a dwindling forest resource, and the need to maximize the return from every log sawn. This is a core principle of our business.
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