What is a Sawmill and What Can I Get There?
If you only go to retailers for your project lumber, it’s time to branch out. I did. Here’s what I learned and what I got, as a woodworker, from the trip.
You probably know that sawmills are where trees get transformed into rough lumber. Rough lumber is cheaper and, in many cases, more interesting for woodworkers than fully dimensioned and planed boards.
Sawmills are places (beautiful places, as you can see in the above photo) but the word “sawmill” also refers to the cutting machine itself. Many of these machines are portable, meaning the operator can take it to a logging site and saw boards on the spot. The sawmill I visited today, Dewey’s Lumber, featured a portable machine that the owner (Dewey) had made into a stationary tool after his business grew to be an ongoing concern.
I’m fascinated with the workings of both the machine and the business. I can’t possibly summarize the operation of the machine in one blog post, nor would I try without knowing a little more about it, but the following video should give you an idea.
The business side of a typical sawmill is possibly more relevant for woodworkers. Dewey explained to me how his business had started with a single client looking for framing pine, and quickly grew when he decided to specialize in a lesser known wood, cedar. By specializing, many sawmills are able to drive costs down – and some of them are willing to pass those savings on to their customers. You also get the chance to hand pick the boards for your projects.
The bottom line is that I saved about 50% on the cedar I needed by going straight to the source. I did have to drive a bit farther, compared to a trip to my local retail lumberyard, but I figure that cost is offset by the beautiful views I got to see. I also heard a very funny story about the final destination for all the cedar offcuts – I’ll have to relate that story some other time.
Please post comments below with your favorite local sawmills so that readers throughout the country can locate them!
p.s. – Speaking of 50% off, we are running a sale throughout our store beginning this weekend – 50% off most of our woodworking resources. Take advantage before the 21st!