Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Making a Second Career out of Sawing Lumber

Creeping up on 50, Gary McInturf found himself in a place where many other men do around that age: looking for something new to do that would support his family, and be that new venture he could again feel passionate about. His chance to do just that came in a way he didn’t expect – a windstorm!

An unusually strong windstorm resulted in a rewarding second career.
With several oak trees laying on the ground after the storm passed, Gary’s wife had the idea that they might be able to make a table out of the wood, instead of just cutting them up for firewood. At the time, Gary admits that he didn’t have a clue about how to turn his trees into lumber. He called up his local forestry department and asked them what he could do. They gave him the name of a Wood-Mizer sawmill owner in Gary’s area.

Gary's Wood-Mizer LT40 Hydraulic sawmill allows him to cut custom lumber for local clients
“When I saw him cut my lumber up, I thought it was the neatest thing I had ever seen, and 30 days later I owned one,” Gary recalls. It didn’t take him long to begin converting buildings to lumber drying areas, and places where local hobbyists could come and select their boards. He was able to obtain several customers at local cabinet shops the old fashioned way: cold sales calls. Gary will tell you that he does not enjoy selling his services over the phone, but says that they really paid off for him. When he first opened his business, Gary held an open house and invited locals to check out his new mill and chat over coffee. Even with rain that day, the event was well attended, and helped get his name out into the community.

Unloading logs that will become custom sized lumber
Over the next two years, Gary has been able to expand with additional buildings, a Wood-Mizer kiln, a Wood-Mizer edger, a chipper, and a frontend loader. He relies on a logger friend to keep him supplied with logs, and rewards customers with a discount when they buy lumber from him right out of the kiln.
Gary attributes his business success to several things. By providing a quality product, and treating his customers above and beyond how they are treated by larger lumberyards, his customers keep coming back, and spread the word about his business. By making smart business decisions regarding his product offered and  his timely equipment purchases, he has continued to expand his product offering without overextending his resources.

The table that started it all. 
Gary is working to increase the success of his venture by working together with other sawmill business owners in the area. With the assistance of Dr. Terry Connors from the Kentucky University Forestry Department, Gary and several other sawmill owners in Kentucky have started the “Central Kentucky Wood Producers Association.” By employing the strength-in-numbers principle, they are able to help each other out, pool their resources for advertising, and benefit from the knowledge and various skill sets they each bring to the table.

Ever the progressive thinker, Gary bit the bullet and learned the basics of designing his own website, and shares that his website has already helped double his jobs since he launched it in late 2011. Visit his website at