Friday, December 7, 2012

A Visit to a Sawmill for a Video Shoot

Andy Beaver milling beams for the log lodge project.

A couple months ago, I got a call from a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill owner just a few towns over. His name was Andy Beaver, a police officer in Martinsville, Indiana, and a longtime Wood-Mizer customer. He shared with me that he was working with a local Christian camp facility ( to build a new log lodge to expand their lodging capabilities. Andy hoped we would be interested in documenting the project in our Wood-Mizer Way magazine. He shared that much of the work, including his own, would be utilizing the good old-fashioned 'barter system' and with volunteers, because the camp just didn't have the funds to contract out a 30'X80' lodge.

The project sounded interesting, but my initial impression was that he was talking about a relatively rustic building. However, he told me that the proposed lodge would look a lot like another building they had built in a similar way a couple years back, almost every wood element coming off the sawmill (flooring, logs, beams, t&g ceiling, etc.) After browsing their website, and seeing how well their Welcome Center had turned out, we were very excited about having a project so close that we could document the progress of.

The current Welcome Center at Highland Lakes Camp.

The poplar logs for the lodge were logged from the camp property. Although it was during a very busy week at Wood-Mizer, I was able to jump in a truck with a video camera and run down one afternoon to get some footage of the logging in action. 30 minutes later, I had ran a 1/2 mile, jumped a creek, and ridden a log being pulled through the forest, which all resulted in some great footage of the logs that would in a few months return to the same property milled and ready to be assembled into a building.

Poplar logs staged, logged from the camp property they will return to as building material for the camp lodge!

Yesterday, we loaded up our camera equipment into a truck and made the 45 minute trip out to Andy's house, where he is sawing up all the logs for the project. James Bull, our videographer is in charge of the shoot, I help out with a camera and usually conduct the interviews, and Eric Groeschen, our newly hired print shop coordinator, came along for the ride. When Eric was hired, there was so much on his plate, he never even got to see a Wood-Mizer in action! We decided it was high time we pull him out of the print shop for a morning of fresh air and fresh sawdust. He brought his DSLR camera, and functioned as our photographer for the morning.

Andy's first log cabin, his own, he built with logs he cut on his first Wood-Mizer mill 23 years ago.

After winding through Indiana's back roads for several miles, we found Andy's house. 23 years ago, Andy was running a service station just a few miles from the Wood-Mizer office. He was really wanting to get out of the city and build his own log home kit in the country. After looking through kit after kit, he wonderful if he couldn't just do it himself, in spite of his lack of building experience. He ended up buying a LT30 sawmill, and through trial and error, built his own log cabin. He builds several log cabins and homes each year now for clients as a part time business, and he insists that he knows a whole lot more now about building log homes then he did 23 years ago!

Several men showed up to help Andy with the sawing, and pick up some lumber to take back to the camp.

When we arrived, I was surprised to find 4 other guys hanging out with Andy at 9 am in the below 40 degree weather. Andy explained that they were all associated with the camp in some way, and were there to help him out with the sawing. Later, he shared that having extra guys hang out with him while he's sawing is not unusual. There are several regulars in the area that just show up to help him for a couple hours just for the fun of it! He said, with a chuckle, that he gets a lot more work done when someone shows up and pitches in, but that when more than 5 show up on a Saturday, that's usually when nothing gets done! ;-)

Andy was almost too comfortable in front of the camera ;-)

After spending a few minutes chatting, we got Andy mic'ed up, sat him on a log in front of his LT40 Super Hydraulic mill and filmed an interview, covering any topic related to sawing, the camp lodge project, and Andy's own side business of building custom log homes. He was a rare find - naturally comfortable on camera! He credited his 20+ years as a police officer for his easy going style throughout the interview. He said he wasn't nearly as nervous yesterday as when he has to testify in court, or give a disposition! ;-)

James getting Andy all mic'ed up.

Interviewing Andy Beaver about his 23 years of sawing experience and the camp lodge project.

After the interview and a tour of the mill, Andy and his crew fired up the LT40 and started sawing. Andy's workspace seemed well suited to his workflow. Boards were sticker stacked directly behind the mill, slabs went in a pile to one side of the mill, flitches went back onto the loading arms for edging later, and sawdust was quickly shoveled into a shed with one open side. Doors on the backside of the shed make it easy for local farmers to back up to the sawdust and load it right into the truck.

Slabs go in the pile to the left, and the shed on the right has a large pile of fresh sawdust stored inside.

One of the men present at the mill, Brian Christy, is the Highland Lakes Director of Operations, so we were also able to interview him about what all the camp has to offer, what their goals are, and get his perspective on the progress of the camp lodge project Andy is working with them on. They have the foundation all poured, and once Andy has milled a good quantity of the 6"x9" beams they need, they're looking forward to starting work on the walls.

Jake setting up the interview with Highland Lakes camp director, Brian Christy. 
Not wanting to keep the crew from their work, we finished up some filming and chatting with the guys, and packed up our gear, very pleased with all the great video footage of the sawing and interviews we had been able to get. Hungry, we stopped at a truck stop diner for lunch, and enjoyed a large country breakfast, and then we were back to the office to return to the finer comforts of central heating. ;-)

We look forward to continuing to document this unique project! As soon as walls start going up, we'll be back down to get good video footage of that part of the process. :-) 

Are you looking forward to seeing more photos and eventually a finished project video?