|The Talaheim Lodge|
Sawing in the Alaskan Wilderness
By Mark Miller
|Aerial view of The Talaheim Lodge|
During those younger days we built stockade log construction by utilizing local timbers. Large cargo, single engine aircrafts on skis are expensive to charter, so most of my lumber was cut on-site with a chainsaw mill. That first crude building was built from logs and chainsaw cut lumber and went up like a kid building a tree fort. For the next 30 years, I used a chainsaw to cut as much lumber as possible in order to keep costs down when building miles away from roads. We only averaged about a board an hour but most of our lumber didn’t have to be flown in, saving us money.
|Skidding logs by snowmobile|
All our logs are skidded to our site by snowmobile in March and April when the snow is deep and settled. Everything out here comes by air except our snow machines that we drive out in the winter (a 50-mile journey from the nearest road system). In 2006, I purchased a very large wide-tracked snowmobile, which was capable of pulling in much larger logs than I was able to in the past. Glaring at my log deck of about 100, 12’ long and 16” diameter logs, I suddenly started to tense up thinking about all that back breaking chainsaw milling I would have to do.
Cutting timber with chainsaws is slow, tedious and a backbreaking chore from being bent over for long periods of time. Not to mention chainsaws burn up gallons of fuel and oil, and the 3/8” wide kerf produce piles of sawdust that could be used as lumber. There had to be a better way.
Shortly after, I found a Wood-Mizer LT10 sawmill featured in a local outdoor magazine. It caught my eye as it was light and could easily fit onto a ski plane. The local Wood-Mizer dealer (100 miles away) had one on display that I could try. Seeing the mill in action secured the sale.
|Mark and his Wood-Mizer LT10|
After the snow left, we had a running Wood-Mizer mill in one day and a friend and I cut those 100 logs into lumber in about five days. With my LT10 and a small tractor rigged with a forklift attachment, we weren’t just in the fishing business, we were also in the lumber business.
My mill paid for itself in the first season with savings on lumber cut on site instead of flying it in. Most of our timbers are cut and used “green” with the exception of our hardwood cuts. We cut primarily slow growth spruce for building and “house dry” birch for flooring.
I highly recommend the Wood-Mizer LT10 or LT15 for remote fly in sites like mine. Both these mills will cut large amounts of lumber for large construction jobs. Four years into milling, I upgraded from a 7 HP to a 10 HP engine for my LT10 which made great lumber even quicker. Now I can cut a 10’ long, 8” wide board in 17 seconds!
Since having the LT10, I’ve built five new buildings from three-sided logs and timbers cut from our mill and cut in excess of 40,000 board foot. The mill has saved me thousands of dollars on lumber and has allowed me to cut huge beautiful beams that would be impossible to fly out. I’ve had great factory and local Wood-Mizer support from Anchorage, Alaska and with about all my buildings completed for my lifetime, I am now focusing on the fun stuff like birch flooring and birch and spruce furniture!
|Mark's home built with lumber all cut on his LT10|
|Fishing guide's shack made from lumber cut on |