Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Building a Successful Business with a Portable Sawmill

While there are a lot of elements in every successful business, two Wood-Mizer sawmill owners agree that their sawmill is the cornerstone of their business and offers them versatility, creativity, and the ability to meet the diverse needs of their customers. Through both strong and tough economic times, their Wood-Mizer sawmill has provided them with a competitive advantage and the ability to make dreams come true for their customers.

David Yasenchack Timber Framing & Design, Kingsville, Ohio
One-of-a-kind timber frame pool structure designed and constructed by David Yasenchack.
Utilizing a unique natural bend in a log
For more than 15 years, the self-motivated entrepreneur, David Yasenchack, has been building one-of-a-kind timber frame homes, studios and garden structures for his small Kingsville, Ohio business. David Yasenchack Timber Framing and Design operates with a Wood-Mizer sawmill in order to create unique lumber from their own forestland, but it was David’s determination that enabled him to follow his dreams and establish his own timber framing business.

While working for the Forest Service and managing a commercial apple orchard in the early 1990s, David was inspired to pursue a new and challenging project, so he began building his first timber frame structure. It was during this project that reshaped David’s life and his career. “In the process of gathering materials for my first timber frame project, I purchased timber and lumber from numerous local sawmills,” said David. “I became intrigued by the sawing process, particularly with the accuracy of the band sawmills.” By the end of this project, and after seeing his neighbor mill a very large oak tree with his portable band sawmill, David envisioned the investment of a portable sawmill as the stepping stone to building custom timber frame structures for a living.

David's Wood-Mizer sawmill enables him to saw logs with
 unique bends and curves for building timber frame structures

Shortly after, David purchased his first Wood-Mizer, an LT40 Manual sawmill, to serve as an affordable entry into self-employment. “The mill helped me to find my calling in the timber framing trade,” he said. “I am proud of my Wood-Mizer. From the outset, it shaped my living, but it went on to shape the path of my career.” Today, David operates with his Wood-Mizer LT40 Hydraulic sawmill and constructs custom timber frame buildings using select trees from his own forestland and from client’s own trees.

The business saws a wide variety of hardwoods on their sawmill, but mainly oak, cherry and walnut to create the necessary building materials for his customers. David also uses his mill to saw conventional lumber and wide, live-edge flitches for use in furniture projects as well as for other woodworkers needing customized material. “I’ve told many people over the years that an investment smaller than the purchase of a new pickup truck put me on the path of not just personal fulfillment, but a fair measure of financial security and independence,” David said. “It’s an ever evolving tool that gives me the ability to shape one of the world’s most common and abundant resources.

A custom timber frame structure
”David says his Wood-Mizer is a main component of his entrepreneurial success. “It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Wood-Mizer in my business,” he said. “It gives us creative control by allowing us to create just the right live-edge timbers from the particular logs we choose.” David also touts the design of his Wood-Mizer which gives him a distinct advantage for his specialty sawing projects. “The cantilevered head is an advantage in many ways, but mostly because it allows us to saw highly curved logs in a practical and accurate way,” he said.

David Yasenchack, owner of David
Yasenchack Timber Framing & Design
By utilizing the features of his Wood-Mizer sawmill, David says his timber work is crafted to the highest level. The mill enables David and his team to revise and develop a custom design in response to special and unique logs harvested from his or a client’s woodlot. By keeping a unique bend or curve in a tree for his lumber, David can maintain the wood’s natural shape and characteristics in his finished timber frame structures. “In short, the mill makes us more adaptable and creative,” David said. “Those are both huge competitive advantages in our field.”

Northern Log and Timber, Kelowna, British Columbia

Northern Log and Timber constructs custom log homes with lumber milled on their Wood-Mizer sawmills
Family operated for more than 60 years, Northern Log and Timber offers a variety of services and products available both locally and around the world. From lumber to log home packages and more, the company operates with two Wood-Mizer LT40 Hydraulic sawmills and an LT40 Super Hydraulic sawmill, which have positioned them for global success in the lumber industry.

Construction of a custom log home
Founded in 1952 by John Morgan Sr., the company supplied lumber to northern Yukon and Alaska until they relocated to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia in 1972. In the 1980s, Northern Log and Timber expanded into global markets by exporting lumber to Asia, Europe, and South America and has since built log homes, barns, schools for clients from Japan to Mexico. Today, the family business is operated by John’s son and daughter, John Jr. and Julie. John is a builder and runs the sawmills, while Julie designs homes for clients and handles sales.

Beams and flooring milled on a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill
Typically, Northern Log and Timber saws lumber for log home packages but they also produce beams, joists, decking, posts, flooring, trim, v-joints, timber trusses, and custom siding. Julie attributes the company’s diverse offering of products and services to be crucial to their success over the years. “Because we have a wide variety of products, and a large variation in our customer base, we have continued to grow,” she said. Head sawyer, John Jr., said their Wood-Mizer sawmills are another one of the reasons for their company’s success. “The support system at Wood-Mizer is the best. It’s the best mill on the market,” said John Jr. “Downtime is minimal and usually short, it produces the volume needed. This success translates into higher wages and profits.”

Interior bedroom of a Northern Log and Timber custom home
Locally, the Morgan family supplies building material stores, contractors, and landscapers with lumber as well as design and build log homes onsite with their own profiled timbers. Due to the volume of orders, the majority of their business comes from building supply stores. However, Julie adds, “The most satisfying customers are the ones you help to accomplish their dreams. My father always said that it was great to build the high-end, impressive projects, but the most satisfying was the look on a customer’s face when their home was completed – the simple home for the working man.”

Trusses sawed on a
Wood-Mizer sawmill

By utilizing the versatility of their Wood-Mizer sawmills, Northern Log and Timber has continued to grow and succeed in the global lumber market. “The Wood- Mizer mills have allowed us to expand our product line,” said Julie. “The mills are the backbone of our business. Without them, we wouldn’t have survived in this economy.”

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Milling the Homestead Necessities

By Anneli Carter

Anneli Carter, author and co-owner of Deer Isle Hostel
A few years ago a major piece of our homesteading puzzle fell into place when we bought a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill. Up to that point we'd been dependent on the lumber yard and its supply, as well as friends and acquaintances with occasional stacks of lumber for us to rifle through or logs to mill somewhere else. Because we don't have any heavy equipment to transport logs with, anything cut on our land had to be moved by someone else, first to a mill and then back here.

Now, on every first day of a new building project we start where all building projects ought to start: in the woods. We select the trees that fit our intended purpose, fell them, haul them with our people-powered log hauler and turn them into lumber right here in our yard. Last year we built a timber-framed hut from a red oak that started to shade the garden; that entire frame didn't travel more than 300 feet from the stump to the mill to the site.
Building at Deer Isle Hostel

But not all logs have to come to our yard. The mill isn't so big or heavy that it can't be loaded onto our trailer and hauled behind our Subaru. This week we have the Wood-Mizer set up a couple of miles down the road at a friend's place. He's a tree feller and has stacked up a pile of cedar, black locust and spruce – really nice red spruce – that's all ours as a trade for milling the hardwood for him. We get the perfect lumber for our next projects and he gets the perfectly matched lumber for the sauna he'll build at his place.

Anneli operating her Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmill
We bought the portable mill to provide our own building material and to make use of the trees that need to come down around our yard. The gasoline it takes to run the machine is a tradeoff, but for us the gains are so many that the emission footprint still is much smaller than it would have been if we had to go somewhere to buy what we now can produce. In addition, the by-products have turned out to be just as valuable to us as the lumber. 
Slabs from the LT15 sawmill

For one thing, the sawmill gives us slabs (the off cuts with bark on one side). Tons of slabs and for anyone cooking on a small wood stove, there's nothing better to get your tea water boiling than some dry spruce slabs. We get enough for ourselves, and then more. We give slabs to neighbors and friends and in return we get something else, like warm spaces to start tomato seedlings in or help to look after our chickens if we go away somewhere.

Sawdust can be used for many
homesteading applications
Then there's the sawdust. It might not sound like much compared with the $1,000 pieces of locust we cut this morning, but I don't know what we would do without the sawdust the milling provides us. I don't know what we did before we had the mill as we use the sawdust in our outhouses, to pack the root crops in for storage and in our chicken house. We go through perhaps 60 feed sacks of it every year, a resource we would have to go somewhere to get if it weren't for our mill. 

To say the sawmill is a piece in the homesteading puzzle might be a slight understatement as in some ways it's a key factor. It enables us to progress with our building projects without necessarily having the money it otherwise would take, it ties us to our community with labor- and resource trades, and it makes it easier for us to store food, keep our chicken house clean and have nice outhouses for the Hostel guests. Some of the essence of homesteading right there: providing for yourself and your community using your own resources and making the most of what's around you. Who would ever have thought that a Wood-Mizer would to the trick?

Visit for more information on homesteading or to order Anneli's new book.