Advantages to owning portable sawmill

Article in Farm Progress:

Farmstead Forest: Portable sawmills can offer landowners a viable way to use storm- or insect-damaged trees. 

Curt Arens | Jul 27, 2022

Producers who have woodlands or trees in general around their property periodically deal with downed limbs, storm- or insect-damaged trees, or taking down dead trees.

If that’s the case, a portable sawmill may offer a way to create value from those downed or diseased trees, besides firewood or making a big brush pile.

Such mills became popular in the late 1800s, because they provided a way to bring the mill to the timber harvest area. Those early “one-man” or “one-farmer” sawmills were often steam-powered and could be dismantled from the site and moved to another.

That isn’t exactly “portable” with ease. Today’s portable mills move easily on trailers, and can be pulled behind a truck to another location and set up for work in a short time period.

Portable mill

If a landowner is thinning eastern red cedar trees or other invasive trees from woodlands or pastures, the mobility part of the portable sawmill is valuable, because it is often more costly to move timber to the mill than to move the mill to the timber.

Owning a small sawmill also puts operations in the hands of the landowner, rather than waiting for a custom order to be completed by another sawmill. While there are common expenses involved in operating a mill — including labor, replacement parts and repairs, routine maintenance, fuel and lubricants, insurance, and transportation — these are not uncommon expenses for farmers to incur on any of the equipment they already own.

Cutting the waste of potentially valuable wood products is perhaps one of the greatest advantages of the portable mill, because of the storm, insect and disease damage witnessed in recent years around the country.

Mills that are small and mobile offer an easier way to cut downed and dead timber into usable lumber, and to save those damaged logs of valuable size from the burn pile. For woodworkers who value specialty wood products, a small mill offers the ability to mill out these unique timber products closer to where they are cut.

Extra income

While many farmers purchase portable mills because they have had a large storm event and have a lot of downed timber to work through, or they want to expand a woodworking hobby and save expense by producing their own lumber, they can often make extra income by custom-milling small orders on the side.

In many areas, woodworkers and small landowners with woodlands are looking for custom milling, so owning such a mill could provide additional part-time or even full-time income.

Learn more about owning a portable sawmill for your own property by contacting your state forest service agency.