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Frank Thomas Sawmill

Listing #193   Listed on: 10/17/2008

WOODWEB Content Editor, Brett Hagstrom, Interviewed Charles Thomas in September 2009.

Listen to the "Frank Thomas Sawmill" audio interview

The Frank Thomas sawmill has quite a family history. Charles Thomas’s father, Frank Thomas, and Charles’s grandfather started the Frank Thomas Sawmill during the great depression. The mill is still going strong today and is run by Charles, his brother Frank Thomas Jr., and one employee.

The mill began as an attempt to bring in extra income during the winter months while Frank’s father and grandfather operated a dairy farm. As time went on, the sawmill became the primary source of income and the farm a secondary source.

Continue Reading about Frank Thomas Sawmill

Frank Thomas Sawmill

  head saw

  log deck and 20 foot sawmill carriage

  log turner

  sawing a log

  Automatic slab saw

  home made straight line rip saw

  straight line rip saw blades

  24 inch wide belt sander

  30 inch Oliver planer

  16 inch Delta Jointer

  Weinig five head moulder

  Cutting heads with guards off showing Terminus blue cutting heads and feed rollers.

  kiln dried lumber shed

  air drying shed

  log yard

Company Name:   Frank Thomas Sawmill
Contact Name:   Charles Thomas
Location:   Fallston, MD  21047
Year Founded:   1933
Sq. Footage:   0
Employees:   1
Gross Sales:   N/A

Product Specialties:
    Hardwood Lumber
    Milled Lumber / Lumber for construction
    Softwood Lumber

Service Specialties:
    Custom Sawing
    Kiln Drying
    Straight-line Sawing

Sawmill Equipment:
    Sawmills: Stationary - Montgomery Automated Sawmill
    Cut-off Saws - Cornell Manufacturing Co.
    Log Turners - Mellott Manufacturing Co.
    Kilns - Nyle Dry Kilns
    Planers - 30 inch Oliver
    Moulders - Weinig P23
    Woodworking - 16 inch Delta Jointer
    Woodworking - 24 inch Burlington sander

Viewer Comments:

Posted By: David Hoffelder     [11/24/2008]
Has Thomas sawmill ever processed logs recovered from the river bottom?

Posted By: ryan     [10/15/2009]
I have two 23in wide 2in thick pieces of walnut that are 8ft long that I would like to get planed. Do you provide a service to have them planed if I brought them up from D.C? 703-851-9044

Posted By: William     [06/29/2010]
its nice to see machinery without cad.....

Posted By: tom long     [08/03/2010]
I am interested in 500 ft of kiln dried red oak,
please advise if you have it.

Posted By: Gerald Renoll     [01/22/2016]
have 6 white pine logs approx 1 foot diameter just cut in length about 7 foot would like to know possioble cost of cutting into 5/4 boards

Posted By: Gerald Renoll     [01/22/2016]
have 6 white pine logs approx 1 foot diameter just cut in length about 7 foot would like to know possioble cost of cutting into 5/4 boards

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Company Description Continued

During the early years of the business, Charles’s father rented a portable mill from a local farmer and set the mill up on stumps in the woods and sawed where logging took place with horses.

Since then, and especially during the past twenty-five years, the business has undergone many changes and upgrades, including a new sawmill building, installing an automatic slab saw, and switching from a hand operated Frick Co. sawmill carriage to a new Montgomery air-operated sawmill carriage.

Charles buys his timber locally and has logs brought in on self-loading logging trucks. He also receives logs from local tree trimmers. Previously timber was purchased within a 15-20 mile radius from local landowners. Charles and his father would log for a number of days or weeks at a time to supply the sawmill with the right length, diameter and species of trees that would be used to fill the orders in the business’s books and also keeping a good supply of logs at the mill for last minute orders by customers. They would log a forest over a period of years, and this was a big advantage in that you could keep a fresh log supply to the mill and keep the log supply at the mill from spoiling or rotting due to heat in the summer time. Plenty of timber was acquired with this method, and it lasted a while before having to log again.

Oak and poplar are the main logs sawn, along with a good bit of white pine. Charles is concerned about the quality of oak and says, “It isn’t like it used to be - the wood is of lower quality and has more knots.” He adds that “good, quality wood can be found, it just takes longer.”

Green lumber is sold on a daily basis and custom milling is provided as well. Logs are brought to the mill by local farmers, home hobbyists and woodworkers who want to make a special project from their own trees.

About 40% of business is custom sawing with some people bringing lumber in to be sawn and taking it home to dry, while others have it sawn and leave it at the mill to be kiln dried.

Charles uses a Montgomery mill and Cornell automatic slab saw. He also has a unique planer. It is a WWII era 30-inch Oliver that he bought 20 years ago out of a shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland. It was actually a navy planer that was used to plane boards for ship deck repairs. Charles recently bought a 5-head Weinig moulder and dust collection system from a shop in Vermont. He uses the moulder to produce tongue and grove flooring surfacing lumber on four sides and is considering producing crown-moulding and other types of moulding due to the current economic situation.

Charles kiln dries oak, pine, poplar, walnut, and cherry and is very particular about it. He makes sure his customers know that the drying process can take up to six months and that they should plan accordingly. Nice flat boards air dry for a minimum of 90 days and some of his lumber sits for a year. Air-drying helps reduce the time the lumber spends in the kiln (about 4-6 weeks) and also helps reduce energy costs. The sawdust is sold as well as slabs for firewood so the only waste is the “screech of the blade” as his father and grandfather would say.

Charles does not grade his lumber and his take on grading is “if there aren’t any knots it’s clear, and if there are knots, work around them.”

His customer base includes mostly local homeowners, construction companies, and county, state, and federal government agencies, although he has sent lumber from the Baltimore port that has made its way indirectly to the Philippines, South Pacific, and even Egypt. Currently Charles does not have plans for any further upgrades or growth at this time.

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