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Wood Wise Lumber Sales

Listing #221   Listed on: 02/19/2009

WOODWEB Content Editor, Brett Hagstrom, Interviewed Ed Watson in July 2009.

Ed Watson resides on a 16 acre homestead ranch in the mountains of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He describes himself as a “serial” entrepreneur, and has owned his own business since finishing college. Introduced to the sawmilling business by observing an older friend’s sawmill operation, Ed liked what he saw, and eventually bought the mill in September, 2008. Ed has an extensive family history in sawmilling, including his great uncle who owned a large portion of Mississippi and five sawmills from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Ed says that sawmilling is “in his blood, and you need to be a problem solver to be successful in the sawmilling business”.

Ed saws logs from nearby logging sites 15-30 miles from his mill that are affected by the mountain pine beetle epidemic. The price per ton for logs is currently low, and some logs are free, while the rest are inexpensive. 75-85% of Ed’s work is custom sawing, including countertops and tables and 99% of his work is done with softwood, notably lodgepole pine. Lodgepole pine is preferred because it is the strongest of all the pines, and some of Ed’s logs measure 28-30 inches at the butt end. When he does work with hardwoods, black walnut from Kansas is used. Ed is very particular about using every bit of wood and cuts firewood out of his slabs and hauls the sawdust to a local composting area.

Continue Reading about Wood Wise Lumber Sales

Slabs marked before drying

  Woodland Headsaw

  Gang rip edger

  Headsaw with log

  logs inline for cutting

  Blue stain 7/16

Company Name:   Wood Wise Lumber Sales
Contact Name:   Ed Watson
Location:   Steamboat Springs, CO  80487
Year Founded:   2008
Sq. Footage:   10,000
Employees:   3
Gross Sales:   N/A

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

Service Specialties:

Sawmill Equipment:
    Sawmills: Stationary - Woodland
    Edgers - Timber King

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Company Description Continued

Ed likes his Woodland k5000 26hp Kubota diesel vertical mill. One reason he likes using the vertical mill is that it is unique and it has a carriage roller system that allows the machine to do most of the work. Ed plans to switch to biodiesel within the next month, using a five gallon tank. His Timberking 18hp gas edger is set up on a roller system that can cut 4-8 inch wide boards, two inches thick. The headsaw uses a 17 foot long blade instead of a smaller horizontal blade so more cutting hours are achieved. He also owns his own on-site sharpening equipment which saves him time and money. His other equipment includes a 16" Boise/Crane radial arm saw (230V), Stihl chainsaws and a Bobcat 743 skid steer.

Ed is glad to own one of the few vertical bandmills in his area and mentions that the unique vertical characteristics of the saw are a good way to build a niche and develop a successful business. His advice is to thoroughly research the equipment you think you want to buy, as he did before purchasing his saw. Ed recommends purchasing a machine with plenty of power for the kind of wood being sawn. Since he works with softwood, power isn’t much of an issue, whereas with hardwoods it is. Ed says to “look for something you can grow into”, and “the equipment you initially buy may be expensive, but it will pay for itself over time.”

The low Colorado humidity aides Ed’s lumber drying process as it averages around 35%. Air drying is predominant and he has a 2,800 square foot wood shop with upstairs storage where the lumber is stickered and stacked. In three weeks to a month the lumber will dry to 6-10% moisture content. Ed mentions that even though the humidly is ideal for air drying, careful attention needs to be paid to the lumber. Lumber sawn in the morning and left in the sun will dry in about a day and a half to 10% moisture content. This fast drying can cause the lumber to warp and check so it needs to be stored in a timely and proper manner. A 4,000 square foot solar kiln is in the plans that will allow him to kiln dry lumber for customers.

Ed doesn’t sell graded lumber, but would like to become a certified lumber grader someday. This would save him money grading his own lumber, and he'd like to grade other sawyer’s lumber as well. Customers are typically nearby ranchers who need barns and fences for their livestock, and builders using post and beams, siding, and house logs. In the future Ed would like to develop a customer base on the east coast and ship lumber and furniture stock.

Ed encourages people to research and familiarize themselves with the beetle kill epidemic taking place in the northwest. The beetles have thrived due to the recent warm winters, and large amounts of acreage are infected, including 1.7 million acres in Colorado alone. The epidemic is spreading at a rapid pace and once infected the trees have a three to five year window for salvage value. Ed stresses for sawyers to utilize the infected wood, because once the window of salvage value ends, the trees rot. Only 1-2% of the infected timber will be utilized, and using it before it rots is important. He believes that people are finally starting to notice the epidemic and researching ways of using the wood. Ed concludes by saying “it is a shame all the destruction that is taking place, so using what we can before it is gone is the best thing we can do.”

Wood Wise is located in Northwest Colorado. We produce rough sawn dimensional lumber, post, beams, sheeting, shingles and edge slab siding from the current beetle kill pine epidemic. We also custom saw different species of hardwoods. We stock and sale reclaimed fir barnwood.

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