Sawmill recovery rate

      Does one sawmill's recovery rate make it a better choice over another mill? (From WOODWEB's Sawing and Drying Forum) February 18, 2003

It looks like bandsaw mills have a higher recovery rate than circular mills do. My reasoning is that if you are buying logs by the board foot and are being paid by the board foot, you would get more board footage with a bandsaw mill, which means you would make more money, plus you may get overrun, more footage of lumber, than what you bought the logs for. But the bandsaw mill blades cost more to maintain. So are the bandsaw blades and mill worth the extra money to get a good recovery rate?

Forum Responses
(From WOODWEB's Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor A:
Recovery rate is not the most important factor in a production mill setup. When I ran a circle blade we would saw a lot of 12 to 14 inch logs into cross ties and get 4 boards off the sides. My band mill does no better other than the fact that I can take a bit more time and often get a better board and trim a bit better. On the circle mill I sawed in an hour what I saw in a day now. I might lose $0.05 a bdft with my circle blade, but saw 10 times as much.

With cedar and small logs, I can recover a bit more, but make smoother cuts and the green lumber looks better. Also time spent planing is less, so profit margin is improved.

As for blade cost, the last circle blade we bought cost about $1600 and took 15 minutes to sharpen every day. Hit wire or trash and you were down 1/2 hour with 6 hands wondering what to do. So I am not afraid to run a $20 blade through a log that may have trash in it. Takes less then 5 minutes to change.

Portable, overrun, lower blade cost and ease of operation are the benefits of a band, but production will never equal a circle. (Yes, there are large production bands, but the cost is high and they rely on bdft per hour to pay.)

From contributor J:
I ran a bandsaw mill for 8 years, sawing around 300MBFT in a custom sawing business. I've just purchased a Peterson sawmill, using a swing-blade circular setup. I thought a long time before making the switch. The reasons boil down to this:

1. Time is money. I owned the top of the line Wood-Mizer, but still had to deal with blade maintenance. Though Wood-Mizer offers their ReSharp program, I found it to offer mixed quality. I settled into sharpening my own blades. This added one to two hours onto my sawing day.

2. Most timber sawn is for utility use. Barns, fence boards, even lumber out of high quality logs contains a high percentage of #2 and #3 common.

3. Bandsaw sawdust is a nuisance. Horse owners don't want it, chicken farmers don't want it, and your wife doesn't want it either. Come in looking like a powdered donut a couple of times and you'll know what I mean.

4. Circle saws cut straight lumber. All things being even, a circle mill is going to cut straighter lumber longer with a minimum of care versus a bandsaw mill.

These are some of my thoughts on the subject. I know the orange crew will have a response, but alas, I've "been there, done that." One more thought - if you were sawing high grade cants most of the time, a bandsaw would make sense. That's why they make resaws. Oh yeah, my Peterson cost 1/3 of the Wood-Mizer.

It is nice to see an honest and candid discussion of recovery rates in the previous two posts. I sort of cringe when I saw walnut and clear red/white oak 1" boards and watch the sawdust pile grow. However, most of what I saw is 2x6 -8 -10 for barn framing lumber or 4x4 or 6x6 posts. You can no longer build houses in our area with rough sawed unstamped lumber. When sawing posts or say, 2x8's, very little lumber is converted to sawdust.

As a rough rule of thumb, each 1/32" reduction in kerf results in a 2% increase (maybe 2-1/2% if all 4/4) in lumber produced. At $500 per MBF average price for lumber (after drying it would be even more!) from a good grade log, this would mean each 1/32" is worth $10 per MBF. If you saw 100 MBF per year, that is $1000 per year per 1/32". A typical circle saw is 9/32" kerf. A band might be 3/32" kerf (conservatively), so that means that the difference is at least $6000 per year (probably closer to $10,000, as I have been conservative). Of course, for a large mill producing 1 million BF per year, then we would be looking at a benefit close to $100,000 per year!


Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

From contributor B:
I ran a circular mill and then switched to a band mill. I've always been told a good production rate is 1000 bf per man per day. I can easily saw 1000' of 4/4 per day by myself on my Breezewood mill. As far as recovery rate, I have sawn veneer reject logs and average over 30% overrun. That 30% on veneer reject logs is usually the lower grade (pallet) lumber. For every 1000' of logs I buy, I get at least 1300' of lumber. Out of that 1300' I usually average 1000' of #2c and better and the rest is pallet grade.
When sawing to fill an order of a certain amount of pieces, I know I don't have to saw as many logs to fill the order as I would with a circular mill. On small logs (<10") it probably won't make a big difference. But if you saw to make a living you shouldn't do too many small logs, unless it is custom sawing and the customer wants that.

I would have to say the recovery rate of a band mill far outweighs any benefits of a circular mill.

From contributor K:
One major advantage of the swing type sawmill is that you are not cutting clean through a log every time. Swing mills have the ability to cut out sections of unwanted bad wood by raising, lowering and entering from either side of the log to make any desired cut to the span of the blade without moving the log. It is a completely different method. The day that Lazers are introduced over the bands, the swingers will still have an advantage, in my opinion.

Let's say that a band mill can cut 4000bf of timber a day... band blades at a cost of $20, each lasting 3 sharpens through 400bf and cutting 4000 bf per day (with what a swinger can achieve with a tale man) would bring you a daily cost of $80 dollars, a yearly cost of $20,800. Compared to a swing saw's blade sharpening and tensioning cost of $40-80 every 3 days, $3460-$6933 per year cutting the same quantity. I hope I've got my figures right. $400bf-per band blade=$20, $400bf-per circular=$2.66. Doesn't sound right... Someone told me that they were using one band every 400-500bf - is this correct?

From contributor R:
You have to look at other factors besides recovery rate. Manufacturing costs can chew up a lot of those savings.

The rule of thumb of 1 Mbf/manday works well and most guys are getting that on a bandmill. But I'm getting in the 2.5-3 Mbf/manday on a circle headrig. That puts my labor costs at about 1/3 and that is probably the biggest cost factor.

My saw costs are less than $1/Mbf, which includes periodic hammering and replacement of a head saw. Replacement teeth cost me about $40 and I can get 75-100 Mbf before replacement, depending on species and the amount of trash hit.

If you're cutting low grade logs, your increased recovery will never pay for your increased mfg costs. However, there is a break even point where the extra recovery will make up the costs. I had figured that out last year and you need log run lumber to average around $600/Mbf. Great if you are in cherry.

Larger mills have taken advantage of using bands in resaws and still use a circle mill for primary breakdown.

Speaking of recovery… I was putt-putting with the bandmill on an on-site job one hot July day. A fellow stopped by in a long sleeved shirt. I thought that a bit odd but I'm in no position to say things out loud. We got to visitin' and he says how that bandmill looks a lot safer than a circle mill. I say that was a consideration when I was looking at mills. He says I wished I had thought about that when I bought my Foley-Belsaw. Then he rolled back his shirtsleeve and showed me where the doctors were able to re-attach his arm.

He was new to the mill and let himself get in a hurry and reached across the blade for something. Next thing he knew he was in the horsepistal. Not quite the recovery factor you were looking for, but something to think about.

From contributor N:
Gene, why doesn't the 1/32" reduction in kerf only count on one side of the board, resulting in a 1% increase rather than a 2%? 33/32=1.03. Help me with my math...

Recovery is great but if you do not know what you are doing, a circle mill can be a dangerous thing. I have seen logs shoot out of the dogs and out the back of the mill. I have sawed for over 20 years on the big high-production mills and own a circle mill that has been dismantled. I have a mighty mite at the moment and it works great for the kind of orders I get (mostly cypress timbers). Sometimes the propaganda outweighs the true fact that it takes years to become a real sawmiller. I hope to be one someday and I have been doing it since 1979. Hope what I have said is understandable. Recovery and production is not worth a life or limb. I also bought a 6 head moulder and make more in 2 hours with it than I can all day on my mill. Like I said, I only cut beams with my mill, so overrun is not a big thing for me. Just weight the safety factors before jumping on a circle mill. Safe sawing to all!

A circle mill is great if you like to eat sawdust all day and get the wife to float it out of your eyeballs at night or have the blade catch a piece of literwood limb and hit you upside the head.

From the original questioner:
Contributor J, a problem with the swing blade sawmill is that you have to cut from both sides to make a wide board. An advantage of a bandsawmill with a carriage over a swing blade mill is I can flip a large timber after it has been squared while I am sawing it. I can see if there are any clear boards in the log. If there are any clear boards on any of the four sides, I would cut the clear ones first, which are worth more money than the ones with knots in them.

An example: a mill buys 1000 bdft of mixed hardwoods delivered to their mill. The bandsawmill cuts the logs up and might come out with a 20% overrun on board footage, which would be 1200 feet of lumber out of 1000 bdft of logs, which means more money. I cut the cant log for railroad ties and pallet lumber, the clear boards for cabinets, furniture, etc. That way, get the maximum amount of money out of the logs that I purchased.

The swing blade having a "carriage," where you could flip the log while you are sawing it to see if there is a clear side, would be an advantage to the swing mill.

From contributor A:
Contributor K, I get 800 bdft per blade use and get 5 sharpenings on average per blade life. That is $54.00 for the 4,000 bdft the blade will saw, so cost is about $0.014 bdft. If I bought a new blade and sawed 1,000 bdft and threw it into the trash, my cost would be $0.02 bdft.

The difference in overrun comes from the number of cuts one makes. If a circle mill makes 8 cuts in the log (after the 4 slabs are removed), on the 9th cut I will get an extra board (saved in kerf). That does not mean that it will be a FAS board. But I can get better boards, for I take a bit more time, and since I am so slow, I had better make the most of it and get the best from each log. There is an overrun and most of it is due to the way the scales were set up and they were set up to discourage you from bringing in small logs.

By the way, in the first cut on each face, the waste should be in the slab, not the board as the opening face should be the same and thus kerf has no bearing at this point.

From the original questioner:
Contributor B, I have never heard of a Breezewood bandsaw mill. Sounds like an excellent recovery rate at 30%. If you could cut a few clear boards out of that 30%, your profits would be increased. I have recently looked at the Select double-cut bandsaw mill with a 115 hp JD diesel for a potential small commercial milling operation. I have heard that the Select can cut 10,000 bd ft a day. And you get your money's worth out of the offbearers with the Select.

I am currently trying to find log prices delivered to the mill in central West Virginia, but haven't found anything yet. I have also tried to find logs for sale. If I get a bandsawmill, I will need logs to cut and I need to know how much to pay for the logs.

One thing no one has mentioned yet is the fuel cost per thousand.

I have never used a circle mill but don't understand most of the comments here. On Peterson's website under FAQs, they state that "for small dimension lumber, bandmills are hard to beat for efficiency." I understand the lower capital cost and to a certain degree blade/sharpening cost, but don't understand how issues like log handling can be easier and quicker with a circle mill. I realize that all circle mills are not equal. Neither are bandsaw mills. As stated above, the Select Bandsaw Mill is unbelievably fast.

If the lumber is typically 1-4/32" thick and you have 9/32" kerf, then the total for each piece of lumber is 1-13/32" (or 45/32"). If you reduce the kerf by 1/32", then you will have 1-12/32" (or 44/32"). This reduction of 1/32" is 2.2% of 45/32".

Contributor N, 1/32" is 3% of an inch, not 1%.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

From contributor K:
Contributor A, not as bad as I thought (I heard somewhere along the line that it was around 400-500 bf per blade)

To the original questioner: Have you seen a swing mill in action? Only one of the four dimensions of the log is hidden, and that side you get to see as you clear the last layer approaching it. The operator can cut horizontal boards or vertical boards wherever the clears may be and to whichever grain pattern he/she chooses. If I was in a hurry to get the clear boards cut, I'd box the knot wood to sleepers and get into the good stuff, too. You don't get to see a lot of band mills in New Zealand, but I did get to see a Wood-Mizer at a show and I was impressed at its completely different approach to what I would call the usual. Ultimately, band saws have their advantages, as do swing saws. The kerf thing on that Wood-Mizer did look impressive, but the pile of wood sitting next door in the circs site looked good, too.

From contributor J:
To the original questioner: It's all in the setup and your ability to read the logs. One could theoretically flip a log on the Peterson/Lucas swing blades. But if you are able to determine the worse face on the log, that should go down on the skids. Another option would be to put this face at 45 degrees of your face cut, provided you could line the knots up.

Wide boards are a blessing and a curse. They look pretty coming off the mill, and many of my customers have been pleased to have a couple of 16-18 boards. However, most cabinetmakers are going to rip these boards down to 4 inches, primarily because of the cup that will show up in drying. Wood-Mizer has clearly stated in the past that cutting boards over 12" wide may lead to the blade wandering through the cut. That fact does not stop you from doing it, but you must go slow!

Gene, your math is great. But what is the cost to the small bandsaw operator to reach that profit?

Contributor A is right on the money with his 4-5 sharpenings per blade statement. I always figured on using 4 blades per day to produce up to 2MBDFT of 1" lumber. This is an average, for some days I would use 2, other days 8 (I hate nails!). Figure $25 per blade. With four sharpenings, I was using about .75 blades per day. Those four sharpenings cost $32. Total cost for a day: $42.75 in blades and sharpenings, or about 2 cents a bdft.

An 8" Peterson blade costs about $270. The eight teeth can be re-tipped for about $16. Unfortunately, I don't have hard numbers on how long a set of teeth will go before re-tipping, but I suspect with 2 5-minute sharpenings per day, 10MBDFT is a conservative number. The blade itself will need periodic re-tensioning at a cost of $20-30. The blade itself should not have to be replaced for years, barring striking something catastrophic.

My point is yes, a thin kerf bandsaw will enable you to recover more of the log in 1" boards. The profit estimates are based on two items that need to be closely examined. One is that you have a consistent run of good logs that you will saw for grade. Two is that the costs for bandsaws and swing-blade circle mills are the same. I don't believe they are.

From the original questioner:
A more knowledgeable source, a research forest technologist, instructs on how to get grade lumber from logs: he says that once a log is "squared" and it has defects on all four sides, it still pays to cut the faces with the knots at the corners, where they can be trimmed and made into higher grade lumber. This would require a log with four visible faces that may need to be flipped to cut the highest grade lumber, an advantage of the bandsawmill or any mill that can square a log and flip it around. This is something that the swing blade mills can't do because there is no carriage, and the swing blades can't saw a wide log to even see the four faces.

A Simplified Procedure for Developing Grade Lumber From Hardwood Logs

From contributor R:
Not all circle mills are swing blade mills. Jackson Lumber Harvester makes a portable hydraulic mill with a big blade. I wouldn't haul it around for the small one or two log jobs. It isn't designed for that.

There are also the dimension mills. D & L makes one with a carriage. It doesn't have a log turner, but I imagine one could be made so that logs could be turned.

From contributor J:
I agree with keeping the knots at the corners. That is why my previous post indicated keeping visible knots at 45 degrees of the opening face. The obvious advantage of a swing blade here is that now you have a horizontal option and a vertical option for taking boards out of the log, all the while keeping defects to the corners where possible. And yes, you can flip a log with a swing blade mill if you so desire. Most swing bladers keep logs off the ground and up on skids. I can't speak to regular circle mills, as I've never been anything but a tailer on one.

From contributor N:
Gene, you are indeed correct. This would make a lot of sense for someone with a big circular headrig. I have noticed around here that many bigger mills (the ones who are still holding on) are still using the circular headrig and then sending cants to a commercial band resaw. Why?

Contributor A has a good point about how many cuts in a log, and as he has said many times before, every mill has its place.

Contributor R, good point about circle mills vs swing blades. A Peterson hardwood blade is 4.75mm, a respectable thin kerf with less maintenance than the bands.

Contributor J, I don't have any numbers either. One of my blades needs to be re-tipped after about 3000 feet (I hate lead-coated steel bullets), and another has about 2/3 of each tooth left after 12,000 ft. Carl Peterson has used the 40,000 number on a blade. I'll check back after I've sawed 40,000. I'm still a newbie.

To the original questioner: I think there's more money in a McDonalds franchise. Or medicine. Take a look at how many of the big hardwood mills are shutting down, even ones with a vertical business model, owning thousands or hundreds of thousands of acres. Take a look at how many guys are buying portable mills and working hard to turn a dollar or two at or near the bottom of the forestry food chain. Every one of them has found a niche, usually without tying up hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you have both a circular and a band saw, you would want the heavy kerf either in the slab or in the low grade. The ideal would be to open a log properly, and then take a heavy cut, equal to 2, 3 or 4 pieces of lumber (precisely--no waste) and send this thick cant to the band resaw. In this way, the sawdust in the high grade sections of the log is minimized.

There has been a lot of discussion about the US Forest Products Lab publication that was initially written almost 50 years ago about how to saw logs. Unfortunately, the log diameter, quality, lumber value, and lumber grading rules have changed enough to make some of the procedures no longer prudent. (For example, with a very large log, 180 degree rotation is not too important. Another example: with a large high grade log, opening face location is not too critical.) So, be careful if following this report or listening to a wood "expert" who has little practical experience and just repeats what is in this report. The report also has some unwise suggestions for edging. But 50 years ago, hardwood was cheap and plentiful. Production was how you made more profit and not quality back then. Today, quality and processing efficiency are the keys to good profit.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

From contributor A:
Most of the circle mills here spend the bulk of their day in logs 24 inches down to 10, with I would say an average of 16 to 18 inchers making most of it. A circle mill will make 10 to 12 boards and spit out a cross tie after about 16 cuts. I could take the same log and make 4 more cuts and get an additional 20 to 25 bdft. The log on the circle deck will be there about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. The log on "Wanda" will be there about 20 minutes. First Rule of Business is buy low and sell high. Second Rule is time is money. Both apply to sawing.

Jake, a de-barker makes a big difference in blade life and anyone sawing more than just hobby with a band should spend the coin to get one.

One thing you guys are not looking at with a swinger is that the sawyer is able to take Qsawn boards from a bad face and may get the boards between the knots. So they can flat saw in then switch and Qsaw the same face. It takes a bit of time but can produce better lumber. A disadvantage is the fact that it can not take a very wide board. I have sawn red oak boards 25 inches wide and 3 inches thick. But even a slow cut at 25 inches is still producing the same bdft per hour. But most wholesalers do not want oak boards wider then 12 inches.

Kerf is an issue, but so is time. I would look at the cost of the blades and maintenance cost per bdft. If you can lose 3% of your lumber and go 10 times faster with the volume of logs needed is why the circles are still in business.

Could you take the coin invested in a large circle operation and put in several LT40 Supers with 2 men on each saw and produce and save enough lumber to do it?

From the original questioner:
Two LT 40 Super hydraulic bandsaw mills can't put out enough production for a small commercial operation. If you are sawing low grade logs, a circle mill may be okay. But if you are buying red oak for $1000.00 a thousand board feet delivered to your mill, something like a Select double-cut bandsaw mill may be feasible. You will want a circle mill or debarker to clean the log before taking it to your bandsaw mill. With 3% more board footage with a bandsaw mill for each cut, if you're sawing 1" x 6" clear FAS red oak, that 3% is going to add up fast. I'm sure that's why Coastal lumber has large bandsaw mills in their large commercial operations all over West Virginia. They also have scragg mills and probably something to square the log or debark it before sending the log to their bandsaw mill.

The mobile double-cut select bandsaw mill costs about $70,000 loaded up, and the Meadows #1 Mobile Automatic sawmill costs about $61,414 without a 60-100 hp diesel motor, which I figure would cost about 15 to 20 thousand dollars new. The Meadows does have a conveyor with it, and an enclosed cab, but the sawblade doesn't come with it, so total about $75,000 to 80,000 for the Meadows Mobile Automatic sawmill. The track is 8" channels welded with patented tubular cross members. 12lb railroad type rails welded into place. Does the Wood-Mizer have anything like that on it? A big difference probably in the way a Meadows mill is built, or even a Select, compared to a Wood-Mizer mill is the steel that went into the mill. Wood-Mizer probably has nothing like the Meadows, but you got to pay for that steel.

The Meadows can saw 4 to 10 thousand board feet daily. The Select double-cut bandsaw mill can saw up to 3 feet per second. I have heard that it can cut 10 thousand board feet daily.

With the commercial mills, you are going to need logs to saw. I have tried to find prices for logs delivered to the mill, but no luck. Also don't know what the price of the lumber leaving the mill sells for. I know that grade and species of the lumber and whether it's been trimmed and edged can all add to the final price. Those are definitely some factors that a small commercial sawing operation investor would want to know. These numbers must be a big secret.

Contributor N, I haven't heard of Coastal lumbers operation shutting in West Virginia. Coastal has about 4 big bandsaw mills and scragg mills and one double-cut mill in West Virginia, and a whole bunch of land and none of it is for sale. I don't see any sawmills shutting down in West Virginia. They just keep getting bigger, with pulp plants moving in - Georgia Pacific, Werheusyer.

From contributor R:
We had an operation that tried to use 2 Wood-Mizers and a Baker resaw to saw high grade cherry. They really had the Baker cranking. They went bankrupt once, then had a fire and never rebuilt. Too labor intensive and this is in an area with low labor costs. They would have been further ahead using a circle saw for primary breakdown, then onto the Baker or Wood-Mizer.

From contributor A:
My wondering is, if I can sit here on this hill and saw and make a living, how come if I had 2 more saws sitting here could I not make more? Rodney and I can put out 2 to 2.5 mbdft in oak lumber and ties a day. Now if I had two more saws and 5 more men (one on the loader full time), how come we could not put out 7 mbdft a day? If they were electric supers we could get real close to 10 mbdt with little more investment.

Big mill down the road put in a Baker and all red oak butt cuts go to it and it spits out lumber and 6x8 ties. They are to do 4 mbdft a day with 3 hands. Seems to be working for them.

Much of the conversation so far has been centred around the volume/yield issue. For whatever reason, the topic never got around to adding value. My own personal preference... add some value. It took 50-80 years to grow the tree, and a whole lotta sweet sweat to get it into a board; why not be patient and add a little money for the new DVD player?

I have spent many a night scratching my head about circle primary breakdowns and band resaws, but have pretty much concluded that competing with the big guys in volume won't cut it. The coin involved in more production gets bigger exponentially. You're running 10mbf per day; you better bet your britches that you need 5 times that sitting in the yard for spring breakup, and those times when your favourite logger goes away on vacation.

Kiln-drying is an obvious one, but taking it the next step requires some serious brain scratching. Moulders, dust collectors, etc. are a whole new ball of wax to the died-in-the-wool sawyer. My point is that there are lots of ways to get the production up, or some extra value added, but only a few ways to make a good dollar. Let's head on over to the value added section, and compare notes on marketing and scratching that other 2% out of our customers.

I have a Lucas swing blade mill that I will put up against any portable bandmill on the market. I cut mostly old growth fir and cedar in the 3-6' diameter size. I cut for door and window manufacturers and professional builders. There is no saw out there that can come close to getting as much clear vertical grain lumber as the swingers. As someone else stated, you can cut horizontally or vertically whenever desired - you can also cut out small defects and then proceed. For the cutting I do, recovery of high grade will not be matched by anyone.

A well thought out business plan, whether done on paper or in your head, will determine how important your recovery rate is. With a plan you'll know the market you're after. Your plan will determine what kind of machinery you'll need and how large your workforce should be to meet production.

I think too much time is spent arguing amongst ourselves that "my particular mill is better than yours." You're either a small operation or a bigger one. Each has its own plusses and minuses.

The sawyer up the road from me uses a circle mill. He's been in business for at least 20 years. I'm not trying to be smart, but if he's sawing fast to get the lumber out, why is it that he has piles of logs that just sit there? I know some of the piles have been sitting for 2 years. I thought maybe they were junk logs, but they're not. There are weeks that go by that they don't saw at all. To me, if you're waiting on the market to go up or just waiting for the right customer, why not saw with a bandmill?

From contributor N:
To the original questioner: Here are some more sources for your research:
1. Standard and Poor's Index. You can research the projections and past performance of companies like International Paper, Georgia Pacific, etc. Pay particular attention to their stock performance and how they have achieved it. I think you'll find they have been liquidating long term assets (read real estate) to elevate their stock price.

2. Pulp mill construction numbers. I suspect you will find that pulp mills require a steady supply of low-grade logs. According to a friend of mine at International Paper, once the currently planned and permitted mills are complete, they do not plan to build any more mills in the US. Pulp and real estate prices in Central and South America are so low that the permit and environmental process rules new US mills out.

3. Recent timber company real estate sales nationwide. The longstanding market for large timberlands has been insurance and banking industries. Their solid performance based upon tree growth has underwritten these companies for the last century. This market is also waning, again based on the stock market.

4. I suggest you subscribe to industry journals in your area. They can give you up to date market information about mill prices for logs and selling prices for lumber. Your state Forestry department or extension service also has this information.

5. Subscribe to the Northern Logger. Their "yellow sheet" in the front of the magazine tracks trends in the large mill business up and down the east coast.

6. Last but not least, one of the three basic tenets of business ownership is to know the business. Go get a job in a mill like you would dream about having. Work at that job, whether it is in the office, on the green chain or driving a truck. If you like it after a year or two, I'll offer you more advice. Until then, good luck.

The kind of mill we have and the way we do things is the very best there is (…small pause for effect…) for us. I'm sure that those who have sawed for awhile will tell you the same. We would all like to upgrade and make improvements, also.

My point is that our operations end up over time making adjustments for time/labor/recovery/etc. depending on our particular situations. You can learn some stuff by these threads but it would sure pay a newcomer to visit various setups. The original questioner is going to keep going around in circles until he gets some sawdust in his shoes.

From contributor A:
Value added means inventory on hand and coin out of purse. Don't get me wrong, I would love to add a kiln and may this year. But if I take 2 days sawing and put up for a kiln, I will be without that wood for what, 8 weeks? Once dry, then I will need to plane so it looks like lumber in Lowes. Now I need a nice dry place to keep it so when the customer comes they can waste my time picking through it. Value added is a good thing but adding a $1.00 and sawing less, one must realize there is a downside. For those who only saw part time, I think it would be the best thing for them.

Contributor A, you have discovered one of the truths about this business... you will make more money drying wood (and have more fun?) if you close the mill and just run the kilns! Maybe this is why there are so many kilns not attached to sawmills.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

Once you have upgraded as far as you think you can go, get a high technology curve sawing system to take care of all those nasty crooked logs. There is no end to how vertically or horizontally integrated you can get.

It is a constant focus on these three things: getting the proper supply of material to saw, getting and maintaining the proper equipment along with the labor to run it, and a profitable market for all products, not just some of the resulting products.

It is a constant juggling act. Get as much education as you can. This forum helps a lot.

Our expansion from a WM manual LT30 in 84 to two locations in two states with 20 employees now was a result of market forces that I was not fully aware of. We have grown steadily. Believe me, we made a lot of mistakes, some just stupid, others seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, set a timetable in which to make the decision. Research, then if you buy a mill, give it 100 percent. When you look back a few years from now you will be amazed how far you have come. Do not be afraid to fail. The sun always comes up the next morning.

From contributor A:
Gene, you are so right. I am in too deep to try to jump out now. But I see the light and it is reading MC.

Reading back through the posts, I see where some might confuse recovery rate with overrun of the scale. These are different and if you use a different scale then Doyle, my results would be different then yours. Also, if opening cut is the same, there is not any waste different between circle and band. It is in the number of cuts inside that make the difference. It is taking time to look at a log and take the short boards from the slabs and make an opening cut of 3.5 instead of 6.5. Most of the time I look at my opening cut and go up 1 1/4 inches and make my first cut. That makes for a higher recovery rate.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor T:
One thing you have all forgotten to mention is the recovery rate of logs much larger than your blade can handle.

We take our swingers to the log (no cost involved with getting the log to the mill). We cut the log and return with lumber only, leaving the sawdust and waste for habitat use and regrowth.

Most logs are greater than 1.2m (4ft), with the big ones being 2m plus. These large logs cause no problems to us and we typically recover 70% as grade A lumber.

We can also vary our sawblades from 7.1mm kerf, using insert tips, to 3.5mm kerf for thin blades. With new technology, this will come down to 2.5mm in the near future. I have not seen any bandmill capable of doing the same.

All trees eventually die and can be downed for various reasons. The salvage of these logs tends to give hugh profits.

I don't know the BF, but we can produce 3 cubic meters of sawn timber per man, per day when we have good logs.

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