Large Volume Scragg Mill Operation

Things to keep in mind when starting up a large-scale sawmill operation. April 30, 2006

My friend is a small business owner and has a pallet and crate manufacturing operation (50 employees) and a brokerage business. I am an engineer with experience as a plant manager in manufacturing (zero experience with wood). My friend has asked me to help him set up and run the scragg mill (maximum log size 16" x 10') and also invest in it. He is presently consuming 12,000 bft per day and wants to set up the mill to run 40,000 bft per day. The finished products would mainly be used for the pallet and crating industry and not for furniture. I have pretty much read every thread in the Sawing and Drying Forum.

1) I did not see in any article where anyone came close to producing a volume of 40MBF/day. (Gene mentioned big mills of 1 million BF per year and in another article someone was producing about 10,000 BF per day). Since we are planning on working 200 days a year - that would equate to 5 - 8 million BF per year. Are we getting into something over our heads? Are these volumes for a small industry or are we going to compete with the big guys?

2) What would be the investment in machinery for this volume?

3) How many personnel would be needed to run this setup?

4) What is the average operating cost per MBF?

5) Finally, after reading all the articles concerning log scales, log weights, yield, log volumes, etc., am I right in assuming that the scale I select and the yield I calculate can only be used as a starting point and that after the mill is running, I would be able to exactly judge the waste, yield, etc?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor R:
Baker makes scraggs and has a pallet mill. Give them a call. Maybe they can tell you where a setup is so you can see it. I'm in West Virginia and there are a few scraggs set up with 40-50 employees cutting millions of feet a year.

Call Cooper also - I think they're the first to come up with the idea of building a scragg mill back in the 40's. I believe the son is running the factory now.

From contributor B:
You're way beyond any scope I've ever dealt with, but in my experience with my little podunk operation, the first question that popped into my head was: are you sure you can get enough logs in your area to support such an operation?

From contributor A:
The skragg mill is the least of your worries in this deal. Getting a skragg mill to shuck 40 mbdft a day in cants is not a real problem if you can supply the bucked logs fast enough. Call Tom at Baker sawmills and ask for their video and you will see some pallet operations working. You will find that most use shorter logs to avoid waste of sawing longer logs due to taper of little logs.

Most pallet stuff is of low quality and is sawn from pulp wood size trees. Here in Arkansas, it is sold by the ton and trying to figure out how many bdft per ton for the little sticks is tough. From what I have sawn, it will be around 100 to 200 bdft per ton. 4x6 hardwood pallet cants are going for $0.26 bdft here.

A skragg mill will produce a cant and a resaw will be needed to reduce it to lumber. Skragg mills start at about $25K and go up to $150K. One pass sawing is your goal to keep labor down, so multi-head resaws and conveyors will add to cost as well. You could easily have $500K in equipment to produce your stock, not counting land/building and other cost.

Tonnage and available timber is another consideration. Rolling stock to unload and move everything around will be needed. A slasher station and log decks will be needed to move that much material each day. Waste will have to find a home, as there will be a tt load of sawdust everyday.

Get a hold of Tom at Baker and look at the tape and then go see an operation in use. There are several pallet mills up for auction in the Equipment Digest each month and the profit is pennies per bdft if any on these type of operations. For most mills, pallet stock is a byproduct of sawing for something else that makes them money.