Sawing Rates by Hour and Board Foot

Charging enough to make money with a portable bandmill. November 14, 2009

Would like to know what others are getting for an hourly saw rate and bf rate. I'm in southern central NY but curious about all areas. I am currently charging .27 per bf. Not looking for a complicated formula of cost vs price, just an idea of what current rates are.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor R:
I charge $75/hour for myself and a Baker 3638D. 4 hour minimum for onsite work. No minimum if they bring the logs to me.

From contributor P:
My neighbor who saws for a living charges $.22 per bd ft. as of two weeks ago. He is 99% portable. I charge .25 for logs brought to me. Contributor R, is that for clock hours or mill meter hours?

From contributor R:
That is time onsite, not mill hours. It promotes folks to have a well organized jobsite, and offer some help. Some folks are skeptical, however I have a long list of satisfied customers offering testimonials as to my production rates. I got burned early on in my sawing career sawing by the bf, so I just went to this flat charge.

From contributor U:
The last saw job I charged $45/hr plus $25/damaged blade from the log. Additional charges are $25 each time I move the mill. Another option I've used is $.35/bdft plus the additional charges. I would much rather mill at the hourly rate and use the hour meter for fairness to the customer. If the logs are extremely dirty or require time/machinery to move, there will be additional charges on top of these.

From contributor G:
I have a part time job that takes about $1000 worth of tools. On site at least $100/hr, most of the time I work by piece rate and make up to $200/hr. If you want to make a living $100/hr should be the low end of what you charge.

From the original questioner:
Can those of you who charge by the hour give an average of board foot production per hour? For those who move their mill, I assume you charge for setup time? My mill is an old Enercraft and it's portable, but I have it at home under cover and I much prefer to saw here and have their logs brought in, but as it is only a part time side job, most of my jobs have been 1000 bf or less. Thanks to all who responded!

From contributor R:
I get 250-300 bf/hr at the normal customer site, sawing 4/4 hardwood with no help.

From contributor T:
Compared to New York, cost of living down here is much lower. These guys who are sawing for .25 to .30 BF are experienced and organized and made it through the hump. Or they are struggling to make a loan payment on the mill every month and will eventually sell out to avoid default. Custom sawing is not a sustainable long term endeavor without getting past that all-important bell curve of efficiency.

Don't be under the impression you can just jump out of the box and charge .25BF and make money hauling your mill around. 1000BF a day for one man who is just getting started is not easy to do until you get your sea legs. It doesn't sound like much, and a few months down the road it may not *be* much. But you won't start out doing that by yourself on day one, and do it consistently.

But let's say you do average $270 a day gross. That's not much money even down here. After you figure fuel (truck and mill), blades, and the 5% - 10% you better physically set aside on every job for a scheduled and unscheduled will and truck maintenance fund (or put it into an actual account for that sole purpose), and meals if you don't haul a cooler (you should - it saves a lot of time, dough, and is healthier), and any other expenses peculiar to your particular situation (i.e., will you have to use toll roads to get to this particular job?). After all that, you don't have much to work with.

But that's not the end. No sir, by "net" I mean after all your overhead and expenses and after all the attendant taxes you will be liable for. Once you take all that out of every $270, how much do you have? I know that here if I were to average $270 net daily, I would find something else to do. In fact, I do not custom mill for that very reason. There are too many part time sawyers who do it on the side, and do not have to depend on making $600 - $700 a day gross. More power to them too - I am glad they do it to help support their families. Ticks me off to hear full time sawyers complain about the part-timers. Find a way to make your mill pay or do something else and saw part time like them.

If you want to compete in the custom sawing market, in my opinion you must account for every penny you spend, every penny you make, and every minute you are given must be used wisely (efficiently). It is a great idea to keep a pocket log book with you, especially the first few weeks or months, that is dedicated solely to logging every transaction you make once you hitch that mill to your truck. If you stop at the local kwik sak on the way to a job and buy a pack of gum, write it down in your log book.

From my own experience down here, if I were in New York sawing for .27BF I better be sawing more than 1000BF a day and I better not be servicing any debt on a mill. Taking a loan out on a new mill thinking that the manufacturer's slick brochures are honest numbers, well let's just say all the mill manufacturers depend on propaganda to sell their mills. Hopefully you didn't make that mistake.

Not trying to come across as negative; you can make a profit custom sawing if you do everything right and have a little luck also. But you can't be thoughtless in your planning or reckless with your time management. Best of luck.

From contributor W:
I will not saw softwood for less than $.35 bf and in some cases, such as the distance to the job, I will charge $.45 bf. I charge $.45 or more for hardwood depending how long it has been cut, and if the logs are muddy or real dirty and not limed properly I will charge an extra $.10 to pressure wash them. You can not make a profit at $.25 per bf so I let some other guy lose money. I also charge $150.00 to move the mill over 15 miles. You have to stick to your pricing and not let the customer dictate your profit. I very seldom have a complaint about pricing and if I do, they usually call back a few days later with the order. We all have thousands of dollars tied up in this equipment and all the hard work that goes with it, so we can not work for pennies.

From contributor A:
Well 8 years ago I started out doing portable sawing for a whopping $0.20 bdft and $20 for showing up within 40 miles of home and $20 for ruined blades. First year I did about 250,000 bdft, second year I did over 350,000 bdft and covered 30,000 miles and on I went.

Now I sit on 30 acres on the main highway and do custom sawing for $0.25 bdft and do around $30 grand a month in retail sales and have 4 guys working with me. This is me and "Wanda" doing a days work on the road. Sure miss them days.

From contributor A:
Oh, by myself I did about 150 to 200 bdft an hour and with help it was 250 to 300 bdft an hour. This is what it looked like when I pulled in.