Sawmill on the Homestead

Reader Contribution by David Boyt
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I don’t do Facebook or any other social networking.I figure if someone wants to know how I’m doing, they’ll pick up the phone or just drop by.Still, there are some things going on around here that others may find interesting or amusing, so I’ll give this blog a try.I look forward to hearing from people with similar interests or experiences. 

A little background … I live on a corner of our family’s tree farm in the southwest Missouri Ozarks. Becky and I moved here not long after we were married.I cut the logs for our passive solar post & beam home and hauled them to a local sawmill, where they cut to my specifications.Then I’d bring the posts, beams, and boards back, put them in place, and try to figure out what I needed next.This went on over the course of four years.With two young children, we were anxious to move in and made the classic mistake of doing so before the house was finished.Although the house remains unfinished after thirty-one years, it has sheltered our family well–along with an assortment of stray cats and dogs, a few ferrets, and an iguana.A family of flying squirrels is nesting under the eaves, and a marauding raccoon occasionally enters through the dog door at night.As our daughter, Erin, put it, “It’s like living in a barn, only with more animals!” 

Becky, bless her heart, still believes I can fix just about anything with a Leatherman and bailing wire.I guess I reinforced that idea last week when she informed me that the clothes dryer was broken.Using the aforementioned tools, I spliced the clothes line back together. 

I must have gotten sawdust in my veins while building our house.I bought a portable bandsaw about twelve years ago, after promising Becky that I’d use it to cut the lumber to finish the house.Word of my sawmilling got around, and I have kept busy cutting logs for regular customers who build furniture and cabinets; as well as for area farmers who need fencing, barn siding, and trailer flooring.My old hydraulic mill finally wore out, and I just got a new Norwood LumberMate Pro MX34.It came packed very compactly and took a couple of days to assemble — a lot like an old-fashioned Erector set, for those who remember back that far.The mill cuts smoothly, handles larger logs than my previous mill, and is far simpler to operate, once you get the hang of using a cant hook.It is great to be able to salvage or select trees for thinning and be able to turn them into something other than firewood.As soon as I get caught up on some orders, I’ll get back to work cutting flooring for our barn–I mean house. 

Some of you may remember news about a tornado that devestated Joplin, MO last May.The spirit of cooperation among volunteers from all across the U.S. and Canada remains truly inspiring, and it has been an honor to be a small part of it.In addition to chainsaw work during the cleanup, I milled salvaged logs into lumber that could be used for furniture, or otherwise go into a house that they were repairing or rebuilding.It is sad that, in an effort to clean up the debris as quickly as possible, many outstanding logs were hauled to the landfill.I did manage to get quite a few, and milled them either free, or at a minimal cost.The sentimental value of the furniture made from even the roughest post oak logs will far exceed the value of anything that could be made from the finest rosewood.I did a demonstration of cutting for a local farm and craft show.Those boards will go to a high school woodworking class, which, in turn, will go back to the Elk’s Lodge where the trees–and the Lodge–once stood.

Running the portable sawmill has given me many opportunities to meet a number of interesting people, and to provide them with a valued service and product.I hope that expanding that network out to readers of this blog will introduce me to even more friends.I look forward to corresponding with other people who run sawmills, are interested in getting started with a sawmill, or would like to get some logs milled for their own projects.