I also have access to some acres of hardwood trees. I have a need for
about 22,000 square feet of 5/4" T&G hardwood flooring. How hard
would it be for me to convert the hardwood trees into flooring and
would I actually save any money? I know that a long time ago they had
portable sawmills and so on and so forth but I just know very little
about it. I was hoping that someone could point me in the right
direction or convince me otherwise. I already know that I might have
to wait for the wood to cure and I could certainly wait a year on this
project but there may be other considerations that I have not thought
Thank you for your time,
The milling operation is the least of it. The real question is how
much would you potentially save. There's a lot of work in felling,
bucking, resawing, kiln drying, and milling. You'll also need a fair
bit of storage and work space. Start with some rough numbers and see
where it leads you. Include a reasonable labor cost even if you plan
on doing it yourself.
I saw one of these portable mills in a demo at PA Farm Show last year.
It was quite versatile but as you say, there is a lot more to it than
just cutting the lumber. I would think op's best bet would be to cut a
deal with a saw mill for them to harvest the trees and give him part of
the lumber in return.
Call up a sawmill and tell them that you have a bunch of hardwood you
wouldn't mind selling. Then tell the estimator that you'd like 22,000
sq. ft. of flooring off the deal.
It's worth a shot. I know a fella who made a small fortune by buying a
black walnut grove of about 500 acres as a nut farm, then sold each and
every tree off the property as veneer logs, then turned around and sold
the land to a developer.
He didn't raise a finger, just saw the benefit of black walnuts where
the seller didn't. It wasn't a nut farm, but a tree farm.
The steps are:
Cut trees and drag to saw mill
Cut lumber to rough thickness
Stack and let dry, about 1 year per inch of thickness (or kiln dry)
Joint and plane boards to finished thickness
Cut to width needed
Cut tongue on one edge, cut groove on other edge. Best down with a molder
or router table
Think about hte immensity of hte project. If you need 22,000 square feet,
you need about 66,000 linear feet of 4" wide boards. If they are all 10'
long, that is 6600 pieces of wood to handle. Finished, it is about 27.500
cubic feet., or over 8 full 53' trailers of wood.
This is quite a job for a portable mill, but can be done. You may want to
talk to a saw mill that has the proper equipment to do it all. I visited a
modern mill last year and it was quite the operation. Hardly anything was
touched by hand and the 8 trailer loads is fast work for them, from
de-barking, cutting grading, etc. I'm not sure what portion of this you
want to do yourself and how much you are considering farming out, but there
is a lot of labor here using typical woodworking equipment.
How much space do you have to store the wood? I'm coming up with a solid 8+
trailers of finished product. In raw state it must be stickered for air
circulation and you won't be able to stack more than about 6' high as a
practical matter. Now you are looking at the space of maybe 16 ore more
trailers. If you set up in a shed or garage, all that wood had to be
brought in, milled, then carried back out again or take to the job site.
Do you have or have access to any woodworking tools? Router table? I'd buy
a set of t & g router bits, set them up in a table, process a couple of
store bought boards. Then I'd ask, do I want to do this to 6600 boards?
I've done exactly what you're thinking of doing. I cut the trees, sawed
them into boards, stacked them, air dried them, designed and built a
dehumidification kiln, kiln dried the boards, thicknes planed them, T&G the
edges and fluted the backs, installed and finished the final product. Soup
So I can tell you from experience that it is do-able. But there's a lot of
things to learn if you haven't done this stuff before.
If your goal is to do 20,000 board feet, never do it again, AND you want a
high quality product, it's probably not worth the investment of time and $.
If you're interested in talking about it some more, send me an email at the
address below, replacing "at" and "dot" with the appropriate symbols.
kenkorona at yahoo dot com
First I want to say that I am very happy to be getting some real input
... but to help me better understand please correct me where I am
wrong. The first place is in calculating the size and weight I come up
with a much smaller value. I have calculated the finished product as a
cube only 12' 3" to a side with a weight of just under 50 tons.
22000 Finished flooring (ft^2)
1 5/4" finished flooring actual thickness (in)
1833.33 Finished flooring (ft^3)
12.24 Cube size (ft to a side)
3.2 Weight of 3/4" thick white oak per ft^2 (source
4.27 Weight of 1" thick white oak per ft^2
93866.67 Finished floor weight (lb)
The finished product would fit into two "portable garages" costing
only $199 each
I know that the flooring must be protected from the rain but I believe
it is acceptable to expose flooring to cold or heat before it is
installed so long as it is allowed to acclimate before the actual
installation? The unfinished flooring stacked for air-drying appears
to be an operation which could be accomplished outside (see
but if I wanted to enclose it in a proper shed I could do so around
$1000 and end up owning the building afterwards. If possible I would
like to cure, process, and store the wood on site until it is ready to
be picked up by a couple of tractor trailers for transportation to the
jobsite. In this fashion I pay the least shipping and storage expenses
I have heard a couple people say that it would cost too much and not
knowing how long it would take that might be true from a time
perspective but the equipment seems to cost almost nothing. I already
have a router, router table, table saw, 5500W generator, trailer, chain
saw, plainer, etc. I am only missing the portable saw mill which I
believe could be purchased used and then sold the following year for
around what I paid for it. I will likely go through some supplies and
fuel but I expect the total cost of the entire operation, minus labor,
would likely be less than $4400 or $0.20 per ft^2. Is there something
I am missing? My labor costs are low, perhaps $7/hr, except for
myself. I will probably hire as many unskilled $7/hr workers as I can
keep busy during the operation. I would like to have some notion of
how long this project is going to take so that I can try to put a price
on the labor (and my own time).
Am I way off base here?
Oops, I was way off on my calculations. I used board feet instead of the
cubic feet, or 1/12th of the number.
Lumber is often dried outside. You just have to allow for climate changes
that will affect the overall time. Since you ar enot in a hurry, that is
not a big factor.
You may want to visit the Woodmizer web page. They list people that own
them and do the sawing so you can contact them. That will help you decide
if you want to pay someone to come adn do the work, or to buy and sell the
machine yourself. Some do it for a cut of the wood so if you have enough to
share, the cash outlay is minimized. Worth a couple of phone calls.
My labor costs are low, perhaps $7/hr, except for
Unless you are doing the selecting and cutting, you need at least one person
with a little skill. Otherwise, the handling of material is readily done by
a couple of high school kids.
Air drying removes water from within the cells. Kiln drying removes water
from within the structure of the cell walls. To avoid shrinking and
swelling due to ambient climate changes you must remove the cell wall water.
You can air dry it for 10 years and the water remains in the cell wall.
Kiln drying provides other benefits like killing insects and setting pitch.
I'm sure someone will tell you "I had a floor out of air dried oak and it
was fine, blah blah blah..." Do you think the flooring makers kiln dry
their product at enormous cost for no reason. Don't even think of using air
dried wood for flooring unless you 1) don't mind seeing large gaps between
board and seeing boards that are swelled so much they've buckled or 2) have
a perfect climate controll system in the house that will contain the
flooring (and that includes the climate below the floor).
wrote in message > 22000
That's based on finished product w/ 100% stacking density, no margin
for waste and 1" thickness instead of 1.25" you say you need.
What you really need to look at is the sawn timber as you will need to
dry the lumber _before_ milling and as someone else noted, you really
must consider drying to somewhere closer to 6-8% MC for flooring in a
finished, heated living space rather than simply the 15-20% you will
attain by air drying.
To get 5/4 F2S you will need to saw to minimum of 6/4 and really should
count on a little over that. Then you need to sticker it when stacking
with sufficient room for air movement or drying will be very slow and
poor and you'll end up w/ stain and problems from insects and rot so
you should conservatively figure 3"/stickered layer. That essentially
triples your above estimate of volume. Then, depending on your desired
quality of lumber and the quality of the logs, you have the dual
factors of how high the yield of product will be from the lumber and
the waste from the finished product to laying it. Together these will
probably approach 25 to as much as 50%. So, the total would, I expect,
approach 4-5 times your estimate, only half as small as the other
You then will need a place to store the milled lumber as you fabricate
it -- if you're thinking of doing this manually w/ a single-spindle
milling operation, then you have the operations of surfacing, edging
one side, resawing to width, then milling both edges (tongue and
groove). Ideally, you would also want to relieve the back edge to
provide only two narrower resting surfaces to make a more solid
installation less susceptible to rocking. This comes out to something
like 4 + 2 + 2 + 1 = 9 minimum passes over/through a machine for every
stick -- that's going to take quite some time. At a minimum, I would
think the only practical way for such a volume unless you have a _lot_
of free time and no set schedule would be to by a milling machine to do
the T&G milling in a single pass. I also wouldn't expect a portable
planer to survive this kind of usage, but that's a guess -- I have an
old Rockwell industrial so haven't ever actually used one of them.
Then, depending on where you are, there's the potential problem of what
you're going to do with the waste -- although I assume since you have
access to the timber you can dispose of the bark and sawdust, that
isn't necessarily a given. At least need to think about it.
Look at the USDA web site -- they have a lot of useful information on
both air- and kiln- drying lumber. A Google search will also uncover a
lot of other sites -- I know Virginia Tech and U of VT both have good
forestry product departments w/ lots of info for both commercial and
That's going to depend a whole lot on what you have in the way of
equipment both for the logging, handling the logs to the sawmill (or
vice versa w/ a portable), handling the sawn lumber (remember green
lumber may be 30-50% denser than the dried so depending on what you
used as your weight above, you might be handling much heavier stuff
than you calculated). I think unless you have some sizable equipment,
the time and effort will turn out to be quite onerous, but I have no
idea of what you own or intend to rent or contract out, of course.
That, obviously, was intended to be US Forest Service, not Dept of
I've been thinking of this a little more -- for a rough way to get a
handle on what you're talking about (again, not knowing the type of
equipment you're envisioning) consider the following--
You're talking of 22,000 ft^2 which as noted is going to require
something otoo 25-30% that much additional material to be processed to
get the finished product. Just considering the planing operation, if
you saw and thickness 8" wide boards on average, that will be something
like 22,000 * 12/8 * 1.33 --> 43,890 linear feet of material. Surface
planing that, assuming 27 fpm not accounting for material handling
would be 43,890 / 27 / 60 --> 27 hrs per pass and you would likely need
a minimum of 4 passes (two per side) to get final thickness so that
would be a couple of weeks' effort full-time w/o any overhead. That's
just one operation, so you probably have a minimum of 3-4 months' labor
at a dedicated rate with adequate equipment and material handling. As
a weekend or evening project w/ small shop equipment and no good
material handling, 5 - 10X that would be my guess...
It looks like I need to investigate kiln drying more and then come back
and respond to these posts. I wanted to do so and then respond tonight
because otherwise I fear that the thread may lose its momentum but I
simply am not going to have the time tonight. I did want everyone to
know that I am reading and soaking in every word and that it has
already been very insightful and helpful. I don't think that I am
going to get away with this as easily as I had hoped time-wise but so
far it still looks like a major cost savings. I also want to look into
equipment which will help me to finish the flooring with fewer steps
and evaluate if the cost is justified. Then I need to produce an
estimate of how long it is going to take to finish the wood
"consecutive sentence" style as "dpb" began to expand upon with the
planing and then from that create a "concurrent sentence" estimate
showing how many men I will need and the total calendar duration and
cost of the project.
Thank you for your time,
You've still given very little information on where you are, what size
of logs you have to start with, etc., etc., etc., ... All that would
have major bearing on whether there are local mills that would be
suitable for hire, yields expected to be obtainable from the logs,
again, etc., etc., etc., ...
But, for an individual considering such a project, I recommend looking
at the 718 planer/molder from Woodmaster. It has the facilities to do
the T&G moulding plus back relief, planing and has a rip-saw attachment
as well. Rigged out, it would probably run about $4000-$5000, but they
have "deals" pretty frequently that are quite substantial. See
and poke around their site at length.
You might also DAGS on Google groups for a thread in alt.woodworking
within the last month or so where there was a discussion of the options
for planer/moulders that had some good feedback.
The cost of labor saved for the amount of material you're talking about
would, in my estimation, make up the equipment outlay cost several
times over. Again, however, you've provided no information on what you
think you're saving.
One thing I've wondered about from the beginning, though -- why 5/4?
3/4 flooring is pretty standard and is durable enough for your (and
your grandchildrens' grandchildrens' lifetimes), so why use so much
quality material unnecessarily?
I took a look at http://www.woodmastertools.com/s/specs.cfm and they
are on sale now. The sale prices are much lower than 5K and I now
believe that I cannot afford not to purchase such a machine. Thank you
As to my location. I am currently in Eastern PA and the oak is in
Eastern NC on some family land.
The flooring needs to be 5/4" because it is going directly over joists
without underlayment. I am planning on building a large stone home
here in PA in a couple years that the flooring will be going into.
Hope this helps,
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