My dad's got 6-8 red oaks that need to come down this spring, each with
perhaps 10-12' of pretty straight logs in the 12-16" diameter range.
Rather than cutting it up for firewood I was hoping to have the best of
it sawn into rough lumber. I've tracked down a few portable mills by
contacting TimberKing and Woodmizer, but am getting all sorts of varied
prices from them.
Right now the best offer I've had is from a guy whose saw is already in
the area. He's asking $60/hr plus the cost of any blades that break
($30 a pop) in the process. He thought it would "take all day" to cut
this lot, which seemed like a lot for what I'd estimate as about 80
lineal feet of 12-16" logs. I'll have to estimate the board feet
involved to get an better sense of my net cost, but $500 seemed fairly
high for this job.
Anyone have experience hiring a sawyer? Is this sort of hourly pricing
what they all do? Is the $60/hr rate reasonable?
The problem you have is that your logs are relatively small in
diameter. I have a good sawyer that I trust, and he recently sawed up
a Walnut for me. The main trunk was 20", and his productivity on that
section was high, when he got to the smaller pieces, the 'load the
saw', and square the log time increases for a smaller amount of board
feet netted. We had 10 logs total, three of them were around 20"
diameter, the rest were averaging 12". I got a total of 750 bf and he
charged 300 bucks. His rate was 50/hr plus 1 hr setup + drive time.
If I just had him do the 3 big logs, my cost per bf would have been
With smaller logs, you should seek someone who charges by the board
foot. I know another sawyer who I have used before and he charges 40
with an 8' minimum length.
When calculating board feet use this site:
For smaller logs use the international method as opposed to doyle or
One way to get an idea is to look at sales / manufacturer sites for portable
sawmills. They will be advertising how easy it is to turn trees into
lumber. You may even find an add for the mill your high-priced sawyer uses.
What about felling the trees and carrying them to a saw mill? Is that an
option? Do you have a pickup truck that would take a six-foot section of
Call a local saw mill if you have any in the area. They may offer pickup and
delivery service! Heck, they might even offer cut, carry and delivery
Some mills purchase trees and come and cut them down. Not sure how valuable
red oak is, but your saw mills know what they pay for logs and might be open
to dickering with you.
One thing I would suggest is to try and negotiate a deal based upon finished
board feet of 4/4 stock. That way, your not paying for pause, blade breaking
and changing, etc. And the skill of the sawyer determines his return. You
might have some guy who brings his old blades or uses cheap blades, is a
sloppy worker (who has lots of experience breaking blades) or an inefficient
fellow who prefers to work by the hour than by the result.
Not sure what can go wrong in such an operation, but if it can, this fellow
sounds like he may have experienced it all.
Well, they finished milling lumber here yesterday.
Nothing smaller than 8 inch diameter (cedar)
or larger than 24 inch diameter (pine).
No other species as the hardwood around here
really sucks, gum, cross-polinated oak, etc.
1300 bd ft. About half and half 4/4 and 8/4.
$281.25 and a big mess to clean up.
Right on target Ken, around here (Southern IN) 22 cents a board foot is the
general rate. I did the math and yours was slightly under that. I was going
to stay out of this discussion since everone was talking per hour rates
(never heard of that on sawmill work) but since your post I thought I might
as well add my two cents worth.
Here in Kentucky I was charged 18 cents + $25/broken blade
+ $40/hr travel. About 3000' of cherry and 150' of walnut
was $600. It took about 6 hours and 2 buddies helping.
The tree owner charged me $500. Not a bad deal!! The trees
were in a Lexington subdivision and hanging over a neighbor's
house. It cost the homeowner $1500 to have the trees taken
down. I just help defray some of his cost.
The sawyer was referred by WoodMizer.
I live in Birmingham, AL and about two weeks ago, Woodmizer gave me the
name of a man in my area with a portable sawmill. I called him about
sawing three 2' wide and 8' long logs of Red Oak for me. He told me
$250.00 regardless if it took him an hour or all day.
I agree, that does seem like a lot. Couple years ago, I hired a guy with a
Woodmizer to cut up a cherry tree for me. The trunk was in two sections, one
10' long tapering from 18" dia. to about 15", and the other 8' long tapering
down to about 12". I had him quartersaw most of it (which takes a lot longer
than plainsawing), and he finished in an hour and a half, maybe two hours, and
charge me $75.
A lot of it depends on the mill, though: this guy has the LT40H, with
hydraulic log handling. According to Woodmizer, the LT40H can cut up to 400
BF/hr. (Obviously that's with an experienced operator flatsawing large logs of
something soft like cottonwood. A rookie operator, quartersawing 10" logs of
shagbark hickory, isn't going to manage anywhere near 400 BF/hr.)
If the guy you're talking to has an LT15, well, his log handling is entirely
manual. That's *hard* work. And even with a helper, it might well take him all
Maybe, maybe not. Sound like you have somewhere between five and nine hundred
BF of lumber. $500, then, is 55 cents to a dollar a board foot. Looked at
that way, it doesn't seem quite so stiff, does it?
I think pricing by the board foot is more common, and certainly that's how I'd
want to pay if I were hiring the sawyer. If I were the sawyer, I might prefer
being paid by the hour :-)
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
On 4/5/2006 10:11 AM Kiwanda mumbled something about the following:
If it's going to take him all day, then he is VERY slow. I had about
800 bd ft of oak and red maple milled in about than 4 hrs. I had to pay
$25 per blade and $55 an hour. Nails in the tree will tear up a blade,
so make sure you go over them real well with a GOOD metal detector.
Maybe. Suppose he's using one of the smaller Woodmizer mills, one without
hydraulic log handling... Woodmizer's web site rates their LT15 mill at 125
BF/hr, and that's obviously under optimal conditions (experienced operator,
large logs, soft wood, easy site, etc.). The OP has between 500 and 900 BF,
which even under optimal conditions might take 4 to 7 hours with an LT15.
It oughta be priced by the board foot, though.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
That price seems way too high. My next door neighbor has a fully
hydraulic bandmill. He recently sawed 2000 board feet for me of 4/4
red oak from my property with logs from 8in up to 22in. He charged me
21 cents bd/ft for a total of $420. His hourly rate is $37.50 for
custom milling. I'm sure it depends on where you are. Where we are
(Northern Minnesota) people won't pay much. If you live near a big
city then you may have to pay more. There is no way you should have to
pay for broken blades. Blades break for many reasons, usually because
they are already worn out.
I just had Cherry and Beech sawed yesterday by a Amishman that does
custom sawing and used a old fashioned mill. Longest log was 15 feet
to 10 feet. I ended up with almost a 1000 board feet on my 16 foot
flat bed trailer. Ended up with 1 cherry 4x4 and 1-2x10 beech. All
the rest was 5/4 stock. He charged me $65.00. I thought that was
I had a fellow cut several years ago with a band mill and he could not
cut any of my oak straight. I told him to quit and took it to the
Amishman with the regular mill. Band mills wil give you a extra board
for about every 5. He did ok on my ash and maple but he tried several
different new band blades and could not do the oak. Another tree
removelal down the road has a crew at the shop cutting lumber with a
band mill and they have the same problem with oak.
I think you had an inexperienced sawyer. The guys I've used watch the
feed rate very closely by feeling the smoothness of the cut and watching
the blade. They both change blades when the cut becomes uneven or the
sound changes. I've seen huge piles of oak logs cut by a WoodMizer.
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