Sustainable Portable Sawmilling

by Deborah Willis

Editor’s Note: There are still some places available on David Spicer’s 1-day Introduction to Portable Sawmilling course, to be held on November 27, 2011 at Edenfarms Permaculture. Click here to find out more and book.

In 2008 I purchased a Lucas 10” 30hp portable sawmill. I was following advice given to me by a well known timber worker in the forest industry.

I wanted to earn a living from my property, while at the same time enhance my forest asset. I obtained a Private Native Forestry Vegetation Plan which enabled me to operate a commercial timber enterprise, over and above normal farming practice’s routine agricultural management.

A low cost enterprise, with good quality timber resources and high returns while offering low harvest quantities, allows me to manage my forest sustainability.

By diversifying my product — i.e., milled timber for my own use, timber cut to order, firewood from docked timber, off-cuts, flitchings for furniture making, sawdust for stables or composting — I get added value in return. Logs from the head of the tree that are too small to mill are sold as strainers, and if they are hollow I split them for posts. I am able to provide milled chosen species for specific purposes, cutting down on wastage and giving greater satisfaction to the customer.

I mostly use single tree selection as my harvesting method, although I have tried gapping (group selection). Regeneration methods include cool fires, natural seeding and care of young trees.

At present I am thinning the forest, using single tree selection to enable the mill logs to grow larger, so they are not competing for light, space, water or nutrients. I am also attempting to increase the quantities of the more desirable species that in the past have been cut out. As well as leaving the habitat and seed trees I am taking the lessor desirable species for poles.

My mill is erected in a permanent position, central for snigging and hauling, as I have to be able to get trucks to the mill for loading in all weather. I employ a miller to operate the mill while I do the tailing, docking and stacking. We cut a cubic meter a day with at least 50% recovery from the logs (sawn timber). Regular sawmills recover only 30% or less.

In the future I am aiming to cut and mill timber for a new house, new yards, renovating the homestead and building timber huts for added accommodation at Edenfarms Permaculture.

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4 thoughts on “Sustainable Portable Sawmilling

  1. What makes a good log for milling, besides being straight?

    And how does one convince local government to stop putting 50 year old logs through a chipper?

  2. g’day SOP, there are a number of things you’re looking at. One is the species and where you can use it, inside or out. Then you’re looking at whether the tree has a hollow in it and to find out you can do a bore cut with a chainsaw at the base of the tree and see what colour the sawdust is. The other is straightness of grain which you can generally tell by the bark or looking at whether the bark spirals up the tree. As for goverment I think good demonstration sites. Here’s an interesting link from Tasmanian Goverment:

    http://www.climatechange.tas.gov.au/news/mersey_nrm_-_tree-rific_update

    hope this helps

  3. Lucas Mills are one of the best portables on the market (if not the best)I have had a lot of experience with them. Not my own unfortunately but it would be great to one day have some land and a mill to diversify in the same way…

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