Contract sawmilling: lots of options

Hamish milling a large marcrocarpa log

By Hamish Randle, Operations Manager—Sawmilling

MacBlack's portable Lucas sawmill gives farmers and other landowners lots of ways to put their trees to best use. We can mill logs to the customer's specifications. That might mean rails for fences, posts, cladding or flooring for farm sheds, whatever is needed on farm. We've also milled single trees in urban backyards, opening up the possibility for owners to use the timber for furniture or renovations. That's particularly sweet when there's a long family association with the property and its trees, especially when the alternative is paying a lot of money to an arborist to turn the tree into mulch or firewood.

I can work out different deals to suit the circumstances. If you want to keep all the timber, we'll work for you on a day rate, currently about $1000/day for the mill and two operators plus mileage etc. We produce three to five cubic of timber a day depending on the dimensions—smaller boards take longer. I'll go through what's required in terms of equipment for log loading, which is often a machine you already have on farm like a tractor with pallet forks. Small logs can be loaded with bale forks. We'll cut the logs up exactly how you want and leave them neatly stacked ready for you to transport, or filleted to air dry.

If you want to sell the timber to us, we'll saw it in order to get the highest possible value from each log and recover the grades most in demand from our customers. We'll only pay for the boards we take. It's important to understand upfront that the recovery rate for sawn timber is about 50% by volume for good quality softwood logs such as macrocarpa. We will assess the logs before agreeing to the job but there's only so much we can tell before we start opening the log up. For instance, rot is hard to spot from the outside but quickly evident once we start sawing.

Metal in logs also really downgrades their value. It breaks sawblades and slows our work right down. Unwanted metal ranges from nails, screws and fencing wire to warratahs and abandoned tools, all swallowed up over time and invisible to the eye.

Only sawn boards leave the milling site. Depending on logistics, we'll forward them to the gate and have a truck bring them back to the MacBlack yard or our sawmillers will load boards onto a trailer and transport them over ordinary farm tracks. There's no need for expensive road-building.

We've also negotiated deals in the past where the timber we cut is shared between MacBlack and the landowner.

We can mill natives for you as long as you have the correct paperwork—I can walk you through what's required and it's pretty straightforward. We can cut a few slabs but if you only want slabs, not boards, you're better off finding a bandsaw mill operator. Our Lucas is a solid, powerful machine that is well suited to big, gnarly farm trees and hardwoods. It's much faster and reliable than a bandsaw for that kind of work.

Get in touch with me via email or phone me on 0220 835 889 if you have trees or logs you'd like to discuss. We may be able to recommend tree fellers if your trees are still standing.