Developing a Custom Portable Sawmill Enterprise

Publication Number: NRAES-134
Cost: $12.00
Length: 36 pages
Published: 2007
ISBN: 978-1-933395-03-6
Authors: Jonathan Kays, Gary Goff, Steven J. Milauskas, Mike Greason, John E. Wagner, Hugh Canham

Download a low-resolution, fair-use copy of NRAES-134 (1.1 MB)

Discusses business-plan development; determining rates; writing contracts; marketing; product and service diversification; safety issues; insurance and liability; financial analysis; purchasing and operating a sawmill; grading lumber; sorting and stacking wood; specialty cuts; equipment maintenance; and more.

New Resource Explores Portable Sawmill Enterprises

If you like working outdoors and are thinking of starting your own business, a new book, Developing a Custom Portable Sawmill Enterprise, NRAES–134 (36 pages; March 2007), can help you make an informed decision about your future. Today, portable custom sawmill businesses are flourishing, in part because technological advances by equipment manufacturers—over 70 of them now operating—have made it possible for a one- or two-person operation to produce high-quality lumber economically. Another obvious plus is that the demand for these services is growing.

Developing a Custom Portable Sawmill Enterprise, NRAES–134, reviews key considerations for those investigating options to develop a portable sawmill enterprise. It provides an overview of what is involved in lumber production and touches on all aspects of starting your own business, including determining rates; writing contracts; identifying a niche; marketing; product and service diversification; safety issues; insurance and liability; and financial analysis. For those who know little about wood or what is involved in becoming a sawyer, this guide can serve as a primer through inclusion of such topics as grading lumber; types of sawing; sorting and stacking; equipment maintenance; dimension lumber vs. specialty cuts; and much more. It also provides a wealth of resources to help you find in-depth answers to your specific questions.

This 36-page guide begins by explaining how to develop a business plan—a must for those who have never operated their own business. One important aspect is deciding whether your enterprise will be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation, or a limited liability company. The next consideration is selecting and purchasing a mill. Will it be a bandsaw or a circular saw mill? Will it be a lower-end model requiring more manual labor, or a high-end, more automated model? New or used? With so many choices available in today’s marketplace, selecting the right model may require some research. Contact information for 27 sawmill manufacturers was included to help with this effort.

Developing a Custom Portable Sawmill Enterprise was edited and coauthored by Jonathan Kays, Extension Specialist, University of Maryland. Authors include Gary Goff, Senior Extension Associate, Cornell Cooperative Extension; Steven J. Milauskas, former Applications Specialist, John Deere Worldwide Construction & Forestry Division; Mike Greason, consultant forester, Catskill, New York; John E. Wagner, Associate Professor, The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry; and Hugh Canham, Professor, The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.


Developing a Business Plan
    Sidebar: What’s in a business plan?
  Organizing Your Business
    Sidebar: Where can I find help with developing a business plan?

Selecting and Purchasing Your Mill
    Sidebar: Bandsaw or circular saw mill?

Efficient Production
  The Product
    Sidebar: Hardwood grades
  The Process
    Sidebar: Types of sawing
     Backyard Trees and Foreign Objects
     Sorting and Stacking Lumber

Business Considerations
  Product and Service Diversification
      Sidebar: Vertically integrate your business
    Sidebar: Developing leads

    Sidebar: Think safety: think ahead

Insurance and Liability
  Worker Compensation (WC)
  Business Insurance
  State Unemployment Insurance Costs

Financial Analysis
  The Spreadsheet
    Portable Sawmill Profitability Spreadsheet—Annual Profit Report
    Annual Income
    Sidebar: Determining your effective hourly rate, if you charge on a board-foot     basis
    Annual Expenses
    Variable Expenses
    Fixed Expenses
    Net Annual Cash Flow
  Three Scenarios

Appendix A: Information References and Sources of Assistance
    Publication Resources
    Sources of Assistance and Web Sites

Appendix B:  Listing of Commercial Portable Sawmill Manufacturers

Appendix C:  Sample Contract

Appendix D:  Glossary

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