Sustainable Portable Sawmilling
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.