The Path to Sawing Profitably: For a small scale pallet and tie producer Doug Gardner has watched his sawmill business grow after upgrading to a Wood-Mizer LT70.
Nestled in the hills of southeastern Ohio, Doug Gardner’s rural operation has become much more than the former UPS delivery man could have imagined. Being his own boss had always been a goal, but his chance to do just that came in a way that he didn’t expect.
After hiring a custom sawyer to mill some lumber, Doug says, “I thought that if I started doing this on the side, it could be more profitable than working for somebody else.” Doug and his dad started off with a manual LT15 Wood-Mizer sawmill in the early ‘90s. As word got out about the milling service Doug was offering, local people started coming to him to get their lumber.
Doug’s first contract was sawing cants for a local pallet company, and it wasn’t long after that when Doug quit his job at UPS and started sawing full time. With steady demand and after putting 5,000 hours on the LT15 sawmill, he decided it was time to upgrade to a Wood-Mizer LT40 Super Hydraulic sawmill in 1999. With the added features of portability and hydraulic log handling on the LT40 Super, Doug was able to saw at his location, or tow the mill to customer locations and provide mobile sawing service. “We put nine to ten thousand hours on that mill, and we still weren’t able to keep up [with customer demand]. We could cut railroad ties, pre-cuts, and cants; everything we could saw, we would sell.”
With the ever increasing demand for products, Doug decided to construct a building and focus on sawing in one place and supported that decision by upgrading to an electric Wood-Mizer LT70. “The LT70 is a rough, tough saw!” Doug explains, and comes with much faster log handling, more power to the blade and hydraulics, a bi-directional chain turner, and is overall a heavier, more powerful machine. Other equipment is also now present in Doug’s rural operation: a Wood-Mizer industrial edger, a gang saw, a descrambler, a chop saw, and single head resaws.
Doug produces 700,000 board feet of Appalachian hardwoods annually: 80% pallet material, and 20% railroad ties. 75% of their logs are logged by Doug and his employees. Doug has five employees, who enjoy working four 10 hour work days. However, Doug jokes that he still works seven days a week, which comes with owning a business.
Ever looking to improve profitability, Doug has made his waste wood material into business revenue. A new large sawdust bin keeps the sawdust contained, keeps Doug’s operation clean, and makes it easy for local dairy farmers to drive up and buy their weekly pickup loads.
All the other sawmill waste will be going through a newly installed grinder that will turn their annual 8,000 yards of waste into mulch. With a coloring machine in the mix, Doug is setting up dividers in front of his building to separate the different colors of mulch he will offer for sale. What used to be an expenditure is now becoming revenue, making the company healthier, improving the bottom line, and allowing Doug’s company to experience continued growth.
With his company running smoothly, and employees that he trusts, Doug is looking forward to spending more time with his family and in his unique log home. His home could rightly be called a showroom: a showroom for the lumber he saws, and for his hunting prowess!
“Everything we could, we cut with the Wood-Mizer: the doors, flooring, stairs, trim, spindles, studs, and beams.” When asked how much he thinks he saved by sawing his own lumber for the house, Doug says, “$70,000-$80,000, if we would have had to pay the ‘average Joe’ pricing for everything. If it weren’t for the Wood-Mizer, I never would have been able to justify a house of this nature. And it’s what my wife and I always wanted.”
Doug’s appreciation for family extends to his father Leonard Gardner, a CPA, who has helped him keep the business on track and encouraged him to make positive investments that have created revenue and made the company stronger, more productive, and more effi cient. “Through the hard times, we’ve always had work. If you want to work, Wood-Mizer is a great sawmill to use to generate a decent income.”
“Editor’s note: The preceding was paid advertorial by Wood-Mizer.”