Building a Successful Business with a Portable Sawmill: Two Wood-Mizer sawmill owners make dreams come true for their customers

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Northern Log and Timber, Kelowna, British Columbia

Family operated for more than 60 years, Northern Log and Timber offers a variety of services and products available both locally and around the world. From lumber to log home packages and more, the company operates with two Wood-Mizer LT40 Hydraulic sawmills and an LT40 Super Hydraulic sawmill, which have positioned them for global success in the lumber industry.

Founded in 1952 by John Morgan Sr., the company supplied lumber to northern Yukon and Alaska until they relocated to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia in 1972. In the 1980s, Northern Log and Timber expanded into global markets by exporting lumber to Asia, Europe, and South America and has since built log homes, barns, schools for clients from Japan to Mexico. Today, the family business is operated by John’s son and daughter, John Jr. and Julie. John is a builder and runs the sawmills, while Julie designs homes for clients and handles sales.

Typically, Northern Log and Timber saws lumber for log home packages but they also produce beams, joists, decking, posts, flooring, trim, v-joints, timber trusses,and custom siding. Julie attributes the company’s diverse offering of products and services to be crucial to their success over the years. “Because we have a wide variety of products, and a large variation in our customer base, we have continued to grow,” she said. Head sawyer, John Jr., said their Wood-Mizer sawmills are another one of the reasons for their company’s success. “The support system at Wood-Mizer is the best. It’s the best mill on the market,” said John Jr. “Downtime is minimal and usually short, it produces the volume needed. This success translates into higher wages and profits.”

Locally, the Morgan family supplies building material stores, contractors, and landscapers with lumber as well as design and build log homes onsite with their own profiled timbers. Due to the volume of orders, the majority of their business comes from building supply stores. However, Julie adds, “The most satisfying customers are the ones you help to accomplish their dreams. My father always said that it was great to build the high-end, impressive projects, but the most satisfying was the look on a customer’s face when their home was completed – the simple home for the working man.”

By utilizing the versatility of their Wood-Mizer sawmills, Northern Log and Timber has continued to grow and succeed in the global lumber market. “The Wood-Mizer mills have allowed us to expand our product line,” said Julie. “The mills are the backbone of our business. Without them, we wouldn’t have survived in this economy.”

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David Yasenchack Timber Framing & Design, Kingsville, Ohio

For more than 15 years, the self-motivated entrepreneur, David Yasenchack, has been building one-of-a-kind timber frame homes, studios and garden structures for his small Kingsville, Ohio business. David Yasenchack Timber Framing and Design operates with a Wood-Mizer sawmill in order to create unique lumber from their own forestland, but it was David’s determination that enabled him to follow his dreams and establish his own timber framing business.

While working for the Forest Service and managing a commercial apple orchard in the early 1990s, David was inspired to pursue a new and challenging project, so he began building his first timber frame structure. It was during this project that reshaped David’s life and his career. “In the process of gathering materials for my first timber frame project, I purchased timber and lumber from numerous local sawmills,” said David. “I became intrigued by the sawing process, particularly with the accuracy of the band sawmills.” By the end of this project, and after seeing his neighbor mill a very large oak tree with his portable band sawmill, David envisioned the investment of a portable sawmill as the stepping stone to building custom timber frame structures for a living.

Shortly after, David purchased his first Wood-Mizer, an LT40 Manual sawmill, to serve as an affordable entry into self-employment. “The mill helped me to find my calling in the timber framing trade,” he said. “I am proud of my Wood-Mizer. From the outset, it shaped my living, but it went on to shape the path of my career.”

Today, David operates with his Wood-Mizer LT40 Hydraulic sawmill and constructs custom timber frame buildings using select trees from his own forestland and from client’s own trees. The business saws a wide variety of hardwoods on their sawmill, but mainly oak, cherry and walnut to create the necessary building materials for his customers. David also uses his mill to saw conventional lumber and wide, live-edge flitches for use in furniture projects as well as for other woodworkers needing customized material. “I’ve told many people over the years that an investment smaller than the purchase of a new pickup truck put me on the path of not just personal fulfillment, but a fair measure of financial security and independence,” David said. “It’s an ever evolving tool that gives me the ability to shape one of the world’s most common and abundant resources.”

David says his Wood-Mizer is a main component of his entrepreneurial success. “It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Wood-Mizer in my business,” he said. “It gives us creative control by allowing us to create just the right live-edge timbers from the particular logs we choose.” David also touts the design of his Wood-Mizer which gives him a distinct advantage for his specialty sawing projects. “The cantilevered head is an advantage in many ways, but mostly because it allows us to saw highly curved logs in a practical and accurate way,” he said.

By utilizing the features of his Wood-Mizer sawmill, David says his timber work is crafted to the highest level. The mill enables David and his team to revise and develop a custom design in response to special and unique logs harvested from his or a client’s woodlot. By keeping a unique bend or curve in a tree for his lumber, David can maintain the wood’s natural shape and characteristics in his finished timber frame structures. “In short, the mill makes us more adaptable and creative,” David said. “Those are both huge competitive advantages in our field.”