Making a Successful Living with a Wood-Mizer: Plus Highlights from Wood-Mizer’s 2014 Business Best Contest

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From coast to coast, countless Wood-Mizer owners are making a living by utilizing the benefits of their thin-kerf portable sawmill. Every two years, Wood-Mizer gives their customers the opportunity to demonstrate exceptional business practices, ethics, and high quality standards in the company’s Business Best Contest. During this year’s nationwide contest, two businesses, The J Team from Massachusetts and the Oregon based North Woods, were recognized among the elite group of award-winning businesses. Although each operation has encountered separate paths to success, they both share a common bond: they started with a dream and a Wood-Mizer sawmill.

The J Team, South Deerfield, Massachusetts

In 2008, James Clarke and his twin brother Jay established their lumber business, The J Team, in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. However, it seemed their eventual path of going into the sawing business was one they had been on their entire lives. “I guess our business really started way back before we were born when we made our fi rst trip to Wood-Mizer in Indianapolis with our mom and dad,” said James. “We actually remember our second trip there when we were five or six and it wasn’t so dark and cramped. We’ve known Dave Scott [of the Wood- Mizer New York branch] since we were ‘this tall’, as I always tell people with my hand down by my knees. The number of fairs and expos we went to is astounding, now that I think back on it. So, when we were 17 we decided to get a sawmill, and I don’t even remember why. ‘For fun’ would be my best guess, and it has been fun.”

The J Team utilizes multiple mills, an LT40 Hydraulic and LT40 Super Hydraulic, to offer their clients stationary services, mobile sawing, and specialized cutting. “My brother and I run our business together, with me on our first mill, and him on our older LT40 Super,” said James. “I do portable cutting and mill logs at our business which we acquire locally or customers bring to use, while he handles stationary cutting only. We cut any kind of wood we can get our hands on, from pine for barn boards to black walnut for furniture making. We also go through a large amount of oak, ash and beech for grade stakes. We’ve never been afraid to cut residential logs, and I often offer to cut the odd pieces my customers think we couldn’t or wouldn’t handle.” The sawmills have been the key to expanding a quickly growing business for the team. “To put it simply, my sawmill does everything I want it to and more. It’s the one co-worker I never fight with, and I’m always finding new ways to make it work better for us,” said James.

As for his experience, James can’t say enough. “My sawmill has brought me so The J Team, James and Jay Clarke, successfully operate their business with two Wood-Mizer Hydraulic mills and supporting blade maintenance equipment. James Clarke next to a large pine log that yielded 800 board feet! much more than I’d even have hoped for. I mean that in a completely literal sense. I’ve never measured success in dollars and cents, and I’ve never felt I’ve had to. My sawmill allows me to make a personal connection with my customers. From just talking to them about all the experiences they’ve had in life to cutting wood for them that has a big meaning and purpose for them. If I had it my way, I’d be working for everybody and their neighbors.”

It seems The J Team is well on their way to creating a lasting, successful business. “I’ve had a wonderful time thinking back on everything and looking forward to the future. I do the same job my dad did, but just having the chance to share and say all of this is winning enough for me. Because I have a sawmill, what more do I need in life?”

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North Woods, Gaston, Oregon

Sometimes the key to business success is finding the right niche and adapting whenever necessary. Les Dougherty worked for 30 years as a carpenter and contractor building high-end homes on the west coast. Faced with the economic downturn and stalled construction industry in 2008, he and his wife, Susan, began a new venture and have been running a successful operation ever since.

When the farm that had been in Susan’s family for three generations fell on hard times, Les and Susan were forced to clear cut trees in order to generate the income needed to save the family farm. Having recently taken up woodturning as a hobby, Les recognized the value the figured maple wood would have for woodworkers. Rather than letting the logs be turned into newsprint and chips, they negotiated to buy the logs back, and in 2010, North Woods was born. Les and Susan began sawing trees from their land, and as word spread, people began to call about trees on their property that they didn’t want. In addition to their family farm, North Woods also processes wood from other small family farms around the area. Since North Woods’ beginning, business has grown to achieve national recognition and has earned a reputation for excellent products and superior customer service.

Providing burl, fiddleback, curly, spalt, graft, and quilted hardwoods, North Woods supplies a wide variety of wood turners and woodworkers across the United States. The blanks are cut to sizes that make them ideal pieces to be turned into bowls, platters or pens. North Woods also partners with woodcraftsman, Tom Stone, to produce stabilized wood blanks. North Woods’ Les and Susan Dougherty use their LT40 Hydraulic to give trees new life for woodworkers. This process combines fragile or otherwise unusable wood with heat activated resin, resulting in a blank that is part wood and part vividly colored resin. In addition to woodturning blanks, North Woods also produces slabs and lumber for their clients. They sell inventory online and at woodturning tradeshows, but most of their business comes from word of mouth referrals. Woodturning is a fast growing hobby, and their customers include men and women of all ages and education levels. “The common element is a love of wood,” said Les. “We’ve even talked to a doctor who recommends woodturning for stress relief to his patients.”

North Woods uses an LT40 Hydraulic to saw 500 to 1,000 board feet per day, creating desirable figured woods for their client base. “The Wood-Mizer mill is a critical part of our business,” said Les. The first step for processing all their raw wood products is to run them through the sawmill before further processing them into turning blanks. North Woods cuts their wood using 1 ½” wide DoubleHard blades. “We’ve been able to resharpen blades four to six times, which helps keep our business expenses down,” Les said. “We love visiting Russ and his crew over at Portland ReSharp in Wood Village. They are always friendly and usually ahead of schedule.”

Although their property lost its certified sustainable status after the clear cut in 2008, Les and Susan have continued to practice sustainable forestry practices on their own with hope for recertification in the future. Susan said, “We’re doing everything properly for the wilderness, the animals and for future generations. We hopefully will never have to cut again in our lifetime, only thin.” The vacant areas resulting from the clear cut were immediately replanted with fir and cedar seedlings which are doing very well. “It makes me very happy that now this wood can go to woodworkers and wood turners who make beautiful things out of them,” said Susan. “I’m glad that the trees are able to carry on and have a new life.”

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