Entrepreneurial Spirit Drives Bluegrass State Sawyer

A Quarter-Century of Time Proves Switch from Oil Drilling to Sawmilling Was the Right Move

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LIBERTY, Kentucky –

Why not? That’s the question that powers the entrepreneurial spirit.

When Clifton Scott asked himself the ‘why not’ question some 25 years ago, it resulted in quite a change of professional niche – at least on the surface.

“I drilled oil wells for 20 years and wanted to stay home,” explained Clifton. Yes, Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia are beautiful places to get to know when moving through with an oil-drilling rig. But being in one place has its charms, too.

Clifton wanted a business he could run from his Liberty, Kentucky home. He decided to do custom sawing and to sharpen saw blades. So, he must have had experience, correct?

“Not one bit,” said Clifton, who refers to his business as Scott’s Equipment. He bought a portable sawmill and got going.

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To be sure, Clifton brought deep experience with machinery from his drilling years. And he had often used a chain saw: It’s not always a clear path to a drilling site and hog burners must be kept fed in whichever setting they are used.

About 12 years ago, Clifton decided to purchase a new sawmill. Research led him quite quickly to a model that seemed perfect for his business. It was a Select Sawmill model 4221 with double-cut blade technology.

“I went to Canada and looked at it and talked to Luc [Carrière],” said Clifton of the model 4221. He had the opportunity to try out the saw while visiting the headquarters of Select Sawmill Co. in Plantagenet, Ontario, Canada.

Luc is the founder (with wife Patricia) of Select Sawmill Co. He is another entrepreneur who demonstrates the sorts of leaps taken by the business owners who keep economic activity high and innovation churning. See the sidebar article on Page 11 for more about Luc.

Returning from his trek to Canada, Clifton was certain the model 4221 from Select Sawmill was the best fit for his operation. He ultimately bought the saw, as well as a log deck and stretcher roller from Select Sawmill.

Clifton has a unique arrangement with a big company for which he does custom sawing. His Select Sawmill 4221 resides on that company’s site. He and his team of four work at that site, where the company does custom sawing and takes care of all the ancillaries. “They debark and put the log on the deck for me,” he explained. All transport of wood products and the collection and chipping of wood waste are handled by the company, which has two other sawmills on its site

Following specifications Clifton is given, he produces a variety of sawn material – everything from grade lumber to material for log homes. He got started doing the custom work when he was asked to saw cherry.

A Morgan edger is also on the roster of equipment that Clifton owns. “I’ve had it probably 20 years – or 18 years,” he said. “I found it used. If it breaks, I fix it.”

The edger is a key player in the custom work Clifton does. “We saw it [wood] on the mill, edge, and then it’s green chain into stacks.”

The expertise that Clifton has with equipment allows him to keep machines running optimally. He emphasizes, though, that the model 4221 from Select Sawmill requires very little attention.

Routine maintenance – changing oil and greasing, primarily – is what it takes to keep the model 4221 performing at its best. “It’s real durable,” said Clifton. That durability extends to every part of the model 4221.

And Clifton provides an example: “It came with a John Deere engine on it. The engine ran until last year. It had 30,000 hours on it.”

For customers who prefer something other than a 115-horsepower John Deere turbo diesel engine, Select Sawmill offers customers a model 4221 with a 75-horsepower electric engine.

“All species” fall into the category of potential raw material to be sawn, said Clifton. He can depend on the Select Sawmill model 4221 to handle both hardwoods and softwoods.

The six-inch-wide, double-cut band on the model 4221 makes it a versatile machine. It has the ability to cut large logs as well as small.

The cutting speed achieved with the Select Sawmill model 4221 reaches three feet per second. The double-cut blade  technology that allows back and forth sawing is a big contributor to that speed. Computerized setworks and a high-efficiency hydraulic system also keep the speed  high.

Clifton said that he saws two million board feet per year with his Select Sawmill model 4221. He runs the saw five days each week. He’s very good at running the mill, so good, in fact, that Select Sawmill has asked him to demo it at some sawmill and machinery expos.

Select Sawmill aims to reach customers with many different needs. For instance, it offers a heavy-duty edger that cuts 4″ thick, infeed and outfeed decks and more. The company can also work with customers to tailor high-production custom sawmill layouts for them.  And Select Sawmill offers a range of band blade and sharpening tools.

The model 4221 from Select Sawmill can cut logs as large as 42 inches in diameter and 22 feet long. Its computerized setworks has 12 preset thicknesses.

The blade sharpening portion of Clifton’s business is supported by the Armstrong grinder that he has had in service since the inception of his company. Sawyers bring their blades to Clifton’s sharpening facility.

When Clifton takes time away from the custom sawing and blade sharpening components of his business, he enjoys immersing himself in a different endeavor. “I’ve got a farm on the side – 300 acres, 80 cows,” he explained. They are beef cattle.

Clifton said he enjoys having several parts to his business activities. And he is happy that they all offer him ways to generate income.

Although he launched his custom sawing and blade sharpening business with no experience as a sawyer, Clifton said that he brought experience from his 20 years in oil field drilling that was relevant. The supervisory and problem-solving experience gained during those two decades was very useful.

The model 4221 from Select Sawmill contributes to Clifton’s remunerative efforts in a quiet and dependable way. He appreciates that, he said.

With his experience as a drilling rig operator and in refurbishing equipment, such as the Morgan edger, Clifton has a good vantage from which to evaluate the reliability of a machine.

What would he tell others about the Select Sawmill? “It’s worked good for me,” Clifton said. “You don’t have much maintenance on it. It’s pretty durable.”

Luc and Clifton Are Kindred Spirits

Entrepreneurs have a lot in common. They ask the ‘why not’ question, rhetorically, and then leap into action. Luc Carrière, who founded Select Sawmill with his wife Patricia, was once the operator of a custom sawing business that depended on a portable sawmill.

Seeing a way to build a better band mill than he could purchase, Luc decided to hire a technician to help with welding and fabrication and just do it. That was in 1997. Since 1997, Select Sawmill Co. has been manufacturing band sawmill and equipment. Today, it exports mills to every continent.

Clifton Scott embodies the same sort of ‘why not’ attitude as does Luc Carrière. To read more about the history of Select Sawmill and its worldwide customer base, see the article by author Tim Cox that appeared in the pages of TimberLine in August 2016, “Innovation Propels Select Sawmill…” at this web address: http://www.timberlinemag.com/articledatabase/view.asp?articleID=4709.

Kentucky Has the Most Diverse Hardwood Species of Any State

Liberty, the headquarters for Scott’s Equipment, is located in the south-central part of the Bluegrass State. It’s the county seat of Casey County and has approximately 2,100 residents. While Kentucky is known for thoroughbred horses and bourbon, it has a diverse economic base that encompasses other chief products, such as grass seed, fluorspar and coal.

When Clifton Scott cites the wide array of species that may be met by the blade of the model 4221 from Select Sawmill, he alludes to the tremendous diversity of trees in Kentucky, the state with the most diverse mix of hardwood species in the nation.

Florida has the greatest diversity of tree species. But Kentucky, with its central location and its complex topography, is home to the most hardwood species. Oak-hickory mixes are predominant.

Among the most commercially important trees in Kentucky are oaks, walnuts, maples, yellow-poplar and hickories. Seekers of custom lumber – for furniture, flooring inlays, moulding or architectural flourishes have many options.

Forty-eight percent of the land in Kentucky is forested. Eighty-eight percent of that land is privately held. Still, state and national forests of great importance and breadth fill the state.

The Daniel Boone National Forest runs along the Cumberland Plateau. Steep slopes, sandstone cliffs and ravines characterize the lay of the land in the DBNF, which spans 708,000 acres. It’s easy to take for granted the green beauty of the state when heading to one of its famous caves, venues or events such as the Kentucky Derby, but it really is a good place to stop and look at the trees as well as the of the forests.