Written by Sgt. Gary Phillips
As a retired police officer of 36 years, I know firsthand the signs and symptoms related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as the impact on those closest – family. However, with the proper treatment through counselling, people can heal with time. During my treatment and recovery, the one thing that gave me peace and happiness was working with wood.
Have you ever stopped to wonder what it would be like to be in the shoes of our police, fire, paramedics or military members for just one day? Knowing the dangers imposed on these heroes every day, do you think you could deal with an armed and barricaded suspect or enter into a burning building to rescue someone? How about performing lifesaving first aid on a dying child, or those who fight for our freedom in war-torn countries and live away from their loved ones for months at a time? Far too often through media outlets we are hearing the devastating affects the job-related stress our first responders are under and the tragic results endured by those who can no longer bear the burden of their traumatic events.
Working with my hands and being creative, instead of choosing to be destructive by means of substance abuse, was my secret to healing since medication was not an option for me. In 2004, I had an idea to invite a few of my peers over to my workshop as I knew they too were struggling with PTSD, yet were too proud to ask for help. Knowing the impact woodworking had on me, I offered my shop as a safe, confidential place to escape to and realize the importance of learning to be in a positive environment by becoming constructive. Almost on the first day, I could see smiles returning as members became quite involved trying to create their projects from the very beginning. Hours seemed like minutes when members were in the shop and with each visit, their joy of woodworking was taking on a whole new meaning.
Finding The Best Sawmill
Fast forward to today. I have now been retired for several years and relocated from the hustle and bustle around the big City of Toronto, Ontario to a small quiet town on the east coast of Canada, in Nova Scotia. I now have time on my hands to give back to our first responders in a much bigger way than I could with my small workshop in our previous home. In December of 2017, my wife and I purchased a 45acre wood lot. My goal was to create a similar shop, but with a much bigger vision. For many years I have dreamed of owning a sawmill that would allow me to create wood projects from tree to finished product. With 45 acres of spruce, pine, maple, hemlock and poplar, all I needed was the mill. Since retiring, I have looked at every mill, but always kept dreaming of owning a Wood-Mizer. Here is the reason for my desire to own the best sawmill.
Prior to retiring, I had the opportunity to visit a local Wood-Mizer owner in my area. Mr. Larry Bacon lives on a farm about an hour northeast of Toronto. For many years on my way home from work, I would see his mill and the piles of milled lumber on the property air drying. Upon meeting Larry for the first time, it was clear he was a passionate man when it came to people. When I stopped in to meet Larry, I just wanted to take a look at his mill as he was out operating it. After a short conversation, I found myself at the controls of his LT40 Super Hydraulic sawmill smiling from ear to ear. Again, hours went by like minutes and I found myself having to surrender the controls when all I wanted was to hook up the mill to my truck and drive home. At the end of the day Larry invited me back anytime to drop in and use his machine. Remember, I just met this man for the first time.
Larry has been an owner of a Wood-Mizer sawmill for many years and is in the elite 1 Million Board Foot Club and counting. I took this time to ask Larry why he chose Wood-Mizer. It was his passion, his knowledge, the importance of service, availability of parts, reputation of the product, resale value and his faith in the company. Now that I own land that would allow me the joy of becoming a sawyer myself, I always remembered those strong words from Larry and why Wood-Mizer is the mill to own. Yes, I admit I still wondered and investigated other mills, but I always returned to the Wood-Mizer website and looked at every video.
Now came the hard part. Sitting down with my beautiful and supportive wife Lee, I had to explain that the mill I wanted would mean an expense of $30,000+ (Canadian) as I narrowed it down to the LT35 Hydraulic portable sawmill. Thinking I was in for the usual one-way discussion on expenses, her immediate response was “It’s about time you made a decision on your mill.” I guess she was getting bored of the daily video segments on Wood-Mizer.
In July I attended the dealership responsible for the eastern provinces of Canada and put a deposit down on my mill. During my short two weeks waiting for the mill, I reached out to the Canadian Head Office and spoke with the Sales Manager for Canada, Mr. Dorian Lavallee. It was here that I shared my vision to help first responders by giving them the opportunity to begin their healing process through woodworking and the opportunity to cut their own lumber on a Wood-Mizer. After our conversation, Dorian contacted me advising that Wood-Mizer would support me with my project.
Rough Cuts Canada
Since the delivery of the mill, I have created a company called Rough Cuts Canada. The sole purpose is to offer a place of solitude for police, fire, EMS and military members diagnosed with PTSD and under doctor’s care. Here they can attend the property and walk the trails that have been cut for the peace and tranquility. If they chose to heal through the therapy of woodworking, we will fall a tree, they will have the joy of milling their own lumber on the LT35 and build their own projects from tree to completion once the lumber has been dried. Since starting this project, I have peers from my own police department that are currently healing with PTSD travel 1700 kilometres to help cut the trails. I have already personally witnessed the joy of an officer who has been under doctor’s care for two plus years smile for the first time and actually forget about the stress and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of working with wood. This journey began as a dream of one day owning a mill. It has now been made possible by the words of a Wood-Mizer owner, the support of a large company and the caring of a manager wanting to help our first responders.
In just a short few months, trails have been cut, trees have been dropped to begin stock piling lumber for future milling and the mill is being used. The greenhouse pictured here was built with all recycled materials. It was built for an EMS worker currently off work and going through his healing process with PTSD. We pooled our talents and built one to enjoy his passion in the garden. The raised beds are redwood cedar which was milled from recycled hydro poles.
In closing, after many years of researching the right sawmill, I am grateful to all those that have helped steer me in the right direction. That is, becoming a proud Wood-Mizer owner.