DUDLEY, Georgia – Why not? David Shores got that question a lot from customers who purchased his custom wood products and other people.
Why not buy a portable sawmill and cut some of his own lumber?
David often considered the possibility, but it was not until 2019 – when he moved from the city to the country and had some acreage – that he got serious about exploring the options for owning a portable sawmill.
One thing David knew when he began his research: He wanted a circular swing blade mill in order to cut quarter-sawn lumber. Swing blade portable sawmills use a circular saw blade, not a band blade. The blade can be turned on a 90-degree axis, so it can make both horizontal and vertical cuts in the log – unlike a band mill, which only makes horizontal cuts. The ability to make both horizontal and vertical cuts allows the mill to produce finished dimensional lumber. In addition, the circular blade can cut in both directions, going forward and backward.
Online research led David to TurboSawmill, a company based in New Zealand. As part of his extensive search for the best option, he watched videos of the TurboSawmill in action, ultimately deciding he had identified the sawmill that he wanted.
TurboSawmill was founded by Jake Peterson. “I wanted to offer a better, more useful swing blade sawmill, capturing everything I had personally learned within the industry,” said Jake.
Jake’s education about swing blade portable sawmills began at his father’s side. His father, Carl Peterson, founded Peterson Portable Sawmills in 1989. “My dad started the commercial swing blade product back in the ’80s, so this swing blade concept has been in my family for some time.”
Jake has extensive experience. After working for his father, he ran a few swing blade mills doing contract work. As a result, since the age of 20, he has been involved in using, building, or designing swing blade portable sawmills.
Jake’s goal in launching TurboSawmill? “I’ve always tried to keep our products simple, easy to use and maintain with as much versatility in operation as possible,” he explained. “So product development is critical to our success in moving forward in the industry.”
David attested to the simplicity of using the TurboSawmill. The “simplicity” is coupled with great “overall performance” and “excellent support” from the manufacturer,” he said. “It’s a good, solid machine.”
David purchased his first TurboSawmill, a 10-inch Automated Warrior model, last year. He later decided to upgrade and sold the mill and ordered the TurboSawmill 12-inch Automated Warrior model, which he was expecting to be delivered in March.
“The main reason,” he said, for buying the bigger model “is to get the computer-sizing option factory-installed,” said David. He could have purchased and installed the computerized setworks himself on his 10-inch model but preferred not to do so.
The digital sizing feature affords many advantages to the sawyer. They include accuracy, repeatability, push-button controls, programmable sawing (for preferred cuts), and a section cutting feature.
Jake explained the section cutting feature. “Most sawmills require the blade to make a full-depth cut regardless of the timber size selected. Not so with the swing blade. You always retain the ability to take it in sections, which increases the horsepower to the section being sawn.”
Breaking deep 12-inch cuts into two runs lightens the work for harder to cut sections. Moreover, the blade is guided true from the trace cut, making the cut more accurate.
The feature is particularly beneficial when cutting stressed, hard-to-cut logs. “Instead of producing deformed lumber and burning your blade, you can produce the same quality timber out of these trash logs simply through section sawing,” noted Jake.
David’s 12-inch TurboSawmill Automated Warrior will have a 25 hp (net) Honda gasoline engine as its power source, the same as his previous model. The engine is a perfect match for the TurboSawmill and provides plenty of power, he said. In addition to its automated models, TurboSawmill offers manually operated portable sawmills.
While David was in the process of buying his first TurboSawmill in 2019, TurboSawmill was transitioning to appoint Smith Sawmill Service as its distributor for the U.S. and Canada, and he completed the purchase with Smith Sawmill Service. In the process he interacted both with Jake and also Jay Willoughby, TurboSawmill specialist for Smith Sawmill Service.
Both Jake and Jay get high marks for responsiveness from David. He can pick up the phone or send a video and get a question answered almost immediately.
“Smith Sawmill Service has really helped us grow,” said Jake. Since the U.S. company became a distributor, TurboSawmill has shipped more than a dozen containers of sawmills to Smith Sawmill Service. The Automated Warrior model has proven to be the most popular, especially the version that runs a 12-inch blade.
Smith Sawmill Service, which has locations in Texas, Louisiana, and North Carolina, distributes sawmill supplies and equipment and also provides saw sharpening service. The company offers all types of circular and band saw blades and components and service. Its product offerings also include chipper knives and parts, file room equipment and supplies, lubricants, and sawmill equipment. Smith Sawmill Service is a family business started by Paul and Debra Smith in 1990.
David prefers to sharpen his own blades for the TurboSawmill. “They are very easy to sharpen,” he said. “The circular blade has five carbide teeth that can be removed.”
David, 59, has been a hobby woodworker for decades. The native of Michigan moved to Georgia 30 years ago for his job. He lives in the small town of Dudley, about 50 miles southeast of Macon. David has a fully equipped 1,500-square-foot woodworking shop. He makes custom wood products.
David was introduced to woodworking by his father when he was a boy. “When I was 10 or 12, dad started letting me use wood working equipment,” he recalled. “Since then, I’ve been self-taught – videos, talking to others, reading. I mostly make stuff for family and a few commissions.”
Cherry, walnut, maple, and southern yellow pine are typical wood species David most often uses in making furniture and other objects. His creations often include metal work. “I do like to do metal working with my projects,” said David. “I do welding, light fabrication.” A favorite piece of his, a 12-inch-wide table, was made from a cherry slab; it sits on a metal base and enhances the entrance to his home.
The newest addition to his shop – added in late fall 2021 – is a Felder table saw, a machine he has long wanted. The new table saw “is the center piece” of his workshop, he said.
David recently completed a cherry rocking chair that takes design cues from acclaimed furniture maker Sam Maloof. The complexity of the sculpted style both intrigued and engaged him.
Ninety percent of the wood David has milled to date on his TurboSawmill came from his property, and the remainder came from neighbors’ properties. He felled the trees with a chainsaw. “Everyone around here likes Stihl,” said David, “but I like Husqvarna, too.”
He also used lumber cut on the TurboSawmill to build a 30×40 pole shed and a 15×40 lean-to for space to air-dry lumber. He plans to build another lean-to on the other side of the pole shed.
In many ways, TurboSawmill operators in New Zealand and David are kindred spirits, observed Jake. “We have a variety of owners out there,” said Jake. “Typically they are landowners sitting on a stand of trees or with access to trees. We also have commercial operators selling timber, contractors, hobbyists and woodworkers among them.”
Pine is abundant in New Zealand, said Jake, although many other species are readily available, such as eucalyptus, macrocarpa, redwood, and others. Most native species, such as Rimu and Kauri, are protected and only rarely available.
The ability to saw forward and backward with the TurboSawmill is a big advantage, noted Jake. “You can saw a number of boards this way, cutting them all clean horizontally and stacking them a handful at a time. This reduces the number of swings required and increases production.”
TurboSawmills come standard with patent-pending narrow kerf insert blades. The company offers trailer kits for easy transport as well as options for cutting slabs, planer attachments for surfacing slabs and beams, and a taper board kit (for weathered boards).
David enjoys the creativity of woodworking, being able to turn an idea into a tangible wood object like a piece of furniture. “The creation process, making things with my hands,” explained David, is exciting and gratifying.
David has shared his expertise with others who are learning to work with wood, including Boy Scouts.
When he has visitors to his woodworking shop, David has to remind them that he has been at it a long time. “People come through here and are amazed,” he said, at his array of tools. It didn’t happen all at once, he noted. He started out with just a Stihl chainsaw and a router.
(For more information about Smith Sawmill Service and its products, visit www.sawmill.shop. The company has readily available pages on its website devoted to information about TurboSawmills. For additional information about TurboSawmill, visit www.turbosawmillusa.com; the company also has published numerous videos on its Turbosawmill YouTube channel.)