Limber Lumber

When designing a project, there are a number of competing interests. Client wishes, cost, regulations, and creative style all influence the end product.

On-site sawmills are an economical and efficient way to make use of local timber. Courtesy Of Pony Boy Gilbert, Long Tom Custom Sawmill

Many projects today include a requirement for environmental performance, whether due to a regulation or a client request, and it’s often assumed that this equates to higher costs.

However, when it comes to using wood, there is an opportunity for a project to perform both environmentally and economically. This stems from the use of wood sources milled nearby, or in many cases, on-site, using a portable band-saw mill equipped with a thin kerf blade.

There is growing awareness among architects, cities, and even state organizations of utilizing wood processed in this way.

Truly Local Lumber

Most modern kerf band-saw mills are portable and built as a wheeled trailer. An operator can position a mill at the log yard for general duty, and if a project demands, simply tow the trailer to the site and begin milling within 30 minutes of set-up time.

This versatility allows on-site trees to be utilized, as opposed to transporting them.

Numerous outdoor projects use “green” lumber that has not been dried or seasoned. However, there are numerous occasions when a project will call for dried lumber, which is achieved through the use of a wood-drying kiln.

Many sawyers own and operate kilns, and for specific projects kilns can be set up on-site to dry the wood, reducing the potential for warping and checking (cracking) for more precise uses.

Kerf Technology

Kerf is the width of cut a blade makes as it passes through material, branding it an efficient way to mill wood. Low-cost chainsaw mills typically consume one-half inch of wood with each pass.

Traditional circle-saw mills and high-production conventional mills typically have kerfs a quarter of an inch or greater. Thin kerf saws remove as little as one-tenth of an inch per cut to produce smooth, consistent, accurate lumber with less of a log wasted as sawdust.

The benefits aren’t theoretical. When making basic slabs, Art Blumenkron, owner of Goby Walnut & Western Hardwoods in Portland, Ore., says, “I recover two additional slabs for every eight passes I make. I save close to 3/8” of wood over a chainsaw mill, and I can hold much tighter tolerance, which means less waste when I flatten the wood.”

This approach increases yield from material available, and when the lumber is used for a project on-site, maximizes cost savings with as much as 30 percent more lumber made from each log.

The environmental benefits from producing wood needed for a project near or on-site are maximized as well, displacing the need to harvest, transport, mill, and distribute lumber long distances.

A wood shelter rises up from the trees around it. Courtesy Of David and Teresa Weyler, Little Kentucky River Winery

Most green-certification systems award project points both for use of a renewable resource and for using a locally sourced product, potentially helping a project achieve a higher certification level than may otherwise be possible.

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