Limber Lumber

Custom Dimension Lumber From Portable Band-Saw Mills

For an architect, one of the most useful features may be the ability to cut wood to nearly any dimension and length desired. For example, if a client requests an outdoor pergola or gathering area with large beams, in addition to a lengthy lead time, the materials would be cost-prohibitive for most project budgets.

However, because a band-saw mill is adjustable, large-scale or custom dimension beams can be made as easily as dimensional lumber.

Unique And Specialty Wood Species Can Be Obtained

While off-the-shelf, common-species lumber is available almost anywhere, local portable sawyers often have a selection that is difficult or impossible to obtain from traditional sources.

Wood can be sourced directly from the project site, storm blow-down, or urban woodland removed of necessity, diverting it from the waste stream.

Less-common species will be available from a specific region. For example, Pacific Coast Lumber in San Luis Obispo, Calif., offers Walnut, Acacia, Ash, Sycamore, Oak, Red Gum, Elm, English Walnut, Cypress, and old-growth Redwood.

Local Source Forest Products of Northwest Washington specializes in helicopter-recovered old-growth Cedar and Douglas Fir.

North Florida Portable Sawmill near Jacksonville specializes in recovered old-growth Cypress, and also offers Pecan, Laurel, Hickory, Cherry, Cedar, Oak, Maple, and Pine.

Because of the versatility of portable band-saw mills, there is the opportunity for specialized milling methods that result in beautiful wood products. Local Source often “quarter saws” its old-growth material.

Quarter-sawing orients the grain in parallel lines along the length of the board, aligning the dense grain to the best visual advantage and producing a board that warps less with changes in humidity.

Put Into Practice

When the Eugene Water and Electric Board was expanding recreational opportunities at Lloyd Knox Park, members wanted the Visitor Center to contain a green element. Part of the green requirement for construction was to utilize the removed trees as a project component.

The contractor, based in Veneta, Ore., didn’t have experience in utilizing on-site trees, but had noticed a local truck bearing the company name “Long Tom Sawmill” in big, bold letters.

The milling company, named for the nearby Long Tom River, and owned and operated by Pony Boy Gilbert, was formed after Gilbert observed that too many old or damaged logs went to waste during construction.

The Native American-owned and -operated company has a diverse project portfolio that includes ongoing work with the University of Oregon’s Sustainability Department. University officials call on Long Tom Sawmill when trees or large tree parts are removed from the campus due to storm damage, disease, or hazard potential.

The material is milled into lumber used by students in the Project Design Department to craft furniture and other campus products.

A Pacific Northwest-style timber-frame structure required numerous large beams, which are typically cost-prohibitive. Because there were not enough logs to produce all of the timbers, balance was obtained from traditional sources. As a result, a higher-quality structure (that would have compromised the budget had crews ordered the materials) was fashioned.

The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture recently released an important study, asserting that “Wood should be a major component of American building and energy design. The use of wood provides substantial environmental benefits.”

By utilizing truly local wood processed in a highly efficient manner, the project can perform both environmentally and economically.

Clayton Petree and his father Jack own Public Policy Perspectives in Bellingham, Wash. Both are dedicated to exploring practical approaches to environmental issues that businesses can adopt to be both environmentally sensitive and profitable. The two have written more than 2,500 articles for regional, national, and international publications. Clayton can be reached at 360-733-1303 and

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