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  • Brenda Gordon

Sawmills and Skills

When we moved to Northern New York 30 years ago, Jim did not have any sawmill experience or skill. Well, other than selling logs to sawmills. Previously, Jim had been logging with horses in Vermont where people seemed to be more attuned to the idea than at our new locale. Finding woodlots, truckers and mills to sell to when you're "the new kid on the block", was quite an undertaking. Also, there was the dependability of it all- having reliable truckers and mills that paid on time. We were a very young family and farming was not bringing in all the income we needed. Things were tight at times, to say the very least. There were not Amish in the area to sell logs to so markets were slim. That is when Jim decided to buy a mill and learn to saw and market the product himself. Mind you, we didn't start with the top of the line model, but at the lower end of the spectrum since it's what we could afford. Jim purchased an old circle mill and an old power plant to go with it, which was a truck that seemed to leak oil all the time. Thank God everyone is literally all still in one piece with all their appendages, because it seemed very dangerous to me with that huge circular blade. I remember that it took a long time to set it up, and there were breakdowns by the dozens. When it was up and running, we began to sell lumber retail here at the farm on a small basis. By this time we had purchased a large plot of woodland up the road from us, hence we had a steady supply of logs. It was just up to Jim and the horses to get them home. With time, Jim seemed to get sawing under his belt to some extent. Soon he began to look into the Woodmizer sawmills,


The sawmill operation has changed over time as our family and needs have changed and as the community has changed. A few years ago, the sawmill part of our operation was much larger. There was a great need for a place to buy rough cut lumber in our area. We aimed to provide that. Our son Levi was still at home and as a teenager, he did a lot of sawing after school and on weekends. Then the Amish began to move into the area and many new sawmills were set up, hence much competition. We had a great advantage because our business was already established. Having a telephone was a great advantage to our business as well (compared to the local Amish community not having phones). Our phone was always ringing!

But something had to give. Levi moved to Vermont, and good help is very hard to come by. Jim was struggling to keep up with everything. He just isn't happy if he can't keep his horses in shape and working. His horses are his passion and he was not getting the work with them as much as he wished that he could. It was time to make some choices. Jim began to direct business to our Amish neighbors, realizing that now there were many more markets for his logs that had not been there when we first moved into the area. Another good change was that he has a dependable trucker for his logs when he needs one. I don't think Jim would be willing to give up his mill. He still enjoys using it, (especially when it's a blustery, rainy day) but for the most part, he enjoys the horses, farm and woods more. He plans to continue to saw specialty items such as live edge table tops, and he likes to have hardwood in supply.

We have learned some valuable lessons even as things have changed through the years with sawmills; try new things, skills can be learned with perseverance, rethink what you're doing all the time for best results, and do what you love and are gifted at doing.


To see more videos on the sawmill, check out this playlist! -

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLeieiAmAdmBe3Hgh18xaVoKMxrsoRNTiY

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