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Wood-Mizer Products, Inc.

Since 1982, Wood-Mizer has become the world’s largest manufacturer of portable band sawmills with tens of thousands of bandmills sold. Today, Wood-Mizer offers portable & industrial sawmills, resaws, edgers, kilns, log splitters, bandsaw blades and blade maintenance equipment for woodworking hobbyists and forestry professionals all over the world.
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The family-owned and operated L. Garbers & Sons Sawmill in Northwest Ohio was established in 1997 by Luther and Kathryn Garbers and their two sons David and Marty. What started out as a side business with a portable sawmill has grown into a full-time operation with a high-production industrial sawmilling system producing pallet material, cut stock, blocking, and grade lumber in Wauseon, Ohio.

L. Garbers & Sons Sawmill

During the formative years of the business, Luther, David and Marty both farmed and worked separate full-time jobs so they were only able to help their father at the mill on weekends and holidays, but their interest in sawing started at a young age. “We both love sawing lumber and it’s a joy to run the mill,” said David. “It all started when we were kids running our grandfather’s mill. We’ve grown up with it in our blood.” When Luther passed away in 2002 and farming profits started to decline, the brothers turned their focus to sawmilling and began working full-time at the family mill. “Our dad always told us to produce quality material and you will always have work,” said David. “That’s been true and we’ve held to that since the start.”

In addition to having decades of experience running sawmill equipment, L. Garbers & Sons has relied on Wood-Mizer equipment for more than 20 years to produce accurate, consistent material by maintaining thickness, reducing waves or variation, and minimizing wane. “We’ve always received comments about the quality and consistency of our material and Wood-Mizer contributes a great deal to our quality,” said Marty. “The quality of how they construct their mills and their engineering help you maintain your production as well as your quality of cutting.”

In addition to providing quality material, L. Garbers & Sons has grown throughout the decades by sawing a variety of material and taking smaller jobs to get their foot in the door with a potential for securing larger jobs with clients. For example, the business entered the pallet board business by first doing trailer planking for a trucking company who eventually started a steel coil shipping business and contracted all pallet work to L. Garbers & Sons. “If one product is a little slower, another product will pick up,” said David. “We try to keep our eggs in different baskets.” The business processes and sells material to a range of clients including pallet stock to the pallet industry, blocking to the railroad and steel industry, and grade lumber to clients throughout Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Missouri.

Upgrading to a WM4500 Industrial Sawmilling System

While L. Garbers & Sons has remained flexible to produce whatever the market demands, one constant has been operating with Wood-Mizer sawmilling equipment. The company started with a Wood-Mizer LT40 hydraulic portable sawmill before securing a large contract for producing pallet stock. This led to an upgrade to an LT40 super hydraulic portable sawmill to meet production demands. After more than 1 ½ million board feet on the LT40 super portable sawmill in just a few years, the operation upgraded again to an LT300 sawmill – Wood-Mizer’s largest industrial mill at the time. Sixteen years later, the company operates today with an industrial sawmilling system that includes a Wood-Mizer WM4500 sawmill, EG400 board edger, and material handling equipment. They also maintain their own blades on-site with Wood-Mizer blade sharpening and setting equipment. “The WM4500 was huge for us, kind of like a present for paying our dues and working our way up,” said David.

The installation of the WM4500 was completed in approximately three days and David and Marty were both trained by Wood-Mizer technicians how to operate the new machinery. “What I like most about the WM4500 is the powered toeboard rollers,” said Marty. “It is much nicer shifting the log back and forth on the deck how you want and the dual chain turners are able to handle the logs so much easier.”

L. Garbers & Sons fits their sawmill equipment with Wood-Mizer Turbo 7 blades. “We’ve always had the best results with Wood-Mizer blades. We are running the 2” wide Turbo 7 blades with the 1-1/4” tooth spacing and we really like them for the ability to cut faster with the same surface quality,” said Marty. “We’ve tried other blades but didn’t see the quality like we do with Wood-Mizer.”

The company also sharpens their blades daily in-house with Wood-Mizer blade sharpening and setting equipment which has helped reduce costs and provide consistent cut quality. “Maintaining our blades in house tends to save money when you don’t have to worry about shipping them out,” said Marty. “We can also control the quality of blades that we are using and we can change the tooth set based on the species we are sawing.”

Processing Grade and Pallet Material

The sawmill business runs eight hours a day, five days a week with five employees doing a variety of work including milling, edging, running the chop saw, and sharpening blades. "The WM4500 is a lot heavier built which makes it a lot easier handling bigger and longer logs,” said Marty.

A variety of grade and pallet quality logs are supplied from Ohio and nearby states including Michigan and Indiana. Grade quality logs tend to come from longer distances because there is more money in the finished material than pallet quality logs that generally come from shorter distances. “We primarily saw walnut, red and white oak, cottonwood, cherry, maple, sassafras, and hickory,” said Marty.

First, logs are unloaded and scaled for board footage before being sorted for grade or pallet quality. If they are grade quality, logs are also sorted by species. On the WM4500 sawmill, logs are milled into various sized cants and boards depending on the customer needs and sent to a transfer deck. For boards that need to be edged, the transfer deck sends material to a green chain that goes to the EG400 board edger. “The EG400 edger has a larger width capacity, laser lines, and presets for quickly setting the right board width. Plus cutting speed is a lot faster which has sped up production,” shared Marty. For straight edged material off the mill, the transfer deck sends material to a large chop saw to cut to the correct length. Material is then stacked and prepared to send out to clients.

David’s advice for start-up sawmill operations is to work hard, market your business to grow your customer base, and to be patient during good times and bad. For the future, the company is looking to invest in a log debarker, a second sawmill, or even a grade resaw system in order to improve efficiency. For now, L. Garbers & Sons continues to focus on quality and consistency in everything they do. “Do a quality job and you will always have work,” said Marty. “We’ve heard from many different customers that they buy from places with good quality and consistency. That’s something we always try to strive for and is a pride of ours. That philosophy has kept us work in even some of the leanest times.”

It’s easier to decide you need a sawmill than it is to make good choices about the mill you eventually buy. Ask me. I almost made the common choice of going non-hydraulic when I bought my first Wood-Mizer.

Actually my first mill was an old “portable” circle sawmill a friend had stored “out behind the barn.” It didn’t take long operating it to realize portable band sawmilling was clearly the superior option for me.

Today, about five million or more board feet later, I’ve learned a little about what you should and should not consider when choosing a sawmill.

I started with that old circle mill because it didn’t cost me anything beyond milling a few boards in trade but for most of us, cost is important once the decision to purchase is made. But don’t make the mistake of thinking cost is all-important. I’ve seen plenty of my fellow sawmill owners regret the emphasis they put on the initial cost of their mill without considering other things that are just as important over the long term.

An important question to ask before signing on the dotted line is, “What do I intend to use this mill for and, beyond that, what am I likely to use this mill for?”

Research done at Auburn University a few years ago showed me some important things anyone looking to buy a sawmill should consider. The study found, for example, that nearly half of the people buying a portable sawmill were replacing another mill because, “My previous sawmill had limited production capacity and I needed a more productive sawmill.” Another important finding of the study was that nearly 1 out of 3 mill owners might have intended to use their mill mostly for hobby use but, by the time they’d had the mill for awhile they ended up earning all or part of their income with the machine. It’s inevitable. Start milling a few sticks for your own use and pretty soon people will start showing up and asking, “Hey, can you do that for me?”

It’s been my observation that whether you are buying a portable mill strictly for hobby use or, to earn all or a part of your living, you are almost sure to find you end up using the mill a lot more often and for milling a wider variety of lumber, timber, and other products than you imagined when you first decided you wanted a mill. My advice is, you’ll almost never go wrong buying a little more mill than you think you need but you will certainly regret not buying enough mill.

Do some thinking about the type of product you intend to mill.

If you intend to make a full or part-time living with your portable sawmill you will definitely need a mill with full hydraulics to be successful. On the other hand if you’re going to be milling long length boards or timber for your own contracting company you may be more concerned with easily cutting long lengths. You might not need hydraulics and want to focus on something like an LT15 that can easily be extended using bed extensions.

Another element to consider is cost and production over the long term instead of the short.

When I began to mill, I quickly learned that if I wanted to make good wages from portable sawmilling I needed to have high production and charge by the board foot instead of by the hour. With my LT70 and EG200 twin blade edger I usually average $200+ per hour charging 35 - 40 cents per board foot. I could never charge that much an hour to custom sawmill but because I have the right equipment (especially an edger) and charge for production, not by the hour, I have been financially successful. In my 15 years of portable sawmilling, I have never had my Wood-Mizer not carry its own weight in a month, even when making payments on it.

Last, reliability and service are all important.

I remember looking at other, and often cheaper, brands when I was looking for my first thin-kerf portable sawmill. I ended up buying a Wood-Mizer and now many years down the road I am so thankful I made the decision to spend a little more for a higher quality machine; and especially for the legendary customer support that comes with every Wood-Mizer.

My LT70 is currently 7 years old. It has a remote station and many electrically controlled features. Combine staying outdoors year round in the rainy Pacific Northwest, along with the sawdust, dirt, and dust every operation will have and you will eventually need to do some maintenance on your machine no matter how much you try to baby your mill.

My mill is way out of warranty but I still have free access to Wood-Mizer’s troubleshooting service. One phone call and a person that can walk you through a problem to a solution is available. Believe me, having an expert to help you use a voltmeter to figure out wiring issues when you truly do not understand wiring and electronics is HUGE! The troubleshooters know you are stressed and broke down. They are experts at walking someone like me through the diagnostics needed to fix problems both mechanical and electric.

You get what you pay for in the sawmill world but by considering your sawmill purchase carefully you can help make sure you are getting what you need to be successful over the many years your machine will serve you.

Stemming from a father and son’s dream to build their own business, Hunski Hardwoods salvages diseased and dying urban trees and mills them into high quality slabs and lumber. Established in 2010 by James Hunsaker and his son Nick, the California business has increased production and efficiency with the addition of their Wood-Mizer WM1000 headrig that offers a 67” diameter log cutting capacity.

Involved in the urban logging industry for over 30 years, James Hunsaker made a habit of taking his son Nick to work with him as far back as he can remember. “Early on, my dad was working by himself salvaging walnut orchards and urban walnut trees for sale to companies making wide slabs and lumber,” said Nick. “After spending some time at a few of these companies and seeing what they did with the logs, we realized we could do the same thing.” Not long after, the father and son team went from selling only logs to also selling wide slabs and Hunski Hardwoods was born.

From the start, James and Nick labored with a chainsaw mill that would take up to eight hours to cut a single log depending on the size. That was until 2013 when they watched a demonstration of a Wood-Mizer WM1000 headrig and realized the potential and growth they could experience with their business. “Once we saw the WM1000 in action and how it made easy work of any sized log, we knew we needed one,” said Nick. “Before the WM1000 we could mill one to maybe two logs per day, now we are averaging three to five per day with ease. Not only can we cut more logs per day, but we are gaining one to two more slabs per log as well. We couldn’t run our business without it.” Nick recalls that in the first two weeks of owning their WM1000, they were able to mill 30 logs that yielded approximately 200 slabs.

Hunski mills urban walnut logs into wide slabs, lumber, gunstock blanks, billets, and turning wood while supplying their salvaged wood products to a wide variety of clients including woodturners, woodworkers, furniture makers, gunstock makers, interior designers, and even guitar makers. “Since we go out and find the trees, salvage them ourselves and mill them, the whole process stays in house and we can tell our customers the whole story of the tree,” said Nick. Sawing 2,000 board feet and running the mill 5 hours per day, Nick says the WM1000 allows them to be more efficient with their milling by saving time and money. “We are salvaging walnut on a daily basis and the faster and more precise we can mill them, the faster we can sell them,” he said.

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