Friday, January 27, 2017
In the late 1970s, a simple idea took hold of two American inventors – what if you could take a sawmill to the trees, instead of the other way around? The possibility of saving transport costs intrigued them.
They worked on several prototypes in their garage, and after 4 years, they had successfully tested a truly mobile sawmill that was light, affordable, and could really cut wood well! In 1982, they founded Wood-Mizer (which roughly means ‘wood saver’) with the motto – From Forest to Final Form.
The Eco benefits of mobility
By taking the sawmill to the logs, environmental impact of timber production is reduced. Fewer lorries are needed for deliveries, and fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are reduced.
Wood-Mizer’s portable sawmills were a completely new product on the market in the 1980s, and as a result, a new niche industry suddenly formed – sawmillers who could efficiently and affordably travel from customer to customer and process any number of logs into timber on site. In the old days, a small pile of logs would not be worth taking down to a local sawmill, and so would simply end up as firewood. With a mobile sawmill, those logs could be converted into valuable timber, with the same or better quality than available previously.
The Eco benefits of thin-kerf blades
Wood-Mizer’s success in building an affordable and mobile sawmill was solely due to one factor – they used a thin-kerf bandsaw blade to cut the wood. Traditionally the sawmilling industry always thought that ‘bigger was better’, because a thicker blade could cut faster. However, a blade with 1.5 mm thickness and kerf of 2 mm removes a very small amount of wood with each cut (compared with circular blades with thicknesses of 6 mm) or large bandsaw blades with 3-4 mm thicknesses. So with Wood-Mizer blades, sawmillers were able to get more planks and less sawdust (waste) from every log. Depending on log size, total timber recovery can reach 70% - 80%.
Zoran Zakovlevich, a pallet producer from Serbia, remarks that after transitioning to Wood-Mizer sawmills, he was able to get an additional 5 pallets out of every cubic metre of timber.
Thin-kerf technology saves on raw materials, and so to produce the same level of final products, fewer trees are required. Fewer trees are needed to produce the same final products.
Eco benefits of reduced energy consumption
Wood-Mizer sawmills don’t just offer advantages from one or two areas. They deliver comprehensive cost savings from a variety of perspectives, affecting many different operational costs in positive ways, such as energy consumption, an area that is often overlooked when investing in new machinery.
Wood-Mizer’s smaller blades require significantly less power to cut effectively than other sawmilling methods, reducing energy costs. The blades themselves, being smaller, are cheaper and easier to replace and sharpen. Sharpening Wood-Mizer blades can be done with minimal training, whereas large blades require a sharpening specialist.
Portable sawmilling – a new industry and a lifestyle
Over the last 30+ years, more than 60,000 Wood-Mizer sawmills have been sold into more than 100 countries around the world, as the ‘niche’ industry of thin-kerf sawmilling has grown and grown.
Many people that previously were limited in their options for business diversification, after buying a sawmill, have found themselves running with a new sawmilling career. Farmers, estate owners, contract sawyers, tree surgeons, furniture workshops, natural parks, and established timber companies – there are countless examples of people from these backgrounds choosing and successfully integrating a Wood-Mizer sawmill into their existing businesses.
Many find that a sawmill allows them to begin a new enterprise, live more independently, and have a closer connection with work in the outdoors – all ‘intangible assets’ created by owning a sawmill.
A Czech bus driver, Pavel Kadlec, shares that his life changed for the better when he decided to buy his own sawmill and offer custom cutting services locally. He likes to be able to work at his own pace, and know that the work he is doing fulfills a need and he’s proud that the product he provides is of such high quality. “I’m my own boss now,” he shares.
From Estonia, farmer Aigar Tuusis shares – “You look at your life differently when you have your own sawmill.”
And sawmills seem to foster better social interactions as well in rural areas. From Italy, Anna de Guidi, who operates a pallet manufacturing company, shares, “A sawmill is the best tool to make many friends. Every day we meet with new local customers who become our friends.”
Sawmills in the circular economy
Wood-Mizer sawmills generally function as the basis for small and medium-sized businesses, processing local timber for local end users, while employing local workers.
This is a perfect example of sustainable development at the local level, which has a positive impact on the larger regional or country-wide economy.
This kind of business is exactly what many analysts have predicted for years – as a result of a prolonged recession, smaller companies will grow that can react quickly and more efficiently to the market needs and incorporate new technology faster.
Experts often refer to this as a ‘circular economy’ where raw materials are reduced and waste becomes zero. Promoting companies to adopt this model is very important to the European Parliament and other European institutions, who wish to both preserve the environment and stimulate innovation in business.
The success experienced by small companies with Wood-Mizer sawmills confirms that the transition from the ‘theoretical’ to ‘practical’ is possible and happening even now.
Welcome to the stories and articles section of our website.
Here you will discover how Wood-Mizer sawmill owners in the UK and worldwide are actively growing local economies by processing wood more sustainably and profitably.
I invite you to contact me for any questions about these articles.