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  • Writer's pictureTreecycle Ltd

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

If you are considering hiring a portable sawmilling contractor to turn your trees/logs into timber, here are the answers to the most common questions we get. Feel free to text, call or email if you have any questions that aren’t answered here.

Where are you based? What area do you service? We are based in Whananaki with a yard in Whakapara. We generally travel from the Brynderwyns to the Bay of Islands, although this depends on the size of the milling job.

What size logs can you mill, what sizes can you cut? What should we mill my logs into?

If I had a dollar for every time I heard this! “Good wood comes from good trees”, my sawyer mentor John Furniss often repeated. Each species of timber has strengths and limitations regarding it’s use, and each tree is an individual requiring individual consideration. Our Peterson 10”Winch Production Frame mill can easily handle a 1.5m diameter log, up to 6.1m long. We can get rail extensions to any length to mill beyond 6.1m. With the Peterson we can cut up to 250x250mm standard cut, or 250x500mm when double cutting. We can also take slabs out of logs with an Alaskan Chainsaw mill that can mill up to 1.5m wide slabs.

I just have a single stem tree in my property, is it worth milling? It usually isn’t economical for us to bring the mill to your property for one log (unless it’s a huge macrocarpa or redwood!). However as we love seeing trees utilised to their full potential we built a self loading trailer which we use to extract smaller logs up to 2.5T so that we can then mill them at our yard in Whakapara, and you can collect the wood.

How small is too small to mill? In most cases, about 250mm small end diameter is as small as we like to go because we can still get 4x2 and 6x2 out of the logs. Small logs are less cost effective for you due to the increased handling for each cubic of milled timber returned.

What species do you mill? Do you mill native timbers? We mill a wide range of timber species. Species we have worked with include various pine species, eucalypts, macrocarpa, leyland cypress, lawsons cypress, japanese cedar, deodar cedar, redwood, oak, ash, elm, silky oak, walnut, pecan..and many others! Yes we can mill native timbers, with the relevant permit from MPI. The quality of timber you end up with is directly dependant of the quality of the trees. So what should we mill your logs into? I believe there are three important factors to consider here.

1. What is the timber species? Is it naturally durable like eucalyptus or macrocarpa, or is it not particularly durable like poplar and pine. What is the best use of that timber? Unless you plan on getting the timber chemically treated, there is no point milling non-durable species into cuts for outdoor use. We can advise what is reasonable and what is a waste of time.

2. What is the log best suited to? Lets take a large macrocarpa for example. The clear large diameter butt log and second log should yield stable clear construction grade framing and beams, where as the knots in the crown logs would better suit knotty paneling or posts etc. What we mill will be in part determined by what the log wants is most suited to.

3. What timber do you need for your projects? Do you want a whole lot of 100x50 to frame outbuildings, or chunky 250x250 posts for a timber frame structure, or cladding for a sleep-out, or rails for stock yards, or slabs for a farmhouse kitchen build etc. Write down your dream cut list and we can work towards it as we mill through the stack.

Can you fell the trees? Yes we own and operate an arboriculture contracting business, and all our jobs are undertaken by qualified and experienced arborists. Technical tree dismantles in sensitive areas is a lot of the work we do when we’re not milling. We own a Hansa 10” chipper, and contract other heavy machinery and operators when required.

I’ve already booked an arborist, what lengths should they cut the logs to? This ties in to the previous question about what to mill the logs into. If you need 5m beams, then have the logs cut a little longer say 5.2m to allow for trimming the ends when building. Some species like eucalypts are more stable in shorter lengths. If we cut 6m 250x250’s then there will need to be a machine onsite to move them! We can either visit site, or you send photos of the logs to us, and then we can assess the logs and advise accordingly.

Will I make a profit if I sell the timber you mill? Most of the time, when you hire a sawmill, you will get far more value than you pay for. Lets take an example. A single 6.1m long 0.7m diameter macrocarpa yielded 42m of 150x50 and 48m of 200x25. At $1500/cube the timber is worth about $780. It took 2 hours to mill, at approx. $440 (set-up fee spread out over the job + hourly rate). For larger diameter logs, your return-on-investment is far greater. You can see here that the “monetary value” of your logs is best realised when you use the timber yourself.

Do you buy logs? We do buy logs, but only those which we have seen and meet the specifications for our milling requirements. If you have trees/logs you want to sell, get in touch and we can start by arranging to meet and view the stand of trees.

How long do I have to mill a log after it has been felled? In the humid climate of Northland it is generally best to mill cut logs within 2-3 months. Some species like poplar and pine, within the month is best. Some eucalyptus will crack when fresh and are better left a few months.

What do you charge? Most of the time when you have some timber milled, you will get far more value than you pay for. We aim to process the best logs first so we can stop when we reach whatever rate-of-return threshold feels best for you. The ‘monetary value’ of your logs is best realised when you use the timber yourself (as opposed to expecting to sell it). You can save on the cost of milling by doing a few things before we arrive: - Logs are skidded o the ground, are clean of mud and rocks etc, and are ready to be rolled into the mill bed. - The areas where the milled timber is to go is clear and dunnage is available to keep the timber stacks o the ground. For small lots (under 25 cubic of log) we charge: - Travel at $1/km per day travelled. - Setup, any log handling, and milling at $200/hr (minimum 3hr charge). - Additional labour at $50/hr pp* - Cuts under 50mm extra $25/hr. * Lengths over 4m require 2 people lifting Prices are +gst. For larger lots (over 25 cubic of log) our charges depend of the species to be milled and cuts required. Contact us with for a job-specific price.

Do you barter your sawmilling services for a share in the timber? Unfortunately, no. Unless it is a super special tree and I just can’t help myself from having a piece of it!

  • Writer's pictureTreecycle Ltd

We often get asked this question, and the answer is not that straight forward. There are many factors that determine if a tree is suitable for milling. But first let me say, a lot of very nice wood is being cut to firewood by others because the customers are being told "It's not good wood", or "It's not worth the hassle". We at Treecycle Ltd believe in respecting and reusing the many valuable products of trees. Yes sometimes large trees need to be removed for various reasons, and sometimes it is impossible to recover due to the site. However often they can be removed and those trees are toanga, they are our collective heritage and we have a duty to respectfully harvest and use the timber where we can. So to answer the question, is my tree worth milling? It depends on the tree, the access, and what you would like to yield from the tree.

The Tree

What species is the tree? ID the tree and research it's timber properties. We have done a fair amount of milling and should be able to tell you what the timber will be like and what it can be used for. If we haven't milled it, our colleagues and sawyer friends may have. Measure the stem, how tall is the main stem until the first branch? Does it form branches low to the ground or higher up? Is the stem straight or bent? Are there any visible defects that might affect the quality of the timber? As a general rule the SED (small end diameter) of the main log should be over 350mm, but ideally >500mm+. Knotty wood isn't necessarily bad - the knots can look really cool when milled. In the below photos, the pine on the left is very suitable for milling. The eucalyptus log in image 2 was large enough, but it was a E. cinerea (silver dollar gum) and that timber is not very good. The ideal milling tree is straight, clear of branches to at least 3m and at least 350mm diameter at 3m. There are exceptions and each tree is worth considering case by case. And rot or defects can decrease yield and timber quality.

Native trees require a permit from MPI to mill. We are registered in accordance with the Forest Act 1949 and Forestry Regulations 1993 to mill indigenous timbers - Reg No. 01/0046

The Access

Where the tree is located and the access for removing the wood is an important factor that will affect whether we can mill your tree. A lot of our work as climbing arborists is working in tight access areas and we frequently work above buildings, gardens and other sensitive areas. In these environments if it is economical, faster, and safer to remove a tree with the assistance of a hiab crane, we will go for that option. This also allows us to take the wood off the site to a more suitable location for milling. To use a hiab we need to consider the proximity to traffic, pedestrians, power and phone lines, and other obstacles that might get in the way of the crane arm. Also most hiabs have a 20m reach limit out/up and have weight limits, so these need to be calculated on site. The below images are examples of jobs where the site allowed good access for hiabs and the wood was salvaged for milling.

If the site has space for the log to be felled to the ground, then we can mill the log in situ. Below are examples of sites where straight felling was a better option.

The Yield

We do a lot of milling of trees that have been planted by a family member but due to size or age/health they need removing. The tree is sentimental and the current family would like to include that wood in a renovation project of the house or turn it into some furniture or bench tops etc. What you can do with the wood is in part dictated by the tree. If a tree is short and wide and branches quite early, you will get short wide slabs suitable for coffee tables or vanities etc. If the log is tall and long, it is more possible to get long timber for shelves, benches or even framing timber. Below is a selection of images showing various cuts from logs.

Our alaskan chainsaw mill is capable of slabbing logs up to 1650mm wide and is a good option for tight access areas where it is hard to get the log out and hard to get a larger mill to the log. Large slabs are very heavy and the work is tiresome but the results are well worth it!

Get in touch

That was a basic overview to milling. If you have a tree you are thinking of removing and milling get in touch via our contact page with some information and pictures of the tree and site and we can discuss your options. We undertake professional tree care services and alaskan milling throughout Whangarei and the wider Northland area.

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