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  • Writer's pictureTreecycle Ltd

Portable Sawmilling F.A.Q

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!


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