Portable Sawmill Services
I offer portable sawmill services to folks located within 25 miles of Fireside Farm --which includes most of Durham and Chapel Hill, and stretches north/south from Burlington to Pittsboro. Each milling job is unique— based on site accessibility, lumber type, and desired dimensions— so I like to schedule a free site visit before any milling takes place. In this 30-minute meeting, I can tell you how much your lumber may be worth and how much it would cost to mill it.
Below, I’ve provided a basic overview of my pricing. Please note that I do not cut down trees. For that, you will need to contract an arborist. I recommend George Odell (919-218-7997).
Site Assessment and Log Valuation: Free
When we meet at the site, I will document the dimensions of the trees you wish to have milled and assess the site. A few days afterwards, I will send you an estimate of your trees’ value, the project costs, and the timeframe when you can expect to have them milled. This estimate is broken down by tree, and by labor, so you can choose to do as little or as much of your project as you like.
Mobile Set-up Fee: $50
For portable sawmill services, I charge a one-time $50 setup fee.
Log Prep Fee -- $50/hr+
When we meet, I will tell you how to set up the logs on your property. In many cases, your arborist will bring a skid steer and be able to stack the logs for you. If your job is more DIY, and you don’t have a tractor, I can set-up the logs for you. If your logs only need to be moved a short distance, then I can use my log arch, winch, and block and tackle set-up for $50/hr. If you have to move more than four logs, or move them far distances, then I can bring my tractor to your site for a $200 delivery fee and $50 operational hourly rate. If you need someone with a skid steer and/or dump truck, I recommend Leland Reilich (919-270-4903).
Milling (By the Hour)-- $80
I operate the portable sawmill at $80/hr. I will be clear with you when this billable time begins and ends. I don’t charge for time related to machine down-time or mechanical adjustments.
Estimating Project Time
Many people ask me how long it takes to mill a log. And, unfortunately, it’s highly variable: If everything is stacked well, I can process a log every 15 minutes. I’ve also spent an entire day quartersawing one oak log. It all depends. Some general rules of thumb are as follows: the cleaner, greener, softer, and more cylindrical a log, the faster I can go. A 24” diameter 10’ pine log might take me and my mill 20 minutes to process. The fewer cuts I have to make, the faster I cut. If I have a helper who is pulling the slabs off the mill as soon as the blade exits the log, I can work quicker. Anything over 32” in diameter can require extra rotations, which adds time. A crotch section requires planning. A hardwood that has been down over a year may require an extra blade change. However, in most cases, it’s safe to assume a ballpark of 45 minutes per log.
Stacking Fee-- Case Specific
All sawmill services are for processing only. Either you, or a helper, must pull the lumber off the mill and stack it. I can hire an assistant for $15/hr. I can provide 1”x2”x72” stickers for $1/piece.
Striking an Object in Log -- $20
My sawmill is designed to process clean logs. I use a metal detector to check for objects in yard trees. If I hit an object, such as a rock or nail, then I charge $20 per instance to recoup the damaged blade’s cost. The possible presence of metal should not necessarily dissuade you from having your log milled. If there is $1000 worth of lumber in your log, an additional $20 is not too onerous a fee.
Chainsaw Mill -- $100/hr
If you have logs greater than 36” in diameter, or if they are in an inaccessible location, I can mill them using my Alaskan chainsaw mill. This option has the benefit of not requiring much set-up— or a set-up fee. I carry my chainsaw and a ladder to the log, and that’s it. The chainsaw mill can produce spectacularly beautiful, super-wide slabs up to 56” wide. The disadvantage to chainsaw mill is that it takes longer to process lumber than the portable mill. The chainsaw mill consumes a tank of gas and a reservoir of oil per cut, which is why the cost per hour is higher than the portable mill.
Log Removal-- $50/hr, plus 0.05/lb, plus $3 one-way loaded mile
If your tree is already down, and you don’t have space for milling it, then I offer log removal services. Fees for this service are calculated by adding time, weight, and distance. I charge $50/hr for loading, plus 0.05/lb and $3/one-way mile for hauling. My log trailer is limited to two large logs and/or 5,000 lbs per trip.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you live in Hillsborough and you had a red oak come down in a storm. You cut the tree into three logs-- one 24” diameter 8’ long, one 18 diameter 8’ long, and one crotch section 18” x 30” by 6’ long. I’d be able to move those three logs (1427 lbs, 805 lbs, 1139 lbs) in 60 minutes of site work over two trips. Your cost would be $50 (labor) + $168 (weight) + $120 (distance) for a total of $278.
To remove logs, I have to be able to get relatively close with a 16’ trailer and 10K winch. All log removal involves skidding logs on the ground, which disturbs grass. If you have a lot of logs to move, it is likely more cost effective to hire someone with a skid steer and dump truck. I recommend Leland Reilich (919-270-4903).