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Self building with felled trees and portable sawmill

 
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Is is feasible to build a modern style house using trees on your land and a portable sawmill? Has anyone here done that? What equipment to you need to move and process the trees?
How long would you let the newly sawed lumber sit and dry out?  Do you need to let it dry out?
 
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Bert Beckmann wrote:Is is feasible to build a modern style house using trees on your land and a portable sawmill?


I assume you mean stick built with 2x4s or 2x6s?  I think the official answer is "it depends".  Many places have codes that require you to use graded lumber (even though oversized, homemade lumber is likely stronger)

Bert Beckmann wrote:Has anyone here done that? What equipment to you need to move and process the trees?

 Depends :)   Flat ground or hilly?  Clear cutting so that you can pull them out easily or selectively cutting so you have to navigate them past the other trees?  I'm guessing a medium sized tractor would be a good place to start.

Bert Beckmann wrote:How long would you let the newly sawed lumber sit and dry out?  Do you need to let it dry out?

 Yes, I think so (for stick built construction).  Depending on your climate I think the normal answer is 1 year of air drying per inch of wood thickness.
 
pollinator
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yes it is if you have time, a tractor capable of moving logs, an lt40 woodmizer with a hydrolic log roller and automatic thickness options, a chainsaw, and a chain.

if you start at woodmizer's site and then look for woodmizer forums, you find that many people let their logs age for about a year before cutting them into lumber: less moisture means easier to turn on the mill, less shrinkage and possible warping when aged logs are used.

after you cut your 2x6's, nice size walls for insulation, let them dry in a level stack over a summer out of the sun where the  ambient moisture content isn't below ?30%?   ...if they dry in the sun, they will crack......if they dry in really arid conditions, they will crack.

If you don't age your logs and you don't dry your lumber, you'll have sap running all over your building's frame, your lumber will shrink (and if you have logs with different moisture content, this shrinkage will be different for each batch of lumber you make).

I didn't have a hydrolic log roller nor an automatic thickness measurement option and it took up a lot of time ( it is a two person job if you are looking for speed). With those options, it's a one person job at the same production rate.

it took 11 logs of the size you see below to get 77 2x6's   -yeah, I went for quality and didn't use half formed 2x6's. I only dried the lumber long enough to get the 77 pieces; I had sap all over and my true 2x6's shrank to less than true 2x6's (which was still bigger than the lumber you'd buy from a vendor).

you'll need blades for the woodmizer, bar oil, diesel for the mill and tractor, a lubricant for the mill blade (diluted pinesol in my case), and more than one chain for your chainsaw.

you'll need a large working space for scraps, your lumber stack, and your log stack.
IMG_20180320_094844.jpg
log ready to be cut
log ready to be cut
IMG_20180320_102501.jpg
turning a log with a crank isn't as easy as it looks
turning a log with a crank isn't as easy as it looks
IMG_20180328_133236.jpg
chainsaw, chain for the log, and a kubota
chainsaw, chain for the log, and a kubota
 
Bert Beckmann
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Thanks Mike. Sounds like lumber grading might be the big issue. I assume that's going to be a problem with lumber bought directly from a local sawmill as well. I hadn't thought about that. Do you or anyone else on this list know of a way to get local/sawmill lumber graded? Such a shame since my experience has been that local sawmill quality is better if picked carefully. And true 2" x 4" size feels stronger
 
Bert Beckmann
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And thanks Orin!

I'd love to do what you did. I'm sure the lumber is higher quality and what a great feeling to use your own lumber
 
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I've given this some thought.  Where I've landed right now is that the first thing I would do in a new homestead is put up some sort of temporary workspace (carport, quonset hut, something) and then the first thing I would build from that would be a few solar heated dry kilns.  Then fell lumber and process it, and stack it in the kilns.  After that I could begin the work of actually creating the homestead, hoping that by the time I'm ready for the lumber it will be ready for me.  Virginia Tech (a few hours from where I'm located) states that a kiln full of lumber dries to the proper moisture content in one month.

This is all theory, because I don't have practical experience with it.
 
pollinator
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Hi Bert,

Someone I know looked into it and a grading course around here will run you about $1200CAD.  
 
Mike Haasl
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My honest hunch is that it will be cheaper and MUCH faster to just purchase lumber.  If you try to make your own, every step of the way will involve uncertainty, cost, time and labor.  

I totally understand the desire to make your own lumber from your own trees.  
 
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To Mike’s point, that is what I have heard as I have explored it. You won’t save any money - far cheaper to buy from someone who does it at the proper scale, even if a small local miller.

But, I wasn’t looking into it to save money, rather the goal was to use my own resources from my own land to create building materials. And the pleasure of learning to run a sawmill and smell the newly sawn wood, etc...

I have not yet gotten a sawmill, though, so I can’t speak from personal experience about the costs and/or rewards. Someday perhaps.

Another option is to hire someone to bring their portable mill to your land and do the cutting work. You would still do the felling and hauling, without having to buy and learn to operate (and maintain) a sawmill.

One interesting thing available locally is horse-logging, which has a certain appeal. Rather than a tractor or other diesel powered machine tearing up the forest, they fell the trees and use a horse team to haul out the logs. Would like to try that someday too.
 
pollinator
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Mike Haasl wrote:My honest hunch is that it will be cheaper and MUCH faster to just purchase lumber.  If you try to make your own, every step of the way will involve uncertainty, cost, time and labor.  

I totally understand the desire to make your own lumber from your own trees.  



That total depends on how much you need and what resources you have.  Lumber prices spiked again, and availability is spotty.  If you have acres of timber that needs to be thinned/managed anyway, then you have a resource that can be optimized.  There is a big up front cost, probably more than the lumber in one modest house, but probably less than a house and barn.  
 
pollinator
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Excellent discussion.

I'll add that although the cost of the mill and the ancillary logging equipment (tractor, arch, chainsaws, etc) is significant it may be considered an asset not an expense.  When you are done using it ... in two to five years?... it has resale value.   I couldn't possibly predict the % of value it will hold, and if you start with used equipment it will be higher, but even if you got back 50% of the cost then the cost comparison of bought vs made is very different.

Further, if you have trees that you'll need/want to manage then you may find that some of that equipment is necessary anyway, shifting costs from "building" to "property maintenance".  I know, this isn't an accounting forum - but the idea is relevantl

Finally, although the Woodmizer is an excellent machine there are others.  The swingblades in particular may be more appropriate in certain circumstances and might save the price of a tractor and arch.
 
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