Norwood Offers a Variety of Band Sawmills for Farm and Small Businesses
- By Dave Hoyt as Published in TimberLine Magazine, March 2013
As manager of a tree farm in the Missouri Ozarks, I was struck by the irony of selling quality hardwood logs on the stump for 1/10th the cost of the warped, knotty pine at the retail lumber yard. When I first considered setting up a sawmill of my own (30 years ago), options were limited to circle mills powered by everything from farm tractors to old cars jacked up with a drive belt wrapped around the rim of a wheel (this is the Ozarks, after all). My solution was to cut the logs, and haul them to a local sawmill where they were milled into lumber for the home I was building.
For two years, he conducted intensive research and development – he invented novel designs and adopted innovative technology. With the first Norwood LumberMate, a revolution in portable sawmilling was born.
Faced with the same dilemma, Peter Dale took a much different approach. He designed and built his own band sawmill from the ground up. It took two years of experimenting and inventing to come up with a mill that was strong, accurate, and reliable enough to suit him. After thoroughly testing it out during the building of his house, he realized that the mill would appeal to others, and went into manufacturing it as the Norwood LumberMate. Although he had created an excellent sawmill, Peter continued to refine it for maximum productivity, strength, efficiency, safety, and versatility. Now, over twenty years and nearly fifty patents later, Peter is even closer to his vision of the ultimate portable band sawmill.
Norwood Sawmills manufactures sawmills ranging from the 9 h.p. LumberMate LM29 mill capable of cutting logs up to 29" diameter to the 23 h.p. LumberPro HD36, with a 36" diameter capacity. There is no practical limit to the length of log either of these mills can handle, since track extensions are available. Some stationary Norwood mills have been extended to 40’ or more in length, in order to slice up beams, bridge timbers and trailer decking. The mills use thin kerf technology which makes a 1/8" thick cut, which produces less than half the sawdust and up to 15% more lumber from each log, which amounts to a free log for every seven cut. The band saw mills are fuel efficient, as well. The 23 h.p. Briggs & Stratton engine uses less than three gallons per 1,200 board feet—a good day’s production for one person running a manual saw mill.
Norwood offers both manual and hydraulic band sawmills. Manual sawmills provide power only to the blade, which means the sawyer (and assistant, if available) loads and turns the logs, sets the board thickness, and feeds the blade through the log by hand. While this requires some physical exertion, experienced sawyers learn to minimize the effort, using a cant hook and, on larger logs, ramps and a winch. The advantage of the manual mill lies in its low cost and simplicity; with only a few moving parts, it is easy to maintain and repair. For more production with less effort, hydraulic sawmills use the engine to provide the muscle for all the log handling with the push of a lever.
The new LumberPro HD36 is available with any combination of manual and hydraulic features desired. “Often first-time Norwood sawmill owners have never milled lumber before. They are starting with a limited budget and don’t really know where their sawmilling operation will take them,” explains Norwood President, Ashlynne Dale, “But with a manual Norwood sawmill, they can start for very little money. Then, later on, as their profits grew and as their sawing business developed, they added hydraulic and power attachments. Pretty soon, their sawmill had become a fully-hydraulic high-production machine.”
The optional towing package allows either sawmill to be towed down the road at highway speeds with a pick-up truck, or out in the woods with a small tractor or ATV. The frames are strong and stiff enough that the wheels and axle can stay on the machine while milling for fast set-up—about fifteen minutes from the time the mill is brought to the site to the time it is ready to make the first cut. “Sawmills take a beating”, explains Dale, “They have to handle heavy logs and mill accurate lumber in really tough conditions. Our machines stand up to all that wear and tear. They have to. Norwood owners all over the world count on their mills to make them money and save them money … they have to work, no matter what.”
Another unique aspect of the Norwood sawmills is that the owner builds the mill from a kit, which arrives on a 4’ by 6’ pallet (including the track). This has three advantages. First, it keeps shipping costs down—very important for a sawmill that might be shipped anywhere in the world. It also keeps down the purchase price, since it saves the cost of building the mill at the factory. Third, the sawyer knows every nutAuthor Dave Hoyt Using the Norwood Sawmill Band Mill and bolt, every adjustment, and every control on the mill before cutting the first log. The pieces are self-aligning as they bolt together, and in a day and a half, the mill can be ready for action.
Band sawmills are surprisingly easy to learn to use. Most beginning sawyers find that it takes three or four logs to get to the point where they produce consistent, straight lumber. Every log, however, presents its own challenges and teaches its own lessons. With experience, you will learn to “read” the log. For example, offcenter growth rings indicate that the log came from a leaning tree and likely has stress in it. Bumps in the bark indicate grown-over knots that may be difficult to cut. And blue stain in oak comes from a reaction of tannic acid in the tree with iron—an almost sure sign that there are nails or other metal embedded in the tree.
If the idea of a sawmill brings up images of a big, noisy circle blade with belts and conveyors, the modern band saw mill will pleasantly surprise you. Anyone can get into the sawmilling business for an investment less than half the cost of a new pickup truck. Most of the support equipment—a pickup truck, tractor, flatbed trailer, winch, and chain saw are probably already on the farm. Ms. Dale says that she has found that “Sawyers are typically a resourceful, down-to-earth, hard-working group of people. They have a job to do and want to get on with it,” She concludes, “They want a sawmill that they can afford, and that will be productive, accurate and reliable. Norwood sawmills are built to meet those expectations.”