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Joshua Clarkweiss fashions some local timber into lumber on his portable sawmill, which is part of his new business venture, Full Circle Forest Products.
Just like pork chops don’t really come from the grocery store, 2×4’s don’t originate at the lumber yard. Wood for building comes from trees, and one local business owner has recently launched a new endeavor to help property owners turn their timber into lumber.
Joshua Clarkweiss of Sandhill recently opened Full Circle Forest Products, a portable sawmill service.
“My desire to start a portable sawmill business started from wanting the service myself,” he said. “I want to use a natural resource (trees) that is available to me on my farm, and create custom lumber for my needs. I want others to have that access too. I want people to be able to use what they’ve got. If you have a special tree in your yard that has to come down for disease or safety concerns, you can turn it into lumber and be able to keep it in your life. If you’re a farmer or rancher that has a woodland and want to put up a barn or outbuilding, you can use your own logs without having to truck them out.”
The Scotland County resident notes that the farm where he lives has a long history of pulling logs out of its woods and getting them milled on site.
“The lumber we milled from our forest built two houses, three barns, a sorghum and maple syrup processing facility, and many sheds,” he said. “There’s a special kind of joy that comes from using a structure built from our wood.”
After the business owner who used to bring the mill to the farm, moved out of the area Clarkweiss saw an opportunity.
“When I started finding beautiful oak and walnut logs laying on the ground or standing dead in our woods, I started looking for something to do with them beyond turning them into firewood,” he said. “I couldn’t find a local who was readily available to mill on site.”
Knowing it didn’t make a lot of sense to haul a small quantity of logs to a big mill, Clarkweiss decided to purchase a used TimberKing B20 mill from his neighbor. He traveled to the manufacturer’s facility in Kansas City where the machine underwent a general inspection and was returned to optimum working condition.
Since June of 2019, Clarkweiss has been visiting area farms with his hydraulic TimberKing B20.
The process typically starts with a free site visit where Clarkweiss reviews the logs and starts working on a game plan while working up a free cost estimate.
“During these initial visits I learn about what you are trying to accomplish,” he said. “How many logs you’ll have, your custom dimensions for lumber, posts, beams, slabs, etc., how you intend to harvest, as well as how you intend to store and dry the wood.”
If agreed, Clarkweiss then returns at a later date and starts the job. Logs are loaded onto the hydraulic lift by hand with cant hooks. A lever is pulled and the logs roll onto the deck where they are custom milled to the customer’s specifications. The lumber is offloaded onto a trailer, wagon, or lift forks throughout the milling process.
Clarkweiss notes he is available for small jobs that may only take a few hours or larger projects that can take days.
The mill can handle logs up to 18’ long. It has a maximum cut of 24”, but it can be used to square up logs that are up to 32” in diameter.
“It’s hard to say what an average log can produce because there is so much variation in size and quality,” said Clarkweiss. “A 10’ log that is 20” diameter will produce approximately 160 board feet.”
The mill can produce dimensional lumber, beams, square fence posts, cut live edge slabs, cut cookies (cross-sections of a log), or anything else a customer might want.
Clarkweiss prices the job by the linear footage produced, noting on average he can produce roughly 200 feet of boards per hour.
“I don’t have the fastest mill on the market,” he said. “It was manufactured in 1995 and doesn’t have a computerized system that measures cut thickness, I do that by hand. Work goes faster if I have a helper offloading wood.”
The process is expedited by proper log preparation. The property owner is responsible for harvesting their own wood and stacking it so it is ready for milling.
The business owner notes that timber selection is truly the key to the operation, but not necessarily as one might think.
“Generally it is not about picking out the very best tree on the farm,” said Clarkweiss. “I typically work with trees people have to take down and don’t want to waste or have a special significance to them. I’m willing to mill yard and hedgerow trees when a lot of other mills aren’t. Normally these trees would be dumped in a ditch or pile to rot. I want to help people utilize these trees, even if it means having to cut through a nail buried in a tree 40 years ago.”
He added that farms and ranches that are undergoing land-clearing operations can produce quality lumber by saving logs they are removing and then getting them milled onsite.
“Instead of buying squared fence posts or beams for pole-barn construction, people can harvest and mill trees from their own land,” he said. “People don’t have to cut down healthy trees either, they can selectively harvest the (recently) dead or dying trees on their land and improve forest health by doing so. Logs coming from these trees can produce really interesting grain pattern and spalting in lumber.”
Already this year, Clarkweiss has milled wood for two different Memphis woodworkers wanting to use lumber sourced from their own land to make cabinetry and furniture.
“I’ve finished one and am in the middle of another waney edge siding job,” he said. “Waney edged boards have one live or ‘natural’ edge left on it, leaving an organic feel to a building. This style is becoming more and more popular, and there aren’t a lot of places to purchase that style of lumber.”
Other projects using lumber from the mill have included beautiful accent beams in homes with one or two squared sides as well as similar mantles and shelving. Clarkweiss has also created plenty of fence posts and also works with customers wanting to mill trees for live edge slab furniture.
“I’ve done siding and floorboards for people that want lumber sourced from our region,” he said. “One customer is having 700 square feet of wide plank red oak flooring produced from trees off their neighbor’s land. This is a great way to localize the construction and lumber market while tapping into a waste stream.”
The business owner has also dreamed of municipalities funneling tree “waste” to a central location to be milled.
“They could use it for city maintenance or sell it as an income source,” he said, noting that “Urban logging” has exploded across the country as people realize how much wood is being thrown in ditches and dumps.
“Traditionally, mills won’t touch yard trees because it’s almost guaranteed there’s metal in it,” he said. “Small, portable bandsaw mills have cheaper blades than big mills. If I can fit, I’ll pull up in your yard and mill the tree(s) you have to take down. There are a million uses for lumber, and that wood will be a conversation piece in your home.”
Once the milling process is completed, the waiting game begins. Clarkweiss said it is important for customers to plan ahead to allow ample time for drying of the lumber once it is milled.
“An old adage that still stands is that wood will dry 1” per year,” he said. ” If a customer is wanting to use their lumber for exterior use, it is possible to stack it properly in the shade or in a barn and wait. It could take 6 months to 1 year to dry depending on what you want to use it for.”
However, if the lumber is intended for interior use, he recommends it be kiln dried.
“There are a couple kilns in our area that will do custom drying,” he said. “One is Custom Hardwoods, operated by Ed Elder (660)216-4907. The other is Cardwell Lumber in Novelty, MO. Also, solar kilns can be built relatively easily and cheaply, and are another great way to dry lumber.”
Clarkweiss does not provide custom drying services at this time, but he hopes that will change in the future.
“I live on 130 acres of forest and have been selectively harvesting trees to mill into live edge slabs, mantles, and boards,” he said. “This wood is currently air drying. I’ll be building a solar kiln in the next couple years to bring it’s moisture content down, then finish products for sale.”
While the business currently focuses on milling logs, Clarkweiss said he envisions producing benches, coffee tables, bowls, spoons, mantles, cheese plates, and charcuterie boards.
Follow Full Circle Forest Products from your Instagram or Facebook account to see what’s going on in that realm.