Tour of a Rural Iowa Sawmill

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Blog entry by BigRedKnothead posted 10-03-2013 01:47 PM 2410 reads 2 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Yesterday while making a trip to one of my favorite little mom ‘n pop sawmills, I decided I’d snap some pics to show you all. I haven’t seen a whole lot of this country, but something tells me not everyone sees something like this.

The owners name is Paul, and we’ve become friends. He’s in his mid 70’s now. How he still keeps this place in operation by himself is beyond me. He loves that I bring him pictures of the furniture, benches, and whatever else I make with his lumber. I could see how that would be rewarding for a sawyer.

Of course his prices are pretty good since your cutting out the middle man. That said, some woodworker don’t like this type of sawmill because they only want select grades. There’s a lot more common grade wood in a log than people realize. I have no problem working around/with defect especially when it’s priced correctly. But I know Paul get some people insist on only long, clear boards.

Here goes. Entering a “hardwood farm” that has been in the same family for over a century.

Inside the drying/sales room. He has mostly stuff from our area. White oak, walnut, cedar etc. Sometimes he’ll swap other sawyer to get some cherry and maple.

Paul is checking out the pics I brought him. His place gets a little cluttered;)

Here’s the stacks in his main building. He’s not running out any time soon.

And now my favorite part….the mill. Does it look like a sawmill?

Well, it is. Old school. Big circular blade powered by the pto of a tractor. It’s cool to think my benches, and a lot of the furniture I’ve made has run across this saw.

Crazy ehh? Too bad he wasn’t sawing that day or I could have got some action shot. Sometimes when I arrive he is sawing and I jump right in the action. I think it’s fun.

Got a little bit of everything that day. Though it doesn’t show in the pic, the maple towards the front is bird’s eye.
Most of the rest is red oak for an upcoming project. Take care all, Red

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

25 comments so far

View Bluepine38's profile


3038 posts in 1929 days

#1 posted 10-03-2013 01:52 PM

Wish I was a little closer, looks like a great place to shop and visit. Thank you for sharing.

-- As ever, Gus-the 76 yr young apprentice carpenter

View MaroonGoon's profile


280 posts in 802 days

#2 posted 10-03-2013 01:55 PM

Man, I’d kill to have a sawmill like that close to where I live. Heck, I’d make the trip just to see that big saw work!

-- "Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." -- Pablo Picasso

View wpreman's profile


1611 posts in 2556 days

#3 posted 10-03-2013 02:06 PM

I hope he has someone in the family that will keep it going! Thanks for sharing

-- Bill, Florida

View ajosephg's profile


1867 posts in 2404 days

#4 posted 10-03-2013 02:08 PM

Thanks for sharing

I never cease to be amazed at the clutter in many of the old time saw mills. Wonder how they can walk around without tripping over stuff and falling down.

-- Joe

View AnthonyReed's profile


5513 posts in 1284 days

#5 posted 10-03-2013 02:31 PM

Friggin’ awesome!! Thanks BRK.

-- ~Tony

View Don W's profile

Don W

16019 posts in 1411 days

#6 posted 10-03-2013 02:46 PM

There was/is one about 2 miles from me that is similar except they only did custom sawing. It wasn’t even run by pto, it was run by a wide belt off a tractor. Most of the lumber in my house was sawn from that mill. They don’t do much work anymore. Its to bad.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

653 posts in 1156 days

#7 posted 10-03-2013 03:30 PM

What a fantastic place to buy your timber from. It must be hard to say no more!! Thanks for sharing.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View BigRedKnothead's profile


6500 posts in 826 days

#8 posted 10-03-2013 04:02 PM

I figured I wasn’t the only one who would think that place is cool.

I don’t know if any of Paul’s sons intend to keep the place going. To be honest, since Paul is getting up there in years, I worry about it. If we lost him, I would weep for days….for the loss of the man and the lumber.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View pintodeluxe's profile


3770 posts in 1657 days

#9 posted 10-03-2013 04:16 PM

Nice tour, thanks.
My local sawyer is also a beekeeper. You have to back your trailer 12 inches from the row of bee hives.
I went looking for a new source of lumber and the next guy was a beekeeper too!
I can’t stay away from the bees.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View ddockstader's profile


124 posts in 2105 days

#10 posted 10-03-2013 04:29 PM

You don’t say where in Iowa. I may be up for a road trip. Can you give us some directions?

View BigRedKnothead's profile


6500 posts in 826 days

#11 posted 10-03-2013 05:18 PM

It’s near Council Bluffs, where I live. I didn’t post his business info because Paul asked me not to.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View Randy_ATX's profile


742 posts in 1285 days

#12 posted 10-03-2013 06:03 PM

Thanks for taking the time to show others a virtual tour of this mill. I love this stuff!
You are fortunate to have this resource.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View whitebeast88's profile


3698 posts in 1034 days

#13 posted 10-03-2013 10:00 PM

thanks for sharing,thats a great sawmill.

-- Marty.Athens,AL

View chrisstef's profile


12107 posts in 1850 days

#14 posted 10-03-2013 10:36 PM

Very very cool. Great tour big red.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View gfadvm's profile


12352 posts in 1534 days

#15 posted 10-04-2013 12:44 AM

That is so cool! He has sawed a mountain of lumber with that old tractor. Thanks for the tour!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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