My journey started a year ago when I decided to realize a dream that has been close to my heart for a long time. We started our San Antonio SawMill “Green Wood Milling Company” in 2010. One would not think of South Texas as a source of lumber but cities are great resources for all kinds of amazing wood types: domestic and exotic. My best friends are Tree Service Companies.
I love wood from when the smell of the wood ships blowing out the plainer vent to the emerging grain appearing on the other side. Each board is like a gift that is being opened way to slow!. My timing to start up this new venture could have been better, but with the economy the way it is, is there ever a good time to have your first baby? That my friends is exactly what a new business is, a little infant baby. Long days, sleepless nights, the constant feeding in the form of cash and the constant poop cleanup as you navigate the unknowns. But your unconditional love always seems to prevail over constant adversity. Small victories are heavily celebrated and makes every trail worth the growing pains. One has to find the joy in every moment good or bad.
Our mission from the start was to repurpose the trees that we would collect out of the urban environment of San Antonio and then turn those trees into products for consumers to enjoy. On paper it seemed like a fairly easy task. Free Wood!!!!, a sawmill and CASHING!!!! Any woodworker’s dream right!!!!, turns out not to be so free after all. There’s the cost of picking up the log. In the beginning it took like 4 hrs. with manual cranks and come-a-longs to wrestle a large trunk on to the trailer. Then a light bulb goes on and you realize that an electric winch will cut your time down to 1 hr. then you still have to get it off the trailer, another hour. The milling time, labor cost for your helper or two, gas, chain saw blades, sawmill blades, just to name a few. I mention this because unlike their wild counter parts urban trees have a lot of surprises hidden with in; wire, bolts, nails, cable and even old landscape lighting from about 30 years ago. The sound of metal crunching into metal will make the hair rise on your back. At $15 – $17 for a mill blade, $20 + for a chainsaw blade. It adds up quick! The average time for a large log to be milled into 1” thick slabs is about 3 – 4 hrs. without any surprises.
In the first few months it was word of mouth and my inventory of logs slowly grew from just a few to a pile and soon I had to become more picky about the quality of the trees I collected. Of course I started out collecting logs for free but soon came to the realization that it was to costly for my business. Between labor cost and the price of gas and equipment repairs it was consuming me alive. There is this looming question you have to ask constantly with each prospect. Will this be a good return in my investment? As an artist you just want to be creative and lack of money always seems to rain on the parade. However, during this whole process one often finds a good balance between business and creativity. Don’t let the money constrain your creativeness and in the same breath don’t let your creativity over extend your budget. I have landed in hot water a few times underbidding on projects, trying to be a nice guy and give people a deal and resulted in coming out short in the end. In spite of that, just dust yourself off and learn from the mistakes. Today is a new day and by the grace of God our business is starting to take shape one project at a time. It feels good to get your name out there and you know you are doing something right when you start to shipping projects out of state.
Apart from collecting our own logs we offer re-saw and Logs to lumber services to customers that have their own logs and just want to have it sliced. We have made modern, transitional, and traditional peaces of furniture. Large conference tables, coffee tables, and have even provided cross cut logs for weddings. Having the furniture shop in conjunction with the SawMill has been a rewarding undertaking.
To say the least, urban logging is not for the faint of heart and NOT!!!! if you want a quick buck. However, the satisfaction of knowing that we are making a difference saving one tree at a time and giving those trees another chance to bring beauty into someone’s home is priceless.
-- San Antonio Sawmill