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Forum topic by fiddlebanshee posted 05-05-2010 02:46 PM 1501 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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fiddlebanshee

195 posts in 2412 days


05-05-2010 02:46 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lumber milling newbie question oak poplar

I don’t quite know in which part of LJ to ask this question, so here goes, if it needs to be moved, mods, please be my guest.

I am moving to a 14 acre mountain top, all wooded property in Maryland in a couple of weeks. My builder has been building our house for the last 6 months and it is near completion. In the process of building, obviously wood was cleared for the house site (as little as possible!). I have no idea what kind of trees they are, my guess would be oak and tulip poplar mostly, perhaps some maple and cherry, they are all mature trees.

So a couple of weeks ago I get a call from my new next door neighbor that he has a portable mill and wants to see if there is good wood among the downed trees that he could milll (and keep, I presume). He was concerned that it would all end up in the woodstove. He suggested we might work out some kind of trade. I wasn’t considering ww as a hobby at that time so much, so I said next time I was up there we could get together and have a look. Now that I am entertaining the idea of making ww a hobby I think I need to think hard about what kind of trade I get into, given that I know nothing about wood species and their value.

Questions I have are:
1. What would be an equitable trade? Should we split the wood 50/50 and he mills the wood into dimensioned lumber for me, while keeping the other half? This should include jointing and planing it because I have none of these gadgets. Can I bargain for me to use his jointer/planer for other wood that I buy, in exchange for his share of the wood?
2. What is oak and poplar wood worth? Is it even worth salvaging? (OK, the oak – I get, but the poplar?)
3. They cleared about an acre, I would think this would last me a life time to build things from. Should I endeavor to sell some of it, even after I split it with the neighbor?
4. How long does it need to dry before I can start building things with it? What kind of setup do I need to let it dry? Can that be done outside?

Ok that’s a lot of questions. I’ll stop right here. Appreciate your inputs as I am kind of lost and don’t want to be taken advantage of.

-- As if I needed another hobby!


27 replies so far

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 3372 days


#1 posted 05-05-2010 04:44 PM

#1: A 50/50 split is what I do only on species like walnut/cherry. I can buy oak-poplar-hickory (most hardwood logs right now)...sawlogs delivered for less than my price to saw. Meaning I would have more in the wood if I did a 50/50 on than just buying the logs outright. So in those cases I get the lions share (species dependant as how it is divided up) That is just rough sawn, planed and all that is extra $ or extra lumber for me.

#2: Heck yes it’s worth saving, why let it rot/burn it.

#3: You could sell what you don’t need pretty easy I suspect.

#4: 1” thick lumber will take a year to dry, yes it can be done outside.

Whatever you decide I would try to work with the sawmill guy. I bet he knows his wood and can help you get some value out of what you had to clear. I will go further to say you are going to find very few sawyers who are going to ’’take advantage” of you. Talk to him and see what he is thinking. Then get back to us.

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fiddlebanshee

195 posts in 2412 days


#2 posted 05-05-2010 06:48 PM

“I will go further to say you are going to find very few sawyers who are going to ’’take advantage” of you. “

Good point, but not knowing the gentleman in question, I have no assurance of that. Add into the equation that I am a woman and you may understand where my fear is coming from. I have come across many a situation where I would have been taken advantage of (sorry, but largely by men) had I not educated myself first. Including very recent events while building our house.

I hope you are right. I will give the gent the benefit of the doubt, and be on my guard at the same time. I should also add that he mentioned he was doing this as a hobby and not as a way to make money.

I ran a search on google and it seems that custom portable for profit sawing mill operators charge around $.30 per BF. I have no clue actually how many BF we have on the ground, and how much of it is usable, but let’s say for sake of argument that I have about 3000 BF, it’d cost me about $1000 to have it sawn and keep all the lumber myself, and then I’d still have to joint and plane it.

So what we are actually negotiating is a fair price for the labor he is putting into sawing my boards, that would be translated into wood he keeps. And if I am hearing you correctly you say that with the low prices for oak and poplar, he would have to retain say 60% or 70% of the wood in order to be compensated fairly. Stumpage mixed hardwood prices being on average $.20 BF in my area according the the websearch (which is what he would pay to get the stumps to be milled) would mean that 3000 BF would cost him $600 if he went and bought it. So at 70% of 3000 BF (2100 BF) I would basically give him $420 worth of stumps. For that I would retain 900 BF, which I would have paid $270 to have milled commercially. At 50/50 I would give him $300 (1500*$.20) in stumps and I would retain 1500 BF that would cost me $450 to mill commercially. At 60/40 he would get $360 for milling $360 worth of lumber for me. So perhaps a 60/40 arrangement would be equitable?

“Talk to him and see what he is thinking. Then get back to us.”

YES SIR!

-- As if I needed another hobby!

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Daren Nelson

767 posts in 3372 days


#3 posted 05-05-2010 07:18 PM

$ numbers vary around the country so I didn’t bring them up in my first post. I charge $0.35 bft to mill. Right now (hardwood log prices are in the crapper) I can get just about any species DELIVERED to my mill for $0.15-$0.30. With the exception of like I said cherry and walnut, they are still $0.40-$0.50, so those are the only species I come out slightly ahead on a sharecut. Oak for example I can get all I want for $0.25 (or less depending). Poplar without checking, probably $0.15, I don’t mess with it much so I don’t know off the top of my head.

Let me back up and say those logs prices are 1/2 what I was paying 18 months ago, walnut was at $1.00 and oak was $0.50. You see this is a fluid business since we are dealing in a commodity. Sure log prices have gone down…but so have lumber prices at the mill. We sawyers keep an eye on this, I’m sure your guy has too. It looks like you are doing your research and are pretty well informed, good for you. But if the guy has some different numbers, well you are going to have to negotiate if he is willing.

Good luck !

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Nomad62

726 posts in 2425 days


#4 posted 05-05-2010 09:49 PM

There are too many variables to get an exact answer before you dive into this deal. Your neighbor is trying to use his tool for benefit, you have the wood. Most people will trade 50/50 for the service; however, if one of those trees has a big nail or spike, whatever, it will cost him a blade. If the wood is bad (bugs, rot, splits, etc.) then you both lose. If the boards come off the log warping, you both lose. These things happen regularly. In none of these situations will he benefit, and since he is doing the work and the wood currently is of no real value (ok, firewood but booo on that) then he needs to get something. The jointing and planing is a service to the wood done by the woodworker; he would really have no liability for that, unless he was truly in it for fun but you should pay for that service with cash or wood. It would be kind of like saying he needs to build you products from the wood as well after having split the wood. There will be some obvious value to what you are getting, the question is how much? If you don’t work with wood now, when would you? Is it a reality or just a “maybe”? I gather that you see a potential for lots of money, and I certainly don’t blame you for snooping around some. That is a very good thing to do. But wood in a nice lumber shop is a long way from the tree, it just doesn’t seem that way until you have been through the process. There are too many things to go wrong to count the chickens before they are hatched… or maybe the board feet before they are dry ;-) . He is your new neighbor, maybe he could be a good one. He is a man, men take advantage… just like women can/do. My vote is to quit counting the pennies and offer up a 50/50 split if you want the wood for any reason. It well could be that someday he and his mill will come up with some really special wood that could work for you much more so then than this current wood can, and maybe if you treat him well today he will remember you then. I am a little blunt with the things I say sometimes, I hope you are not offended in any way. Congratulations on your new home, and the best of luck!

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

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MyFathersSon

180 posts in 2780 days


#5 posted 05-05-2010 10:11 PM

If I understand this—he is not running a professional mill—and you are not running a professional shop.
So – basicly you are both doing something primarily because you want to.
You are talking barter here—one of the very few areas where there is truly a “free market” economy.
In that world—any product or service is ‘worth’—whatever someone is willing to give you for it.
No more – no less.
What he is going to be willing to take in exchange for his service—- is probably going to vary depending on his mood and financial situation at the time—and how much he thinks he would or would not enjoy doing the work – if he likes your smile etc. etc.
Just like what you are going to be willing to give him in exchange for the service is going to vary depending on how badly you want it done—and much you dont want to have to rent or buy the tools and do it yourself etc etc etc.
Knowing what others in your area are getting for the same service might give you some good bargaining leverage if you need it. But if he wants more than that—that does NOT necessarily mean he is “taking advantage” of you. Could be it’s just—that is what his time and energy are worth to him. Just like if you walk away from the deal—probably means it’s just not worth that to you – or you didn’t like his attitude or—whatever.
This is of course assuming neither of you lies to the other about what others are getting/paying—now that would be tacky.
It’s a rather old fashioned way of doing business—but it can be a lot of fun too.
Good luck—happy horse trading

-- Those who insist it can't be done - should politely refrain from interrupting those who are doing it.

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fiddlebanshee

195 posts in 2412 days


#6 posted 05-06-2010 01:09 AM

“My vote is to quit counting the pennies and offer up a 50/50 split if you want the wood for any reason. (...) and maybe if you treat him well today he will remember you then. I am a little blunt with the things I say sometimes, I hope you are not offended in any way. “

I am not offended in any way. :) My calculations would actually give him 60% and I would retain 40%. I was not calculating how I could get rich over his back, I wanted to see what an equitable trade would look like, and with the help of you all I think I have figured that out. You have a good point, he is a neighbor, and I would want to keep him on the friendly side, so I am certainly willing to work with him. But I needed information before I could decide what was which in this case. I understood the jointing/planing thing and that that would be additional work. Actually if I do decide to keep some wood for myself, I might actually need to get a jointer/planer myself.

I am actually pretty serious about getting into ww for a hobby. So there is definitely a value to me in whatever he would be proposing.

“Knowing what others in your area are getting for the same service might give you some good bargaining leverage if you need it. But if he wants more than that—that does NOT necessarily mean he is “taking advantage” of you. Could be it’s just—that is what his time and energy are worth to him.”

Good point too, and that’s why I was asking for advice. I’m sorry if my remark of being taken advantage of rubbed some of you the wrong way. I am aware that that is not the default in most men I encounter, but having been burnt recently by some builders that I interviewed before deciding who we would let build our house that experience was fresh in my mind. I feel a lot more secure if I have information, and can have an equal share in the conversation.

Thanks for all for the advice and thoughts. I will let you know what transpires after we look at the wood together.

-- As if I needed another hobby!

View NBeener's profile

NBeener

4808 posts in 2641 days


#7 posted 05-06-2010 02:07 AM

“if I do decide to keep some wood for myself, I might actually need to get a jointer/planer myself.”

Oh … but you’re going to need a LOT more tools than that.

And we’re right here … only TOO ready, willing, and able to help spend YOUR money :-)

Have fun !

-- -- Neil

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fiddlebanshee

195 posts in 2412 days


#8 posted 05-06-2010 11:31 AM

LOL :D

I know that! I already have the minimum but it’s good to have people around that can give advice!

-- As if I needed another hobby!

View MyFathersSon's profile

MyFathersSon

180 posts in 2780 days


#9 posted 05-06-2010 05:38 PM

Being cautious about being taken advantage of is never a bad thing.
Especially when you have been burned by a dishonest vendor or tradesman.
Been there myself.
In a straight bargaining/bartering/trading situation—BOTH sides are out to get the best deal they can.
To me – that’s the fun of the game.
But sometimes the line between—skillful bargaining – and ‘taking advantage’ can be a thin one.

-- Those who insist it can't be done - should politely refrain from interrupting those who are doing it.

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Nomad62

726 posts in 2425 days


#10 posted 05-06-2010 05:52 PM

I cut up logs for fun now, but look forward to some day selling wood or a sawing service. I have gotten some beautiful wood, and a lot of garbage, but what the heck. It’s what I’ve gotten doing just what you and your neighbor are doing, and it’s been fun.

Your thinking is great, and boy do I understand the reservations encountered by dealing with people that just want your money even if it means taking advantage. Been there, done that, there just aren’t many female contractors out there to blame, lol. Your tree wood is valuable, it makes perfect sense to benefit from it. Snooping around sites like this and asking people “in the know” is certainly an intelligent step in your process. I like to stress that going to a nice hardwood store is a poor way to put a value on a log.

One thing I have found is that while people love their trees and want them turned into something nice, they also seem to think that their big old tree is standing gold. It is unfortunate that a LOT of good wood is left to rot just because the owner won’t let go of it without a bank roll, and because some sawyers won’t cut it without the same. Kudos to you and your neighbor for working on saving it!

Send a photo in if you like when you get it sliced up, there are those of us (well, me anyway) that appreciate it just as much as the final art work it can end up being. Nice work.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

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fiddlebanshee

195 posts in 2412 days


#11 posted 05-06-2010 06:53 PM

Yes, I will make sure I make pictures throughout the process, even if it is just for you guys to help me identify some of this wood. I may talk to the neighbor coming weekend, if my sheds are finally going to be delivered and I have to be on site to receive them.

-- As if I needed another hobby!

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MyFathersSon

180 posts in 2780 days


#12 posted 05-06-2010 09:09 PM

Count yourself lucky to have such a neighbor.
I have a LARGE 85+ year old Pecan tree in my back yard that is not long for this world.
Because it was planted when the house was built – and because I know there is some beautiful wood in there
When its time comes—I would LOVE to get enough lumber out of it to make a nice cabinet of some kind to remain a part of the house—
But I can’t find anyone within reasonable distance (hobbyist or pro) to take on the job.
Plenty of offers to cut the tree into firewood and trash but—- that would be a shameful waste.

As others have said—congratulations on your desire to salvage that wonderful resource and good luck with your negotiations

-- Those who insist it can't be done - should politely refrain from interrupting those who are doing it.

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tblank

59 posts in 2437 days


#13 posted 05-07-2010 08:55 PM

if you got “burned” by a builder, odds are you failed to execute due diligence. A homeowner needs to do the proper research. Interview a number of builders, go to your states’ contractors license board, contact their referrals, see their work, check licenses, and protect yourself with a contract you can understand. If the contractor fails to satisfy, you need to use the proper channels set up for problematic builders. NEVER use unlicensed labor….there is no recourse. If your builder is licensed to work in your state, then use the state system for retribution, that is what it is set up for. I’m always surprised by people who will spend tens of thousands of dollars for a set of plans and still don’t really know what they are getting. The process starts with your own education FIRST. By the Way…Fraud knows no gender. Unscrupulous builders are always a problem for those of us who try to do it right and take pride in ALL they do. My experience in life, I’ve been taken advantage of by the female gender FAR MORE than by a male, but that doesn’t stop me from engaging with one.

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fiddlebanshee

195 posts in 2412 days


#14 posted 05-07-2010 09:22 PM

I didn’t get “burned” in a literal sense. I interviewed, got a really bad attitude and decided not to with that builder. i actually did my homework, don’t worry, we interviewed 8 or 9 builders over a period of 2 years.

My husband being very ill, most of the negotiations fell to me. I had builders tell me not to worry my little head over all the difficult technical details, I had builders who tried to scare me into upgrades and additions to the plans that were not necessary, I had builders who tried to convince me that all the extra customized things that we wanted to achieve our sound insulation objectives would not work (they were vetted by a sound engineer).

So it’s more that I don’t want to go through that again. That’s all. Thanks for your concern.

-- As if I needed another hobby!

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tblank

59 posts in 2437 days


#15 posted 05-08-2010 01:49 AM

Fiddlebanshee, good for you for educating yourself and also for sticking to your guns. There are a TON of CREEPS in our business and it is exasperating. Sounds as if these creeps were in any biz they would try to take advantage. I hope you ended up with what you wanted. An untrustworthy builder makes a stressful situation that much worse when it doesn’t have to be that way. The best of luck to you and your new home.

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