Sawmill on Wheels is the Buzz

Photos and video: Derek Hayn

Peter Nyberg of CT Logs to Lumber, LLC brought his portable sawmill to Centerbrook recently to demonstrate how raw timber – wherever it may lie, bark and all – can be turned into boards and beams for buildings. He set up his mobile mill in 20 minutes, and in less than two hours he reduced two sizable red oak trunks (courtesy of local arborist Town Burns) into roughly 500 board feet of useable lumber – plus “waste” slabs for my wood stove. The mill is essentially a horizontal band saw that travels back and forth on tracks.

As the staff gathered in the lower parking lot down by the river, Peter lifted the first log hydraulically onto the bed of his mill and lined it up. Then the sawdust flew, although the noise was much lower than one would expect. To get a usable piece of lumber involves cutting the timber, hauling it about, sawing, stacking, and drying it. Only then is it ready for the workshop. Time is an important part of the equation. It shouldn’t be rushed.

The lumber that Peter cut still needs to be dried, by air and time and then in a kiln if desired, to minimize shrinkage when it is used. Also, if required, it can be further refined (in dimension and smoothness) by running it through a surface planer. There were some defects in our finished product traceable to flaws in the tree itself, illustrating that not all timber matures to make quality lumber. This mill-on-wheels can handle up to a 36-inch diameter, twenty-foot-long log.

Photo: Patrick McCauley

Peter’s visit was one of Centerbrook’s ongoing Workshops on Handicraft and Making that Facilities Manager Bill Rutan and I conduct for the architectural staff. Peter demonstrated both flat (plain) sawn and quarter sawing techniques. His presentation also was intended to instill an appreciation of wood as a fine building material, as well to convey reverence for both the process and the object, which we may take for granted, or think of only in terms of 2 X 4s.

Here’s a short clip of the saw in action:

Patrick McCauley
Patrick McCauley is Centerbrook’s Master Model Maker and Product Designer. In addition to making furniture, architectural models and lighting fixtures, he created a six-foot two-inch scale replica of the historic “Aphrodite,” a classic powerboat that once ferried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Hyde Park. The model is on permanent display at the Ocean House in Watch Hill, R.I.
Patrick McCauley

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