Milling Eucalyptus in the South Island of New Zealand
By Amanda Buttram, Wood-Mizer Contributing Author
The northern region of New Zealand’s South Island is home to a temperate climate with good rainfall – creating the perfect condition for rapid growth in the plantation forestry industry. In 2012, Justin Wells saw an opportunity in milling local tree species, and Logs 2 Lumber began.
Growing a Sawmill Business
Ten years ago, Justin was looking to buy a property that had a timber plantation rich with blackwood and eucalyptus trees. While researching, he realized that special milling would be necessary to capitalize on these species himself. While he did not ultimately purchase this initial property, he did end up with a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill and a new weekend hobby was born.
Over the years, Logs 2 Lumber has grown from part-time sawmilling to the need for two full-time workers. Justin set up his business to be responsive to changing situations, whether it was for personal needs or difficulty keeping log stock on hand. “We have always kept things simple, to keep things easy to adjust to situations,” he said. Because of this, he has made it a priority for the business not to incur debt in its 10-year history.
Logs 2 Lumber primarily mills eucalyptus woods and the occasional native timber from the South Island. Varieties of macrocarpa, lawsoniana, and lusitanica arrive from time to time while elm and oak make rare appearances. The company’s timber is mainly sourced from farm foresters and larger timber plantation companies.
A Diverse Customer Base
Logs 2 Lumber’s customers range from large wood retailers to area farmers and homeowners who want to have a fallen tree milled or are looking for wood to complete do-it-yourself projects. Customers seek out the sawmill business because of its selection. “We supply what the big box stores cannot,” said Justin.
The company uses a variety of Wood-Mizer sawmill equipment to create their products. The sawmill, a 1997 LT40 Super Hydraulic portable sawmill, features a diesel engine with a 12-foot bed extension for sawing long timbers. They also use a Lathe-Mizer log lathe attachment for creating unique shaped timber as well as a resaw and EG50 lumber edger for additional timber processing. To maintain their sawmill blades on-site, Logs 2 Lumber also uses a blade tooth setter and bandsaw blade sharpener. Logs 2 Lumber has counted on Wood-Mizer sawmill equipment since its first days when Justin bought his first used portable sawmill from a local business. “[We] started with the orange!” he said.
On any given day, the work Logs 2 Lumber does varies greatly depending on the needs of their customers. One week, they may be splitting old railway sleepers, flitching native logs of 600mm or more, and sawing old pine from 600mm to 1m in diameter. The next, they could be sawing a 100-year-old macrocarpa log over 3.2 feet wide.
Once milled, logs are stacked, edged, and defects are docked out before lumber is placed in a dehumidification kiln to dry. For eucalyptus timber, it must be stacked for 10 to 12 months in order to properly dry. When ready, boards are machined before being sold to customers.
Logs 2 Lumber has found a stable flooring market to serve in the area. Common products the company sells includes tongue & groove flooring and sarking, as well as rough sawn timber. While their focus has primarily been on the flooring market, they do see their fair share of woodworkers. “When we have good clean wood, the woodworkers seem to flock to it and buy it rather quickly!” said Justin.
Plans for Expansion
Currently, Logs 2 Lumber is busy setting up a brand-new location. Previously a cattle paddock, the new sawmill site must be built from scratch. While the company still has orders and jobs coming in, their focus is on getting their new sawmill and timber yard set up. Recently, they have completed the graveling for the front of the sawmill to accommodate year-round truck access.
“We have just stopped being a portable sawmill and are about to build a new large mill shed and ‘bolt the mill down’ to focus more on larger sawing customers and our own stock,” shared Justin. Once the new facility is complete, the company plans to do more retail business as well as direct sales of their own products.
Having a Wood-Mizer distributor in New Zealand has been helpful to Logs 2 Lumber, providing in-country support and products. “I can source products and get support and warranty, which is great!” said Justin. As the business moves forward, Justin plans on acquiring more Wood-Mizer products to help facilitate these growth plans.
While working on their new facility, Logs 2 Lumber has run on a part-time basis. Justin plans to start running the company full-time again soon. “Hopefully we will be doing 20 to 30 tons of softwood again per week shortly, and then onto hardwood,” shared Justin.