A day at an Amish sawmill

by J. Kevin K ‎06-01-2010 01:15 PM - edited ‎06-01-2010 01:23 PM

Every now and then I got a call from one of my Amish friends that are working in the woods that they have some figured lumber for me.  This was one of those days. These "woods" operations are as efficient as you can get.  Instead of transporting the logs to a mill, the mill gets transported to the woods.  All that come out of the woods is a finished product, saving valuable time, and log transportation costs.


 It was mid April, and pushing 90 degrees.  I like the heat, but it is your worst enemy when you are working with fresh cut (green) maple.  The sugars in the sap, and the heat quickly allow blue stain mold to form which will turn your beautiful white maple boards into blotchy gray firewood in a hurry.   This stuff they wanted me to buy had been "dead stacked" through the winter.  This means it was piled without sticks.  Really bad news for me with this heat. Any other April in North East Ohio and there would be an excellent chance you would have to knock the snow off of the lumber piles. The blue stain mold doesn't grow in the cold.


My friend who owns a mill near my house told me that fresh cut maple in the heat lasts about as long as an ice cream cone.  I found out the hard way how right he was one time.  Always get your fresh cut maple on DRY sticks right away, and get some air flow through them.  Better yet, get them in the kiln ASAP!



Anyway, my Amish friend Paul, who's about 30, and owns a large sawmilling operation with 50, or so employees, and only has an 8th grade education, calls me to say he has graded 28,000 bd ft of maple and found 958 bd ft of curly maple.   Lester, the  bulldozer/loader operator had already brought the lumber on the landing for me to get to.  Here is one of the lifts. Thanks Lester!




Dang, that landing's is one muddy mess.  I hope that Paul works his way out of the woods, so I can pay him.  I bet the woods where they are working all looks like that. I get all loaded up, and no Paul, so I have to go in there after him.


Not so bad at first.  Here are the woods before they were logged.  The Amish started at the back, and worked their way to the road.




It's at this point that I thought this may end up being an interesting blog for you guys.  I sure find these "woods" operations that the Amish run interesting.  This is a really hard way to make a living.  If you have ever watched "Swamp loggers" on TV, it is very much like that, but the Amish use limited machinery, plus the mill is set-up in the woods.  We will get to that in another blog.


I am glad I had brought my camera, and went back to get it.  I did ask permission from Paul, if I could take some pictures for a web log, and he said that it was allright by him, just don't get pictures of the workers if you can help it, or at least only of their backs as having their pictures taken is against their religion.  That ended up being easier said than done.  There was at least 30-40 Amish working these woods at this time, so they were everywhere.  Another thing you notice is that they are all very young.  Paul also has another sawmill that employees about 10 guys as well. Not too many over 30 here in the woods, and many are teenagers including the horse driver Danny who was all of 17.  He stopped as I was working my way through the woods and gave me a ride most of the way.  Here is our transport:




Danny was standing on the logs driving the horses.  I was crouched behind him trying my best to hold on.  Holding onto the logs is a bad idea as they are twisting and turning, just waiting for a finger to pinch. You are standing, in my case crouching, on these same logs, so it is hard to balance yourself. Danny must have glanced back and saw me struggling because he stopped the horses and took his log peavy you see in the picture, and stuck it in a hole in the frame for me to hold onto.  I thanked him and he laughed.  He said " It looked like you were fixin to fall off on me there."  I told him, "No, I was just tying my shoe".  He laughed liked he didn't believe me! I guess he saw that I had slip on rubber muck boots on that didn't have laces.


 You really have to be tough to work out here.  It's extremely dangerous as there are large, heavy trees falling everwhere, note the leaner in the horse picture above. It's also smelly, hot, humid, noisy, muddy, buggy and in this case WET.  The whole woods where they were working was a boggy wet mess as these woods were in a low area and the loader was squeezing the ground water to the surface.


Our next blog we will take a look at the sawmill they set-up in the woods, and more.


Thanks for reading!


Kevin Koski

Curly Maple Wood

Dry Kiln owner/operator



by Jim DiRenzo
on ‎06-24-2010 09:19 AM

Great stuff.  

by Lynncml
on ‎06-27-2010 08:59 AM

It is great to know that this form of logging can be done. Even better...IT IS STILL DONE. You could say "this is a blessing" even if you are not religious.

by bondfan69
on ‎07-17-2010 08:13 PM

Excellent article... a kinder side of life!

by lsquier17
on ‎05-21-2011 07:31 AM

1 of 3, I can hardly wait for future posts.  Is that right?  Will we have two more update posts?