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Portable Mill Creates New Opportunities

New Hampshire Man Likes Price, Versatility of Norwood LumberMate 2000

By April Terreri
Date Posted: 1/1/2007

BOSCAWEN, New Hampshire — When Todd Bartlett, 43, made his decision six years ago to purchase a Norwood LumberMate 2000 portable sawmill, he never dreamed it would create so many opportunities for him.

        “I bought the sawmill primarily to saw lumber to make furniture for my family and because I thought it would help me in my plan to put up a post-and-beam addition on my house,” said Todd.

        Todd is a production supervisor for Elektrisola, which supplies copper magnet wire. He has a diverse background in architecture, construction, and drafting. Todd earned an associate’s degree in architectural engineering and started his career as a draftsman at the famous clock manufacturer, Seth Thomas, in Boscawen, N.H.

        “I drew the schematic drawings of the dissected clocks that helped the people on the floor to assemble clock cases,” explained Todd. “It was there where I saw first-hand the astronomical price of lumber at that time. That led me into buying my first sawmill back then because I could always get a log here and there from someone and then turn it into furniture. I have always been fascinated with how things are built.”

        Todd has no family history in the forest products industry although he has had friends over the years who have worked in logging. “What really triggered me in this industry was when I worked at Seth Thomas,” he said. “There I saw firsthand the progression of lumber delivered on a truck to actually seeing the final products produced from that lumber.”

        “I saw what they paid for the lumber,” he added, “and then I saw that lumber as it went through the various stages of manufacturing to the finished products of those grandfather clocks. I became more and more interested in woodworking because the process was so fascinating and the machinery they used at that time was really incredible.”

        Most of the furniture Todd makes for his family and home is Mission-style bedroom, dining room, and children’s furniture. He uses red oak, which is prevalent in the region. “We don’t have anymore white oak to speak of,” he said.

        The addition he constructed to his home is a Shaker-style timber frame 14-foot-by-24-foot sunroom with an open cathedral ceiling. “The Shaker style is appropriate in this area,” Todd noted, “because the Shakers settled in Canterbury, the next town over from us.”


Versatility and Portability

        When Todd decided to buy a new portable sawmill, he did his homework and researched models from Norwood Industries and several other manufacturers.

        “At the time, the Norwood stood out for me,” he recalled. “First of all, price is a big factor in anyone’s eyes.” Todd purchased the optional log roller and toe board to make handling logs easier, and the trailer package. “The trailer package allows me to move the mill wherever my customer needs. When I am finished, I just pull out the mill and leave.”

        The trailer is equipped with torsion axels that fit into receiver pockets. “All I have to do is just jack up one end of the sawmill and put the axels in and then put a trailer hitch on,” explained Todd. “It’s totally portable, and I can move it with a four-wheeler ATV or I can haul it down the street behind a truck or car.”

        The Norwood’s capacity was another plus. “I can cut a wide range of lumber widths with this sawmill,” he said. “I just did a job for a customer who wanted a lot of 22-inch-wide to 24-inch-wide floor boards of beautiful white pine. He plans to use it in a new house he is going to build. For a manually operated mill, it really does a great job.”

        The Norwood LumberMate 2000 is a full-sized portable band sawmill. It can cut hardwood or softwood logs up to 31 inches in diameter, producing lumber or timbers up to 24 inches wide and as thin as 1/32-inch. The sawmill can produce up to 1,500 board feet of lumber a day, according to the manufacturer.

        “What also attracted me to this mill is it’s also great for cutting veneer as thin as 1/16th of an inch,” noted Todd.

        “It was pretty much the versatility of the machine that sold me on it,” he added.

        The Norwood LumberMate 2000 can be set up quickly. The mill can be lowered to ground level for safe, easy loading of logs. The towing package includes independent shock-absorbing torsion axles, 5-bolt full-size wheels, light bar and highway running lights.

        Todd chose a Honda 20 hp engine to power his sawmill. “The Honda works very well and has plenty of power,” he said.

        “I also like the fact that it’s easy to change the blades on the mill, and blades are readily available within a day or two.” Todd uses Lenox WoodMaster blades purchased through U-Cut Enterprises in Jamesville, N.Y.

        Todd quickly got used to the sawmill. “It came in a knock-down kit, and assembling it was fantastically easy. Moving it from site to site and set-up time pretty much were just what they advertised and really met my expectations.”


On the Job

        Todd has used his Norwood Lum­berMate 2000 for cutting both hardwood and softwood. Besides milling red oak for furniture projects, he also has cut some cherry. For the addition to his house, he used white pine. “The great thing about this mill is it gives me the opportunity to saw the lumber I need for my projects right from my lot,” he said. “All the timber I used for my addition came off my property.”

        Todd does some custom sawing for others in his spare time, advertising only by word of mouth. He doesn’t do a great deal of custom sawing since he already works full-time. For sawing jobs, he takes the sawmill to the customer’s property; they usually have the logs ready and waiting.

        “They might have been clearing land with a lot of good timber on it, and I just set up in front of the log pile and use a peavey or cant hook to roll the logs onto the mill,” said Todd. “I saw whatever they want, whether it’s 1-inch boards or dimension stock for framing. What’s nice about the mill is I could saw 24-foot-long eight-by-eights in one continuous beam for the addition I put on my house.”

        He makes lumber and other products for a few customers who have wood-related businesses. For example, one friend is a cabinetmaker. “He buys any of the hardwood I saw when he needs it for various projects,” said Todd. “I have another customer who specializes in timber frames, so he buys timbers from me, especially if he falls short on the job or if someone makes a mistake with a beam or timber. He will just give me a call and I try to get what he needs to him as soon as I can.”

        Projects for other customers have included making flooring and lumber for interior trim. “If it’s sawn while they are building, they can let it sit for a year or so to air-dry, depending on the thickness,” Todd said. “Then they can plane it and use it for their interior trim. It’s cost-effective for them.”

        Todd also provides services to customers to remove the waste wood from their property after his work is done. The scrap material goes to good use. “I use the waste to burn in the outdoor furnace I installed to heat my house,” he said.


Jobs Well Done

        Todd is interested in investing one day in some waterfront property and building cabins — with lumber made on his Norwood LumberMate sawmill — to rent out. “I think it could happen,” he said. “I am not looking to the lumber industry to get rich, but I want to make durable, lasting things I can hand down through the generations of my family.”

        “It’s tough this time of year when daylight is so limited,” noted Todd. During the spring, summer or fall, there is enough daylight so that he can do custom sawing after work. “I can’t do that during the winter months, though.”

        Making lumber on the sawmill for other people has been very satisfying, both from a craftsman perspective and on a personal level. “In this business, what you have to focus on is producing customer-specific materials to the exact specifications they request,” said Todd. “The Norwood sawmill enables me to do that. It’s great for sawing timbers, boards, dimension lumber, and other products in any size my customers might need.”

        “When I bought this mill, it gave me a new outlook on the way things used to be done,” Todd added. “It’s all about old-world craftsmanship and that time-honored dedication to producing beautiful lumber and enduring products made out of wood. When I worked for eight years as a framer, carpenter, and site work man for a general contractor, we did projects from start to finish — including pouring concrete, putting in the foundation, framing and finishing the house, and all the site work. But it was what I learned doing cabinetry that taught me how things were done in the past, and those lessons led me back into timber framing. So I would say the Norwood has given me the modern technology to produce craftsman-like work.”

        Todd is encouraged that homeowners and landowners can take trees from their own property and have them processed into the lumber they need. “This is really something that’s getting back to the way things used to be,” he said.

        Todd thinks he probably could do as much custom sawing as he wants in his spare time. Between his own projects and jobs for other people, he could stay pretty busy.
 “I guess I just like making sawdust.”


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