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Two Portable Sawmill Operations Honored for Best Business: One Montana Sawyer, One Michigan Sawyer, Both Sawing with Wood-Mizer
Portable Sawmills Honored for Best Practices
By Deanna Bunten
Date Posted: 6/1/2009
In the big-sky country of northern Montana, surrounded by belt-rock mountains and forest, Meadowlark Log Homes build portable log homes that ship worldwide. Their flat-on-flat cabin design relies on their Wood-Mizer LT70.
Cross the Montana-Dakota plains and Lake Michigan, you’ll find Kenneth Gee sawing on his LT40 Super Hydraulic, the center piece of Creation Woodworks LLC. After 20 years working inside a Michigan-based automotive plant, Kenneth Gee quit his factory job to enjoy the freedom that comes from working with wood.
Though sawing in opposite regions of the United States, Wood-Mizer recognized the similarity between these two sawing operations: both Meadowlark Log Homes and Creation Woodworks depend on great equipment and hard work to produce prolific results. This spring, Wood-Mizer awarded these two companies with Business Best Awards—awards given out bi-annually to Wood-Mizer owners who use their equipment to run successful businesses.
Meadowlark Log Homes
Meadowlark Log Homes has a rich family history of building log structures. At a young age, Ora Miller began “riding the ridge beam” at the Amish barn raisings which was extremely scary and dangerous but necessary as dozens of men pulled up the end wall of the barn. His courage and willingness to take risks eventually lead him to start his business running a circular mill while his three sons built log cabins.
During the early years, Ora’s sawmill produced railroad ties but experienced a major set back when his operation burned. Without falter, though, Ora pushed ahead. By 1978, he and his sons had built several cabins and introduced a unique approach to log home construction which featured a “flat on flat, hand-peeled” log. With this design, the flat surfaces of the logs are pinned, screwed, and glued together, forming a very strong and stable wall while giving the interior and exterior a rounded log look.
With a reputation for building beautiful log homes, Ora once again purchased a sawmill and went into business full time. That was in 1980; they have been building log homes ever since.
As each year passed, Meadowlark’s business grew, and they were introduced to Wood-Mizer sawmills. In 1987, they purchased their first Wood-Mizer and found it was “superior to the old circular sawmill and a whole lot safer.” Since that time, every log that goes into their unique homes is processed on a Wood-Mizer. Remarkably, the company is on their sixth Wood-Mizer: an LT70 with multiple bed extensions. According to Joas Miller, son of Ora, Wood-Mizer sawmills “have allowed us to do what would have been nearly impossible to accomplish: become a successful log home company that builds and ships homes nationally and internationally.”
Meadowlark builds, on average, 35 log home masterpieces each year. They have established dealers in Wisconsin and North Carolina who have been instrumental in introducing these log homes to new communities. At the time of this publication, Meadowlark was finalizing plans with yet another person to help facilitate sales. In addition to their U.S. expansion, the company has shipped their structures to Canada, Japan, and South Africa. This is possible because Meadowlark Log Homes joined the Log Homes Council (LHC) log grading program and has every log inspected, structurally graded, and grade stamped. After a log passes grading standards, it is approved for use in the log home. The LHC grade stamped log home is structurally approved for virtually every country in the world.
Meadowlark’s goal is to be recognized as the best log home company in the world. “With all the different components that are required to become that, our Wood-Mizer plays a vital part in helping us provide the greatest log home masterpieces available,” comments Joas. He also recognizes the mill for its ease of use, functionality, and efficiency. “In today’s economy, it (LT70) has also helped us produce at the highest proficiency while maintaining low overhead cost,” explains Joas.
While board foot production is difficult to determine in this specialized application, Meadowlark runs their LT70 high production sawmill 7-8 hours a day and finds it easy to train sawyers to operate this integral piece of equipment.
Joas is proud to be working in the family business which includes his two brothers and one sister. Even his nephews have taken up the drawknife and have started to learn the family business. “It has been a pleasure serving our amazing clients and providing them the home of their dreams, thanks in part to our Wood-Mizer,” says Joas.
Meadowlark Log Homes provides their customers with the home of their dreams; Kenneth Gee, owner of Creation Wood-works, built the career of his dreams when he pursued his passion for woodworking.
Hope. Dream. Believe. These are the words by which Ken Gee lives. He is a husband, father, and woodworker who spent 20 years at General Motors, facing the challenges of factory work. In 2008, he left his job and pursued his dream of full-time woodworking. Ken purchased an LT40 Super Hydraulic and established Creation Woodworks, LLC as a family business with his wife and son by his side.
Creation Woodworks specializes in sawing reclaimed wood from local barns which Ken turns into solid tongue and groove flooring, trim and other products that showcase the unique beauty of seasoned wood. While the old wood might look worn and flawed to some, Ken sees character within. “The timbers are full of nails, worm trails, spalting, and weathering which make beautiful flooring,” explains Ken.
While the end result is breathtaking, getting lumber from these challenging beams is hard on his equipment. Ken says, “No matter how hard you try to avoid them, nails are a part of sawing reclaimed lumber. But the LT40 Super Hydraulic has enough power to hit several nails and still cut straight through the toughest oak barn beam.” Additionally, Ken depends on the sawmill’s ruggedness to do his edging, removing dirt and debris on the outer edges of the barn beams, before sending the boards through his planer and moulder. “We use the resaw attachment, too, and find it indispensable with working with reclaimed dimensional lumber,” adds Ken.
Behind the scenes of Ken’s operation is his appreciation for Wood-Mizer’s DoubleHard blades. Sawing reclaimed beams into lumber, Ken needs an aggressive blade. Ken’s appreciation for the DoubleHard brand was realized after he tried other brands then returned to Wood-Mizer Blades because “they perform the best.”
Ken is quick to comment that his LT40 Super Hydraulic is the main component of his business and allows him to remain flexible in this changing marketplace. “Having our own sawmill, we can make flooring, trim, dimensional lumber, ship lap siding, fine furniture, cabinetry, or almost anything our customers want,” states Ken. For those that think owning a business in these volatile times is stressful, Ken and his family disagree. “We instead feel blessed,” shares Ken. With his sawmill and other machinery, Creation Woodworks is not dependent on others or big businesses for their income. Rather they can be hands-on with their products and build personal relationships with their customers.
Editor’s note: The preceding is paid advertorial submitted by Wood-Mizer.
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