Is it worth milling your own lumber? Great question! For someone who is dedicated to woodworking, the desire of milling your own lumber doesn’t have much do to with money matters.
Most woodworkers do not even enjoy watching a healthy tree being put into a wood chipper or watching some good logs being taken to a landfill. Their soul may be willing, but milling their own lumber can be costly, frustrating and time consuming.
However, the flip side of that is it can possibly be profitable and personally rewarding – the reasonable connection between a downed tree and their workshop.
Pros and cons of milling lumber on your own
The name of the game? Every now and then things that might look good on paper, do not always turn out in real life. And other times the worth of milling your own timber cannot be assessed in dollars and cents. The log is now in your court!
Is it cheaper to have your own lumber milled?
Is it cheaper to have your own lumber milled or buy it from a local lumber yard, is a question asked often asked by landowners.
Right now, and most likely moving forward, milling your own lumber is equivalent if not significantly cheaper than purchasing numerous building materials. For example, the cost of a 11 ½” x 48” white oak is about $80 each. Using a 13-foot oak log, you can mill about 3 stair treads each pass of the blade. Every pass is about 10 minutes (not counting setting up and squaring the log) so that renders about $240 worth of stair treads being milled every ten minutes.
In about 30 minutes (approx. 3 passes of the saw) you have materials that equal what it cost for an entire day of milling. That’s an enormous savings!
How much does it cost to mill wood on your own? Comparing Costs with a Lumber Yard
Regardless of whether you have timber of your own or know where you can easily get it, milling it into lumber can be very fulfilling, affordable, practical and fun. The methods to mill your own beams, lumber, posts, firewood and cants are growing in number.
As far as how much it costs to mill wood, that’s a bit more involved. Raw lumber is measured in boards feet when milling lumber. So, 16,000 board feet divided by 5.33 board feet is about 3000 2×4’s. So, 3.35 from Home Depot or the 3000 2×4’s needed divided by 2500 spent for equipment is about $1.2 per board and that does not include gas, time or tree costs. Let’s face it, you cannot just go cut trees randomly.
You will get roughly 140 2x4x8’s from an average tree. If you are going to take the $2500 you would spend on a milling machine and bought the 2x4x8’s from Home Depot, you would only get 750 boards not taking into consideration your time, chains and gas.
If you get a professional sawyer to come onto your property with a portable sawmill, skid steer and mobile band mill, they could charge you anywhere from $50 to $80 an hour to mill the lumber. Some of those sawyers that operate on a smaller scale will take a percentage of lumber for doing the job.
Considering there are no broken blades to be replaced because of metal in the tree and the log is good, there can be other costs as well such as sealing the ends of the boards, transporting the wood to a shed for drying and stickering. Not to mention paying for dinner for you brother-in-law who let you borrow his flatbed. You do realize he is going to order a tenderloin, not a burger.
Let’s just put out some crazy numbers and say the total milling cost is about $500 (not forgetting the cleanup agreement you made earlier). That is still less than half the value of the lumber. If you have more than one healthy log, the cost can be lower per board foot because the mill is on the site, his flatbed holds over 400 board feet and he still only get one dinner.
When you mill your own timber, you will start to see a surplus when the type is unusual for the area, such as an American chestnut in Manhattan, or the cut is not a white oak log that can be cut to bring mostly quartersawn boards.
If you come across a black walnut with 8’ of straight trunk lacking branches, get in touch with a veneer mill prior to buying gas for the chainsaw. It just may be worth half the cost of a brand-new car, grant it, a stick shift, no electric windows and no A/C…just saying.
You also need to consider the time to dry the freshly milled lumber. You need to figure out if air drying if better or if kiln drying would be a better drying process.
Can I mill my own lumber to build a house?
Milling your own lumber to build a house can provide quality material for a lesser price than from a lumber dealer. As a matter of fact, if you buy your own mill, you could make a profit from selling the lumber to other woodworkers and by milling other people’s lumber.
Because of the increase price of lumber, the possible savings in time could be huge. You’re getting the logs dirt cheap or even free, also milling your own lumber can be much more satisfying for a craftsman. It allows you to determine the size, desired grain, types and cuts.