The Cutting Edge


Bonnie Wayne McGuire


She off bears, pulls green chain and stacks the lumber, but I help her with 4x12's over sixteen feet long," my husband Mel jokes about my role in our custom lumber milling business. Yeah, he's the brains and I'm the brawn of this outfit. Our roles might seem a little mixed up, but talking about it is part of the fun. In the beginning there were occasional smashed fingers, bruises and abrasions from dropped boards, but working outdoors making beautiful lumber is a pleasure.

There was a time when trees fell, or were cut down and used for firewood, because it wasn't practical to mill them into lumber. With the invention of the completely portable sawmill all that has changed. Mel hitches our Woodmizer bandsaw mill behind the truck, and we go right to the tree. (This link describes a newer model).

It takes about twenty minutes to set up. Mel accurately saws almost any dimension lumber from a maximum 36 inch by twenty foot long log down to 1/16th inch cardboard thickness. If the log's too big, he splits it with a forty-eight inch bar chainsaw first.

Mel nails a board guide on top of the log assuring a fairly straight cut.

The spikes hold the log together so it wont split open while Mel's sawing. After completing the cut he removes the spikes and wedges the log to split it open.

Between that and the special grapple on the tractor, he gets it open.

Getting it upright in the correct position for milling requires some skill and teamwork.

Leveling log and squaring up below.

Lookin' good.

Let's hope the first cut clears all the way to the end. Otherwise Mel will have to whittle on it with his chainsaw. It's a balancing act and work out for him.

The log holder on the forks pulls the heavy slab far enough out....

Then the forks are placed underneath so that we can slide the slab on them for removal.

These timbers will be used to construct a bridge.


One large tree was a 52 inch diameter Sequoia tree that had been planted about thirty-eight years earlier. It was one of hundreds of seedlings given to school children by the Forest Service. The family planted this one a little too close to the house and it's roots were causing foundation problems. We named it "big foot" because it was shaped like an upside-down ice cream cone. Tree feller Pat had a terrible time wedging it to fall away from the house.
When it came time to milling lumber from it we didn't know what dimensions to saw, so decided to make full cut boards we could resaw later. Architect-designer Ken Meffan liked what he saw and made a beautiful gate from some of it and a matching award winning door from our doug fir cuts.

Below we're demonstrating milling lumber to a group of school children.

Our clients need special items that can't always be found in the lumber yard. Their projects include home construction and historical building restoration, wood carving, furniture making, decks, doors, stairs gates, fences, barns, wagons, small bridges, retaining walls, flooring, pottery and games. In other words, we mill lumber for almost anything made from wood. We've learned many new things from our clients. For instance, below is a valuable nutmeg tree cant used to make"Go" game boards. Go is a popular Chinese Chess game.

These chess stones were made from shell and rock, but the more expensive ones are jade. Below are a beautiful bowl and vase that Ken Absher made from blued pine. The natural stain in the wood also adds pizzazz to floors and furniture .

Here's a flute made from madrone.

The boy made me this spatula from madrone, while another client used the same type wood for the little jewel box.

These are just a few items manufactured by those working with various woods.
When we retired from our 43 years in the trucking business, and decided to buy the sawmill in 1992, many people were pretty skeptical. Even our son Kirk commented, "Dad's pushing 70, so he retires from driving truck and goes in for manual labor." We don't drive ourselves that hard. Working together, the wonderful people we meet, new things we learn, and being outside has been good for us.