Oskars Kejss from the Latvian village of Kubuli is a young forestry engineer by profession. He graduated from the Faculty of Forestry of the Academy of Agriculture in Jelgava and began working as a forester, working with forest inventory and market assessments of forests.
In the 90's, this profession in Latvia was in high demand. Forests had just been returned to their former owners, and Oskars kept very busy with the forest inventory assignments.
"Yes, it was a lot of work!" remembers Oskars with a smile.
But gradually the boom slowed down, and now Oskars only spends one or two days during the week doing this job.
However, as the forestry consultancy work slow, another opportunity presented itself. One day, Oskars saw how Wood-Mizer sawmills could cut a log into lumber.
"I stood there and watched, fascinated. This is the future! That's what I want to do!" Oskars exclaims. "This concept inspired me." Oskars made a call to the local Wood-Mizer representative.
"The first machine that I saw was quite simple. But the dealer recommended another one with more options and much more productivity. So I decided that it is the 21st century and I wanted to have the most modern equipment." And he bought a portable LT40 sawmill.
"I decided to equip the sawmill with an electric motor. It is more reliable and easier to maintain." explains Oskars.
Wood-Mizer mobile sawmills feature an unique design: the cutting head is mounted on one side only and moves along the rail when sawing. This design was chosen for several reasons, one being easier set up and less chance for alignment problems. Hydraulic loading arms load the logs right from the ground. The hydraulic turner rotates the log, hydraulic rollers level it and a hydraulic clamp secures it, pressing against the side supports. Due to the use of narrow band blades, more boards are produced from the logs. The electronic setworks allow the operator to simply enter a parameter into the computer, and the cutting head will align itself in the correct position.
"I am the first in Latvia who got such a machine," boasts Oskars. "I decided that since the sawmill is portable I would tow it behind my Volkswagen Passat all the way home."
He was joined by a friend, and they made the 1,000km journey together. When they arrived in Poland to pick up their Wood-Mizer mill, the people at Wood-Mizer were very surprised! It is not often that a customer comes from abroad to take his sawmill personally back with him and Oskars was the first from Latvia to do so.
So, after the initial surprise and some hastily prepared arrangements, Oskars and his friend returned on their long journey, hauling the machine on the small country roads of Poland and then Lithuania, and finally arrived home, in Latvia, in the village Kubuli.
Neighbours noticed the sawmill at Oskar’s home, and immediately request the first orders of lumber. The was the summer of 2008, after a hurricane in Latvia had levelled many trees and the demand for tree removal was high. Oskar’s business had a great start in helping his local area clear the fallen trees.
"The orders came quickly, but I was not in hurry. This was my 'first try'and I wanted to come to people as a professional, to show them that I had the needed skills. Or at least enough time to glance at the user manual?" Oskars spent nearly one month training while sawing logs from his own forest that he inherited from his grandfather.
"My principle is quality, accuracy. Latvia is a small country. If customers call me again and again, it means customers enjoy my work," shares Oskars.
His customers also appreciate his speed producing their orders. For example, a farmer called Oskars needing to rebuild a building, and he needed about 200 cubic meters of sawn timber. This was a big order, but Oskars produced it in only ten days. The farmer was amazed! When he had ordered lumber at another local sawmill, he had waited a month and got finally only 40 cubic meters.
Oskars' assistant, Boris, is a tall, strong man and is capable of rolling large logs alone. His strength and speed contribute to what Oskars is able to produce. Their record day was when they cut 26 cubic meters in one day. They began to work at 5 am and finished at 10 pm.
"The last three logs we cut with car lights switched on," laughs Oskars. "Then we went home happy: everything was done and we were in a hurry to meet our families."
Oskars eventually bought the Wood-Mizer blade maintenance package, and sharpens and sets his blades himself. The season peak for his business is in the spring, while people are busy with construction projects. After two years of mobile sawing, Oskars exchanged his Volkswagen "Passat" for a Mitsubishi L200 which is much more powerful and more comfortable. He also likes the additional room where blades and cables can be stocked in the back of the vehicle.
"I always advise customers to maximize their benefits before they buy the ready boards. If you buy a log, tell me what you need, for example, 30 boards of this size, another 20 of a different size, and I will cut them for you and add a spare - 31 boards, 21 boards. You will also have slabs, small pieces of wood, that are always useful if you heat your home with wood. You can save at least 20 lats (~ 30 euro) for each cubic meter of finished lumber," shares Oskars.