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Wood science lecturer finds second career through band sawmill

Wood science lecturer finds second career through band sawmill A Danish university lecturer who felt threatened by job cuts in 2000 bought a band sawmill and set up a timber processing operation as a safety bet. Three years later, still lecturing on forestry and woodworking, his timber firm has gone from strength to strength, he is holding down both jobs, working harder than he has ever done before and enjoying himself!

Complementing the halls of academe with a small scale timber processing yard seems to have worked for John Vinstrup, 51, and he argues: "I also feel that my lecturing is enhanced by my practical and commercial experience."

He purchased the Wood-Mizer LT40HD Super band sawmill for DKR 300,000 in May 2000. Prior to that he had solely taught at the university where he had long been aware of an opportunity to saw and re-sell timber for himself in his spare time and in college holidays.

His speciality is instructing teachers how to work in wood, metal and other mediums - known as 'slojd' in Danish - and how to convey those skills to students.

Now he augments this with adding value to timber which he buys around local forests in Jutland plus contract sawing logs belonging to farmers, municipalities and landowners within a 75km radius of the small town of Hurup, where he lives.

In his first year he sawed 400 m3 of larch, Douglas fir, oak and elm; 500 m3 in the second year; and 600m3 in his third.

This is bringing him almost to his working limit he confesses since he still enjoys lecturing on wood as much as sawing it. 60 % is sawn for himself, finished and sold on; 40 % is cut for clients.

Contract sawing
He tows the two-ton sawmill behind his 4x4 Toyota Hi-Lux right up to the logs which are stacked for him by their owners or by the foresters who fell his own timber.

Customers' elm, larch or pine logs are sawed on the spot and the planks loaded onto trailers or the backs of pick-ups for their onward journey for building summerhouses, barns, furniture and other items.

There is none of the ground damage associated with carting large quantities of unsawn logs to conventional sawmill establishments.

He and his customers find they can select and cut as few as two or three trees, sell them profitably and replant without detracting from the ecology of often small woodlots.

In some cases they assist him moving logs on to the mill even though its hydraulic log handling system makes the process relatively easy. Also, unlike conventional mills it doesn't require John leaning over the saw bed. A cantilever design lets him stand next to a log, eliminating the back fatigue sometimes caused when removing boards from other mills. A board return system enhances the process further.

Profitable timber processing
However, the most financially rewarding is cutting and finishing his own larch and Douglas fir for furniture, flooring and boards.

He calculates that for every 30 m3 of timber he buys himself, saws and sells on as semi-finished lumber he makes between 400 and 500% profit.

The semi finished lumber is sold on to factories who make furniture, window frames and other products; or to builders and flooring companies.

John Vinstrup comments:
''Of course I am only a using a small part of the capacity of these particular band sawmills, which could cut up to 20m3 per eight-hour day with two men when used with a board edger. However, my requirement is 'quality' as much as quantity and the machine fits into my programme of increasing the margin from the trees I buy—as well as suiting the way of life I have chosen. These boards, sawn for a relatively small amount of time are all I need and I enjoy doing it.

''Also, using the thin kerf technology incorporated into these mills means that more boards come out of each log with less sawdust and that therefore less horsepower, less diesel fuel, less effort and fewer logs are needed to produce the same amount of lumber. "I'm pleasantly surprised at the fine cut I achieve, as are my customers ultimately.''

He continues: ''The price of the mill included a days training and if you’ll allow me to say so I have become virtually a professional sawyer!

After borrowing the capital sum to buy the Wood-Mizer from his bank, he paid it off in three years out of his sawing and timber processing revenues. However, having also bought a tractor and built a barn to house the mill and wood stocks it will be another year before he achieves a clear profit.

His two children are grown up and he lives with his wife Birgit in their 19th-century thatched farmhouse at Hurup.

There he has planted three acres of oak and sycamore — plus other species to attract wildlife — on the six-acres property. John Vinstup confesses that his lifelong dream — working in and living around wood — is beginning to come true.

For some years he had an old chain sawmill which he built himself but it involved a lot of hard work, unlike his relatively new band sawmill.

He comments: "I'm not very much better off yet because I'm still paying for the ancillary equipment but when that's paid off we are going to holiday in Greece or Turkey during the winter.

"I'm looking forward to that and will possibly toast the Wood-Mizer while we're sunning ourselves", he concludes with a grin.

John Vinstrup, Thy Mobilsavv?rk
Oddesundvej 270, D-7760 Hurup
Tel: 45 97 95 19 89
Mobile: 45 40 94 83 64

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