Pricing and Legalities for Portable Sawmilling

What should you charge, and should you let the customer help? February 26, 2005

When portable sawing, I charge $0.20 per bf. I'm wondering what a fair offset in price might be for a mill that stays in one place, where customers bring logs to the mill.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor A:
500 brd ft x .20 = $100 - $20 blade sounds fair if I was your kind neighbor. You have a machine most people don't. 40-60 an hour unless you have a manual mill. I have a mill I built myself - hydraulic operated, but no log handling. I can cut 750 brd ft in eight hours max. The handling of the cut wood is wear on me. Even though I don't sell my wood, if I was to charge, it would be $45/hr or .46 cents/brd ft.

From contributor E:
I charge 30 bucks an hour on the machine clock. I always tell the customer that if he tails for me, we can get 3 times as much done. I only shut the machine off to load another log onto the saw.

From contributor C:
I don't give any break for dropping the logs off at my place, but they will get milled faster - that is the customer's benefit. I'm so busy I can't get to some of the smaller jobs, but I have them drop the logs off so when I have an extra hour or two I get after them. I charge anywhere from $.15 to $.25 per bdft, which works out to between $40 and $60 an hour with my mill.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Ask your neighborhood lawyer what will happen if the person who is tailing for you gets hurt, whether it is your fault or not. I bet that he says you will be a poor sawyer without a mill. In other words, do not do it.

From contributor L:
Gene, you advise don't let customers tail? What if they have milled before and know they get a sweeter deal and therefore really want to? Still cover your butt and say no?

From contributor P:
Customers tailing is required by me unless they pay for additional help. I charge by the BF. This agreement is covered in a contract signed previously by both parties, one copy for each.

From contributor B:
If you are getting paid to do a job and have anyone working/helping you, they are considered an employee. It doesn't matter whose logs they are. You will need workman's comp and other paperwork to be legal. It isn't worth the risk to have help without being covered. That's why I don't allow customers to help saw. It only takes one accident to wipe you out.

I get $40 an hour. Charging by the foot is okay if you always have nice logs. When you get small, crooked logs, you will spend a lot of time for not much money if you saw by the foot.

From contributor N:
We charge as much or more for our stationary sawing than any of the local mobile sawyers. We do all the sawing and offbearing and normally load the lumber on the customer’s PU or trailer. We have all the slabs and waste to deal with, etc. The customer does not have to pay for a travel or setup fee.

Whenever possible, we ask the customer to leave the trailer with the logs still on it and we take care of getting the logs unloaded, turned into lumber and back onto their trailer.

As a practice, we never let a customer handle anything around the log yard or in the mill house. We’d like it if kids and pets stay in the truck and the adults stay well back while we are handling the material. If we’re sawing and someone drops in and steps inside the sawshed, we shut everything down.

From contributor Y:
I charge the same ($60/hour) to saw at my shop as I do onsite.

If I am sawing at my shop, I have to deal with the sawdust, slabs and trimmings. If at their site, they have to deal with it or pay me more to clean up for them. It balances out.

At my shop, customers are allowed to watch but can't be closer to the mill than the imaginary line (crack in the slab) unless I ask them for input.

At their site, customers are asked to sign a hold harmless and for extra measure, asked to stay away from the mill and out of the way of my offbearer - I always bring my cousin/junior partner to offbear unless the customer is a personal friend that I am totally comfortable with.

From contributor Y:
My hold harmless contract reads:

"It is understood by the Customer that log handling and cutting may be hazardous. Customer shall be responsible for conduct of his/her helpers and observers and agrees to hold Sawyer and the sawmill manufacturer harmless for any injury or damage whatsoever to helpers or observers arising out of operation of the mill and the handling of logs and lumber. It shall be Customer’s duty and obligation to keep all children and observers out of the work area. Customer represents that he is the owner of the logs and/or has the authority to enter into this Agreement on behalf of all interested parties."

This may or may not hold up in court but certainly acts as a deterrent against suit.