Rates for sawmilling/kiln-drying

Sawyers post their individual rates for sawmill and kiln-drying services. June 27, 2000

I was wondering what the sawyers that visit this forum were charging for custom sawing?

Do you charge by the board foot (BF), by the hour or both? Do you charge differently for going on-site?

Also, if you have a kiln, how much do you charge for custom drying?

I'm not from the IRS, I'm just wondering if I'm selling my services short.

We charge .25/BF for custom sawing at our location. We've done very little mobile milling - maybe because we quote .35/BF and want at least 1,000 BF -- and suggest they call our competition. More often than not, they end up bringing us the logs. We provide all the labor in any case, and still get more custom sawing than we need sometimes.

It takes so much time to deal with these customers. We find it more profitable to service our steady commercial accounts. Still, we generally take small custom jobs at a loss, just to service a good customer. Some of these have paid off monetarily in the long run, and some just in good will.

Keep in mind that only 50 miles distance may make a big difference in custom sawing prices. Just north of us, the Amish keep the prices depressed - charging .13 to .15/BF. Nearer to the big cities, the rate is higher.

I custom cut at 25 cents/BF, kiln dry for another 25 cents, plane and edge the wood for 25 cents also. I am considering raising the prices to 35 cents this summer.

I charge $30/hr. I started out charging by the foot and got a lot of "firewood" to saw. Also, when I was done sawing, I would have to tally up the sawed lumber. That could take several hours to do, depending on how much was sawed. At $30/hr., with nice logs, it usually averages out to .12-.15/BF. Now, when customers bring me small and crooked logs I get paid for my time.

My mill is set up permanently so I don't do any on-site sawing. I do quite a bit of custom sawing, and offer trucking of the customer's logs and lumber if they need it.

We charge .27/BF on the log, .40 for kiln drying, and $40/hr. to plane. We were charging .25, but with the gas hike we decided we had to charge more. We are in central Iowa.

I charge .20/BF and a dollar a mile with a $25 minimum to go to a site. I charge the same rate per BF to saw if they bring me the logs, but only if it is not a whole lot. I do not like trying to get rid of the slabs. Most of the stuff they bring me is aromatic cedar though, and I like the saw dust for my own uses. Note that I'm just sawing on the side, like the other guys around here do as well.

We use a stationary mill and charge 20 cents a foot and $20 a nail.

We charge .31/BF for 4/4 and .28 for everything else. A dollar a mile, with a minimum $25 set-up fee. $8 per nail if it just dulls the blade, $20 dollars if it ruins the blade.

I'll also work for $65 per hour, that's for my wife and I. We don't sticker at the per-foot price, but will do anything, almost, at the hourly rate.

No difference in price if they bring the logs to me; they just save a set-up fee. I run my planer at $35/hr., it runs at 12 feet/minute.

From the original questioner:
I would like to send out a big thanks to all that took the time to answer my inquiry. As I expected, I was not charging enough for the little bit of custom sawing that I do. My business revolves more around selling KD lumber, and the furniture I build from it.

When a customer tells you that you oughta raise your prices, I quess it's time to sit up and take a look around. That was the purpose of this survey.

In my area (Western New York) I found that the circle mills were getting between $150 to $200/mbf. There are at least seven mills within 35 miles of me.

Portable bandmills were generally charging between $200 to $250/mbf. Some guys charged a transport fee, others didn't. One guy charged $170/mbf and would go anywhere and saw any amount, no minimum. I guess he's hungry.

I did take note that quite a few loggers are setting up mills to improve the bottom line. I hope this doesn't affect the supply of logs down the road!

On custom drying, I found prices for 4/4 to run between $200 to $350/mbf to dry in small dehumidification (DH) kilns. Large commercial kilns were charging between $100 to $150/mbf. for the same thickness.

We have a few Amish mills south of me, and they do have a depressing effect on prices, as someone pointed out. They're far enough away that custom sawing isn't affected, but for me, they sure take the profit out of selling hemlock siding. When a customer tells to me he can get it from the Amish for such and such, I just tell him my standard of living is much higher than theirs and I'm not about to lower it to compete with them.

I'd think it would be wise to set your bandmill prices compared to other bandmills in your area offering the same service. The big circle mills may be able to saw cheaper and come out ahead because they're faster. But they don't have the recovery that the thin blade bandmill has. In short, market this advantage. That's why we bought bandmills.

I agree with you 100 percent.

I spent a day attending Wood-Mizer's advance seminar at their Northeast branch. Sawing charges were a hot topic. Most of the guys doing custom sawing are charging by the hour and getting anywhere from $30 to $45/hr. The minority charged by the BF, and are getting between $200 and $250/mbf.

I personally don't feel comfortable charging by the hour, but you can rest assured that my BF rate is going up, and I'm going to leave it up to my customers as to whether I'm busy or not.