Where to Get Free Logs

Start-up sawmiller gets advice on working with sources of free sawlogs. October 4, 2007

I just recently placed my order for a TK1220 and I am trying to get a hold of some logs to cut so I can practice with my new mill. How do all of you get the trees that you are milling?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor R:
I get most of my logs through ads in a local advertising paper. Many people have a tree or two taken down, but don't want to pay the tree service to cut it up and haul it away. They advertise it as free firewood for the cutting and hauling. I have 5 Norway spruces to pick up in the next week or two which are free for the taking. They are all at least 32 feet long and around 20 inches or more at the base. In addition, his neighbor is planning on taking some similar trees down on his property and offered them to me too. For much of the winter I have been clearing a lot for a man who ran a similar ad. Free firewood, mostly cherry. I went to look and found the trees were still growing. He didn't like the look of the trees and wanted the lot cleared. A total of 7 acres. Mostly scrubby trees, but still worth my time to cut. I have some really nice trees in excess of 16 inches in diameter, but they're short. Probably 5, 6, or 7 feet before they split into branches.

I haven't even advertised for trees myself yet. I have more trees piling up than I can get cut. I work by myself and occasionally with help from my son when he is home. I have bought logs once from a landscape supplier. Apparently the tree services pay him to dump their trimmings at his lot and he in turn sells the logs for firewood and mulches some of it up. Either way, with a little effort and some investigating, you should be able to find logs to cut. Watch out for nails and foreign objects in the yard trees.

My mill is a 1220 too. Think about how you will get the logs from where they are to the mill. I have a 16 foot trailer that I mounted a small crane with a hand winch to. I made a ramp that attaches to the side of the trailer opposite the crane. Roll the log up to the ramp position, 2 straps under the log and then around the outside and back over the top and attach to the winch. Rolling is far easier than pulling or lifting. I have done it all and continue to refine my system. I don't saw for a living, but I do sell what I saw.

From contributor G:
When I was looking into starting a "tree recycling" program - taking urban trees and turning them into lumber - I found the local Davey tree service had loads of trees at their lot. As long as I could get a trailer there, they even said they would load them for me. And they were free.

From contributor D:

Try meeting some excavation contractors. They have always been my best source for logs. If you live in a rural area they are always doing drainage work and in a more populated area, it is urban expansion that requires tree removal. More times than not they get piled up and burned, unless it is in the contract that they can't burn on site; then they have to haul them off. You would be surprised what they knock down and waste. The trees are just in their way to do the site clearing. Here is a picture of part of the first of 2 semi trailer loads of free walnut that came off one job alone. Some guys don't want to listen when you call, or will listen but never call you back... If you get a couple that will work with you, great. I keep a couple cases of beer in the garage for those "log fairy" deliveries out of the blue. And if you have to fetch them when they call, you can't mess around; time is money and they will throw a match to the pile if you are not right there. But to drop what you are doing and go pick up a few thousand bft of cherry, walnut, cedar (whatever good grows in your area) is worth it most of the time.

Of course there are always tree services, power companies, township road commissioners...You could take an ad in the paper, but I would strongly advise against that unless you want 1000 calls offering "free" logs - all you have to do is come and saw the rotten nail infested thing that is hanging over a house down and clean up the mess (saving the homeowner $1500 in tree service work).

If you just want a couple to practice on, see if there is a local mill that will sell you a couple.

Another thing about having a mill you will soon learn: logs just show up after awhile. It may take a couple months, but when people find out you have one (unless there are 100 other mills around you), logs start magically appearing. I have come home to logs, mostly oak, nothing special, that I never did know where they came from. They were just left by firewood cutters, I assume - they leave a fresh log and haul off a trailer load of mill slab that is already partially dry to burn.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor I:
Contributor D just saved me some typing. I second what he said. Just to reiterate one thing, if you get logs from a guy clearing a construction site, right of way, etc, be there when they say be there. If you are, they generally will be very helpful in loading or even cutting and trimming, as it gets something out of their way, but don't expect them to wait on you.

One thing you need is a metal detector. Especially in dealing with town trees. It will pay for itself in short order with saw blade savings.

From contributor Y:
Have to agree with contributor D. Just got several loads of firewood and a couple of saw logs from a 31 acre site. Most of the nice white oak logs went to a friend of the dozer operator. The site was in the city limits and the contractor could not burn the trees, but plans to bring in a tub grinder and make chips out of everything.

From the original questioner:
Thank you for all of the ideas. I have a feeling that once I do in fact have the mill and word gets out, things should get easier. I think that the biggest challenge I am yet to face is moving the trunks. I look forward to the challenge, though.