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Articles & Stories

Mobile sawmilling in Southern France

Friday, April 1, 2016

Mobile sawmilling in Southern France

By Cyril Garnier

Originally an electrician by trade, Nicolas’ journey to becoming a full time mobile sawyer began in the year 2000, in the small town of Mende in Southern France. He was attending a local exhibition, where he saw a Wood-Mizer sawmill cutting logs into fresh timber for the first time. Only a year earlier, a storm had knocked down countless trees in the area, and so when he discovered the sawmill, he immediately recognised the potential of such a machine.

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It was another eight years before Nicolas acted on the idea he had had that day. By 2008, he was driving a dump truck for the local waste management service. One day in June, he decided to quit and start his own business – sawmilling wood!

After checking different sawmills offered by various manufacturers, Nicolas decided on a Wood-Mizer LT70. Since sawmilling was completely new for him, he met with another local sawyer to learn how to saw timber properly. He recalls that the LT70 was easy to learn and intuitive to use, however it took about a year to feel that he had mastered sawmilling and sharpening his blades.

From the beginning, Nicolas knew he wanted the biggest and best sawmill that money could buy.

“I took the largest mobile sawmill that Wood-Mizer offered. In this case, the LT70 with the full Accuset electronic control system, which stores the board measurements, and the full hydraulic system to minimise having to manipulate the logs myself, and be as efficient as possible.” Wood-Mizer usually recommends that new sawmilling businesses start out smaller, especially as they learn the trade and figure out exactly what their market needs. Nicolas did the opposite!

Working alone, as he often does when he is working in the middle of the forest, he can produce 8-10 cubic metres of timber. He has attained 15 cubic metres before, when the conditions were right and he had a helper. When he goes to a customer’s place to do a job, the customer often helps by offloading the cut boards, which dramatically increases his production by the end of the day.

“The Lozere region is one of the most heavily wooded but sparsely populated areas of France… Which means that per square metre, there are very few people and a lot of forest. Many of the older sawmill companies that used to exist here are now gone, and so I felt that there was a need for sawmilling here. And since we have roads and my sawmill is mobile, it’s cheaper to bring the sawmill to the client’s location instead of moving their logs to be sawn.” Many of the forest roads in the Lozere region and surrounding regions are in poor condition, and require care when pulling the sawmill behind him.

“In order to get around some turns, I have to back up and go forward several times before I can make the turn. We just adapt to the conditions we find.”

Nicolas’ customers are 75% farmers and 25% forest owners and other individuals. He shares that for them, it is economic to hire a mobile sawyer to cut their timber, than to have it milled commercially.

Although office work would be significantly less demanding than mobile sawing, Nicolas does not regret his decision to change his career at all.

“The best part of my job is the friendliness of my clients. I meet many people! In the seven years I’ve been in business, I’ve met a lot of people and everyone in the region knows me as Mr. ‘Valdo Mobile Sawmill’.”

One of the advantages he sees by having the LT70 is that it uses narrow bandsaw blades to cut the timber. Not only does it waste less of the log, the blades are also several times cheaper than the bigger blades used traditionally in the sawmilling sector in France.

With his sawmill, Nicolas has formed a successful business, offering mobile sawmilling as well as delivery of sawn timber. He saws and sells timber for a variety of end uses – planks, joinery, woodworking, and fencing. The species he normally works with are oak, pine, Douglas fir, chestnut, beech, spruce, larch and aspen.



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