Juneau, AK | 723-0378
Can you explain briefly how your mill works? What type of products do you sell?
Generally I am the only person working the mill. I have two other people working part time right now. I run a mobile dimension circular saw, which I bought second hand. It’s now 16 years old, but it had very few hours on it when I purchased it. I produce rough cut lumber for people, and have been working on building finished cabins and sheds as well.
Where do you get your materials/where is your wood sourced from?
The logs I use are generally given to me by people that need them milled. Generally they give me the logs and I am able to keep about 60% of the lumber they produce, while they receive 40%. With that 60% I build the cabins and sheds I am hoping to continue selling.
Actually, my friend put a photo of mine up on Craigslist. I decided to just wait and see what happened. I had really good response, with a lot of people who were interested. I realized I could make a product from wood that goes to waste. I can still create cabins, and then use the leftovers from that for firewood.
How did you decide to work in the milling industry?
I came to Alaska in the early 80s, and I ran a mobile dimension saw in Haines for 2 years. I swore I would be finished with the milling industry after that, and went into carpentry. Eventually I figured I might as well do it all. Now I can take the tree, mill it, and then turn it into something people might enjoy. I come from a timber felling family, too. My dad was in the industry.
Generally, mine is made from Alaskan products and generic wholesale isn’t. Everything I make is created from spruce and hemlock. We don’t have any red cedar in Juneau, and I think it’s important to utilize what we have here.
What struggles have you faced in the business?
The main issue for me is that I am only working a portable mill. I don’t have my own area that I am working out of, I have to travel to people who hire me. There’s a market, I just have to find it. I’ve found opportunities such as people coming from the community garden coming to make boxes. So far everything I’ve done is word of mouth; I’m not much of a computer person. I need to create a website.
I understand that this mill is still growing, and that you have a lot of development ahead of you. How are you looking to expand?
I’m hoping to find my niche in Juneau, since there are not many millers here. I’m working in a more urban environment than those in places like Prince of Wales. Some people like to use rough cut lumber, and that’s who I’m looking for. I want to be in a competitive market and still
make a living off of it. I know there has been growing interest in cottage housing around here (small cabins connected by board walkways) and I hope to investigate that possibility. There are also opportunities with the forest service, such as providing for trail work.
How about the future of small mills in general?
The days of big mills are over and done with. Microsales are what will be happening. Eventually I hope to be able to participate in the microsale program. They will generate revenue for cities and towns. Even if the sales create jobs for just 10 or more people, that’s a help to the economy.