Opal offers mobile sawmill knowledge – The Andalous Star-News
Opal offers its knowledge of the portable sawmill
Posted 7:30 a.m. Saturday, October 8, 2022
A portable sawmill? When I was young, I often visited a sawmill that was overseen by the father of a friend of mine. But it was not portable. I just couldn’t imagine someone pulling a rig down a highway with a sawmill attached.
I might have been totally unaware of these machines if Hurricane Opal hadn’t swept through our community on October 4, 1995.
Its fierce winds pushed a long-standing cedar tree dangerously close to our house and deposited its branches on the roof. There was no alternative. It had to fall. When the tree cutters arrived and removed it, my husband asked them to cut it into 8 foot lengths because he wanted to salvage the wood.
That’s when I heard about portable sawmills. My husband inquired and found one. Several weeks later, a man backed his rig into our front yard, flipped a few switches, and got to work. An elevator lifted the logs and put them in the sawing position. Then he made adjustments based on the size of wood my husband wanted. Pretty soon things started to buzz. The saw groaned. A wonderful smell of cedar wafted around us and a big pile of cedar sawdust was accumulating on the grass.
After about an hour and a half, my husband had a small pile of cedar wood. Some of them went well, while some had weak points. He stacked it in our garage, turning it into perhaps the most aromatic garage in our neighborhood. When he dried, he used some for a few small objects.
The smell of cedar the day the portable sawmill was running in our yard reminded me of “after school” visits when my friend’s dad would take care of some business and let us explore a bit. . We played in the sawdust heap. As the man at the portable sawmill pushed the logs onto the saw, memories of the pungent smell of wood and the heat came flooding back. I also remembered the groan when the logs made contact as hoarse, sweaty workers performed the same job a long time ago.
With the sawmills still on my mind after the cedar cutting, I remembered the book I co-wrote with the late John Haupt of Elberta which chronicled the story of his community. A section was dedicated to the first sawmills developed to cut pine trees which provided cheap but high quality building materials to early settlers.
In the list of sawmills, Mr. Haupt compiled a statement that sawmills existed from 1907 to 1958. A steam sawmill was owned by two operators from 1916 to 1932. These two men instead took their steam rig to the timber . from the reverse.
Although I don’t know it, I learned that portable sawmills have been around for a long time.