Got a portable mill, 8 hours, and live in Illinois?

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Blog entry by JMB posted 11-02-2010 05:28 PM 1727 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch


Someone wants me to take down there walnut tree. I got the time, a van, and a chainsaw. What I don’t have is help and a portable mill to take it down to size. I’d like to put together a crew of 3-4 guys to work on this thing and take it apart. a hard days work could earn us all a couple thousand dollars in walnut.

Tree is about 17 inches in diameter 2.5 stories tall. Located in Naperville. Tight quarters in backyard. Tree is near property line, fence and patio, and some branches overhang the house. Not a project for the timid, nor spaztic. This will take old fashioned hard work and patience. Anybody interested, drop me a line.


-- If I can't fix it, it wern't broke in the first place!

6 comments so far

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 4174 days

#1 posted 11-02-2010 07:10 PM

I am not sure but I think it is socal who has a website thing that lists people with portable mills by state/location?

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 5241 days

#2 posted 11-02-2010 07:41 PM

If the tree is “about 17’’ diameter” the first, or butt log, 8’ long will yield…84 bft of lumber, sapwood and all. If you get another one it will be obviously smaller (and knottier). You MAY be able to squeeze 175 bft from that tree of varying grades, my guess would be closer to 150 bft. Mill run (a mix of good and just so-so, what every tree contains) walnut sells for $3.00 (or less), already dry and ready to use at a sawmill. I too am in Illinois. Sooo if you are lucky, like the tree is not hollow or full of nails since it’s in a yard you may be looking at $450 worth of lumber…after sawn out and dried…not $2000. I am super cheap on my milling and drying rates @ $0.35 bft for each, that is just over $100 off your $450 haul of lumber. Of course a nail costs $20 for damaged blades. That is brought to my mill, no sawyer will go out for one baby tree.

That bft tally is assuming it is dead straight, a small log like that if it is crooked the yield goes way down. And also assuming it’s not hollow and full of nails like I mentioned before.

To me that sounds like you should charge the homeowner $500-$600 to remove it, or walk away.

And just FYI a 17”x 8’ walnut sawlog is worth about $50, maybe $60 on a good day to buyers at sawmills…if they will take it being a yard tree with the whole metal probability issue. Most would not touch it.

View JMB's profile


23 posts in 4761 days

#3 posted 11-02-2010 08:01 PM

Important points to consider when pricing out the worthiness of taking on job like this. However, your math is a little off.

I don’t know what prices are like in Naperville. But I don’t believe walnut is only $3.00 / BF. 6/4 kiln dried Walnut is over $9.50 / BF here in Chicago. 12/4 is more. Assuming 150 good board feet, as you estimate, that’s more like $1500 worth of wood. But you are not considering the value of the raw slabs. Some guys like the crotch pieces, knotty, and figured wood and anything with the bark on for rustic furniture pieces. So I’d guess its more like 300 board feet to the right guys. I personally air dry my greenwood in the garage. So unless someone is too impatient to wait 6 months to start making stuff, no has to pay for kiln drying

Like I said, this is for fun and some interesting wood bits. If someone has a portable mill, I think whoever joins the crew for this project would be happy to pitch in some cash for gas and general use and abuse on the tool.

-- If I can't fix it, it wern't broke in the first place!

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 5064 days

#4 posted 11-02-2010 08:14 PM

Hey Darren,
I know you often post about your experiences, and walnut is one of the species you work with a lot, so I’ve got a question that may relate to the original post. What size tree usually makes the cut-off to be considered worthy of milling by an outfit like yours?

I realize that many tree species have different ratios of sapwood to heartwood and that age is a factor too, but walnut seems to be particulalry tricky because some view sapwood as a “defect” depending on the ultimate use. Just wondering.

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 5241 days

#5 posted 11-02-2010 08:40 PM

JMB I am talking sawmill prices for walnut since you are looking to have it milled. I don’t know where you get your lumber that 6/4 is $9.50 bft…but I would shop around (that is 2X what all the mills I know sell it for, and I know a lot of them). Here is a link to look for one close to you. That scale I used is the entire volume possible…you are not going to get 300 bft even flitch sawn out (unless you mill limbs, which I would not do). I am not arguing with you. I run a sawmill and thought I would try to help with advice from a guy who does this for a living…

HokieMojo I will not pay for a walnut log under 16” diameter here. If someone want to dump one for free I let them if it’s in a mixed load of nicer ones (20’’-36’’ is my preference)

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 4571 days

#6 posted 11-04-2010 03:11 AM

Around STL, people advertise walnut for as low as $2/bft, even for 8/4. Check there for your area, you may be surprised.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

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