Monday, December 5, 2011

Sawmill Field Trip

I had an overall pleasant field trip today although it did not go as expected.

I had a list of four Amish sawmills to visit. To get to them (they were pretty close together but about 25 miles from Fenwick) I went north on a state highway to Stanton, west on a county road, north on a dirt road, west on another county road to the first sawmill. After that I zigged and zagged north and west on small roads to the other three sawmills. The last was on another state highway. The countryside is pretty right now - ready for winter and waiting for that first snowfall. The day would have been prettier had the sun been out. Can't have everything.

So, here's how it went with the four sawmills I set out to visit:

One wasn't open.
One told me flat out, "We don't do retail."
One told me. "We don't have hardwood."
The last one - the largest of the four - was more gracious about it but basically his message was much the same, "We don't do hardwood and we don't do retail." But he did suggest another sawmill, "...on 17-Mile Road over in Cedar Springs." No name. I didn't know where Cedar Springs is so I went into the nearest town to find a McDonald's for coffee and wifi. Found McDs and found Atwood Forest Products. Cedar Springs was about 30 miles from where I sat but I wasn't doing anything else so I went to Cedar Springs.

Atwood Forest Products is a big operation - well, maybe not huge but much bigger than any of the Amish places I had visited. This is (just a small part of) what I saw when I pulled in to the Atwood yard:

Photo from the Atwood Forest Products website (I didn't pull my camera out today. I'll take some photos next time I go to Atwood's.)

The timbers in those crane mats are 8" thick and run up to 40' long! Not that the ones in the photo are 40' long - but they have them that large. They also have crane mats with 12" thick timbers! I was intimidated - this is clearly a sawmill aimed at a commercial market. Do they even sell retail to hobbyists?

Much to my relief, the woman in the office said, yes they sell retail; yes, they have hardwoods - and would I like a price list? She sent me to the warehouse ("East on 17-Mile Road, past the white house, past the blue barn to the next road... go down that dirt road until it dead-ends. I'll send somebody over to help you.") That 'dirt road?' More like a quagmire... deep mud... standing water... I'm not so sure about this but what the hey, I'm driving a Volvo, right? No problem. I get to the warehouse - it is about 5,000 square feet with a large selection of hardwood boards - without getting stuck.

I nearly apologize to the guy for only wanting one or two boards. His response? "Hey, we're happy you're here to buy something from us. One board or a thousand, we like your business." He asked me what I wanted, showed me what they had (a lot, I mean, come on, 5,000 square feet of space?) and I found some mahogany and some walnut I can use. Looked at the ash but liked the mahogany and walnut better. One mahogany board, 4/4 x 6 x 10' and one walnut board, 6/4 x 6 x 8' and I was out of there for $30. I was pretty happy with that - didn't even look at the price list.

So, I had a good morning traipsing around the countryside, talked with some nice folks and found a source for hardwood (and once home realized Cedar Springs is only 32 miles away). I'm pretty sure I'll visit Cedar Springs and Atwood Forest Products again.

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