Mike Hurley builds a second
By Clay Clayton
Mike Hurley, owner of Wetset
Enterprises, expresses an
exceptional enthusiasm for
sawmilling lumber when he states, "I
get a tremendous thrill from making
beautiful lumber out of ugly logs."
Mike gives voice to his enthusiasm
on a 128-acre homestead near Mossy
Rock, Wash., utilizing a Wood-Mizer
LT40 thin kerf band sawmill to produce
that "beautiful lumber" while
simultaneously fulfilling the needs of
local customers and providing materials
for his own special building projects.
To accomplish the task, Mike
uses a combination of logs supplied
by clients, logs purchased on the open
market and fiber removed from his
own carefully tended lands.
The environmental benefits of very
thin kerf sawmilling include optimization
of the resource and greenhouse
gas reductions. Those
enhancements are one reason Mike
Hurley chose Wood-Mizer to provide
Fascinated for More
Than Five Decades
Mike's attraction to sawmilling
goes back to the early 1950s when, as
young men, he and his four brothers
felled and bucked timber with crosscut
saws, first on ten acres near Castle
Rock, Wash., and later on 40 acres in
nearby Longview. Logs, mostly Red
Alder, were yarded to landings by the
brothers using horses, then bucked
into 8-foot lengths and hand rolled
with peaveys onto flatbed trucks.
Not all of the logs went to the
sawmill. One of Mike's vivid memories
is of his father hiring a portable
sawmill operator to cut lumber on
shares so that a barn could be built."Ever since, it has been my dream to
saw lumber from my own trees and
build my own house from that lumber,"
Change of Careers
Nearing retirement from the U.S.
Drug Enforcement Agency in 1993,
Mike bought a diesel-powered Wood-
Mizer LT40 ultra thin kerf band saw
and began to operate the machine as a
business. For the first two years he
had to hire an operator for custom cutting
for a mill in Tacoma, since he was
often traveling with his job.
In 1996 a vehicle towing Mike's
LT40 lost a wheel when a bearing
failed, and the accident severely damaged
the band saw's head rig.
Consequently, that mill was retired
and replaced with a hydraulically
equipped Wood-Mizer LT40 powered
by a 24-horsepower gasoline engine.
By then, Mike had also taken up
sawmilling as a full-time venture.
A recent trend in the "portable"
sawmill industry has seen innovators
like Mike Hurley utilize their mills as
stationary operations rather than taking
their shows on the road. The mill's
production capacity, durability and
low initial investment (in terms of
sawmills), allows operators like
Wetset to fill a void in the industry. Today Mike saws lumber four days a
week without, for the most part, ever
moving his saw.
The stationary concept, he says,
allows him to arrange everything to
allow for maximum productivity."Even though my Wood-Mizer is easy
to move and can be set up and sawing
lumber in about 20 minutes at another
location, I stay plenty busy where I
am," he adds. "So why move?"
The blade on a thin kerf band sawmill like Wetset’s LT40 can be changed in
two or three minutes so downtime is minimal.
Customer Work &
A custom sawyer, Mike mills a
broad variety of Northwest species
on behalf of his customers - primarily
cedar, Douglas fir, hemlock, and
hardwoods like alder and maple.
Most milling is charged out at a flat
hourly rate, although occasionally,
under the right circumstances, Mike
is willing to work on a board footproduced
After an order is placed, Mike
determines whether it can best be
filled by sawing selectively harvested
logs from his own carefully managed
timberland, or by purchasing logs
from his log buyer who delivers them
with a self-loading log truck. Mike
says that if the order is large he is
more likely to purchase the logs, but
adds that even with smaller orders, his
time and effort are factors he considers
when using his own trees.
On deciding to use trees harvested
from his own holdings, Mike not
only selects trees to meet the need,
but also assesses what will be best for
his timber stand in the future. As
trees are selectively cut, they are systematically
replanted. Mikes says his
goal is to establish mixed stands of
timber so his heirs can always live off
the property. He plants for variety,
establishing species like Incense
Cedar, Blue and Sitka Spruce, White
Pine, Noble Fir, Black Locust,
Quaking Aspen, Red Oak, Redwoods, Cedars and others.
The desire to get the most out of the trees he does harvest is one of the major reasons Mike has stuck with
Wood-Mizer through the years. He
says the quality, speed, and durability
are all important, but the yield and
value enhancements very thin kerf
sawmilling allows, along with the
environmental benefit it creates, are of
even more significance.
In addition to serving the needs of customers, Mike has constructed nearly all
the buildings on his own homestead with quality lumber sawn on his own mill.
From Tree to
On the Mossy Rock property, trees
are felled either by Mike, or by an
experienced feller hired to do the job.
Bucked and limbed trees are moved
to the sawmill in one of three ways.
Full-length stems are yarded with a
D6 Caterpillar where they can be
picked by a self-loading log truck.
Logs up to 16 feet long may be
loaded by a Case 888 excavator
equipped with a bucket and thumb
onto a trailer pulled behind a one-ton
truck. Smaller logs are handled by a
logging arch-equipped ATV that
Mike says, to his amazement, can
handle logs up to 16 feet long and 24
inches in diameter.
At the mill site, logs are scoured
using a pressure washer to protect the
saw blade from needless wear or damage.
A Bobcat equipped with forks
manipulates logs up to 12 feet long
and 24 inches in diameter. The Case
positions larger sticks on skids aligned
with the LT40's hydraulic lifting arms.
Mike says he typically processes logs
between 8 and 21 feet in length and
between 4 and 36 inches in diameter.
He adds, "Shorter logs represent a little
more work, but the LT40 is versatile
enough to saw shorter pieces if
Secondary processing is accomplished
using a 25" Wood Master planer/
molder/sander/edger and a
Logosol PH260 four-sided
planer/molder that Mike uses to produce
tongue and groove car-decking,
bead board and other specialty lumber. A small drying kiln with about a
1,000-board feet capacity is also available
To Mike Hurley, sawing lumber is
more than a way to make a living. He
enhances the environment, provides a
valued product for his friends and
neighbors and, as a bonus, is able to
realize his own dreams.