Logging and Sawmilling Information for the Western United States
November 2000 - Volume 25 Number 11
Self-Proclaimed Wood Freak
By Amy Emerson
Wood has been Rogerson's livelihood for the past 27 years, ten of which has involved a portable sawmill business. The business has grown to the point that Rogerson expanded his business last spring by hiring his son, Chris, as fulltime employee and purchasing a second portable sawmill. "Chris has worked with me off and on since he was 14 years old," says Rogerson. And this Spring Chris went on fulltime. "Chris will do a lot of my custom sawing, and I will do primarily the retail part." Rogerson takes his hydraulic WoodMizer HD40 portable sawmill to work sites approximately 40 miles from his home in the outskirts of Chehalis, Wash., for jobs that have enough logs for at least a day's work. "It only takes ten minutes to set up the mill if the area is flat," says Rogerson. "It can even be done in as little as five minutes." He has an older mill, a gas 1997 model with a 24 hours power Onan engine, but his new mill is a 33horse power Kubota diesel engine that includes an optional debarker.
Above: Tim Rogerson brushes off a log before cutting it in his portable sawmill. The log must be cleaned of debris so that it will not foul the blade.
Some argue that the monorail design with the cantilever head are more problem free than the conventional design involving the cutter head supported on twin tracks. The two tracks can be difficult to level on a portable mill. After leveling, beams can shift when logs are rolled onto the bed. Furthermore, logs rolled across one of the tracks could deposit debris such as mod and rock, onto the rack, creating variation in cutting thickness when the head rolls over the area. The cantilever design eliminates these problems. Rogerson's hydraulic mills also have the ability to automatically load the logs and turn the cants. "The only thing you manually do is remove the slabs of lumber," says Rogerson. "And some of the mills have a computer program called Simple Setworks where you just push a button and it does everything else for you." In fact, with Simple Setworks, a person can easily preprogram the desired board thickness.
Cutting heads are automatically lowered to cut the proper thickness. Four different board thicknesses can be preprogrammed and easily changed. However, Rogerson's appreciation for automatic options on his mills goes only so far. "My contention is that those programs are for people who don't know how to saw," says Rogerson. "I tell my son that you have to learn how to saw because if the computer breaks down, what will you do?" Even though Rogerson may not take advantage of the computer programming, they are still state of the art - especially next to his tractor. Rogerson and his son use an antique Ferguson 30 tractor, built in 1952, to move logs. "It was built the same year as me," chuckles Rogerson. Another thing you'll see at Rogerson's place is a small dry kiln, which he uses to dry and process finished lumber and hardwoods. It's a small percentage of his business, but it pays to be versatile.
Rogerson's portable sawmill operation has become an enjoyable and rewarding career, though it is a career that he never intended, it "just kind of happened." Twenty-seven years ago, Rogerson and his brother, Mark, went to work falling timber and attending Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. The pair worked for a timber company known as Saint Regis Paper Co. in Kapowsin, Wash., until creating their own timber falling business in 1984. Then the spotted owl crises arose in 1990, putting an end to many timber related jobs. It was Mark's idea for the brothers to buy a portable sawmill and remain in business for themselves instead of partaking in programs for displaced timber workers. The sawmill venture provided part-time work, which was supplemented by running their own timber falling and logging operation.
Then in 1992, Mark was killed falling timber. "I quit falling timber that day," recalls Rogerson. "I already had a portable mill, and so I made that into a fulltime business because it was another way to be self-employed. It would have been hard to go to work for someone else after being my own boss for several years." The portable sawmill business goes by the name of Rogersons Bros. Timber, which does not suggest the operation is a sawmill. However, in memory of Mark, Rogerson kept the name of their shared business.
Despite Mark's tragic absence, Rogerson has enjoyed a career path with its opportunities to meet a variety of people and its flexible hours. "I'd never thought of working with portable sawmills until my brother suggested it to me 10 years ago," Rogerson. "Now he's gone and I'm running my own micro sawmill. It's ironic and sad."
Raised in Morton, Wash., Amy Emerson is a graduate of the University of Washington and a fulltime writer at the The Chronicle in Centrailia, Wash.
This page was last updated on Monday, November 10, 2003