Resourceful Repurposing

by | Jul 1, 2023 | 2023, DIY, Small Scale, July/August, Logging & Sawmilling Journal

Driving on Highway 60 in eastern Ontario, the log pile identifying the Zoschke Sawmill yard is barely visible from the road.

The millyard is dominated by piles of cedar logs, and Ken Zoschke emerges from the mill with a welcoming smile and engaging conversation.

Zoschke operates his mill single-handed, and in addition to sawing for another local lumber producer, Gerard Ostroskie, he also does a bit of custom sawing for people in his local community. The mill is located in the community of Alice, in Ontario’s Laurentian Township. Alice is about 20 kilometres southwest of Pembroke, the major centre for the region.

Zoschke explained that he began sawmilling working alongside his father in their family-owned small scale sawmill.

“I quit school when I was 16, and my father decided we should have a sawmill to keep me occupied,” he says. “So we set out for a drive through the countryside, looking for parts to build a mill.

“We found a Corinth American carriage, which had been rebuilt following a mill fire. The carriage was originally air operated, but I converted it to hydraulic. We picked up other pieces, mostly from mill junk piles, and brought it home and assembled it all into a working sawmill.”

Zoschke Sawmill

Ken Zoschke (below right) operates his mill single-handed. His mill operation includes a modified Corinth American carriage (above, with cedar logs). The carriage had been rebuilt following a mill fire. The carriage was originally air operated, but Zoschke converted it to hydraulic.The Zoschke Sawmill is a truly a tribute to its owner’s ingenuity, and creativity.

The mill’s power unit is a cab and chassis of a repurposed International truck with a L10 Cummins engine. The truck sits backed into the mill between the log deck and the lumber deck. The truck’s drive shaft extends over the differential, into the mill, and drives hydraulic motors.

Zoschke explained that his previous power unit was a Louisville truck with an L10 engine, which had come to the end of its life. He eventually sourced the ‘new’ truck, backed it into place and hooked it up to his mill.

He required the L10 specifically because he installs a governor on the engine, to get proper power delivery as the mill’s power requirement rises and falls.

“There are lots of newer computer-controlled engines available, but I was unsure if the governor would operate properly with a computer engine,” he explained.

“I put the governor on the engine and dropped the transmission in seventh gear and smoothly drove it around the yard. It worked very nicely, so I backed it into position, hooked up the driveshaft extension—and went to work.”

Zoschke Sawmill The truck engine operates at 1350 rpm, which drives the radial hydraulic motor and gives the saw around 600 rpm. The carriage travel is generated through a Char-Lynn orbital hydraulic motor. Zoschke said the Char-Lynn provides good torque characteristics, along with instant start and stop.

The circular head saw is 52 inches in diameter, which handles most of the logs which come in the yard. On occasion, he will use his chainsaw to finish the opening cut on a large diameter log.

The mill’s edger is a Morbark unit, which consists of two adjusting horizontal circular saws. The blades make the edging cuts prior to the headsaw cut.

Zoschke understands that the Morbark edger design dates back to the 1970s, and that Morbark mills were very popular throughout the Ottawa Valley region—and many of them continue to operate in smaller mills.

The Morbark edger saws adjust for different widths and move out of the way for the opening face cut.

All carriage functions from log turning, taper, log dogging and carriage travel are controlled by a series of hydraulic control valves/levers.

Zoschke saws a large log, or several small logs, then leaves the sawyer station, and takes several steps over to the trim station where he sends slabs out the end of the mill on a live belt, and lines lumber up for the trim saws.

“Gerard Ostroskie, who I cut for, only wants one end squared up and wants me to leave as much trim on the piece as possible so he has more options for the final trim, to increase the final grade,” explained Zoschke.

Lumber is segregated by thickness, and piled into random length bundles. Ostroskie picks up bundles as they are completed, which keeps Zoschke’s inventory and the need to store lumber low.

Logs are handled from pile to the skidway with a New Holland farm tractor. A vintage Michigan loader can also move logs, but is used primarily for loading bundles of lumber.

Slabs are bundled and delivered to Killaloe Wood Products where they are ground for mulch.

“I made up the tipping mechanism for the end of the slab belt, using a brake pot from the front axle of the truck. The air supply is from the compressor on the engine. The slabs land in a cradle and when it fills up, I strap it and move it with the loader.”

Zoschke Sawmill

The Zoschke mill is all about ingenuity. The mill’s power unit is a cab and chassis of a repurposed International truck with a L10 Cummins engine. The truck sits backed into the mill between the log deck and the lumber deck. The truck’s drive shaft extends over the differential, into the mill, and drives hydraulic motors.

Sawdust is picked up by farmers.

“They come with loader tractor and trailers, and they keep it cleaned up pretty good. I don’t charge for the sawdust—I am just glad I don’t have to get rid of it.”

There is no cooler on the mill’s hydraulic system. “I have never had any issue with the oil heating,” he says. “If the atmospheric temperature gets to the point when that might be an issue, I am not sawing. I will saw when it is cooler, and just lay off in the heat of the day.”

Zoschke’s single handed mill daily production will average about 1500 board feet per day, “depending on log quality, and if there are any breakdowns”.

Logs are scaled by Ostroskie as soon as they are delivered into the Zoschke mill yard. Zoschke is paid mill scale for the sawn lumber.

The Zoschke mill, evidently, relies more on ingenuity, than on salesmen, for parts or service.

“When I need a part to replace something broken or worn completely out, I go to my junk pile and look for something that resembles what I need, and then I make it fit and go back to work.”

Being resourceful, and having loads of ingenuity, were clearly part of the this mill operation when it was first set up—and that continues right through to the present day, under Ken Zoschke’s watchful eye.

Ontario sawmiller Ken Zoschke takes resourcefulness to a whole other level with his operation in eastern Ontario; the power unit for his mill operation is the cab and chassis of a repurposed International truck with a L10 Cummins engine.

George Fullerton

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