Timber from farm woodland is a bit like those crops of laid barley that begin to sprout in a wet season. The cost of harvesting can often exceed the value of what you end up with.

But the difference with timber is that you can add value to it.

Having a mobile sawmill on the farm can turn what is potentially logwood into highly valuable finished timber. Just visit your local DIY store and you’ll see 3m lengths of 4in x 2in softwood changing hands for over £5.

Start looking at hardwoods and there’s the opportunity to really cash in.

Similarly, offering a contract sawmilling service can provide a useful source of alternative income.

Depending on the output of the machine used, charges can range from £250 to £400 a day.

What’s on Offer?

At the budget end of the spectrum, Surrey-based Charterhouse has just started marketing US-built Hud-Son sawmills.

Probably most suited to the farming market is the mid-range Oscar 30 model, which can, theoretically, handle rounds of up to 0.75m (30in) in diameter. After trialling it we would suggest you are probably better off sticking with trees no wider than 0.65m (25in).

Build and operation are unrepentantly simple, if a little basic. Planking depth is controlled by a hand winch and measured off against a simple ruler. The saw unit and 16hp petrol engine run on rails along the length of the timber table and are powered through the wood by the operator pushing it along.

Price for the Oscar 30 – with its 6m (20ft) long road trailer – is £4600.

At the other end of the scale, the Wood-Mizer LT20M costs £11,701, but you get a whole lot more your money – this is clearly a machine for the full-time woodsman.

Logs are loaded by a hand-pumped hydraulic lift, but this is the only requirement for elbow-grease. All other functions – including planking depth, timber feed and log rotation – are handled by a hydraulic control-box powered from the unit’s 22hp Kubota diesel engine.

Such automation speeds the job up a great deal and output is significantly greater.

Running Costs?

A sensible write-off period for a regularly used mobile sawbench would be five years. So for the Hud-Son that will equate to about £920 a year and £2340 for the Wood-Mizer.

Fuel use on both units is low, but factoring in £10 a day would be typical.

Saw bands generally need replacing three times a day, but can be resharpened at a cost of about £5 each. Alternatively, sharpeners are available for about £800.

fwmachinery@rbi.co.uk