The Scragg Saw StoryThe name must be really scary, because people have been seen fleeing in all directions
with their eyes covered and ears plugged….
Selective harvesting as described in Sweden's "A Richer Forest", the German Dauerwald, and Full Vigor Forestry requires careful harvesting of all sizes of trees, always taking the lesser value tree first. In Wisconsin forests that have been high-graded several times, this worst first approach will produce large volumes of small and low value logs. Traditional market prices for this material are very low, and usually will not cover the cost of low impact logging.
Fortunately, high-value products can be made from low-value logs. Bob Bartz in Aitkin County Minnesota is one of the pioneers in this field. During our visit to his wood processing facility, Bob explained that when he was making pallet parts from sawbolts - he was able to pay $50/cord for the wood. (A sawbolt is a log that is 6"-12" diameter at the small end - measured inside the bark) He realized that he was putting some very high quality wood into a low value product. When he instead produced value-added products like flooring, paneling, and furniture parts, he was then able to pay $125/cord for the same material. The returns available to the forest owner and logger are huge!
The key is to use the proper sawing equipment and drying methods to handle sawbolts efficiently. At Timbergreen, we can process small logs much faster by simply adding a resaw and edger saw to the WoodMizer operation. We make kiln dry lumber and rustic flooring from logs 6" diameter and larger. The costs per board foot are about double for sawing the small logs, but we can still make a good profit from these logs that are otherwise only firewood.
A Scragg mill is designed specifically to saw small logs. A Scragg makes two cuts at a time and feeds logs in a continuous flow (no back and forth movement of the saw that only cuts half the time). A Scragg can be set to produce certain size products so there is less waste when making flooring compared to using the random widths and lengths from the WoodMizer. A multi head resaw follows the Scragg mill, again with a continuous feeding of material and multiple cuts per pass.
This equipment will efficiently process sawbolts. Crooked and short logs that have basically no commercial value can be processed into high value products. This equipment has been perfected by the pallet industry, all the details are well known. The key for us though is to plan to make high value products, not just large volumes of low value pallet parts.
The current value of hardwood sawbolts is about $85/cord delivered to a pallet mill. (That is equal to about $170/mbf.) That is about $60/cord at the forest roadside in this area. With horse logging and pre-hauling, that is at best a break-even price. Mike Neta (using a rubber tired skidder) can produce a moderate volume of sawbolts for $45/cord if sufficient sawlogs are included to carry the harvest operation. Under optimum conditions, that leaves $15/cord or $30/mbf for the forest owner.