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About Small-Scale Sawmills

About Small-Scale Sawmills

A small-scale sawmill operator provides milling services to landowners that may not be available from larger commercial mills. The purpose of this publication is to facilitate small-forest landowners owners in finding milling operations that can meet their needs and to build awareness of the availability of small-scale milling operations.

Many small-forest landowners do not harvest the quantity of timber necessary to access Washington’s traditional forestry infrastructure and are looking for sawmills who will accept smaller quantities of logs as well as species that wouldn’t go to a large commercial mill (e.g. black walnut).  For the purposes of this directory, we have included any mill that is willing to work on the smaller scales required by many small-forest landowners, from milling a few trees to purchasing logs from modest harvesting operations. This directory will assist forest owners who wish to utilize timber from their own property, homeowners who would like to find a creative use for a backyard hazard tree, or woodcrafters looking for a local source of custom milled wood.

Small-scale milling operations vary greatly in the scope, equipment, and capabilities that they offer, but may include other services on top of milling.  These services may include planing, molding, kilning, and the sale of other specialty products.  Additionally, some sawmill operators have the capability to fell, skid, and haul timber for you, providing a full service from felling to finished product.

Many of the smallest mills are portable, allowing the operator to bring their mill and services to your property. This reduces or removes the costs of transportation, which can be prohibitive for smaller forestry operations.


Finding a mill that meets your needs

Small-forest landowners have a wonderfully diverse set of ownership objectives, needs, and constraints.  As such, it is very important that a landowner finds a small-scale sawmill that fits these specific requirements.  In the following pages you will find the information for a variety of sawyers, each of whom can provide some very specific services.  However, like each landowner, each sawyer is unique, and may not offer the services you require.  Whatever your needs, you are almost certain to find a professional who can meet them in this directory, but a few key questions to keep in mind are:

  • What size are your logs/trees, and does the mill have the capacity to handle them?
  • Do you need a mobile mill which can come to your property?
  • Where are the logs/trees? Do you need a sawyer who can also skid (move) them for you, or who needs specific machinery to access them? Do you need a professional who can also conduct the felling?
  • What kind of products are you hoping to make from your timber? Some products may require specialized machinery beyond just a sawmill, such as a jointer or planer.
  • Will your finished boards need kilning (drying) before use?
  • Is the sawyer bonded and insured?
  • Are you looking for a certain timber species not found on your property? Many sawyers also sell specialty wood, which will vary between sawyers and over time.
  • How does the sawyer need to be paid? While some sawyers will accept timber as payment, most will require cash with a variety of rates.
  • Where are you located? Most of the sawmills in this directory are listed by home county, but many of the mobile ones are willing to travel to nearby counties, or even the whole of Washington State.

Other considerations for landowners

Transporting timber

Loading and hauling timber has a major impact on the economics of any forestry operation, as well as having the potential to cause environmental and safety concerns.  Like sawmilling operations themselves, the scale of log hauling infrastructure is not always favorable for landowners conducting low volume harvesting operations.  As such, it is important that small-forest landowners have a plan in place to transport their logs to the mill (or the mill to their logs), so that their operation is both economically feasible and safe.

Permitting and taxes

Even if you are a small-forest landowner, you are likely to need a forest practices permit through the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Landowners harvesting under 5,000 board feet of timber per year for personal use, do not need this permit.  However, if you are harvesting more than 5,000 board feet, or if you plan on selling any of your timber, you will be required to file for a forest practices permit.  As of 2021 fees are between $100 and $150, unless you or proposing to convert land to non-forest uses or are within certain urban or municipal boundaries.  Forest practice permits are valid for three to 15 years and take between 30 and 60 days to process.  More information can be found on the DNR website, or through the DNR Small Forest Landowner Office or the DNR Stewardship and Landowner Assistance Office.  Specific forest practice rules and regulations can be found in WAC 222 and in the DNR’s Forest Practices Illustrated handbook.

Taxes are another concern for small-forest landowners considering harvest operations, regardless of scale, unless they are for personal use. All timber products are subject to the Washington State timber excise tax (a 5% excise tax), including the salvage of down or standing dead wood and stumps.  Timber excise tax payment is generally only required on amounts due of $50 and over, meaning that there is usually no tax payment required on timber sales totaling under $1,000 per quarter.  However, if you are selling any timber products you should check with the Washington State Department of Revenue regarding your specific situation. Timber Excise tax is due one month after the end of the quarter in which your harvest took place.  Timber products for personal use are not subject to taxes. Forest owners may also be responsible for a Business and Occupation (B&O) tax, if harvest values exceed $100,000.  More information on B&O tax can be found on the Washington State Department of Revenue Website.