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.
Because of the large differences between small scale mills, it is important to find one that meets all of your needs as a landowner. Examples of questions a landowner might want to ask when interviewing a sawyer include:
- What is your experience in milling?
- What types of services do you offer?
- What are the minimum and maximum quantities you are willing to work with?
- What are the size capabilities of your mill (i.e. how large of logs can it process)?
- Do you have any examples of past work that can be seen as an example?
- Are you fully bonded and insured?
- How do you get charge for your services?
Other considerations for landowners
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 2020 fees are between $100 and $150, unless you or proposing to convert land to non-forest uses or are within certain 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, and through the DNR Small Forest Landowner Office. Specific rules and regulations can be found in WAC 222.
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 forest tax (a 5% excise tax), including salvage of down or standing dead wood and stumps. However, forest tax payment is only required on amounts due of $50 and over, meaning that there is no tax payment required on timber sales totaling under $1,000 per quarter. Forest 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 can be found on the Washington State Department of Revenue Website.