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Sawyers, Sawmill Builders, and Lumber Merchants

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Sawyer is an occupational term referring to someone who saws wood, particularly using a pit saw either in a saw pit or with the log on trestles above ground or operates a sawmill. One such job is the occupation of someone who cuts lumber to length for the consumer market, a task now often done by end users or at lumber and home improvement stores. The term is still widely used in the logging industry to refer to the operator of a chainsaw (or still in some limited applications, a crosscut saw) for harvesting, wildfire suppression, trail construction and related work. In the construction industry, the term is applied to the operator of a concrete saw.


A sawmill is a facility where logs are cut into lumber. A sawmill's basic operation is much like those of hundreds of years ago; a log enters on one end and dimensional lumber exits on the other end.

  • After trees are selected for harvest, the next step in logging is felling the trees, and bucking them to length.
  • Branches are cut off the trunk. This is known as limbing.
  • Logs are taken by logging truck, rail or a log drive to the sawmill.
  • Logs are scaled either on the way to the mill or upon arrival at the mill.
  • Debarking removes bark from the logs.
  • Decking is the process for sorting the logs by species, size and end use (lumber, plywood, chips).
  • A sawyer uses a head saw, head rig or primary saw to break the log into cants (unfinished logs to be further processed) and flitches (unfinished planks).
  • Depending upon the species and quality of the log, the cants will either be further broken down by a resaw or a gang edger into multiple flitches and/or boards
  • Edging will take the flitch and trim off all irregular edges leaving four-sided lumber.
  • Trimming squares the ends at typical lumber lengths.
  • Drying removes naturally occurring moisture from the lumber. This can be done with kilns or air-dried.
  • Planing smooths the surface of the lumber leaving a uniform width and thickness.
  • Shipping transports the finished lumber to market.

Lumber Merchant

Lumber or timber merchants are business professionals that engage in the cultivation, preparation and sale of various types of lumber and timber. The merchant may focus on a specific area of the timber industry, such as securing and selling reclaimed timber, or be more involved with timber harvesting and preparation that is ultimately sold to a third party who distributes the product to individual clients. In most cases, the successful timber merchant possesses a blend of experience, expertise and formal training that make it possible to address every aspect of the timber business.

Understanding the science of forestry and forestry studies is a basic for just about all timber merchants. This is especially true if the merchant cultivates tracts of forest for routine harvesting and replanting. The merchant will understand how long it takes for new plantings to reach maturity, what is needed to promote proper care during the growth period, and how to harvest the timber to best advantage.

Scope of Project

This the place to bring those ancestors who were sawyers including sawmill owners and builders. Timber/lumber merchants are invited as well.