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Thread: Lumber near Anchorage

  1. #1

    Default Lumber near Anchorage

    I figure with all the cabin building that this is a good place for this question. If there is a better one please let me know. We'll be moving to Alaska this summer for work at Elmendorf. We'll probably be living in Wasilla or Palmer. I do woodworking and would like to get into building canoes and timber framing. To that end I would like to get into processing my own lumber.

    How is the availability of logs for lumber near anchorage? What's their cost? I'm thinking (without a dose of reality because I'm not there and don't know how things work on your neck of the woods) about building a kiln for personal use as well as for processing other people's wood for fun and profit.

    I would welcome the comments of anybody that has been down this road.

  2. #2

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    What you have is a nice dream. First if you are working at Elmendorf and living in the Valley you will have 2 hours per day in driving time and some times more than that. Next you will need a piece of property to process this wood. You will need a saw mill of some type then you will need a truck that is capable of hauling saw logs. You will need some type of equipment to get these log from where they are cut to the truck and load them. On top of this you will need buildings for these things to take place. You will need a heat source Major expense with a kiln. It can all be done but do not count on much to come at a early stage. This is a project that will be many years and many set backs before it is all set into place. Good Luck as all of these things start with a idea and a dream.

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    Check out Poppert Milling in Wasilla. I've spoken with them about drying and cutting some logs from our property. I've gotten mixed feedback on working with them. You won't be the only people drying wood. It seems there's someone else in the area doing it but I haven't spoken with them.

    I think you'd have to be a real Johnny-On-The-Spot to beat the firewood cutters and cabin makers to most trees.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeonardC View Post
    Check out Poppert Milling in Wasilla. I've spoken with them about drying and cutting some logs from our property. I've gotten mixed feedback on working with them. You won't be the only people drying wood. It seems there's someone else in the area doing it but I haven't spoken with them.

    I think you'd have to be a real Johnny-On-The-Spot to beat the firewood cutters and cabin makers to most trees.
    Thinking old DB might have a slick way to drop into the bush to get to those trees...

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    I've known a few primary processors (sawmillers) and many woodworkers....of which I am one....and almost none who did both, professionally anyway. Honestly I believe that the two endeavors involve different sides of the brain....
    " Gas boats are bad enough, autos are an invention of the devil, and airplanes are worse." ~Allen Hasselborg

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    Member AK Ray's Avatar
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    For canoes you're talking cedar strip, I would guess. There is a local that builds them. He drives to southern BC to buy his bulk cedar. There are not enough AK sources and the few that are around in SE are expensive to get to on the ferry system.


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  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Bend View Post
    What you have is a nice dream. First if you are working at Elmendorf and living in the Valley you will have 2 hours per day in driving time and some times more than that. Next you will need a piece of property to process this wood. You will need a saw mill of some type then you will need a truck that is capable of hauling saw logs. You will need some type of equipment to get these log from where they are cut to the truck and load them. On top of this you will need buildings for these things to take place. You will need a heat source Major expense with a kiln. It can all be done but do not count on much to come at a early stage. This is a project that will be many years and many set backs before it is all set into place. Good Luck as all of these things start with a idea and a dream.
    I get where you are coming from but (and I'm saying this respectfully, not with a chip in my shoulder) you don't know me, where I have been, or what I have done with my time. Commuting wise, I have dealt with Washington D.C. commute. Worst day? 4 hours on bumper to bumper traffic on a memorial day weekend, one way... More importantly I have nothing better to do with my free time but to enjoy life, and I chose to enjoy it out there doing stuff and at home building stuff. The fact that I don't watch much TV and sure as hell don't facebook frees up all sorts of time

    I like working with wood, and I like being physically active. I figure messing with logs and a chainsaw mill will accomplish that.

    Quote Originally Posted by AK Ray
    For canoes you're talking cedar strip, I would guess. There is a local that builds them. He drives to southern BC to buy his bulk cedar. There are not enough AK sources and the few that are around in SE are expensive to get to on the ferry system.
    Sweet baby Jesus, how much is the price difference that it makes that road trip worth it!? Ideally I'm hopping to buy the log (or tree) were I can work it on site. Easier to move planks than logs.

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    For canoes western red cedar is tops due density and beauty. Those trees do not grow near Anchorage. If you walk the yards hereabouts seeking clear plank to rip into 1/4" canoe strips expect 30% waste due small knots breaking your ripped strips. Unselected stock waste will be much higher. That's why a person might drive to a mill near the tall cedar. Multiple canoe projects would shift the economics further.

    You never know what's going to turn up. One year the SBS store in Palmer had beautiful clear cedar that would have easily ripped into canoe strip with 5% or less waste. It might be possible to order clear stock or you might find a clear cedar log washed up on a beach. They don't grow nearby. Good luck with your plans. Be forewarned that canoe building can be habit forming.

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    Supporting Member Old John's Avatar
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    Using a chain saw to "mill" lumber is a real big waste because, every cut you make with a chainsaw you are loosing over 3/8" in the kerf, where as a bandsaw mill, you'll only burn up about 1/8" in the kerf. A bandsaw mill produces a much cleaner, neater cut, Whereas you get one tooth on a chain saw out of kilter because of a hard old knot or what ever and you will produce the waviest piece of lumber you've ever seen. Due to the expense of the lumber your going to want to use, you'll have too much waste using a chainsaw mill.. Just my nickels worth (factoring in inflation)

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    Most Alaska boats are not wood. Google Tollman skiffs for the exception.
    Cedar canoe sale in Alaska are hurt by sloppy work offered cheap. Good builders
    are disadvantaged by this. Our boats tend toward utility. There is a wooden
    boat community in Homer you might check out. Down your way CLC in Annapolis
    will show what upscale folks are buying but up here the V or flat dory is most
    common in wood. They work well for those who appreciate them. The long
    commercial use of wood boats here helps acceptance.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Old John View Post
    Using a chain saw to "mill" lumber is a real big waste because, every cut you make with a chainsaw you are loosing over 3/8" in the kerf, where as a bandsaw mill, you'll only burn up about 1/8" in the kerf. A bandsaw mill produces a much cleaner, neater cut, Whereas you get one tooth on a chain saw out of kilter because of a hard old knot or what ever and you will produce the waviest piece of lumber you've ever seen. Due to the expense of the lumber your going to want to use, you'll have too much waste using a chainsaw mill.
    I know. I'm looking at this mostly for timber size lumber where a 3/8" kerf gets lost on cutting 8x8 posts and such. Heck if there is one reason I'm willing to do the commute to Wasilla or Palmer is so I get the space to build my dream workshop.

    I noticed you guys seem to have a dislike for cottonwood, which granted you can't use green and it takes some care to dry right, but it seems like a good source of cheap sub flooring, roof sheathing, and wall paneling material. How hard is to find folks trying to get rid of those?

    Quote Originally Posted by upstreamV View Post
    Most Alaska boats are not wood. Google Tollman skiffs for the exception. Cedar canoe sale in Alaska are hurt by sloppy work offered cheap. Good builders are disadvantaged by this. Our boats tend toward utility. There is a wooden boat community in Homer you might check out. Down your way CLC in Annapolis will show what upscale folks are buying but up here the V or flat dory is most common in wood. They work well for those who appreciate them. The long commercial use of wood boats here helps acceptance.
    I noticed the utilitarian streak while browsing Craigslist for Anchorage, most boats were aluminum. These are for our personal use. I do sea kayaking but I really want to meander down a slow river on a canoe for a day or two doing nothing but fishing I'm not in the D.C. area anymore, I have been living in Northern Japan for quite a while now.

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    It doesn't hurt to dream, but you really need to try living here a couple years before you start buying stuff and putting a lot of money into anything. Living here's nothing like the stupid reality TV shows lead people to believe.

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    Cottonwood isn't highly regarded by most folks. Paulownia it isn't but you might find a canoe application and you might be the first to try in strip.
    As for lazy rivers with fish the Little Su is worth checking out. The local Rotary club holds a cleanup and fun race there each year.

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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    You will be sorely disappointed in local logs. My waste, when attempting to cut birch for woodworking projects and drying it (both air and kiln) was about 50% due to uncontrollable twisting. Spruce was nearly as bad. Our trees tend to grow with a large twist in them and it can be tough to overcome.

    I happen to own a lumber yard and in our early years we attempted to buy milled and dried framing lumber from two Alaskan sources.. the now collapsed Chugach mill in Seward and the one out of Anchor Point. The twisting issues I found in my own endeavors were prevalent in that lumber as well.

    While there has been some successful use of Alaskan white spruce in timber frame uses, it comes along with the expectation that the timbers will twist.

    Cottonwood up here does make some interesting t&g paneling and it would be fine for skip sheeting under floors or roofs. It's a hell of a lot of labor when considering the price of plywood up here isn't really all that bad.
    Bunny Boots and Bearcats: Utility Sled Mayhem

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    AKDough, thanks for the info, it puts things in perspective. As a bottom feeder logger (a small guy who will be happy to find a log or two to keep him entertained for a while) I am blessed with the fact that I don't have a business concern to keep afloat; a shortage of source material doesn't affect my livelihood and I just get busy doing something else. What's sad is that it doesn't sound like there is enough to keep a small kiln busy so I would probably stick with an air drying shed.

    Quote Originally Posted by libertyinspirit07 View Post
    It doesn't hurt to dream, but you really need to try living here a couple years before you start buying stuff and putting a lot of money into anything. Living here's nothing like the stupid reality TV shows lead people to believe.
    Really? Because I was convinced that you guys up there were just big on the melodrama... I'm kidding, I just started watching some of the shows. I don't watch that much TV. For the best part of the last 10 years I have been living in the boonies of Northern Japan were we get over 260 inches of snow in the city. I'm needing a place with bigger outdoors and colder mountains.

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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    One of the big stumbling blocks up here for cutting large beams is that our trees are small. Unless you source logs from coastal areas, it is almost impossible to cut beams without including the core of the tree. Small trees also make getting wide boards much harder. There is no real hardwood or softwood production in the area at all other than Popperts, and they will tell you all about the struggle to make lumber out of Alaskan trees.
    Bunny Boots and Bearcats: Utility Sled Mayhem

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