Bay sawmill makers cut above in US

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Chris Browne from Pederson Sawmills. Photo/Andrew Warner.
Chris Browne from Pederson Sawmills. Photo/Andrew Warner.

Two Bay of Plenty portable sawmill manufacturers impressed at the Great Portable Sawmill Shoot-Out held in Ohio, USA late last year.

In results released at the end of December, Shoot-Out organiser Independent Sawmill and Woodlot Magazine confirmed that Peterson Portable Sawmills of Rotorua had set a Shoot-Out record of 988 board feet (bf) per hour with its manually operated Winch Production Frame.

TURBO SAWMILL TEAM: Factory manager Richard Summerell (left), second in charge Dean Williamson, and owner Jake Peterson. Photo/supplied
TURBO SAWMILL TEAM: Factory manager Richard Summerell (left), second in charge Dean Williamson, and owner Jake Peterson. Photo/supplied

Meanwhile, Tauranga-based Turbo Sawmills' Warrior AUTO cut at a rate of 531 bf an hour, a record at the Shoot-Outs for an automated machine.

The two companies are separately led by the daughter and son of portable swingblade pioneer Carl Peterson, an American who developed his first prototype sawmill in Fiji. He moved to New Zealand in 1987 after the Fijian military coup, and set up Peterson, developing the world's first portable commercial swing-blade sawmill.

His daughter Kerris and her husband Chris Browne took over the business in 2003. In 2007, Carl's son Jake Peterson set up his own business in Tauranga.

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Both companies are primarily focused on export sales.

Mr Browne is a sawmill specialist who runs the factory while his wife, who was brought up in the family business, serves as chief executive.

Mr Browne, who was part of the team at Ohio, noted the Shoot-Outs were not really a competition, but rather a demo for the US market.

"We take part every two years to showcase what we can do," he said.

"They line up all the portable sawmill brands that want to participate. We all get the same number of logs and cut them as quickly as we can.

"They check the sawn timber at the end, and note your recovery rate and wastage. This time we did really well."

The new record was notable for the Peterson mill's very high recovery rate, with no miscuts, he said.

Mrs Browne paid tribute to her husband and to local US sawmiller Nathan Waterfield for making up "an arse-whooping team and running our sawmills to their true abilities".

Mr Browne said the majority of Petersons sales were to other countries, including the US and the Pacific Islands, with renewed recent interest from South Africa. Clients include hobbyists and woodworkers as well as farmers and commercial timber millers.

"In the US in particular there are a lot of people who want to do things themselves.

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"There is a copious amount of timber there and a great amount of satisfaction from cutting your own timber and using it."

In the report by Independent Sawmill and Woodlot Magazine, Mr Browne noted the mill used had actually been sold before the Shoot-Out.

"The buyer watched us real close during the Shoot-Out. He was probably watching to see how we operated it, but I think he was also making sure we didn't work it too hard before he took it home."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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