“Put me in a harness and a rope and a chain saw, and I’m at home.” Nestled in the rolling green hills west of Edinburgh, Sandy and Fiona take pride in their handmade furniture and beautifully landscaped yard. For 17 years, Sandy ran a successful tree surgeon business called Treeshape.
“I came back from New Zealand in 1999,” Sandy shares, “with nothing at that time, after already having 20 year’s experience. I saw there was an open market for tree surgeons and just went for it, basically because it was new, real competition. I’ve built up my yard, the field, equipment, forestry mulchers, chippers, grinders, stump grinders…but after reaching a certain age, it started to hurt, and bureaucracy kicked in as well.” He laughs. “It was just too much and it wasn’t enjoyable anymore. So I sold a lot of my equipment and bought sawmills and sharpeners and setters.”
Sandy and Fiona previously had a Wood-Mizer LT20 sawmill, which they used to process trees on a nominal basis, and used the timber to build some personal projects. “It was such a good sawmill that I went for another Wood-Mizer,” Sandy comments. “Not only because the machine is good, but the backup too. I’ve always been well looked after by Wood-Mizer.”
Sandy’s purchase of the brand new WM1000 wide-cutting sawmill was the first of its kind in Scotland. With the WM1000, logs can be sawed in half, into quarters, or into wide slabs directly for special projects. The operator safely controls all cutting functions while standing on a platform that moves with the head. The WM1000 was perfect for Sandy’s budding business, so he ordered the highest specs for a more powerful machine, a wider blade, and a full blade sharpening package. Wood-Mizer’s Scotland agent, Keith Threadgall shares. “Since nobody was doing it in Scotland at the time, he thought it would provide a good service, being able to mill up big large bits of timber.”
Sandy and Keith were especially excited about the blade sharpening package. “A lot of customers in Scotland are starting to buy their own blade packages,” Keith shares. “They prefer to do their own blades.” Sandy was surprised at the ease in which he could clean, lubricate, and sharpen his blades.
In the eastern region of Scotland, the weather is pretty changeable. But with the WM1000, Sandy doesn’t need to go outside to operate his sawmill. “It’s electric, it’s inside—it covers all my needs. And it’s very affordable for what it does. With a quick clean and lube, it’s ready to saw.”
“I’m doing it because I like doing it, and I can take time to learn to do it correctly. Hopefully at the end of it, I can have some furniture and be able to provide a service to mill for other people.” And, shortly after making a few pieces of furniture, Sandy’s friends began requesting more.
“So my business is basically going to be an in-house, contract saw miller. I can haul timber with my Unimog 2100 forestry trailer/crane. And I can be part tree surgeon when I feel like it, and a furniture maker too,” Sandy said with a smile. “A lot of oversized timber just gets turned into firewood and wasted, or just gets burned,” he explains. They make it a point to salvage the trees they work on as tree surgeons and use the leftover wood in their own projects. “Even the sawdust is a product,” Sandy says.
Sandy’s business has just started, but it’s already rapidly growing. Sandy is planning ahead and working to find some new contacts so his hobby can become a service for others. “With a good job, you get rewards,” he explains. “The main thing is, be honest. And then be thorough!”
By Bethany Faubion