Woman-Owned Contract Sawmilling in Germany
By Wood-Mizer, Deutschland
Bad Berka is a small health resort in the German region of Thuringia. Here we meet Sandra Eule, one of very few Wood-Mizer 'female' contract sawmills in Germany.
In 2004 her father started his own business as a contract sawmill with a Wood-Mizer LT40 mobile sawmill. When he got sick, the family discussed an idea to sell the sawmill. Until then, Sandra had worked in the food industry and didn't have any experience in woodworking. She didn't have to think long and quickly got into her father's business to continue it.
"Dad taught me everything," recalls Sandra. "Sawing, maintaining the sawmill, and dealing with customers. We were always a good team."
Until his last day, her father visited her every day at the sawmill, made sure that everything was going well, and gave her tips.
To better balance family and work, she moved with her children into her parents' neighboring house. Now, Sandra's mother can look after the children after school because if you are self-employed, long working days are not rare. If the family helps, everything is easier.
"Of course, I am asked again and again why I chose such a difficult job, but actually, sawing is not physically difficult work. After all, I walk forth and back with the saw head all day," says Sandra with a smile. "The really tough work is done by those who have to remove the ready boards from the sawmill and stack them away."
The Wood-Mizer sawmill is a reliable machine that can cut successfully any wood type with high precision. Thanks to the narrow band blade, the sawmill makes a thin kerf about 2 mm thick, resulting in more finished boards produced from each log compared to a wide kerf chainsaw or a circular blade that produces more waste. In Germany, you can visit Wood-Mizer machines everywhere at sawmills, almost in every village.
The LT40 mobile sawmill is generally one of the most popular Wood-Mizer sawmills in the world due to its unique design, reliability, and portability. This sawmill makes precise cuts even when installed on uneven surfaces, such as in a forest. It has a powerful hydraulic system to lift the log off the ground, place it on the bed, turn it, clamp hydraulically, and hold it firmly during sawing. The operator's console has a setworks, so Sandra does not need to manually calculate and memorize the dimensions - she enters the required board thickness into the setworks, and the saw head automatically moves to the desired height position.
"The technical support isn't exactly my strong feature, but when things get tricky, I have a mechanic on hand. He's a good friend of my father's - another one from the old school - who is always there when I need help."
Sandra became so familiar with the LT40 sawmill operator's job that in April 2018 she bought a new LT40 mobile sawmill with a gasoline engine. Over the years since Sandra's father purchased the first sawmill, Wood-Mizer engineers made plenty of improvements in the sawmill design, making the new model even more comfortable and easier to operate.
Her sawing place, about 2km from her house, is on an old LPG site. She shares the space with the disused, large sheepfold with two other tenants. Here she has her sawmill and other machines, a small lumber store, and also a stock of firewood, which somehow comes naturally from working with wood.
"Handling the firewood is far more exhausting than the sawmill, despite the splitter and tractor," says Sandra.
Sandra saws for customers who belong to the state forestry and private individuals. She also saws oak logs into the beams for another big sawmill enterprise. The fact that she works as a hiking trail keeper as a volunteer fits her interests because it strengthens her contacts with the forest and the forest owners. In winter, Sandra closes the sawmill for a month and sells Christmas trees in town for a local wood market, that has already become a tradition.
When we visited Sandra at her sawmill, she is sawing pine logs. Today she has four helpers with her, and the group looks incredibly well-rehearsed. Two men debark logs that are needed for a building project while two others work on the sawmill. Every move is perfect, and you can see that it is fun despite the shimmering heat. At the break, Sandra's mother comes and brings breakfast. She has the children and the dog with her, the grandson of one of the helpers comes by bike, everyone is in a good mood and talking– the work is linked to real life - as it should be.