Sawmilling on the Side in the Whitsunday Region of Queensland

By Amanda Buttram, Wood-Mizer Contributing Author

Sawmilling on the Side in the Whitsunday Region of Queensland

In the mainland hub of the world-famous Great Barrier Reef tourist destinations including the Whitsunday Islands and Whitehaven Beach, is Whitsunday Timber in Cannon Valley, Queensland, Australia. Founded by Craig and Janelle Yeomans, the sawmill company seeks to help neighboring residents and businesses make use of the area’s valuable natural resources. With a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill, Whitsunday Timber mills salvaged logs into stunning wood slabs and dimensional timber that will serve new purposes in the community for generations. 


Whitsunday active sawmillingWhitsunday active sawmilling

A Side Project Quickly Gains Community Support 

Helping a friend cut down some trees initially led Craig’s wife, Janelle, to speculate that there must be an abundance of trees that needed to be removed. She recognized the potential value of processing this material, which led to the idea behind Whitsunday Timber. The business was started strictly as a side project, as Craig works another professional job during the week. “I figured that if I could process three trees a week on my day off, we would make some money and I would enjoy getting outside,” said Craig. 


Whitsunday wood slabWhitsunday wood slab


According to Craig, starting the business was the easy part. He made partnerships with local tree services that supply free logs in exchange for removal from the site, which substantially reduces disposal costs for these businesses so everyone benefits. The purchase of a Mack rigid truck complete with a crane and the addition of a mounted rotating hydraulic grab and logging bolsters gave Craig the tools he needed to start picking up logs efficiently and bringing them to his facility for sawmilling. Currently, Whitsunday Timber operates out of a rented yard behind a local garden nursery, with 1,000 square meters of unpaved area and no sheds or cover on site. 


Whitsunday logyard viewWhitsunday logyard view


While the Yeomans planned for Whitsunday Timber to be a small side business, work has quickly increased as their customer base has rapidly grown from word-of-mouth referrals along with a small social media presence. “I am processing several logs per week at present. Most of this is customer logs, which has been a profitable source of cash flow while I build my own inventory of timber,” said Craig. With about 70 tons of timber in the yard after a short time in the sawmill business, this side project has the potential to be a much bigger operation. 


Whitsunday LT50 sawmillWhitsunday LT50 sawmill

Salvaging Local Timber for Local Use 


The work starts whenever a local tree service rings Craig to ask if he’d like the tree they’ve just cut. In most cases, the log must be removed from the property on the same day, which means Craig is out picking up logs on his lunch break or after work at his day job. Upon returning to the yard, logs are stacked, sealed, and numbered. 


Whitsunday tagged logWhitsunday tagged log


Whitsunday Timber operates a Wood-Mizer LT50WIDE hydraulic portable sawmill, chosen for its processing speed and computerized setworks to facilitate fast and efficient milling. “I have found the Accuset setworks invaluable. No other portable mill in Australia gives me convenient and simple calculation assistance. Once I get going, I don’t have to be constantly working things out. For a guy like me who tends to rush things or have multiple things on the go, it reduces the risk of mistakes,” said Craig.  


Whitsunday Wood-Mizer LT50WIDE sawmillWhitsunday Wood-Mizer LT50WIDE sawmill


Before turning to a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill, Craig started with a chainsaw mill. He found it led to too much hard work, which wasn’t feasible in the hot and humid climate. “My experience with Wood-Mizer has been positive. The after sales service has been great and the equipment is fantastic. I have found the Australian distributor to be warm and inclusive. There's a family feel in the Wood-Mizer community,” shared Craig. 


Whitsunday open log viewWhitsunday open log view


While his sawmilling equipment is portable, he rarely takes his sawmill to the customer as a log collection fee is less of an investment for the customer than a sawmill setup fee. When he’s ready to process, logs are moved to the sawmill using a wheeled loader. Details of each log are carefully recorded on a job card so that information is readily available when making marketing decisions and monitoring profitability. It’s not unusual for Craig to stop by the yard around 5:30 a.m. and mill a log or two prior to his workday and his days off from his full-time job are spent processing as much timber on the sawmill as possible. Once the timber is milled, material of all sizes is labeled, stacked, and strapped so the drying process can begin. Currently, Whitsunday Timber sells timber green, but there are plans to install a kiln in the future to provide more value for the customer. 


Whitsunday moving logsWhitsunday moving logs


Eucalyptus is the company’s main milling timber, which also includes blue gum, Moreton Bay ash, and ironbark varieties. Mango trees are also milled quite frequently, as the trees grow large and become problematic in residential yards. Silky oak, Mackay cedar, white cedar, and pink cedar are also common woods milled by Whitsunday Timber, with kauri pine and hoop pine occasionally becoming available. “We will mill anything that has a good grain and an appeal for any purpose, from building to bespoke furniture,” said Craig. “[Mango trees] produce stunning furniture-grade timber.” 


Whitsunday Craig with sawmillWhitsunday Craig with sawmill
Whitsunday using portable sawmillWhitsunday using portable sawmill

Sustainable Products and Community Partnerships 


“All of our timber is sustainably sourced from private customers who want us to mill their logs or from local tree services who have cut down a tree for one of their clients,” said Craig. Preorders make up the bulk of their sales, as milled stock is currently improving. 


Whitsunday truck moving logsWhitsunday truck moving logs


As the business has developed, Whitsunday Timber has carved out a desirable position in the community. Private customers and business clients are turning to Craig to process timber for personal and commercial use. “I have been surprised by the number of people who have a log lying around and are looking for someone to mill it,” said Craig. These one-off logs have become the business’s bread and butter. These private clients choose to salvage logs from their own property for environmental reasons, as well as to use the timber to create items that will be left to future generations. 


Whitsunday end of logWhitsunday end of log


Craig shares that half of the company’s clients are other businesses that use timber in their lines of work. “A local resort had to remove several trees for insurance reasons, and I am milling all of the trees and returning them as bearers and decking timber to replace the aging boardwalks around the property,” said Craig. In addition, some local builders hired Craig to mill logs to a certain size before they are sent off to another processor to be planed, creating vertical joints and other types of internal cladding timber. 


Whitsunday Wood-Mizer and CraigWhitsunday Wood-Mizer and Craig


Providing a needed community service has certainly paid off for Whitsunday Timber, as evidenced by the company’s rapid growth. “It’s all happening faster than expected,” said Craig. He speculated that word about the business has spread rapidly due to its professionalism and timeliness. Next up for the company is finding a more permanent location with covered warehousing to run operations, building a kiln, and adding services that enhance the current offering. Craig would also like to upgrade his sawmill in the future and has an electric powered Wood-Mizer LT70SUPER hydraulic portable sawmill in mind for increased timber production. 


Whitsunday cut timberWhitsunday cut timber


“Everyone loves saving money, being environmentally responsible, and seeing the end result. It’s all really quite emotive, but the bottom line is always providing good and engaging service,” said Craig. 

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