With the addition of some new equipment and a little imagination, a sawmill business owned by Sam Seney of S&S General Contracting in West Chazy will be getting a little greener and a little more profitable.
"This is a byproduct we're getting from our waste wood," Seney said of the wood shavings he now sells for animal bedding. In the past, he said, slab waste wood was overrunning his business. While it could be used for wood boilers, outdoor wood burners or for firewood for campers, Seney decided there must be a better solution and purchased the shavings-producing machine.
Seney markets rough-cut lumber to area retailers and others, and the slabs are the outside slices of the logs that are wasted when the rough-cut lumber is produced at the mill
Seney started his sawmill business in 2001 with no building at all, just "a sawmill and six inches of snow." A former employee of Chazy-Westport Telephone Co. for 13 years, he'd always wanted to be his own boss.
He began building homes, painting and doing a little general contracting as early as 1990, but the sawmill turned out to be his niche.
"I did everything outside," he said. "It was tough during the winter, but I survived."
He constructed a building to house his sawing operation in 2004 and now has added the shavings mill and storage for the shavings.
"The shavings mill was added in December 2009 to take care of my waste wood," Seney said. "I talked to quite a few farmers in the area, and they were buying their shavings from Canada and Parishville (N.Y.)."
He now sells to several dairy farmers and horse owners, too. With farmers hurting financially due to low milk prices, being able to buy a product locally is a help. They need new shavings every day for cow bedding, then the shavings are composted with liquid manure and spread on their fields, completing the recycling circle.
Seney gets his wood through a variety of loggers, farmers and others in the area, but many loggers have shut down due to the economy, he said, so reliable sources of good logs can be hard to find.
"We still get dead pine from the ice storm (of 1998)," he said. "Trees are still dying."
Seney explained that many trees were broken from the crown, slowly began rotting from the top down and eventually die.
"There's still a lot of damage left in the woods," he said.
Currently, Seney employs two people, one full time and one part time. His son also works in the family business. He makes pine boards, hardwood flooring, siding and other related products.
"We do rustic siding and rustic cedar hand rails," he said.
A kiln for drying, fired by waste wood, and a molder will be important improvements for the future. Wood pellets are something else he may be able to make. Eventually, Seney hopes to create his own finished products including standard V-groove boards, crown moldings, corner beads and siding and flooring with many different profiles.
Adding value to his products in this way could eventually lead to shipping across the country and overseas.
Seney believes in maintaining a low overhead and keeping the equity up in his business to deal with the difficult economy. He loves being his own boss and hopes the business can continue to support his family and that someday his son can take over.
But self employment and the freedom that comes with it are the best.
"I have total control over what I do," he said. "I've come a long way."