The Swedish sawmilling industry has a record year behind them, and the nearest future looks bright as well. Partly, due to low timber prices, the lowest in Europe. But are there any sawmills that pay more for the timber? Does for example anyone value the good quality logs that come out of the forest? Yes, but they are not many. We found one …

A small, specialized sawmill

Almost all Swedish sawmills produce and handle bulk lumber. The quality assessment has been simplified to adapt to the industry. The single logs that hold good quality slip through together with the normal logs without any special treatment or pricing. Many think that´s a waste of good lumber. Anders Karlsson at Landsbro Timber in south Sweden is one of them.

A small, specialized sawmill

Anders Karlsson, owner, wood buyer, and saw operator.

He runs his sawmill only with high-quality timber. His customers are carpenters and others who want the best lumber and can´t find it through the normal timber dealers. The sawmills won´t sell less than a whole package. The DIY stores don´t bother to sort out the best qualities. But at Landsbro Timber, and a few others, you can buy single lumber boards of the best quality.

It starts in the forest

85 – 90 percent of the timber is pine (Pinus sylvestris). The other 10 – 15 percent is Norwegian spruce (Picea abies). Only the best qualities are interesting. The timber should be straight and without knots. For spruce, some thin knots are accepted. The timber comes from dense stands where the stems have been formed and the branches have fallen off long ago.

A small, specialized sawmill

High-quality pine timber waiting to be processed.

Today’s computer-controlled harvesters are not programmed to sort out the best qualities. It´s also difficult for the harvester operator or logger to see the stem good enough to make good decisions. Therefore, Anders must go to the forest before the felling starts and mark the trees and where the first log should be cut. He is only interested in the root logs and, in some cases, the second log of each tree. The rest holds too poor quality.

But there are a few exceptions, the day we visited the sawmill, only second logs of slightly lower quality were processed. It was a special assortment for maintenance and building of Norwegian mountain huts “hytter”. A good example of a small sawmill’s flexibility.

The company started in 1993

Landsbro Timber is located on an old industrial site where a large house factory and a sawmill used to be. Today, many companies are located on this industry site, of which Landsbro Timber is one. The funny detail is that even though we are talking about one of Sweden’s smallest professional sawmills, they have a lumber barn, built in 1947 by the house factory, which is one of Europe’s largest wooden buildings. The barn is a historical monument.

A small, specialized sawmill

The old barn was built in 1947 as a part of a house factory. It is today a historical monument.

In 1993, Anders started Landsbro Timber as a specialized sawmill for high-quality lumber of all kinds. In the beginning, 5 – 6 species were frequently processed. Eventually, however, they had to concentrate on fewer assortments to make it rational. Since that decision, only pine and some spruce are used as raw material.

In 2007, the present saw-line was built. The saw itself is a Turkish-made Üstünkarli that Anders found at the Ligna show in Germany. The capacity of the saw-line is 10.000 cubic meters of lumber annually. But only some 5.000 cubic meters are produced here.

A small, specialized sawmill

The saw-line at Landsbro Timber.

4 to 5 employees are working at the sawmill today. A lot of work is done by hand. A small component factory is also a part of the company where components for stairs are made. The sawmill also has its own drying kiln for lumber.

Markets and segments

As mentioned above there are no doubts that this kind of sawmill fills a gap that the larger, traditional sawmills can’t cover. In a high-capacity sawmill, there is no time to sort out the best boards or to divide a lumber package. The customers who want the best qualities will not buy whole packages in which, if they are lucky, they will find one useful board.

So, carpenters, companies, and organizations that work with fine carpentry or restorations of old buildings, etc. come to Anders and Landsbro Timber to buy what they want. Here they can even buy one single board. But of course, also truckloads are sold. Again, it’s a flexible company.

A small, specialized sawmill

Loading lumber for Norway.

Norway, Germany, and Sweden are the main markets for Landsbro Timber. The buyers are everyone from single carpenters or summer house owners to DIY stores and large wood dealers.

Limiting factors are staff, do get people who want to work with their hands and their brains, and access to the timber of the right quality. Right now, the production could have increased if there were enough timber and people.

Prices

The low timber prices in Sweden are well known by now. I asked Anders what he pays for the timber. He wasn´t very keen on revealing that, however. He said that “every buyer wants to buy cheap” and that may be true. But after some talk, he also agreed that the timber prices in Sweden are too low for the moment and that he easily pays twice as much as the traditional timber buyers.

Then we must bear in mind that Anders only buys top qualities and that he goes into the forest himself and chooses, and marks, the logs he wants before the trees are felled. The problem for the big forest companies is that their foresters neither have the knowledge nor the time to do that. For them, it’s all about volume. Nevertheless, Anders has contacts working for the big players who let him pick out what he wants before they start felling.

As for the prices on the other end, the lumber prices, he didn´t want to discuss that at all. One can imagine, as we are talking about unique qualities, that he can charge quite a bit for the lumber he produces.

Film time!

Here is a film from my visit to Landsbro Timber where Anders talks about his sawmill and his business.

Film and photos: Per Jonsson