Farmer finds hobby in lumber

April 14, 2008

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Full-time dairy farmer, Paul Erickson of French Lake, wanted to have some woodwork done in his house. That’s when his father and retired carpenter, Daniel, suggested he do it himself.

So, Erickson made his own trim, base, flooring, and cupboards. This prompted Erickson to purchase his own sawmill in 1996.

Though he had fun making his own woodwork, Erickson realized he enjoyed the logging and lumber end even more than the craftsmanship.

In 2004, he partnered with his pastor, Lyndon Korhonen of Good Shepherd Free Lutheran Church in Cokato. Together, they purchased a wood mizer band saw.

Two years earlier, Korhonen had purchased property in Jacobsen, Minn., near Grand Rapids. The lot was full of tall Poplar trees that needed to be cleared out, according to Korhonen.

To make room for a cabin he had assembled in Cokato, Korhonen took the trees down and brought the logs to Erickson.

“I thought they would make good lumber,” Korhonen said.

Korhonen used the lumber Erickson cut, for paneling in his cabin.

This was when Erickson asked him if he would be interested in a partnership with the saw mill as a hobby.

“I thoroughly enjoy - on my days off- pursuing that hobby, and opening up a tree and seeing what kind of grain the Lord has built inside that tree,” Korhonen said.

Erickson enjoys being the lumberjack and going into the woods and cutting down trees.

According to Erickson, there are several different types of trees around the area that make great lumber including Oak, Ash, Cherry, Maple, Walnut, and Basswood. With the poor quality of pine in the area, they have very little pine in stock.

“It’s always fun to put a log on [the sawmill]. You never know what it will yield,” Erickson said.

“Some of the ugliest trees, make the best lumber,” he added.

The two men call themselves “B in C” which stands for brothers in Christ.

Erickson is the sawyer while Korhonen is the off bearer, who pulls the boards off the saw as Erickson cuts them.

“He’s the one that has to work hard,” Erickson said, explaining the job is more labor intensive since the saw is run on hydraulics.

After sawing the lumber, the men stock pile it and allow time for the wood to dry depending on the purpose of the lumber. Usually, the boards are dried with only 12 percent moisture.

If the lumber will be used for indoor woodworking, the wood is kiln dried leaving only 6 to 8 percent moisture in the wood, according to Erickson.

Other than the sawmill, the skid loader is the most important piece of equipment.

“It would be very labor intensive without it,” he said.

Erickson says the most important step in the process is sticking the wood - placing a stick in between the piled lumber.

This helps the drying process, he said.

The lumber is then sold by board feet or square feet, Erickson said.

There are benefits to purchasing lumber directly from him rather than a lumber yard – people can ask for specific dimensions and much of the time, the lumber can be cut that day, Erickson explained.

“We have the ability to offer product that can’t be found anywhere else. So, that’s been a fun thing,” he said.

Greg Wood of Howard Lake makes and sells custom furniture. While picking up lumber from Erickson, he commented it is nice to use local hard woods as opposed to those found on the east and west coasts all of the time.

Wood was picking up White Oak lumber that he will use to build and outdoor walkway to a house.

Erickson says the best advertising for the small lumber business is being on County Road 37. People drive by and see the sawmill, he said.

To inquire about B in C, either removing a tree or making lumber, contact Erickson at (320) 236-7475.

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