• J.Fraser

The Mill: An Origin Story

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

Our current Bandsaw Mill has a bit of a strange story and eccentric nature to it, as it seems many of our tools and acquisitions have to them! Where to begin? I guess at the beginning...

I have always been intrigued by the origins of lumber, the beginnings of the beautiful hardwood slab or even the humble discarded 2x4, so it was a natural progression to begin the long process of dreaming of a mill. As I looked into the world of mobile mills and envisioned a shiny-new out of the box mill, something didn’t feel quite right (not to mention the fact they cost actual money). Somehow in this process I gave up the dream: it wasn’t practical, they cost too much, I didn’t know enough about them, where would we keep it, and so on. You know how it goes.

It was surprising then, when it fell into place. Impractical and unrealistic, but undeniably real. One random morning I caught sight of a tattered blue tarp in the woods on my way into school, and out of the corner of my eye I sized up what looked like a bandsaw mill flashing past in the bushes. On my drive home I slowed way down and crept past the turn in the road, and sure enough there was a bandsaw mill overgrown with weeds and shrubs, clearly forgotten, clearly the leftovers of someone else's dream.

Over the course of the next few days and weeks, I casually cold called on the door and opened up a conversation about what the situation was with the mill. I discovered it was unused for about a decade, previously used by the resident's deceased father, did not start or run, and was currently unwanted. I (somehow) convinced my wife that we needed it, and that it was a totally doable DIY project (which of course it was not). Next, I recruited the help of a close family friend and colleague who is a master magician with engines (not to mention an actual mechanic and machinist) and roped him into the restoration process.

So, pulled from the depths of a dream I had passed over, pulled from the past graveyard of someone else's pursuits, literally pulled from the weeds and pulled apart for restoration, we brought a relic of the past into the present.

The mill turned out to be a RipSaw XL4, which was the ‘Cadillac’ of the Ripsaw line (now out of business) from decades ago. It is unabashedly a rudimentary machine; honest and simple in its design and functionality. It has no bells or whistles, no shiny paint, and certainly no modern claims to efficiency; however, it fits within the story of our origins perfectly. Over the past several years we have grown to understand the mill itself, and more importantly the story behind the wood and where it comes from. It brought us full circle.

I have a humble respect for that machine and its legacy, but as we grow often we need to move beyond the things that got us started. I find that we are on the doorstep, at the cusp of that decision where new is not unrealistic or impractical. And I have to lay that opportunity and reality at the humble origins of something old.

As we decide to move forward stay tuned for a 'review' of the Ripsaw and a discussion of new mills we are thinking about investing in!

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