Giving the gift of sawdust this Christmas

When Ian Abraham (Ianab on the Forestry Forum) agreed to review Peterson Portable Sawmills new product the Junior Peterson, he had no idea that the company had a free portable sawmill in mind as a reward.

The Junior Peterson is the Rotorua based exporter’s latest product release since the recession hit New Zealand businesses hard in 2008. Sawmill specialist Chris Browne, had been quietly working on designing a smaller version of their production range, adding Robert Crafar, a local farmer and engineer, and Darron Kereama on Computer Aided Design to the JP working group in 2012, the new model was becoming very real.

Work started on the prototype mid-year and after field testing on a local lifestyle block, it was decided that the mill needed to be operated by an experienced sawmiller with no business ties to Petersons.

Marketing manager and Robert’s fiancé Layla Robinson suggested a kiwi born and bred sawmiller named Ian Abraham from Stratford.

“Ian runs his own Peterson sawmill, an older 8” model run on a chainsaw power head. His knowledge of milling and wood in general was vast and I’d often see him posting advice and stories of his milling exploits on Internet forums, so he really was a perfect fit.”



It was decided that not only would Ian be approached to test the mill, but that if he agreed and enjoyed operating it, the company would gift the prototype to him for Christmas!

Without knowing this side of Peterson’s plan but keen to get hands on with the new mill, Ian immediately agreed to try out the JP at his friend Jason Brett’s property in New Plymouth. Jason has a stand of Cypress on the side of a steep hill that bordered his home. He and Ian had already been making headway with Ian’s own mill, felling and cutting the logs into dimensional lumber. Because the logs were all pretty small (under 1.5’ in diameter) the JP was a perfect fit, as Ian said, “A bigger mill wouldn’t cut them any faster.”

Early in October, Layla and Robert headed down to New Plymouth with the JP strapped on the back of Robert’s Holden Rodeo; a double cab ute with a standard size deck. The JP fit on the back perfectly with the almost 6m long tracks strapped to the top of the mill frame.


The mill remained on Jason’s land for three weeks and the duo cut about 30 various sized logs over one and a half days in total. For an experienced miller like Ian, the unit was so straight forward, he didn’t have to contact the factory for advice once.

“My overall impression is good, and most of our problems were operator induced.” Ian said in an email after his first half day on the mill.

Ian offered a few suggestions after first operating the JP, including improving the adjustment of the horizontal sizing winder, but his overall impression was that he enjoyed milling on the JP.

“I like the mill, and we had great fun using it. I think you have a winner with this one.”



Ian and Jason were both pleased with their haul. “We even cut a bunch of 4×4 posts out of smaller logs that we just carried in and sat on top of a heavy bottom slab. Pretty good posts considering we thought they would only be good for firewood! Jason had been pricing timber to build a gazebo for his wife and he’s smiling now we’ve sawn it out of what was to be his firewood pile.”


The “Best Christmas Ever” for Ian


Layla and Robert returned to New Plymouth to collect the prototype mill, and conducted a short interview with Ian.

“It was all I could do not to bite right through my tongue,” Layla said. “When Ian said things like ‘he’d definitely purchase one if in the market for a new mill,’ and that he ‘really enjoyed running it’ while looking longingly at the mill, I wanted to spill the beans! But I managed to keep quiet.”

The prototype returned to the factory for further testing and modifications based on some of Ian’s suggestions and the plan was set to return to the Taranaki region in December to make the grand presentation!

Ian's free portable sawmill en route
Ian’s early Christmas present en route

Faking a story that they were heading down country to visit family, Layla and Robert contacted Ian to say they’d like to call in for a coffee as they had a ‘little’ thank you gift to drop off on their way through Stratford.

Mapping their trip to Taranaki by uploading photos to the Peterson Facebook page, Ian admitted later that he started to get an inkling something exciting was up. Especially when he saw the image of the JP on the back of the ute about an hour out of Stratford. Not wanting to assume anything, Ian waited patiently at home while caring for his seven month old daughter Taylor.

When Layla walked in through Ian’s kitchen door with a blade in her hand tied with a bow, there is no doubt that Ian wondered why it was smaller than the 8” that would fit on his existing mill. That is, until Layla told him it was to fit on his new Junior Peterson! Ian was literally speechless for a while when Layla confirmed the news.

“We just wanted to show our thanks for everything you’ve done with testing the JP, and your support and all of your positivity about us and your existing mill,” she said.

The free portable sawmill - the prototype JP's new home

Ian began to relax a little when he and Robert unloaded the mill ready to put in the shed, once he made room for it of course.

“Here I was expecting socks and undies for Christmas, and this arrives. Best Christmas – EVER!”

The staff at Petersons look forward to reading of Ian’s experiences with the JP prototype. And now, with the first batch set to run off the production line in January 2013, there will be many more stories to come.

Watch the video!


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