Peterson Portable Sawmills

Rotorua sawmill manufacturer supports student project

Western Heights High School Rotorua

When 17 year old Hayden Swears reached out to Rotorua manufacturers, Peterson Portable Sawmills for help with a woodworking project at his high school, the company were pleased to be of assistance.

‘Materials Technology’ is one of the subjects taught at Western Heights High School, located just 3km from the Peterson factory. Materials Technology is a relatively comprehensive discipline that uses raw materials which are processed into shapes and forms needed for specific applications.

For Hayden’s woodworking project, he and a group of 14 other students worked together to create their version of a product that can be found in many modern homes.

Last year, Hayden built a stereo cabinet out of pine wood. This year, the project idea was to build a computer desk from a wooden slab which would be attached to a metal frame.

To find a suitable slab, he contacted several local sawmills to request their assistance before approaching Peterson who supplied him with a complimentary Macrocarpa slab cut with a Peterson Dedicated Wide Slabber for this project.

Macrocarpa has a range of uses including ceiling sarking, exposed beams, flooring, wall panelling, framing, furniture, solid wood bench tops, architraves and skirtings. Macrocarpa is a low-to medium-density softwood that looks and works like kauri.

It has a fine grain and machines and sands well to give a high-quality finish. The heartwood is golden brown and has a speckled lustre, which is rare in timber.

“Preparing the slab involved cutting it to length and shaving a few mm off the top every couple of weeks with a thicknessing machine, to get it down to 45mm thick,” Hayden explains. “I also had to cut the slab in two lengthwise, so that it would fit the limited width of the thicknessing machine (planer).”

macrocarpa slab

slab wood furniture

After eight weeks the slab had air-dried enough to be processed further. The school’s workshop is very well equipped: it has sliding tablesaws, industrial planers, welding bays and bandsaws. The slab featured some soft spots, which Hayden chiselled out and filled in with an epoxy. After joining the two halves together again with glue, the slab was sanded and oiled.

“I MIG welded the metal table frame myself from mild steel which I found quite a challenge, given that this was my first welding effort ever!”


“I MIG welded the metal table frame myself from mild steel which I found quite a challenge, given that this was my first welding effort ever!” After powdercoating the metal frame, bolting the two desk components together was the final easy step.

slab wood epoxy filler

slab wood epoxy procedure

Peterson Portable Sawmills’ Factory Manager and Designer Chris Browne’s children had attended the same high school as Hayden and he was happy to help.

“When I’m not in the Peterson factory, I can usually be found operating my sawmill on a custom job,” said Chris. “I’d recently purchased some Macrocarpa logs to mill into slabs and when Hayden asked the question, the boss and I (my wife, and CEO of Petersons) were pleased to oblige.”

“I learned a lot doing this project. I’m enjoying my new desk at home”


Chris hopes that giving Hayden the means to complete his project, has given him the woodworking ‘bug’.

“I learned a lot doing this project,” Hayden said proudly. “I would definitely be confident taking on a similar project again and I’d like to thank Peterson for helping me out. I’m enjoying my new desk at home.”

mig welding furniture frame

slab desk diy

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2 comments shared

  1. Grant H Brookfield says:

    I think we’re all prepared to help people who are prepared to help themselves. Hayden will realise you don’t have to know everything and be capable of doing everything for any project. All successful businesses run this way marry the people with the knowledge with people that have the skills to make the project successful.

    Hayden and others can achieve anything using basic management skills. Good on you Petersons for showcasing Hayden’s entrepreneurial first steps.

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