An American homesteader making best use of his Automated Portable Sawmill

homesteading wood

Will Koski reached retirement age several years ago, however he is not showing any signs of slowing down. Will grew up in a region surrounded by Redwoods and spent his working life as a bushman. His extended family has been sawmilling, logging and doing construction work for a long time.

Although they work hard, Will and his wife Lainey live a comfortable life as homesteaders on their ranch in tiny Comptche in California, USA. They keep livestock, grow vegetables and harvest fruit from 60 fruit trees and five acres of recently planted Pinot Noir grapevines.

The ranch was in a severe state of neglect when they bought it five years ago. All of the 100 year old buildings were literally rotting into the ground. Fixing the numerous outbuildings was going to require a lot of lumber. But purchasing lumber would be unnecessary with Will having access to over 2 million board feet of standing timber on his property. He just needed to find a suitable sawmill for the job.

“I like that I can run the mill by myself and that I can sharpen the blade without having to take it off the mill”

swingmill homesteading

swingmill homesteading

Will had been operating a Wood-Mizer bandmill but wanted to get a more versatile machine suitable for milling dimensional lumber as well as bigger logs.

“A friend of mine loaned me his Lucas mill with the hope that I would buy it off him. While I could see the advantages of a swing mill, I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the Lucas mill brand. Further research led me to Peterson and it was obvious to me that the Peterson mills were of better quality.”

working with redwood

Will was a little nervous about buying a mill made on the other side of the globe, however with Peterson’s Agent in California it was an easy decision. He chose to purchase an ASM (Automated Swingblade Mill), which is the ideal sawmill to be run by a single person.

Will agrees: “I like that I can run the mill by myself and that I can sharpen the blade without having to take it off the mill. My son in law sometimes helps with milling, it is his favorite thing to do on the ranch.”

The ASM is operated with an automatic board remover, which returns boards to either end of the mill and guarantees an almost effortless, high production rate. The ASM revolutionised the portable sawmill market when it was first introduced in 2003, delivering increased and consistent commercial sawmill production with little effort.

Says Will: “I made a few rookie mistakes in the beginning, mainly forgetting to swing the blade and sawing backwards. Milling with a circle saw is quite different from operating a bandmill. Once I felt more comfortable around the mill I could concentrate on sawing.”

To fix his outbuildings, Will needed lumber, and lots of it. He would mill a trailer load, bring it down to the houses, start doing repairs and before long the lumber was used up again.

board remover

The look and feel of the 60-80 year old Redwood and Douglas Fir lumber he produced blended in perfectly with the wood of the old buildings. His ASM was used to produce foundation boards, siding, framing lumber, trim boards, lumber for fencing, cabinets, a kitchen table, fence posts, and more.

foundation boards, siding, framing lumber, trim boards

foundation boards, siding, framing lumber, trim boards

Will has almost completed the building restorations and is looking forward to milling just for the fun of it. “I don’t get to run the mill as often as I would like. My other ranch duties keep me very busy! For example, the forest is in need of thinning and the junk trees need to be removed. Also, I will be planting some 200 redwood trees this winter, to help restore the forest.”

“I don’t get to run the mill as often as I would like. My other ranch duties keep me very busy”


Will simply loves working and living on his homestead in the Californian coastal Redwood forest and the ASM has made life that little bit easier for him.

4 comments shared

  1. Robert Wells says:

    I love that another homesteader is being profiled. Even more so I love seeing the use of the redwoods and the ASM. I’m going to use the pic of the mill shed to design ours. Great story!

    • Maurice van Liempd says:

      Thanks for the positive feedback as always, Robert. Homesteading is rapidly gaining popularity, and for good reasons. Cheers, Maurice

  2. David Emerson says:

    Like Will, I looked at a Lucas then bought my Peterson.
    I went with the All Terrain model for its simplicity and ease of transport. I usually work alone and have done some custom saw work as well as sawed out and built a 36 by 32 foot barn for myself.
    Very nicely engineered and constructed machine.

    • Maurice van Liempd says:

      Thanks for your positive feedback David, it’s great to hear from millers who know how to use their versatile Peterson to the fullest extent! Cheers, Maurice

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