Lucas Mill cuts large logs into mining timber for K&F Sawmills

The production team at K&F Sawmills.

The production team at K&F Sawmills.

Small independent sawmillers, like K&F Sawmills in Paulpietersburg in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), supply much of the eucalyptus lumber for the present-day mining industry.

Unlike the heydays of mining in the early 1990s, only a small percentage of eucalyptus trees in Mpumalanga and KZN is used for mining timber, with the bulk going to the pulp and paper manufacturers. Juan Freyer of K&F Sawmills says his father, Arnold started the business in 1998 to source eucalyptus planks and supply it as mining timber to various mines. Mining timber is mainly used for permanent underground support to create a safer working environment for workers in stopes, tunnels and mined-out areas. Juan joined his father in 2014 and his brother, Dean joined the family team in 2019. Dean has taken over
the management of the sawmills and Juan is focusing on the farming, finance and human resources sides of the business.

“We sell wet-off-saw and gangnailed lumber to NHR Mining, which sources lumber for mining timber from different sawmills. We are too small to supply the mines on our own, and the agreement with NHR assists both of us to keep the mining customers happy,” explains Juan.

“We have a Wood-Mizer LX450 horizontal bandsaw, but it is limiting because it cannot cut logs with large diameters. Also, we are experiencing a lot of rotation of the blocks with the LX450, which increases the time it takes to produce planks.” Juan says two months ago they bought a petrol-driven Lucas Mill because it is light to transport and quick to assemble in the field when breaking down big gum logs. The swing-blade circular saw mechanism makes it easy to cut logs of any size.

“We did research and know there are other makes of portable sawmilling machines out there for large diameter logs, but they are costly. The Lucas Mill is highly affordable, does a great job, and we are getting good backup service from the supplier, Nukor,” he comments. Another reason for buying the Lucas Mill was because their log supplier, ATS Forestry, recommended it. ATS optimises plantations for farmers and sells a variety of products into different markets. The
sawmill purchases the mining timber component of what they produce.
The Lucas Mill is stationed at K&F in Paulpietersburg in KZN. Juan says the machine is proving to be highly productive and efficient and is producing good quality planks. “When the production runs well, we are looking at about 3000 planks a month with two employees.” When the Lucas Mill broke down, Juan says Nukor was willing to repair it and, if necessary, replace the machine. “Nukor repaired the part the same day they received it. They were speedy,” he remarks.

“We are rethinking our production because of the effectiveness of the Lucas. We are considering purchasing a second Lucas Mill with an electric motor, which would free up the petrol-driven mill for moving around. Electricity is still cheaper than petrol, and it would save costs.” Nothing goes to waste at the sawmill. The offcuts are sold to locals and the sawdust is spread in the plantations to decompose and add nutrients to the soil. Juan says they are in the process of researching alternative uses for the sawdust.


The wet-off-saw mining timber is gang-nailed and strapped at the sawmill.

The wet-off-saw mining timber is gang-nailed and strapped at the sawmill.

Written by woodbizafrica.co.za