Vail, Colorado — Building log homes is a craft with hundreds of years of tradition behind it, and Rick Karow takes that tradition seriously.
Rick bought a TimberKing Model B-20 portable band sawmill in early 2000. The TimberKing has allowed the company to make significant gains in the quality, accuracy, and appearance of its log home timbers. It also has helped to control costs by reducing construction time and labor. The benefits of the TimberKing have given his company a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace, according to Rick.
Rick has extensive experience in the construction business. He originally is from California, where he was a framing contractor. When he decided to move to the Vail Valley in the central Colorado Rockies, he was exposed to log home building, which is thriving. "I found I very much liked it," he said. He was attracted to log home building by the craftsmanship and established Vail Custom Log Homes. He has been building log homes for contractors and homeowners since.
Vail Custom Log Homes, in which both Rick and his wife, Maura, are active, provides a wide range of construction services. The company not only constructs log homes but also will build custom decks, mantels, entrances, stairways, and more. The company builds and installs truss assemblies and designs and makes built-in log furniture and accessories. It can handle all types of log home construction, such as post and beam, stack log, and accent log. "We work very closely with the homeowner, their designer or architect, and other contractors," Rick said. "We provide the expertise and craftsmanship needed to help everyone — working as a team — to realize the vision that’s been developed for the home."
Rick’s dedication to quality has paid off in success for his company. The business has three crews. They recently were working on 23 building projects involving more than nine tractor-trailer loads of inspected, stamped, graded logs.
Log construction has a long history of hand craftsmanship. However, modern equipment can be used to enhance the craftsmanship and improve quality even further. "We strive to stand apart from the rest by offering customized log crafting expertise teamed with job site equipment that enables us to perform thorough, upscale craftsmanship," said Rick. A modern log home builder can use equipment in conjunction with hand building techniques to construct a home that is an improvement over only traditional methods.
In addition to the TimberKing B-20 portable sawmill, Rick’s company also is equipped with a Grove 28-ton rough terrain crane, a Cat TH83 4x4 telescopic forklift and a 28-foot truck and trailer combination. The equipment is used to prepare Lodgepole pine, spruce, and Douglas fir logs shipped into the Vail Custom Log Homes yard from Montana. The incoming logs are inspected for quality, then measured, shaped, and transported to the job site, ready to assemble into a finished home.
The TimberKing B-20 portable sawmill has been especially helpful in Rick’s quest to build a superior quality log home. It also is a good example of how modern equipment can be used to build on — and improve — the craftsmanship that goes into a log home.
The TimberKing B-20 portable sawmill is a rigid frame unit with a hydraulic log loader, a four-post head and "Quad Beam" carriage tracks. It also has an automatic dogging system. The stability these features give to the sawmill, and the resulting sawing accuracy, are what attracted Rick to TimberKing.
Building a log home involves making hundreds of cuts to timbers in order to size and shape them to accommodate windows, door frames, support posts, and other components. Most log home builders simply use chain saws and hand tools to make these cuts — which means they are only as accurate as the craftsman who makes them. And sawing for accuracy with chain saws and hand tools takes considerable time and labor.
The TimberKing portable sawmill, however, cuts with the kind of accuracy that only a machine can provide. And it does the job over and over again, without fatigue, and faster. Rick can place a 20-inch, 38-foot log weighing thousands of pounds on the sawmill, make some starting cuts to allow the blade to be inserted, then accurately and quickly saw the cut-outs into the log. It takes a fraction of the time compared to making the same cuts by hand, and the results are more accurate.
To get an idea how much time and labor the portable sawmill saves, Rick noted a recent log home construction job that required a number of detail cuts in certain of the timbers. "In one day we did 35 details," he said, using the TimberKing B-20 portable sawmill. Doing the same work by hand would have taken considerably longer. "Using the old methods," he said, "we would have taken three or four days to do the same cuts."
The ability to work quickly yet still produce superior quality construction is a substantial factor in being profitable, according to Rick. "Most of my situations are time and materials," he said. "Because the contractors know they can trust me and have seen what I can do, I’m able to attract business that I couldn’t handle without the TimberKing."
In fact, some of the business he is doing now involves working on projects for some competitors who hire him to do detail cuts on their own materials. The portable sawmill is easily paying for itself, and demand for his sawmill services is increasing.
The TimberKing portable sawmill has helped Rick’s company in additional ways. The machine can be used to recycle log scraps and logs that are not of good enough quality to be used for timbers; the portable sawmill is used to saw this wood into lumber that is sold or used to finish homes. Rick also has a customer who will buy all the 2x2 material that he can mill; whenever he has the right material, the TimberKing is put to work sawing 2x2 for the customer. In addition to using the TimberKing B-20 to cut timbers for log homes he is building and to cut timbers for other contractors, Rick also has used the portable sawmill to manufacture flooring material.
In log home construction, top quality craftsmanship and accuracy are "a big deal," said Rick. He has found a way to improve the quality of home he is able to build by making use of portable sawmill technology. While contributing to quality, the TimberKing B-20 portable sawmill also has helped the company to improve profitability by reducing time and labor and attracting new business.
"Vail Custom Log Homes is building a solid reputation as a company that is exceptionally concerned about the customer’s right to the finest craftsmanship," said Rick. "I’d have to say our TimberKing has played a big part in our success."
For more information on Vail Custom Log Homes, see the company’s Web site at www.coloradolog.com.