The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper


 In the early 1980s, Alan Magsig had a choice — take over his family’s sawmill or see it close down after nearly 60 years in operation.


Magsig chose to keep the saw mill in business, and it has stayed that way ever since. The mill is now closing in on about 100 years of continuous operation.



Since 1965, the saw mill has been operating just outside Woodville on County Highway 56, which was called Magsig Road before the county and its townships took away the historic family names on roads and replaced them with numbers.


But his grandfather, John Magsig, started the sawmill just down the road from there nearly 100 years ago, and then his father, Virgil, or “Spike” because he was tall and lean, in 1965 moved the mill to its current location less than a mile from the U.S. 20 and State Route 300 intersection.


The Magsig Sawmill is located on a scenic, wooded property not far from the Portage River. Walking onto the property, the typical customer comes across the odor of sawdust, which Alan Magsig has gotten used to, as did other family members who worked there.


“If the family legend is accurate and correct, my grandfather had seven brothers — there were eight boys in the family. One of my grandfather’s brothers down this road, and on River Road going toward Woodville, he had a farm there, and they established a mill there about 1920ish,” said Alan, who turns 60 this month. “They worked there until they were getting into their 70s, and my dad bought them out and moved the mill down here in 1965.


“He ran it from ’65 until I graduated from Woodmore High School in 1975. And, it was a combination of things — I got interested in forestry and have a degree in forestry from Michigan Technological University. My first job took me to South Dakota and The Black Hills. Loved the area, but the job situation was not so good. But, I couldn’t get this place out of my head. All the while I was in South Dakota and Wyoming I fell in love with Ohio again. Lots of people told me I was crazy for doing that.


“So, I came back here late in 1979, just after Thanksgiving, and started working for my dad at the mill until about ’82, when my mother decided to start collecting social security, and they asked my dad to see what he could get. He said, ‘No, I don’t want to retire,’ but they said, ‘Let’s find out what you could have gotten.’ He said, ‘they’ll pay me that much? OK, I’ll retire.’ So, I had a decision to make, just like that.


“Well, he came back and said, ‘Well, I can’t run the business and have social security at the same time, so either you take it over or we’ll shut the mill down.’ ‘OK, well, I guess I’ll take the mill over.’ That was about 1982 and I’ve been doing that ever since. My brother did the farming and he got out of that at about the same time, so I took over the farming first. I’ve been doing that ever since (35 years).”


At one time, the family-run business was booming, too.


“I can remember back in the mid-60s. My dad got out of the Army in the 40s, World War II, and I think he bought this farm in ’48, and he’d haul logs for them (Magsig Sawmill), and there used to be  a basket factory in Elmore, and he’d haul logs for them,” Magsig said. “When I took over in the early ‘80s, it was really, really busy. I worked with him and we could just barely keep up. One at a time, the businesses that we dealt with went out of business, or something — I don’t really know. People don’t have cattle (for stalls) like they used to.”

A few machinery adjustments

Even though much of his clientele today wants a historic-looking pioneer cut or a custom cut that cannot be provided by the typical lumber yard, he still has had to adjust with newer machinery — to some degree.


“The old mill my dad had used an old circular saw and we still have a couple of them. The blades are 56 inches in diameter. We made a cut about a quarter of an inch wide, and there was a lot of waste,” Magsig said.


“The mill was getting old and I couldn’t get parts for it anymore, and I couldn’t cut anything square anymore, so I started with these portable band saw mills that were on the market and were getting refined, and then I started looking into that and said if I wanted to stay in the business it was the only thing I could do. So, I bought that in 2005. The band is about an eighth of an inch, so depending on the size of the log, I can get two to three more boards out of every log just because of what I don’t turn into sawdust. So, that’s a considerable savings.”


He has since sold two circular saw blades, but keeps his vintage circular saws in storage. One circular blade got so beaten up over the years, he didn’t sell it and keeps it hanging in a woodshed near his band saw blades, which he has to sharpen, all the time, to keep fresh.


“I can run it for maybe two hours, and if it starts getting dull and starts to cut crooked, I need to sharpen it,” Magsig said.


His business is so unique, that that when he needs to buys or sell his old equipment, he just heads to Holmes County, Ohio.


“Down in Millersville, in Amish Country, near a spring they have a consignment sale for forestry, logging type of equipment, and some of it I took down there and sold down there,” Magsig said.

Magsig also has taken initiative, like turning a wood shed into a drying shed by replacing the roof with greenhouse glass.


“I saw an article in Mother Earth newsmagazine years ago, in about 2000 or so. It’s plastic or vinyl, and it’s supposed to be clear, but I probably ought to replace that,” Magsig said. “It still lets the sunlight in and heats it. My dad would air dry stuff for years and then would call it dry, but it’s a slow process. I could speed it up, so that’s what I decided to do.”

For that special pioneer look

The owner of Magsig Sawmill says his business probably couldn’t keep up with an order from a major box store, but “I can supply some things that they can’t supply, but not in quantity, though.”


What Alan Magsig’s business, located on County Road 56 near Woodville, does cater to is a special clientele that many other larger lumber yards cannot.


Magsig says a market remains for a small family-owned sawmill like his, although the work is not what it used to be. One of his customers was Schroeder and Younker Lumber Co., which suddenly closed when its owner, then-94-year-old Charles Schroeder, passed away. That’s often the case.


“I’d like to say I get an income out of it, but it’s always been kind of fluctuating. It’s real busy, and then it slows down, and then it gets busy again,” Magsig said.


“I cut a lot of trailer decking for truck decking sideboards, farm lumber, for stall material, and locking for some of the marinas. I don’t know how the marinas use them, but it’s for winter boat storage. They pull them out of the water and they’ll set them down, and they use these blocks to pull them up, and I cut a lot of them.


“It’s (clientele) quite diverse. The better quality logs, and the better species, like the better walnut, oak, maple, cherry, I dry. I have two operating dry kilns now, and I sell that for furniture,” Magsig continued.


“The things I have gotten three or five times per year for the last few years, people are going to have a wedding and they want these round pieces of wood for center pieces, and I had a couple people request that, and then I had a couple more request that, and now I have another job that I have to get done this week for a wedding. That one I didn’t see coming, but if I can fill a need, I’ll do the best I can to try and do it.”


Magsig says he often gets requests from customers who want an older look for mantle pieces or barn beams. He even gets larger orders from people who are repurposing barns or turning barns into homes.


Some customers want to keep the bark on the wood for a vintage or timber frame look, but he says the wood has to be fresh before that can be done.


“I can do that. It would have to be a new log,” Magsig said. “Anything that would have laid for awhile, the bark wouldn’t stick, but the wood will probably be fine. The bark won’t hang on, though.”


The rough pioneer-looking live-edge cut is also in demand.


“This (pointing to live-edge cut boards) is going to go to Houston, Texas. It’s called live-edge because it’s not cleaned on four sides. This individual grew up in the Elmore area and now he lives in Houston, and he came back to visit, and he wanted to find some wood. He makes tables and he saw these and said he’s got to have them. He was traveling and visiting friends, and is going to come back on Wednesday, load them on his truck, and take them back to Houston, Texas.”


The live edge boards are often cut to fit together like puzzle pieces to make a table or other furniture. To be done right, a live edge cut takes a special skill — one that Magsig doesn’t want to give away the entire secret to just anyone, but he’ll give a basic explanation.


“I make a cut, and I turn the log and make another cut, and then I turn it a third time so it’s flat on two sides, and then I just slice it up so the fourth side is just rough,” Magsig said.


He has a fresh supply of forestry, too, because 100 acres of his family’s 160 acres on one side of County Road 56 is wooded. But, he is always willing to buy logs from around the area — about a 20 mile radius or so. If someone has logs or trees that have been cut, they can contact him.


“Just a few weeks ago, a gentleman on the other side of Woodville was clearing a lot to build a house, and I got several truckloads of logs from him,” Magsig said.







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