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Campus and Community Lumber Milling

Posted by Quinn Connolly on October 31, 2023

Good Afternoon all. I would like to continue the conversation about repurposing campus and community trees for Mill Shop projects. This has been brought up from time to time, but now that we are repurposing the beech tree at the Presidents house, it is a reality. Moving forward, it would be great to have a plan in place for when the Arborists are removing a tree that would have substantial size. Tomorrow, for instance, there will be a large oak tree removed near the Main Library. There is no question we could use it. If grounds were to agree, once cut into 10 to 12 foot sections, we could stage it at Grounds South Lincoln facility, or possibility the Illini Experimental Forest on the South-West corner of Race and Windsor. We are using Brian Knox from CU Woodshop for the Milling and Kiln drying of the beech tree and we could most likely work something out with him for future trees. However, there is the possibility of milling ourselves. A portable saw mill such as a Wood-Mizer could be set up to mill the lumber, and then air dry it, ideally out of the elements. Rule of thumb is for every inch of thickness, one year of drying time is required. There used to be a Wood-Mizer portable saw mill at the Illini Experimental Forrest, but unfortunately it was retired years ago. If we wanted to take it a step further, we could also purchase our own kiln to speed up the process. We would save the time and cost of outsourcing all the work. The Student Sustainability Committee could help with the financing, I would think. There might also be the possibility of working with the School of Art and Design to share resources and facilities. This is pretty exciting for me to think about, please respond with your thoughts. Enjoy the day, Andy

Andy Burnett


Hi Andy,

I believe Lowell already has a mill. Please check with him about this effort.

Also, let’s tell the story through CRC, please.




Hi Andy,

Thanks for restarting this discussion. The City of Urbana probably removes at least a dozen trees per year that are urban lumber worthy. We would be happy to have someone take these logs off our hands as we remove the tree and we’re willing to coordinate that with some person as the opportunity arises. Depending on the circumstances, it’s possible we could deliver the log. One would want to coordinate with City Arborist Kevin Sanderson (217) 384-2339.

You may also consider connecting with They are working on the entire value chain. It seems to me that we have plenty logs, sawmills, and woodworkers. The limitation, I think, is switching folks from conventional store-bought products to local urban wood products.




Thanks for the response Scott. I am confident we will have a routine for milling these local trees soon. Once we have the resources, other local woodworks will get involved. Partnering with CU Woodshop would be an excellent way to get the lumber to the local woodworkers. They already have a good customer base and they advertise. Hopefully pricing of our locally grown hardwoods would be more affordable than the production mills. Again, thank you for reaching out and I will keep Kevin Anderson in the conversations. Know that I am willing to meet with anyone with ideas or that can help in any way. Everyone have a great night, Andy


Good Afternoon all. I wanted to offer a quick update. Lowell and I met last week and had some great conversation about woodworking and different ways the Architecture program and the Mill Shop could work together. Not only partnering in the milling of the local trees, but also creating opportunities for his students to learn woodworking techniques and processes from the guys in the Mill. As far as repurposing the community trees, Lowell is set up with a Lucas Mill which is kind of like a horizontal chain saw. In talking, we decided a large model Wood-Mizer, which is more like a large band saw, would be best to cut the logs into slabs. Lowell said there is a kiln on campus in the Wood Engineering Laboratory, next to the Arch Annex, but believes it will need some attention before it could be used. We talked about applying for grants and the possibilities of campus funding to help get everything set up and running. Any ideas you might have would be greatly appreciated! Thanks and have a great weekend! Andy


Hi Andrew,


This sounds like it could be something that the Student Sustainability Committee could help fund in the fall. Ultimately, it would be up to the student board to decide. Lowell is familiar with the SSC funding process through the Root to Roof project that was done a couple years ago. If your proposal can provide similar value at the intersection of sustainability and student engagement, it probably will have a decent shot of getting at least partially funded.


Here's a link to SSC funding guidelines. Let me know if you have any additional questions!



Sammy Yoo


Good Morning Morgan. Grounds has cut down a couple trees that I think we can mill and use for projects. Does F and S have any funding for sustainability projects? We will need a work order to get the logs separated from the limbs and branches and then potentially transported from the South Lincoln grounds facility to Arch Annex. When we meet to cut up the slabs, there will be that time to charge as well. Just need to come up with a way to cover that time. Lowell and I are still going to work together on applying for SSC funding for a Wood-Mizer and to get the kiln running. I thought I would reach out to you first before going to Dave and Mark for Maintenance funds. Also, do you know if Ehab knows we are starting this venture? Thanks Morgan and enjoy the day! Andy


Hi Andy!


So cool! I don’t already have funds to help with this, but do you have an approximate dollar amount for it? Dave and I can ask Ehab if the Ex. Director wants to support it directly.


Any direct sustainability funding generally comes from either a six month funding request to the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC), or from a collaboration with the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) to use Carbon credit funds. That’s another reasonable option for supporting this. I’ll need to know an approximate cost to be able to ask.





I love your enthusiasm Morgan! If we were to buy the Wood-Mizer, the cost would be from $12090 to be able to cut a 28”diameter log, to $21795 for 36” diameter, plus delivery. I don’t know how involved getting the kiln at Wood Engineering Lab fixed is going to be, but I do know it was used just a few years ago. Labor is a little bit of a guessing game. After the logs are initially brought to South Lincoln, they would need to be separated from the pile, so I’ll guess 2 to 3 hours each time. If we have to transport the logs to be cut, as apposed to cutting there, I am going to add 2 hours for Transportation. Milling would probably take 2 guys a day to go through 8 to 10 logs. I would say to produce about 1250 board feet of lumber it would be roughly $1500. Depending on the species, that is either a really good deal or a great deal. Thanks for being an advocate for this Morgan, Andy


Hi Andy,


I’m introducing you here to NRES Professor Kevin McSweeney. He is the chair of our Tree Campus committee, and the director of the Arboretum. He has been talking with Lowell Miller about campus urban lumber, so I wanted to connect you with him.





Hey Morgan and good morning to you.  I met an intern that works with you at the Employee Expo and we were talking about revisiting the urban lumber conversation.  She seemed pretty excited about sustainability and the possibility of repurposing campus and community trees to make furniture.  I would gladly welcome someone to help look into funding options through the Student Sustainability Committee, the School of Art and Design or from a collaboration with the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment as you mentioned below.  Would you forward this on to her (unfortunately I do not remember her name) and she can get ahold of me if she would like to.  Thanks and enjoy the day!  Andy  



Hi Quinn,


Was this you?  Please see below.





Yes! I asked him about how much of campus furniture they produce, and we started talking about sustainability efforts and using reclaimed trees.

I totally forgot to set up a meeting with him so we could talk about the Mill shop operations.




Quinn M. Connolly