We Americans are an independent people — it’s in our blood. Family’s important, as is faith, and so is a strong desire to do things for ourselves using our own resources. These traditional American values are part of our national character and they run strong and deep in Vermonters like Eli and Kaylina Phoenix.
“My wife and I built our own home ourselves. We hired certain aspects, but Kaylina and I did everything else. I’m a Christian and I’m thankful to the Lord that he helped us through the project. I took a lot of work and about a year and three months but we’re moved in now. Doing work ourselves, I credit God with helping us make decisions and giving me the strength to work late nights and weekends; giving me the strength to build our home.
3 generations built their own homes
I’ve been in construction my whole life. I work for my dad’s roofing company; he started the company when I was 3 or 4. He built his own home and my grandpa built his home, too. He actually built four houses. So building my own home was something I’ve always thought about. I’ve seen how it’s done, and I accumulated many ideas over the years. I had a good idea of what I wanted to do. I had experience and access to tools and equipment.
We own 70 acres in Southern Vermont, a gift from my dear grandfather, Edwin Phoenix, who passed away in 2012. He bought an old farmhouse and 400 acres in Townshend, Vermont in 1958 so he could raise his family in the country. I was born and raised here. There’s no way we could have built our home like we did without the land and the resources it provided. The wood on our property is about 50% pine, 10% hemlock, and the balance is birch, maple, cherry, with a little bit of oak. For this project we used maple and cherry for the flooring, trim, and counters.
TimberKing sawmill & Woodmaster Molder/Planer work together
I cut and felled the trees we used. We have a John Deere tractor with logging winch on the back. We went in the woods, skidded them out, and milled them ourselves on our 1220 TimberKing sawmill. I had someone else kiln dry the boards, then Kaylina and I planed them with our 718 Woodmaster Molder/Planer.
My TimberKing sawmill works great. I’ve had no issues at all. It set up nice, always works really well, cuts nice lumber as long as you keep a sharp blade on it. How precise? I cut boards 7/8”, roughcut, I plane them down and get 11/16” lumber, finished both sides. I lost only 3/16” planing down both sides of lumber. In sawing 3,500 feet of lumber, I had only one or two boards that didn’t come out right. They were right on the money and I was very happy about that.
I’m using the Woodmaster Molder/Planer to turn my own lumber into my own flooring, trim, counters and more. I wanted to do my own planing because I’m able to do what I need to do. It’s also a cost saving thing. I enjoy woodworking, and having a machine like this is a benefit. I’ll use it for life. I milled all my own lumber on my TimberKing and I finished it myself on my Woodmaster. If I sent the roughcut boards to someone, it would cost 20 or 30 cents a foot to plane them. This way I could plane as much as I need and if I needed a little more I could just make more. That gave me flexibility and eliminated one more step to getting it done the way I want it. I like to do myself.
I got the Pro Pack with my Woodmaster and I made my own crown molding from pine and painted it. I made some out of cherry, too. It worked slick. I was impressed. I wasn’t sure what to think of it when I got it but it worked really well and made really nice molding. There’s no pulling, no chatter. variable feed rate and feed rollers make it smooth molding. I have an old 15” planer that has just one speed. It tends to pull the grain. Woodmaster’s variable feed rate is really key because you can slow it right down. You have to go slow because, when you make molding, you’re taking off a lot of wood.
One molder does it all: 4-in-1 molder, planer, sander, saw
I chose Woodmaster because of its versatility. I researched Logosol and some other 4-head machines but they cost quite a bit more and WoodMaster has four functions in one: planing, molding, sanding, and sawing in the same machine. That made sense to me as homeowner and weekend woodworker: I don’ t need four or five $20,000 molding machines. One Woodmaster lets me set it up for whatever I need and change functions easily.
I bought the 718 model — 18” wide — you can plane a lot of wide boards on that. I liked it for the width. And I got the ProPack because I wanted the capability to do both planing and molding. I liked that idea of the rip saw and drum sanding features that are in the ProPack, too.
The 718 performs very well. I haven’t had any problems. I planed 12” oak, maple, and cherry on it and it did it beautifully. It’s a very powerful machine so it doesn’t bog down. The 5HP motor is big, you need that power for making molding.
“I’d like to start a molding business later on”
My Woodmaster has worked well for me and has done everything I needed it to do. If you’re looking for a machine that’ll do a lot of different things, it’s definitely the way to go. I would like to do a molding business later on, owing the Woodmaster opens that door for me. I could process and sell molding at lower prices than a lumberyard. Opens doors. If you enjoy woodworking and being able to plane and make molding, it’s a good machine.
“I saved money I didn’t have, both machines paid for themselves”
Both my TimberKing sawmill and my Woodmaster Molder/Planer hav paid for themselves. If you buy wide plank maple or cherry, you’re paying maybe $10 to $15 a square foot. When you multiply that over 3,000 sq. ft., they’ve definitely paid for themselves.
The way I look at it, I saved money I don’t have. We couldn’t have afforded to buy the materials I made myself. The flooring I made is worth probably $14 a sq. ft. I put down about 1000 sq. ft. of flooring and saved maybe $17,000 to $20,000 worth of flooring, trim, countertops, and lumber. The Woodmaster was around $3,000, and the TimberKing sawmill was about $4,000. I probably saved 60% to 70% by doing it myself with these machines. Plus there’s the pleasure of doing it yourself. On top of that there’s leveraging my time and effort — sweat equity.
Late nights and long weekends
If anyone else is thinking of building a home while you’re working full time, as I did, you need to be prepared for late nights and long weekends. It’s a lot of work but it’s very satisfying to go from cutting the trees to putting down the flooring. That’s very satisfying to me. I like to see things thru the whole process from start to finish. There were times when I was putting down flooring and could recognize the wood from when I was cutting the trees. It’s also a learning experience. It’s very satisfying, but you have to be prepared to put in long hours to get the project finished. If you’re willing to put in time, sweat, and hard labor, it’s definitely worth it becuause in the end you have a home and you know what went into it.
My wife encouraged me to buy the sawmill and molder/planer becaue she knows I like woodworking and because it would be a benefit to I’d have the machines after we finished the house. That helped justify the purchases. She was right out there running the mill, planing wood, she was in the woods helping me do logging, cutting flooring. She had a lot of good ideas and really influenced design. She likes to get right into it and her help really speeded things up.”
— Eli Phoenix, Woodmaster Molder/Planer & TimberKing Sawmill owner, Townshend, Vermont
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