Sawing logs: Sun Mountain Lumber stacks up as key economic contributor to the region

DEER LODGE — The Sun Mountain Lumber sawmill in Deer Lodge buzzes each week through about 2 million board feet of logs.

Sun Mountain’s process extracts everything but the high-pitched whine of the saws. It harvests lumber, sawdust, chips and planer shavings.

Some of the byproduct material ends up as a component in Starbucks’ coffee cups and other food-grade products. Other byproducts supply the fuel to heat the mill’s lumber-drying kiln and the mill itself.

The Sun Mountain Lumber sawmill in Deer Lodge transforms logs into two-by-fours, two-by-sixes and other products. It also finds uses for byproducts such as sawdust and shavings. 

Duncan Adams, The Montana Standard

Computer scanning guides bandsaws and circular saws to maximize how many sticks of lumber each log yields. The sawmill relies primarily on Douglas fir but also processes lodgepole pine.

Some bandsaw blades are 38 feet long and cost about $1,000 each new.

Sun Mountain specializes in two-by-fours and two-by-sixes of varied lengths, with 9 feet being the bread-and-butter product during an era of 10-foot ceilings. The sawmill also uses finger-jointing techniques to produce much longer lumber that

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