Ryan Kane cuts timber Monday at the 1936 Lane sawmill behind his house in Oxford.  Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

On a warm spring Monday, Ryan Kane takes a smoke break from running the 83-year-old sawmill behind his house in Oxford.

“It’s enjoyable to be right here at the controls, close enough to smell the wood as I’m sawing it, feeling the log as it passes by,” Kane says.

The mill was originally designed to be run by steam engine, but, when money got tight in 1936, the mill was retrofitted to run on a used Cadillac engine. It has since gone through many other engines.

The mill passed through several hands, then was abandoned and sat unused for about 50 years, its parts scattered in the nearby woods.

A local old-timer discovered the discarded mill, “lugged it out of the woods one piece at a time” and reassembled it, according to Kane.

The restored mill passed through a couple of sets of hands before Kane took ownership.

Kane, who calls himself “just a dub who doesn’t know any better,” says he enjoys the solitary nature of running a sawmill. Helpers come once a week, but Kane mostly works alone, giving him freedom to take telephone calls or visit with friends.

Warm spring days, he says, are perfect for milling wood.

“It’a good time of year to do it, when the roads are posted and you can’t get into the woods to do other things,” he says. “So I just kind of hang out here and make lumber.”

Kane, owner of Ryan Kane Trucking and Custom Sawing, bought the mill because it was a good fit with his log trucking business.

“It’s good for making stuff disappear,” he says, pointing to the woods behind his house, which are dotted with piled timber.

“I get paid to take (trees) off the property and then roll the dice with sawing it,” he says.

Most of what Kane mills is for custom orders for friends working on home projects or for other needs, such as bridge stock for his local snowmobile club.

“People get excited when they stop by and visit,” Kane says. “They see what I have laying around and their wheels start turning with ideas of how they can use it.”

Like many small business owners, Kane says he is thinking constantly about ways to improve his operation.

“This is a pretty primitive operation,” he says. “It works well, but it’s far from state of the art.”

He mulls adding equipment to the sawmill, including a debarker or a log turner.

“Doing what I do, where I am doing it all myself, this is probably as efficient as it will ever be,” he says. “The improvements I could make would just make things easier on myself.”

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