Dirk Jansen’s workshop is a woodworker’s paradise. If he can imagine it, he can build it, right in his own workshop with his own hands, and using his impressive collection of woodworking tools and machinery. He specialises in making solid wood doors, window frames, stairs, and outdoor wood decking. He has recently expanded into designing and building traditional timber structures for his clients.
“I make all my products myself,” says Dirk. “Most products you see in the store today are mass produced outside Holland. Here, the client has full influence on what the product will be. We can build anything they want if it’s technically possible to build.”
“To be successful in this business,” says Dirk, “You must work hard, work honestly, only make promises you can keep, and give your client a good price, quality workmanship, and fast delivery.” Dirk holds his entire company to this high standard, only hiring the most skilled craftsmen whose attention to quality is proven.
“The people that work for me act as one, and everyone knows how to play their part, and how their skills fit into the whole. I can only use people that really know their skill. That is what makes my company strong.”
Dirk’s father was a forester, and so Dirk was practically raised in the woods. He got his education in forestry, and worked in forestry maintenance until he was 28 years old. After that, he got a job in a carpentry shop, and after a few years, set out to start his own company, Jansen Timmerwerken.
Initially finding his success with the production of high quality, custom solid wood doors and windows, he has recently made expansions in the scope of his business to diversify his products and services. One thing the crisis taught him was that by spreading his risks, he would be able to withstand the fluctuations of the industry better.
The new products that excite him the most are his traditional timber frame buildings. Using the traditional building techniques, the frames are held together with wooden pins and special Dovetail (Swallowtail or Zwaluwstaart|) joints that are easy to make, but incredibly strong. Not a single nail or screw is used in the construction of the frame.
On the weekends, he has started building his own small house next to his workshop. The foundation is already finished. It will be a traditionally built timber frame house, and he expects that the project will take him 4-5 years, because he will do all the work himself.
“Designing and building your own house is very personal,” Dirk says. “It is unique; it doesn’t come from anyone else.” He uses Douglas fir for the large beams that make up the building frames, which is ideal for long beam spans.
In order to process his own timber beams from raw logs, he has invested in a new line of sawmilling equipment from Wood-Mizer, a company which specialises in low-waste log processing machinery. The line includes an LT70 sawmill, a HR115 resaw, and an EG300 board edger. The LT70 sawmill uses a very narrow bandsaw blade, so as little of the log is wasted as sawdust as possible, allowing Dirk to recover more boards from every log.
After Dirk finalises a design with a client, he looks over his logs and hand picks them for individual parts of the structure. He only uses the straightest logs possible.
When the log is selected, he loads it onto the LT70 sawmill. The sawmill is designed for complete control of the sawing process. Dirk can manipulate the log precisely using the hydraulic functions so it is cut exactly right. The sawmill’s computer system helps him measure for each cut quickly and precisely.
The log is first converted into a four-sided beam. Once he has cut the planks and beams he needs for the project, side boards from the log are processed through the resaw and edger. In many wood processing companies, sometimes only 50% of the log is used for the intended product. But since Dirk is using Wood-Mizer’s low-waste sawmilling technology, and because he has the edger and resaw, he is able to convert almost all of the offcuts into smaller planks for flower boxes, picnic tables and other smaller side projects. The HR115 also allows him to make his own angled siding (cladding) for his buildings.
A smaller Wood-Mizer sawmill, the LT15, is used to produce outdoor planks for decking. The LT15 has several bed extensions, which allow him to cut planks up to 10 metres long. Once a log or beam is loaded onto the LT15, he can cut the sizes of boards he needs, and then use the MP100, a specialised moulder/planer attachment, to create ridges and grooves in the boards.
“With the LT70 sawmill, I cut a log into a beam 150mm wide by 400mm tall,” says Dirk, “And then I transfer the beam to the LT15 sawmill. With the moulder attachment, I cut out a ridged, anti-slip profile in the top of the beam. Then I use the LT15 sawmill to cut that moulded board from the rest of the beam, resulting in a finished decking board 28mm tall.” Dirk repeats this process until the entire beam has been converted into a stack of 15 finished decking boards, which his customers use for outdoor porch areas and terraces.
“With the other machines in my workshop,” Dirk says, “The new sawmills give me everything I need to produce any products.” Another very specialised machine is his CNC stair production machine, which allows him to make very precise and complicated staircases.
When I asked him what advice would he give to others interested in getting involved in the wood and sawmilling business, he had a very clear word of advice: “Focus on learning everything you can about wood – what it is and what it does. You should be able to look at a log and know exactly what you can get out of it and how you should cut it to get the required product. There are ways to cut a log for maximum yield, but other ways to cut it for maximum quality – knowing the difference can make a huge difference in the success of your business.”
As far as marketing his business, Dirk does not advertise or even actively update his company website. Word-of-mouth from his customers has always brought in work, even during the crisis, and for now, it is more than enough to keep him busy.
Watch the LT70 sawmill video below: