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Published July 03, 2009, 12:00 AM

Tried and true timber

Partnership creates homes of lasting beauty
Frazee, Minn. - It’s 10 a.m. and the temperature in Jon Bachmann’s sawmill is already in the 80s and climbing.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

Frazee, Minn. - It’s 10 a.m. and the temperature in Jon Bachmann’s sawmill is already in the 80s and climbing.

In a large green shed, Jon and his brother, Clair Bachmann, are methodically turning cedar logs into lumber for table tops.

The mill, surrounded by piles of logs, is a world of sensory assault amid grassy fields and piles of drying logs. It harkens to a time when, if you wanted a chair, table or even a house, you built it yourself.

In a rhythm choreographed by long practice, Clair Bachmann sets a cedar log on a reddish orange “Wood Miser” band saw, adjusts it with some direction from Jon, and steps back.

Then, with the engine roaring and a squeal from the drive belts spinning the flywheels for the saw blade, Jon Bachmann sends the saw forward, its angry buzz slicing a bark-covered strip from the log.

A fine spray of sawdust hits the floor, and the pungent odor of fresh-cut cedar fills the shed. Three slices later, the pair have a 3-inch by 6-inch post, ready to be joined with its clones into a rustic tabletop.

Nothing goes to waste from the logs, many of which are from trees blown down by storms.

Much of the lumber goes to furniture. If a home is on the drawing board, paneling, flooring or frame pieces are made.

Smaller pieces are turned into timber frames, trophy mounts or signs.

Scrap is burned to heat the shop and their homes. The sawdust goes to area farmers.

“If it can be made out of wood, we can do it,” Jon Bachmann said.

The biggest example of that mindset is a 5,600-square-foot timber-frame home standing nearby on 5 acres overlooking Little Dead Lake. Bachmann said the asking price for his home is $795,000.

All of the wood for the home, minus the kitchen cabinets and pine doors, was cut at the sawmill, including the timbers that set off the grand entrance and porch, and the massive European-style structural timbers, held together with wooden pegs, that frame and support the open floor-plan home.

The home was built as part of a partnership called Toad River Timber Frames. Jon Bachmann and Billy Boerger co-own the business, which has built three homes. Jon’s son, Casey Bachmann, does much of the construction with his own crew, Boerger said.

Inside, the most striking space is the two-story cathedral-ceilinged living room, with pine and red oak paneling and banks of windows offering views of the woods and lake.

Jon Bachmann said it took two years to cut wood for the home, though actual construction ran from June to December 2007.

Toad River Timber Frames has built three such homes,

Jon Bachmann learned timber frame construction in North Carolina.

“The strength of these buildings is second to none,” Jon Bachmann said. “It’s very old technology and yet it makes a very homey house, we think.”

Bachmann figures he’s cut 1.5 million board feet of lumber since he took up his current gig full time in 1995, but he’s worked with sawmills since he was a child.

His great grandfather ran a sawmill in the area, and many of the 75- to 80-year-old trees surrounding his current home grew from areas logged by his family.

Boerger also makes log furniture under the brand Log Creations, but looks forward to when the economy improves to building another home.

“We are looking to hopefully spec another home, but right now, everything is pretty slow,” Boerger said.

Jon’s wife, Lola Bachmann, said that when the house is sold, she’ll miss it.

“I’ll have him build another one,” she said. “That’s what keeps him happy.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583