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Rough Cut Lumber from Esty’s Sawmill

Posted by jdodge349 on March 22, 2009

Rough cut lumber where a 4x4 is really four inches by four inches.

Rough cut lumber where a 4x4 is really four inches by four inches.

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Working with rough cut lumber (spruce, white pine) and truely measured lumber is a joy. Yesterday, I had a chance to go to the Ralph A. Esty & Son sawmill and lumber yard in Groveland, Mass to pick up some lumber for a firewood storage shed.

I love rough cut lumber because it’s often green and incredibly easy to work. What’s more, a 2×4 is an honest 2×4. They don’t shave a half inch off the dimensions and call it a 2×4 like at Home Depot and most yards. I never understood why lumber companies did that. What happened to truth in advertising? A board foot at Esty is 1 foot x inch x 1 foot and often a eight foot board or stud is nine foot, never shorter than what’s specified.

I thought the mill had closed which would have been too bad because it’s the only one in the area. That was the rumor and Esty’s rivals enjoyed spreading it, according to manager Roy Esty. Indeed, the sawmill and yard have fallen on hard times and is running only three days a week now, but at least it’s running. Five years ago, the place was bustling, thanks to what Roy termed “commercial business” such as pallets for Haverhill Paperboard, which closed last summer throwing 174 out of work. I recall in the early eighties a friend loading up his truck with bark mulch because Esty gave it away. Same with scraps for firewood.

Five years,  I built a small barn out of Esty’s rough cut lumber (spruce, I think) which feels, smells and looks good. Instead of the usual plywood for the floor, I used rough cut inch thick planks at half the cost.

Roy said milling oak for box truck beds is quite robust, though. Yesterday when I visited, it was just Roy and another counter man working. Five years ago, there’d be four counter men writing up lumber from a separate building from the hardware store (great assortment of barn hinges, latches and sliders and they had a guy who specialized in barns) and just as many yard men. The place has a bit of a forlorn look, but at least it is still going as it has been since 1917. Haverhill Paperboard started up in 1902!

The operation sits on a sharp bend in the Merrimack River and the Esty family could have been sold to developers in real estate’s gogo days. I’m glad they didn’t and are still cutting logs just as their forebears did for the past 92 years. I urge you to pay them a visit should you have the opportunity or need.


4 Responses to “Rough Cut Lumber from Esty’s Sawmill”

  1. Ben said

    I am looking to build a 10ft x 5ft dinning room table i want it 1 solid piece of wood. I haven’t decided what wood i would like to use. The house i am restoring was built in 1834. I want it historically accurate. What am i lookin for as far as price?

    • jdodge349 said


      That’s way beyond me…..schlepp over to Estes and ask them. Or there’s a great hardware lumber yard in Kingston, NH on Rte 125 just south of 101. They could help. A dining room table out of a solid piece of wood….that’s ambitious. Sounds like it’s right out of Meet the Parents.

      • jim said

        Just came from Esty’s As of 10/30/2009 it truly is closed.

        Now I need to find somewhere that sell rough cut lumber

  2. Martin Camp said

    I bought things from Esty’s for the past 6 years I’ve lived in Groveland, and they always went overboard to help me, including custom-sawing many logs I bought in. They also made a significant donation to my wife’s school in Newburyport, even though they were hurting at the time.

    Sadly, I just heard they closed the doors for good (Dec. ’09 or so).

    As far ss the rant about what you get when you buy a 2-by. That’s easy, the lesser-amount of wood you get is because it is dressed, i.e., planed down to smooth it out and flatten the surfaces. Also there is indeed shrinkage between the time the board is cut, and when it’s dried and dressed.

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