Independent Craftsmen Working in the Urban Lumber Industry

Hello, I am LaVor Smith the new owner. The following is a history of how my sawmill got started.

Rex and I are first cousins on our mothers’ side. We were both grew up on on dairy farms in southeastern Idaho. We chose the name of our business from our grandfather’s cattle brand. Grandpa Swainston designed the brand and registered it with the Idaho Brand Commission. The brand is a wine glass with a bar to the side. The brand has been used for three generations in our family.

My grandfather often joked about the brand, saying that it was a “wine glass without the wine.”

Both Rex and I worked on grandpa’s farm while growing up and we have very fond memories of grandpa and how he taught us to work and enjoy being able to work. We named our business as a tribute to Grandpa Swainston and to his leadership, integrity, fairness, and work ethic that we try to emulate.

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As you can see, I love working with wood! About four years ago, about the time Rex was retiring, I asked Rex if he would help me put together a sawmill. I wanted to mill my own rough sawn lumber for siding for my new barn/garage, and I wanted to be able to make my own lumber for the future projects I wanted to build. Rex became very excited because he was interested in a sawmill as well. So, Rex and I pooled together our resources and put together this business.

Since we began, we have learned a great deal about the urban lumber industry and, especially, about what it takes to mill and properly dry lumber in this environment and with the specific species we find in Phoenix. We have added equipment, including a computer-driven kiln and, most recently, a new saw, so we are able to cut trees from 12' in diameter to as big as 5' in diameter, and 18' for more long.

We specialize in milling a wide variety of species or wood and cut it to any specifications that our customers need. We are very conservative with what nature provides us and want to see that we do our best to reclaim the urban lumber throughout the Phoenix area. We have saved thousands of pounds of usable lumber from trees that fell during a storm or died from beetles or disease. It is such a loss and waste when a tree is cut down or blows over, and it is then hauled to the landfill or cut up for firewood or ground up into wood chips for landscaping. Instead, with the services we provide, these trees can be reclaimed and repurposed to make very unique furniture, countertops, picture frames, wood beams or mantles, or whatever your imagination can come up with.

Thank you for reading about us!

Rex Condie grew up with three sisters, but, as the only boy, he worked hard alongside his Dad on the farm. Rex was introduced to logging and milling in the ‘50s and early ‘60s when he would go with his father and uncle to Mink Creek to fell trees with an ax and a 2-man tree saw. They would skid the logs with their car over to be winched up onto the trailer then be taken to a relative’s sawmill. They would then barter with the relative to get the logs milled. His Dad and uncle used the lumber to build barns and sheds on their farms.

After Rex graduated from college with a degree in Welding Engineering, he worked for 10 years at several nuclear power plants under construction throughout the United States. The last one was the Palo Verde Power Plant, west of Phoenix. When that job was ending after 5 years, Rex wanted to stay in the Phoenix area, so he bought a welding shop near Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. There, he did specialty welding for more than 25 years, until he retired four years ago.

While living in San Francisco, California, in the early part of his career, Rex started to reclaim urban logs. Back in 1976 and 1977, Rex saved Curo Walnut from the walnut orchards near Walnut Creek, California, from the dump. He would cut down black walnut trees, sell the limbs for fire wood, then take the logs to Idaho to have them milled. When Rex’s Dad retired from milking cows, he made furniture from the walnut tree lumber Rex had stored in his Dad’s barn. Rex had always wanted to own his own sawmill.

I grew up on my Dad’s dairy farm in northern Utah, right across the state line from Idaho. I loved to make things out of wood. My Dad would always complain that I had been robbing his woodpile again.

After high school, I went to Utah Technical College and studied carpentry. After college, I moved to the Boise, Idaho, area where I became a journeyman carpenter with the Carpenters Union. I worked as a Journeyman carpenter for 10 years before becoming a superintendent of commercial construction. After 30 years as a superintendent, I retired. I own a small acreage in Utah, where I built my home, a two-story bar/garage, remodeled my workshop, and added various sheds and structures, all using reclaimed wood from construction sites.