026 Building a Sawmill Empire with Robert Rise of NY City Slab

For episode 026 Robert Rising of NY City Slab is our guest.

A bit about NY City Slab

At NY City Slab, Robert and his team mill urban lumber from what might seem an unlikely source. The idea began when Robert was building a house and wanted to use local wood. Robert found that trees in his locality were being used for mulch and wanted to put those cut down trees to better use.

Robert started off using a Lucas mill but it found it slow in terms of production. At a woodsmen show, Robert bought the biggest mill he could buy with his money at the time. He went for a 14 inch bandsaw mill and built a 50ft track to go with it that enabled him to cut through 6-8 logs in a day.

How Robert Got Into Milling

After working in the White House, Robert decided to take a u turn from his planned career in politics. His initial goal for building a house was to use it to restore old Volkswagens and Porsches. Gradually, work transitioned from fixing cars to milling logs.

The very first log Robert milled sat for 3 years before being sold on Ebay. Seeing the interest in milled logs from clients, Robert began collecting old machinery that he could use for cutting more logs.    

It was Robert’s continuous drive to milling work that self taught him. Robert would happily do what others wouldn’t in terms of hard graft and this gave him an edge over his competitors. He believes in planning and due diligence and was ready to give up a $120k a year job at the Four Seasons Hotel to devote himself completely. 

Over a long period of time, Robert researched extensively, drove hundreds of miles collecting logs and built an inventory that was drying all the time. He was able to make money off a basic website up until he realized he could make money locally by setting up a yard where his extended network could come to him and bring him trees. 

Stepping Into The Unknown

Robert took a big risk that paid off by going all in. It was this vision that led him to leave a dream job with all the perks and build up a successful milling business from the ground up.

What NYC Slab does

Robert and his 8 employees have a daily briefing to assign tasks before going to the yard. From here the organization of drying logs in the kiln, selecting premium logs and other tasks take place. Robert has always been fiercely independent and has a unique take on marketing. People who saw him with his trailer would refer to him as the ‘Black Lumberjack’ which just happened to be an available domain name!

But what shines through most of all is the pride and care that goes into the work of NYC Slab. Everything is databased and recorded on display for all to see.

Rather than milling for hire, Robert will mill for clients on the spot when required but the core of the business is the custom furniture and slabs. Robert has overcome major trials including a fire that meant moving spaces and rebuilding. It is a testament to the resilience of this man that has come through this and continues to work hard with what he has.

Robert hopes to build a custom mill and work on building container homes to ship all over the world sourced and constructed with local lumber.   

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *