A cut of a lifetime: Twins Jay and Jim Clarke operate J Team, a portable sawmill and lumberyard

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  • James Clarke uses a portable sawmill on site to mill beams from white pine for a barn reconstruction in Ashfield in mid-July. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • James Clarke uses a portable sawmill to mill a beam from white pine on site at a barn reconstruction in Ashfield in mid-July. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • James Clarke positions a white pine log on a portable sawmill to obtain the best for a barn reconstruction in Ashfield on Thursday, July 21, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • James Clarke clears a plank of bark from his portable sawmill while milling a beam of white pine at a barn reconstruction in Ashfield on Thursday, July 21, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • James Clarke uses a portable sawmill to mill beams to dimension on site for a post and beam barn reconstruction in Ashfield on Thursday, July 21, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • James Clarke uses a portable sawmill to mill a beam from white pine on site at a barn reconstruction in Ashfield on Thursday, July 21, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • James Clarke measures a white pine log before milling a beam to dimension at a barn reconstruction in Ashfield on Thursday, July 21, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • James Clarke uses a portable sawmill on site to mill beams from white pine for a barn reconstruction in Ashfield on Thursday, July 21, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jay Clarke handles most of the portable milling for the business, traveling around the state on jobs for the South Deerfield-based business. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jay Clarke at the sawmill business he and his brother operate in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Wood milled by the Clarke brothers. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/24/2022 4:52:53 PM
Modified: 8/24/2022 4:49:17 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — James and Jay Clarke have sawdust pumping through their veins.

The twin brothers have been around sawmills since before they were born as their father purchased his first sawmill while their mother was expecting.

The twins spent many summers growing up alongside their parents at milling jobs or running around county fairgrounds during sawmill demonstrations.

“I remember visiting the Wood-Mizer factory — the world’s largest manufacturer of portable sawmills — in Indianapolis when were like 5 years old,” James Clarke said. “We’ve been around sawmills forever.”

So it should come as no surprise that sawmilling has made such an important cut in the Clarke brothers’ lives.

“We got our first sawmill when we were 17 and I’ve been keeping it running ever since,” Jay Clarke said.

Initially, they thought the purchase could be something that would indulge a nostalgic whim, but it has actually fueled their livelihood. Together, Jay and James Clarke run the J Team, a full-service portable sawmill and small lumberyard based out of South Deerfield.

When looking for a name to associate with the work they do, the Clarkes reflected on memories of helping out at Galenski Farms, where they couldn’t distinguish James from Jay.

James Clarke holds an associate degree from Greenfield Community College. Jay Clarke holds an automotive technology certificate from Springfield Technical Community College and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“I brake things and he fixes them,” said James Clarke, cackling.

Siblings working together haven’t been without challenges. Early on, the pair bickered constantly, but they’ve learned to respect each other over time.

These days, the J Team has expanded to a squad of five with Jay handling most of the portable milling traveling around the state and James tackling more of the day-to-day on-demand projects. With his work, Jay also modifies equipment. In working with the original sawmill they first purchased, Jay has modified the equipment so it will perform 62-inch wide cuts.

“You can’t buy them like that,” he said. “I love wow-ing people with what I can do with wood.”

The J Team’s portable sawmills are fully hydraulic and they generally charge 40 cents per board foot to mill softwood logs and 45 to 50 cents per board foot for hardwoods.

The company also offers wide bandsaw milling up to 46 inches wide and costs between 70 cents to $1 per board foot for logs over 36 inches.

For chainsaw milling, the company charges $1.25 per board foot.

“With a cut capacity of 79 inches, we can produce massive slabs from your logs,” said Jay.

In 2018, the brothers were residing a barn when a farmer asked if they could tear down the previous wood on his building and take as much wood as they wanted off the barn. From there, more and more farmers requested the Clarke brothers’ services and they discovered they had quick a knack for it.

“We charged the farmers about $1,000 bucks to reset a barn. And it’s about $10,000 worth of work, putting wood and labor into it, but we get money off the old siding. So that way we can save the farmers a huge amount of money and labor,” said James. “It’s important for us to help the farmers out.”

Some of the reclaimed wood is sold for projects at restaurants, for example. Others are sold wholesale or through Facebook Marketplace.

James has also started dipping his toe into woodworking projects like handcrafted spatulas and hopes to dabble more in woodworking crafts.

“I’ll see a piece of wood that I like that looks beautiful and spatulas are quick enough for me to make that I can actually see what the wood looks like in a finished project,” he said.

The J Team also has a Logosol PH360 four-sided moulder/planer they use to trim boards from rough lumber to a consistent thickness throughout their length for more finished products. The company charges between 35 cents and 50 cents per board foot.

In carrying on traditions of their youth, the Clarkes also intend of showing their sawmill prowess at upcoming events like the Blandford Fair, which will be held at the Blandford Fairgrounds over Labor Day weekend.

“We grew up climbing trees and then eventually milling trees,” said James. “So I’ve got to see the beauty within trees and so much more.”

Both brothers also document their work lives on Instagram. Check out videos and photos from their adventures in sawmilling throughout the state at @jamesclarke_thejteam or @jay.thejteamsawmill.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
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