Friday, July 10, 2015
Sylko Schlenstedt, 50 and his family own the estate in
Saxony near the village of Hohenölsen-Kleindraxdorf. The small village which
has 630 inhabitants, was founded alongside a silvermine 650 years ago.
The estate had belonged to an aristocratic family called
von Reuß ältere Linie. After WWII and until the fall of the Berlin
wall in 1989 it was one of the communist regime’s farm cooperatives, where
Sylko Schlenstedt's parents worked. As a child and unaware of the politics, Sylko
played in the dungeons, cellars and haystacks, regarding it as something of an
adventure playground. In 1998, the now run-down estate was put up for sale and
his wife, made the life-altering decision to buy it.
Sylko and his wife, after struggling hard to put together the finance, succeeded
with the purchase. However, after the euphoria it dawned on them that it would
take twenty years at least to put the place right –– and there
wouldn’t be any free time.
Amused but not bemused, their two sons joined in whilst noting that the Chinese
proverb: The road is the aim had taken on a new meaning. They were all aware that
the estate was too big even for the ever expanding family. The roofs alone cover
1000 cubic metres.
However, they grew into it. They needed space for family, friends and also a
bikers’ club called The Dark Forces, founded in 1992 by Sylko, a Harley-
Davidson enthusiast. In fact, five families live on the estate, working on
repairs to the historic, mostly 19th-century buildings Sylko works as a truck
driver from 7am to 7pm whilst planning work at home on the estate. Robert and
Bastian, his sons are both metal workers at small companies in the area.
After work everybody including women –– far from watching television
–– build brick walls, saw timber and tackle other tasks on the estate
until late. At first it was difficult, repairing the roofs and generally
tidying-up. It took months to scratch layers of whitewash from the vaulted roofs.
Fortunately, volunteers came and worked for a few weeks, some for months.
Members of the motorcycle club saved the boards and beams of an ancient, derelict
wooden bridge which was dismantled and reborn as a timber veranda in the main
courtyard. In summer they sit there, talking Harleys!
The estate timbers presented an interesting problem as standard dimensions proved
inappropriate for restoration of these ancient buildings. It led to undue expense
and inflexibility in buying in custom cut timbers. Often during particular
restorations, just a couple of boards were needed and work ceased while they
awaited them from a sawmill.
Almost inevitably, this led to the decision to saw their own timbers to their
own, rather special requirements when they wanted the timbers and in the medium
term at reduced cost. The price of logs was fairly low, anyhow.
After some research they homed in on Wood-Mizer’s small-to-medium band
sawmill, the LT20B. Hydraulic loading was unnecessary because several materials
handling machines operated on the estate but the Schlenstedts and their friends
did want the as-standard powered log feeding capabilities. Another attraction was
the price of the mill: €10000.
Now, when battens, boards, planks or beams are needed, they put a log on the
sawmill and saw it to required shapes and dimensions and continue their work
without unnecessary breaks.
The mill was intended to solely serve their own needs but now, a year later,
fifty per cent of its time is taken up with sawing timbers for customers. This
presents a whole new aspect to the estate’s activities as well as
Wood-Mizer recently developed the LT20B by combining the attributes of two of its
mills –– one small, the other small-to-medium. It aimed to meet
specific requests from some of its customers who operate the small mills for
something more rugged and having more functions without recourse to a larger,
more costly version.
The Schlenstedts’ ‘chunky’ LT20B will move to an old, large,
extended stable block with room for mill, forklift truck and logs. The
mill’s first outside contract was to saw100 m³ of pine.
In the long term the family aim to achieve complete independence, self-
sufficiency and reliance on their own stables, gardens, solar power and income
from contract sawing and firewood.
Almost all men dream of a Harley-Davidson and the Schlenstedts have several in a
shed as well as a nicely-restored Norton –– plus an old MZ/RT hanging
from the ceiling in Bastian’s bedroom!
The Dark Forces bikers meet twice weekly in their club house, a restored old
building on the place. Twice yearly, they throw a big party for 3-400 guests and
the air vibrates, the estate rocks and mead flows. The next such
‘thrash’ is on 27 November, www.dark-forces-mc.de/gera.
A man needs a task in life and appropriately, as a knight's proverb says: Siegen
kommt nicht vom Liegen (victory doesn’t come from reclining). All his
family agrees with that and Sylko Schlenstedt is a happy man.
Watch the LT20B product video below:
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