Across from the flat open fields on the Great Plains of Katama is a forested dirt road. Turn left, onto a pathway flanked by piles of bright blue oyster traps, and there is a lumber yard. A pyramid of unfinished pitch-pine logs is stacked next to a grove of living black cherries, shading a collection of old buoys and two thoroughly rusted anchors.

“That one got caught up in one of my conch traps,” said Tom Turner, Island fisherman and sawmiller. “What ensued then was a great wrestling match to get it up onto my boat.”

The anchor is metal, pockmarked orange-white and encrusted with barnacles, but wedged at the top is a bit of worn wood. This is what Mr. Turner finds most compelling.

“I think it’s as old as the Civil War, but it’s still a solid piece of wood,” he said.

Asked if he knows the wood’s type, Mr. Turner answered: “I have no idea.”

It is not a common answer for Mr. Turner these days. A softspoken man with a curly red and white moustache, he has run one of the Island’s only sawmills for the last 15 years. During that time, he has processed nearly every kind of tree that grows here, native and not, common and exotic.

The origin of the Turner sawmill lies with his commercial fishing business, an area in which he has even more experience. Mr. Turner, who turns 71 next week, has been fishing professionally for the last 50 years, always using wooden conch pots he built himself. During that time, he noticed how expensive it was to ship that wood on and off the Island. Facing uncertainty in the fishing industry, he decided to start a lumber business.

“I didn’t know much about wood back then, so I kinda started from scratch,” Mr. Turner said, figuring that, since his would be the only active Island sawmill, demand would grow quickly.

Supply was also readily available, as back then the state forest was still open to lumbering operations. Mr. Turner brought his mobile mill to work wood on site, the first in many years to take advantage of the forest.

“I wish I had started sooner,” he said, lamenting all the huge red pines that had to be sent to the chipper after an early death by root fungus. The commercial-size logs, though “probably would’ve been a little daunting for me to take on when I first started.”

Those early days were dominated by milling planted white pines from the state forest, a soft wood that he used to sheet the sides of the Morning Glory Farm retail building, one of his first major projects.

Nowadays, Mr. Turner usually waits for the wood to come to him. Tree service companies know what kind of logs he can use and what kind he can’t. He primarily mills trees cut for development, and finds that his yard is dominated by pitch pine. He has developed a good sense of the challenges those logs pose.

“There is always gonna be a banana,” he said, pointing out a curved specimen in his unfinished pile.

While the banana log might yield 75 board feet, a comparable straight one yields 150. He estimated that he has milled more than 1 million board feet in the last 15 years.

Every year he cuts hundreds of wooden keel blocks for boats. He cuts black locust for dock builders. He recovers cut wood for conservation groups on island. He mills exotic pagoda wood from backyards in Edgartown (the most beautiful wood he has ever cut, his wife Cincy Harris claims).

The project that stands out the most, though, is the one that took him the longest. The house he built with his son, Nicholas, where his grandchildren will live, was built almost entirely from wood that he milled himself.

“There was one piece of plywood that the electrician snuck in while my son wasn’t there, but 95 per cent of the house is built from wood that I milled,” Mr. Turner said. “That feels pretty good.”