These two buildings seem to be considered worthless by a lot of people. Sawmills make less than half the wood as a Wall Drill and have finite resources, while Charcoal Kilns consume the valuable wood you need for buildings and research. However, each of these buildings is useful on their own, and together they provide a strong source of coal that isn't inferior to either mines or thumpers.
First off, sawmills. Yes, they produce half as much as a wall drill for the same amount of labor, but they are a tier 0 tech. In order to skip them, you need to invest 90 wood , 10 steel, a steam core and 24 hours of workshop time extremely early on, to the detriment of almost every other early-game concern. The equivalent production in sawmills costs only 30 wood and 11 hours of workshop time. Later on, sawmills are still useful for expanding your wood production. Wall Drill upgrades actually produce less wood than a sawmill, yet cost steam cores and require a high technology level.
This is where Charcoal Kilns come in. Two sawmills and two kilns together create just a little less coal than a thumper and two gathering posts, while employing the same number of people. However, you've already built those two sawmills; the infrastructure is half done already! Later in the game, when you've already built most of the buildings you'll need and chopped all of the trees in the crater, your kilns will be fed by wall drills instead. (This is actually more efficient than coal mining in terms of steam core use!)
But perhaps the easiest overlooked benefit in this arrangement is how it naturally balances your economy. You can ramp up your wood production to crazy levels, without having to worry about whether or not you'll be able to use it all. This effectively removes one of the major variables from the game, making things far easier to manage in general.
© Post "Sawmills and Charcoal Kilns are underrated" for game Frostpunk.
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