Jan Feb, 2003

 

 

 

 

Salvaging Old Growth

Cloquallam Wood Products Uses Its Wood-Mizer to Mill Old Growth Left on the Forest Floor Decades Ago

By Carl Clayton

When portable band sawmills were introduced to the forest products industry, some traditionalists considered them to be little more than farm tools or hobby toys. Today the portable band sawmill has become a significant supplier of specialty lumber to the North American marketplace. This is due in part because larger mills have specialized in the high volume production of dimension material and small mills that once produced custom lumbers have disappeared in many regions of the country. Serious sawmill owners, like Dave and Judy Glover of Shelton, Wash., are leading the way in demonstrating the capabilities portable mills bring to the lumber production table. Dave and Judy's firm, Cloquallam Wood Products, LLC, has gained a regional reputation for supplying high quality specialty woods to some of the Northwest's leading manufacturing firms, as well as to farmers, contractors, and other professionals.

It all begins with logs, some of which were first harvested 3/4 century and more ago. The logs are stacked off the ground to keep them clear of mud and other contamination.

Long History
Dave Glover spent most of his working life in the forest industry and has seen it all. He retired from Simpson Lumber in 1991 after a 28- year career where he began on cleanup crew and retired as a sawmill superintendent. Dave wasn’t finished with the industry, though. While at Simpson, he and his wife and partner, Judy, had acquired two pieces of land they wanted to improve and manage as tree farms, one at home near Shelton and one at Republic, a small town in Eastern Wash. In 1992, after seeing it in action at a demonstration day, the couple invested in a Wood- Mizer Products gas sawmill.

Their intention was to salvage blowdowns and trees needing to be thinned out of their stands, then mill the resulting logs into lumber for buildings and other projects on their own farmstead. Before long, the couple found they weren't the only ones looking for lumber. Fellow landowners, small manufacturers, and others came in search of not only plain lumber but also specialty woods they couldn't readily find elsewhere. Soon Dave was sawing everything from salvage cedar to figured maple, dimension lumber to guitar stock — all at the request of customers he hadn't really anticipated having when he first bought his saw. In 1994 Dave and Judy made the decision to move up to a Wood-Mizer with a hydraulic log loader, hydraulic clamps, and a hydraulic log turner. They needed the new machine both to reduce the labor involved in what had become an expanding business, and to increase capacity.

The logs are precision milled utilizing Cloquallam’s LT-40 Super Hydraulic band sawmill. Because of the high value of the fiber, the ability to cut to within 1/8 inch of defects with a thin kerf blade is vital to maximizing profitability.

New Business Is Born
In 1997, in part because the business continued to grow and in part because they'd decided they wanted to up their income, Dave and Judy bowed to the inevitable and formally established themselves as a full-fledged business, Cloquallam Wood Products. At the same time, the couple moved up another notch in terms of production capabilities by investing in a Wood-Mizer LT 40 Super Hydraulic band mill. The Super Hydraulic, according to Ken Barton, Wood-Mizer's Branch Manager in the firm's Oregon service and sales center, is both a high volume production sawmill, with some mill owners putting out 3,000-5,000 board feet of product per day, and a thin kerf machine capable of sawing to very close tolerances. The machine is so accurate and the thin kerf so frugal in terms of waste, Ken says, that even some full service sawmills in the hardwood lumber business save out their best logs for processing on the machines.

Salvage Operation
Dave says that for his company, the quality the Wood-Mizer can provide is more important than the production. He describes one of his ongoing projects as a case in point. Scattered throughout the Northwest are areas where old growth trees were cut and, for a variety of reasons, left lying on the ground seventy, eighty, or even ninety years ago. New forests grew up around them—forests now ready to be harvested again. The old logs have some scattered rot but still contain high grade, fine grain, old growth fiber. Because of their size and the quantity of fiber remaining, the logs are removed from the forest floor in the harvest and sent to chip yards to be processed into pulp chips. Dave purchases the logs and, using his Wood-Mizer, saws around the defects in the wood, producing a variety of high value products, most notably veneer blocks that are sold to a producer in Idaho.

The thin kerf of his band mill's blade is important to Dave because the wood available in the old logs he processes has an extremely high value when sawn into blocks, but no value as sawdust. The accuracy his saw provides is vital. "The profit is in the grade and value recovery we can get out of the log. With the Wood-Mizer we can saw within a quarter to an eighth of an inch of a defect,” says Dave. “That might not sound important but in a tight grain veneer block that can mean a lot of extra value added." Dave is pleased with the production levels he achieves with his saw.

The result is a very high grade lumber salable to high end manufacturers, veneer plants, and others requiring specialty lumbers.

Again, he points to the old growth salvage wood where value recovery is far more important than volume: "To maximize recovery you have to think cuts through and position the log precisely. When I'm working those logs, I'm doing pretty well to cut 300 feet a day, but it's 300 feet of the finest material available anywhere on the marketplace." Because he can produce to high quality standards on his Wood-Mizer, Dave finds he can market much of the lumber he cuts to specialty manufacturers needing something beyond the ordinary in the wood they buy.

He not only sells to the veneer manufacturer, he also sells stock to Simpson Door, a division of the firm he worked for in the old days, as well as to other specialty manufacturers. Of course, not everything coming off the saw is of the quality needed by high-end users. Some old growth is sold to a survey stake manufacturer and some is sold as just plain old lumber and timbers for more ordinary uses. Finding outlets in specialty markets is the key to the Glovers’ success. Dave says production mills today don't like to cut odd sizes, species, or anything else out of the ordinary, but most manufacturers have special needs. Their choices without the services of a sawmill like Dave's are to resaw or pay a heavy premium. "The Wood-Mizer doesn't care what size or species it's cutting," says Dave. "You can set up to saw in a few minutes so it's easy to give the customer exactly what they're asking for. That's an important competitive advantage."

Cloquallam Wood Products works hard to maintain that competitive advantage. "There are good days and there are bad days," says Dave. "Sometimes you love it and sometimes you wonder why you're out here. You can make a good living sawing but it doesn't come automatically. You have to be professional in how you go about it. You can't just start sawing and expect to succeed overnight." Professionalism is what Dave and Judy Glover are all about. In producing high-grade lumber to exacting specifications, they've helped create an entirely new industry sector in the North American forest products industry. They've benefited the economy and the communities they live in, and, because much of the wood they saw would have been burnt, landfilled, or left to rot, they've done it all while providing significant environmental enhancements.

TW

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 28, 2004