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Calif. Company Turns Timber Damaged by Insects into Quality Pallet Lumber: Woodwurx Corp. Relies on AWMV LT300 Thin-Kerf Head Rig and Resaw System
California company turns insect-damaged timber into quality pallet lumber with aid of AWMV LT300 thin-kerf head rig and other Wood-Mizer equipment.
By Jack Petree
Date Posted: 2/1/2006
CHINO, California — Bill Oerding has learned to profitably mill pallet lumber from timber previously considered to be a nearly unusable environmental liability "without realizing it was supposed to be so easy."
Utilizing an AWMV Industries production sawmill, Bill’s company, Woodwurx Corporation, produces 30,000 board feet of pine on-grade pallet lumber daily. The company mills logs from timber that was killed by insects. In the process, Bill is showing the way to a solution to one of the most significant environmental challenges California has faced in years.
In California and elsewhere, hundreds of thousands of acres of forest have been decimated by bark beetle infestations in recent years. The forests of dead and dying trees have played a significant part in fueling the devastating wildfires afflicting southern California the past five years. Because the damaged trees must be removed to enhance forest health, large quantities of this wood fiber are being removed from yards, shopping centers and forests as governments and individuals struggle to control the beetle infestations.
Disposing of all the fiber has presented an immense challenge to governments, the environmental community, and the owners of the wood. Millions of dollars have been spent, much of it to no avail, on subsidizing efforts to utilize the material in cost effective and environmentally sensitive ways.
Chino is just a few dozen miles away from the most intense of the fire zones. Bill is using his intuition, innovation and money to demonstrate the damaged timber can profitably be processed into lumber for the pallet industry. Bill’s company supplies cut stock for the pallet industry. Making use of the damaged timber is also good for the environment – damaged timber left to die and rot in the forest would contribute to the greenhouse effect.
Utilizing damaged timber for its highest and best use has been an ongoing challenge in the effort to control the pine beetle. Many of the logs coming from the insect-raged forests are discolored. In addition, if the wood has begun to decay, that has an impact on its value and how much lumber can be recovered.
Although the timber is of marginal value for high-end lumber products, the pine is structurally sound and suitable for making low-grade lumber for pallets. Given the pricing structure of the lumber industry, however, is it economically feasible?
Bill’s ‘secret’ to profitably processing damaged timber is combining well managed manufacturing operations with thin-kerf sawmill technology.
Logs are delivered to Woodwurx by independent logging contractors working for the state and other landowners. Much of the wood is coming from the San Bernardino Mountains near Chino in the Los Angeles basin.
"We’re now seeing logs coming from other areas as well," said Bill. "Disposal of beetle-killed trees is a regional problem, and there aren’t many people willing to take them, so people appreciate us."
Most of the logging contractors own their own trucks equipped with self-loaders or unloaders, so each truck manages its own off-loading. Logs are paid for FOB the mill.
Logs are inspected for potential grade, then bucked to appropriate lengths and forwarded to the Woodwurx sawmill line. "About 10 percent of the wood can be used for making higher grade products, but most of it is best used for pallet stock," said Bill.
Woodwurx’s breakdown system is a complete AWMV/Wood-Mizer Products thin-kerf sawmill line, including an LT300 sawmill, a Multi-Head band resaw system with six heads, and a model 430 twin blade, adjustable edger that has been modified to use four fixed blades. The mill is also equipped with a Newman KM-16 multi-trim saw.
The Wood-Mizer blades used on the LT300 and the Multi-Head resaws produce a cut (kerf) only 1/10
The environmental benefits of thin-kerf sawmills are substantial and demonstrable. Stephen Bratkovich, a U.S. Forest Service researcher, has reported that typical sawmills in the U.S. operate at about 50% efficiency in terms of lumber recovery. On the other hand, a study of a pallet lumber mill in Missouri demonstrated 69% efficiency for a thin-kerf mill with a .050-inch blade cutting thin lumber (the thinner the lumber, the lower the efficiency because more cuts need to be made).
"The U.S. annual cut of timber for lumber products is equivalent to approximately 240 million trees," Bratkovich said. "We could save the equivalent of 69 million trees annually if our recovery efficiency improved from 50% to 70% in our primary processing industry." Those trees, left in the forest, would provide added environmental benefits by absorbing about 900,000 tons of carbon dioxide and producing about 650,000 tons of oxygen annually.
The economic advantages of thin-kerf sawmills are equally striking. If you improve efficiency from 50% to 70%, as much as 40% more lumber is recovered from a log. The extra lumber, in addition to its environmental importance, generates extra profits.
"We think running thin-kerf has been a very important part of our ability to achieve our economic goals," said Bill. "It’s also important for other reasons. Safety and reduced downtime are also big for us. The LT300 is a much safer machine than anything else I’ve seen, and because a blade can be changed in five or 10 minutes, downtime is absolutely minimized in our plant."
The LT300 is operated as a head rig to break down the logs and produce a steady stream of slabs and cants. It is controlled from an operator’s station, equipped with joysticks and an easy to use setworks system. The station is positioned to allow the operator a good view of the log so he can decide the best breakdown approach for maximizing yield and quality. A ‘cruise control’ feature automatically regulates sawing to ensure that logs are cut at the highest possible speed consistent with quality.
Material with bark still attached goes directly from the head rig to the AWMV 430 edger, which has been modified
While this approach might, at first glance, appear to be wasteful, Bill said it is not. "We have ready market for the fall-down off the edger in the pallet repair industry," he said. "Every scrap that is usable goes to the repair facilities."
The next stage in the lumber manufacturing process is the company’s Newman KM-16, a trimmer designed to accommodate 20 to 60 cuts per minute utilizing 18-inch circular saw blades while maintaining an accuracy of 1/32-inch or better. The accuracy is important, Bill pointed out, because pallet manufacturing customers want high quality lumber for their automated nailing machines.
"We consistently put out the best quality product that can be made here," Bill said. "Our customers count on us for that, and we make sure that is what we give them."
The trimmed, edged cants and slabs are processed through the AWMV Multi-Head band resaw system to be cut into boards and stringers. A slab only large enough to produce two boards is cut in half while larger cants able to produce as many as seven boards make use of all six blades in the resaw system.
The Multi-Head is one of the fastest, most economical ways to accomplish precision resawing, said Bill. A steel slat bed conveyor feeds material into the saws. The steel slats are more durable than a rubber belt conveyor, Bill noted, and, because of their rigidity, also aid in sawing accuracy.
Speed is also important to Bill. The Multi-Head system allows butt-to-butt sawing at 100 feet per minute no matter how many boards are being processed out of a particular cant, he said.
Waste at the edger, trimmer and resaw is reduced because close attention is paid when the log is originally ‘blocked out’ on the LT300.
Of course, sawdust, small slabs with bark still attached, and other residuals pieces of wood are generated. The waste material is supplied to a nearby business, Recycled Wood Products, which uses it as raw material for producing mulch and other products.
"Every single thing coming off our saw with any structural value at all is recovered and made into a product," Bill declared. "Everything else is ground and used to create other products. Nothing goes to waste around here."
Woodwurx lumber production is marketed to nearby pallet manufacturers. "We have a stable customer base and do everything we can to create the quality lumber necessary to keep those customers happy," said Bill.
The AWMV equipment has proven to be an important key to profitability for Woodwurx. In addition, training employees allows the equipment to achieve its maximum potential, Bill noted.
"Training people well and following through with on-going training programs equals success in an operation like ours," he said. "If you train people to do a job well, they will respond. If you haven’t trained your people and they make mistakes, you have no one to blame but yourself."
Mill foreman Jessie Loria has helped ensure proper training and cross-training and that the mill’s high standards of production are maintained. "When you’re dealing with this kind of wood and trying to make the best product on the market, you have to stay on top of things at all times," Bill said. "Jessie makes sure we do that."
Bill gets a lot of satisfaction from the environmental benefits of his business. "I feel good about this because when we first started up, most of this fiber was just being ground up or landfilled," he said. "We’ve taken a problem and turned it into an opportunity. We’re creating jobs, making a good product at a good price, and we’re practicing waste avoidance. I think we’re serving the public well." Waste avoidance is at the top of the hierarchy of values sought by recycling advocates.
With the thin-kerf technology of the AWMV LT300 and other equipment, Woodwurx Corporation is producing more than 8 million board feet of lumber annually from damaged timber. It helps reduce the harvest in healthy forests, creating more benefits from carbon sequestration, and the company supplies components to pallet manufacturers. In the process, Bill has created an economic opportunity for himself and his employees.th-inch thick. While kerfs in that range have long been available on smaller sawmills, thin-kerf blade technology that can cut effectively on higher speed production mills are a relatively recent development. The thin-kerf technology that AWMV and its umbrella company, Wood-Mizer Products, have pioneered has been vital to his success, said Bill.