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Clark Lumber Company Chooses Rugged Hurdle Equipment to Match Its Fast Pace of Production
Four Hurdle Complete Circle Mill packages head the paths to high-value hardwood lumber at Clark Lumber Company.
By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 6/1/2013
“We’re producing about 150,000-board-feet per day,” said Brandon Clark, the vice president and COO of Clark Lumber. Clark Lumber has made sourcing and producing quality hardwoods its primary focus since it was established in 1982.
Operating at two sites, Clark Lumber runs four circle head saws. Each head saw is part of a complete mill package purchased from Hurdle Machine Works Inc. in Moscow, Tenn.
“The first [Hurdle] mill is still in operation – running 80 hours per week,” said Clark. It was installed in 1987 and still plays a key role in the production process.
A steel frame and easily serviced wear parts make the Hurdle easy to install and easy to maintain, said Clark. The first Hurdle was selected by Clark’s father, Hugh Wayne Clark, and grandfather, Hugh D. (“Mr. Hugh”) Clark. Today, Hugh Wayne is president and CEO of the family business; and Mr. Hugh has retired from the day to day operations but still spends his days around the mill.
Clark explained that his father and grandfather applied the same due diligence to the initial Hurdle purchase that Clark Lumber applies in all equipment decisions. “There were other mills in the area running Hurdle,” he said. They visited the mills to evaluate the performance of the Hurdle circle mill.
The Hurdle mill proved itself quickly, said Clark. That meant that when additions and replacements were made, Hurdle Machine Works was the immediate choice. “In total, we have bought six Hurdle mills.” The most recent purchases were made in 2010 and 2011.
“We saw from a 10-inch up to a 32-inch log,” said Clark. Larger logs are handled by a Hurdle circle mill working in tandem with a Brewco B-1600 thin-kerf bandsaw; there are two such combinations. Smaller logs and crosstie logs are processed by the two stand-alone Hurdle mills.
Clark Lumber has relied on Brewco saws since 2002. “We looked at several other mills but Brewco seemed to be the best option for our needs,” said Clark.
One of the winning features of the Brewco is the blade technology, said Clark. “The two-inch blades did not require a sharpening room,” he explained.
The relationship with Brewco is strong. In 2005, Clark Lumber was running a Brewco B-1600 bandsaw at the Lafayette location. When that saw was damaged in a fire, the responsiveness from Brewco could not have been aster.
“We had a fire on a Sunday morning,” explained Clark. “By Wednesday morning, we were up and running.” Brewco team members arrived at the Clark Lumber facility by 6 a.m. on Monday. They traced wires in need of repair to get the computerized setworks back on line.
“The service has been second to none,” said Clark of Brewco. “They keep a good supply of parts for routine maintenance and are always available to help troubleshoot any problems we have.”
Clark is busy with day-to-day operations at his company’s two mills and dry kilns. Still, he relishes the occasional chances he has to relieve sawyers giving them a chance to prepare additional saws for the next shift.
“Sawing on the Hurdle mill, squaring for the Brewco” – makes for genuine pleasure, said Clark. It’s an opportunity that comes “few and far between now,” but he does get to sit in a saw cab now and then.
More important, is how happy Clark’s operators are with the Hurdle circle mill packages and the Brewco band saws. Clark explained that it’s a time saver to know that operators will not have questions and concerns about the equipment they are running.
Clark Lumber has experienced sawyers but still use laser lights on the head saws to ensure the proper size slab is removed from the log. Optimizing technology is not used. “We have found the standard Hurdle automated setworks are extremely reliable and accurate,” said Clark.
Logs are procured within a 130-mile radius of the two mills. Clark Lumber operates in Macon County in the north-central part of the Volunteer State. “We load and deliver our outgoing lumber on log trailers and back-haul logs from the logging sites.” Six tractors from International and three-bunk log trailers from Savannah make up most of the fleet. Clark Lumber also buys gatewood from loggers in the area, which the loggers deliver.
Clark’s original mill is located just outside of Red Boiling Springs, TN in the small community of Willette. A second mill was purchased in Lafayette, Tenn. in 1996. Lafayette lies some 15 miles northwest of Red Boiling Springs and is the larger of the two towns.
“We also buy standing timber,” explained Clark. “Our procurement managers at both facilities work very closely with logging crews to ensure the tract is harvested to specifications set by the landowners.”
Employees at Clark Lumber number just over 100. “We feel very fortunate to have a dedicated team,” said Clark. “Our main effort is to take care of our loggers and our people.”
Macon County is renowned for hardwoods that mills such as Clark Lumber supply to furniture, cabinet and flooring manufacturers. Clark taps core wood to supply pallet makers and crosstie treatment plants.
As much as 25 percent of the hardwood lumber produced by Clark Lumber is yellow poplar. Red oak, white oak, hard maple and ash are also some of the primary species cut at Clark Lumber. Some lumber is still sold green to flooring companies and other users of hardwood lumber, but most of the FAS and 1 Common lumber are transferred to the lumber yard to start the drying process.
Kilns were purchased from BOLDesigns in Lenoir, N.C. The first kilns were introduced on-site in 2003 with additions in 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2012.
The decision to buy kilns meant another exercise in research to find reliable equipment. “We drove many miles and heard countless testimonies,” said Clark. A visit to the North Carolina facility of BOLDesigns sold the Clark team on kilns they would buy. Clark Lumber dries most of its own production but is still able to sell some green lumber from the mills. A wood waste boiler from ABCO Industries is used to heat all the kilns.
Since 1993, all incoming logs have been debarked. Three Mellott 36-inch debarkers and one Mellott 48-inch debarker are in use. Logs are moved around the yard with 8 CAT 924 articulating loaders. Two 30,000-lb. Taylor loaders are used to move green product and load the kilns.
Surplus sawdust is sold to paper mills that use it as a heat source. Chips are sold to paper manufacturers. A Fulghum chipper is used at the Lafayette facility; a Precision chipper, new in 2012, is used at the Willette mill.
Clark Lumber sells standard NHLA grades from its large inventory but is still able to pull loads to specific customer requirements when needed.
The equipment list at Clark Lumber Company is extensive. How does Clark Lumber maintain so much equipment? “Running the amount of hours we’re running, reliability is key,” said Clark. It’s the reliability exemplified by the head saws from Hurdle Machine Works.
Since its inception in 1969, Hurdle has endeavored to design and manufacture simple, dependable sawmill machinery. The Hurdle Automatic Sawmill Package is available in several different configurations depending on the length of the logs being cut. Each mill comes complete with the mill frame, husk, sawyer’s cab, log deck, log turner, offbearer belt, carriage, setworks, and choice of options. Everything is assembled and tested at Hurdle Machine Works before shipment. Easy to install and maintain, Hurdle mills have been proven in over 450 installations.
“We run 10 months of the year on an overtime schedule – 45-hour weeks at Lafayette, and 90-hour weeks at Willette,” said Clark. Significant routine maintenance is accomplished during a one-week shutdown the week of July 4.
Clark Lumber Company is a member of the Tennessee Forestry Association, the Kentucky Forestry Association, the Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association and the American Hardwood Export Council and is a major advocate for the TN and KY Master Logger Program with over 95% of the logs processed each year coming from Master Logger certified loggers.
Mr. Hugh, Clark’s grandfather, married into a sawmill business and became the manager there for 20 years. Clark’s father wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps, but Mr. Hugh insisted that Hugh Wayne complete college first. With his degree in agribusiness in hand, Hugh Wayne met his part of the agreement and was ready to fulfill a dream. Thence, son and father started Clark Lumber Company.
Clark joined the company in 2003. He explained, though, that he feels as if he has always been part of the company. “Growing up, the dinner table talks were always something to do with the mill,” he said. “During the summers, there was always something to do.”
And Clark began working at the mill on school holidays before he graduated. He could not be happier with his choice of a profession.
Moreover, there’s no contest over what Clark likes best about the business of providing high-quality lumber to U.S. and international markets. It’s “the people,” he said.
Clark enjoys getting to meet and do business with those who value working relationships and commitments. In his free time, Clark is usually “taking a relaxing walk through the woods with my kids” or “on the golf course.”