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Growing with Wood-Mizer: How this family-owned logging and sawmill business is keeping up with the times.
With a knack for identifying problems as opportunities, Darrell Gruver grows his two businesses.
By Chase Warner
Date Posted: 5/1/2014
For nearly two decades, Darrell Gruver has built and grown his two businesses, D&D Logging and D&D Hardwood LLC, with a knack for identifying problems as opportunities and a Wood-Mizer sawmill. Over the course of 18 years, Darrell has owned five Wood-Mizer industrial headrigs, three Wood-Mizer portable hydraulic sawmills and is currently installing three Wood-Mizer WM4000 industrial headrigs to become the centerpiece of D&D Hardwood LLC.
Starting out as a logger in the late 1980s, Darrell established the family-owned and operated D&D Logging in Racine, Missouri. He quickly realized that he could do better for both himself and his customers by utilizing extra value from the logs he was handling. He discovered that all it took was a willingness to sort and haul better quality logs to a grade lumber mill rather than to their original destination of being converted into railroad ties or pallet lumber.
After running D&D Logging successfully this way for several years, potential catastrophe became opportunity in the mid-1990s when the owner of the sawmill where Darrell sold most of his grade logs informed him of plans to retire. Faced with the loss of this business, Darrell reasoned that having a mill of his own would decrease transportation costs and provide needed diversity to his operation.
In 1996, Darrell encouraged his father-in-law, C.R. Smith, to purchase a Wood-Mizer LT40 Hydraulic sawmill and enter the milling business. For the next year, C.R. sawed logs into grade lumber in a pole barn near Darrell’s home with the diesel powered thin-kerf LT40 Hydraulic bandsaw. When C.R. decided to move on, Darrell purchased the mill himself and established D&D Hardwood LLC to supplement his growing logging business.
After six years and 9,000 hours on the LT40 Hydraulic, Darrell was pleased with Wood-Mizer’s service, production capacity and durability and decided to upgrade to the LT70 Hydraulic –Wood-Mizer’s most productive thin-kerf sawmill at the time. Shortly after the purchase, Darrell’s son Anthony became interested in the business and focused on running the sawmill, which gave Darrell time to concentrate on improving his logging operation.
Less than a year later, Darrell soon found D&D running out of sawmill capacity with the growth he had experienced with his logging business. He decided to expand into a full production sawmill capable of producing several million board feet of grade lumber per year and built an operation centered on a Wood-Mizer LT300 industrial headrig. “I had become a Wood-Mizer fan,” he said.
In 2006, production increased with the addition of two more Wood-Mizer LT300s, one to upgrade the LT70 and the second installed to act as a resaw to increase production. At this point, Darrell estimated that the three LT300 headrigs combined to saw lumber at a rate of 6,000 board feet of grade walnut lumber per hour. With high production rates and an efficient operation, D&D yet again continued to expand and just four years later, Darrell upgraded and installed two WM3500 industrial headrigs. “The machines are very reliable and the service from Wood-Mizer is unsurpassed,” Darrell said. “Choosing Wood-Mizer was an easy decision.”
Darrell says that using thin-kerf bandsaws not only increases the productivity of his business, but reduces the number of trees that need to be harvested. “We try to get the best lumber out of every log,” he said. “Thinner kerfs mean less sawdust and less sawdust means more boards. That’s good for the pocketbook and for the environment.” In the current operation, fitted with a Wood-Mizer LT300 headrig, two WM3500 headrigs, an LT40 HD, HR1000 industrial resaw, and two industrial edgers, D&D is producing around 200,000 board feet of hardwoods per week.
On a typical day, oak, walnut, cherry and maple logs between six and fourteen feet arrive at D&D Hardwoods where they are scaled, graded and sorted. The logs are then sent to one of three headrigs depending on wood species and all of the grade lumber is removed. When sawing species other than walnut, a residual pallet cant or railroad tie is produced. Boards and cants are edged to obtain the highest possible grade and sent to the HR1000 resaw to reduce further processing. “From start to finish our operation strives to not only get the most out of every log, but to do so in environmentally sound ways,” said Darrell. “Depending on the customer’s needs, we almost always selectively cut in ways that will be the best for a sustainable forest.”
Today, Darrell is in the process of installing three Wood-Mizer WM4000s to increase productivity and improve consistency across the business. Complete with high tech computer automation controls, servo motors in the head, and 50% more steel than the WM3500, the WM4000 is designed for production and built to last. “These saws are very efficient, fast and powerful,” said Darrell’s son Anthony who has been operating Wood-Mizer mills for more than a decade. “The thin blades require less power than other saws and the setworks make them a ‘no-brainer’ to run.” As the market expands, Darrell’s proven business model and forward thinking approach has positioned D&D for continued growth and success in the lumber industry.