March April, 2004






Products stud mill opened in Winlock, Washington with a production goal of 130 million board feet a year

By Alan Froome

It’s refreshing, to say the least, to visit a newly-opened stud mill in Washington state, where so many other mills have closed. The Lewis County Forest Products mill in Winlock, Wash., opened in June 2003 and, not only is it still running, but after being open only a few weeks went to two shifts to keep up with the demand for their new Titan brand lumber. When you arrive at the 60-acre mill site, there is no indication that the mill has been open less than a year. The team knows what it’s doing and there’s a feeling of confidence running through the entire operation. Phil Johnson, chief operating officer says that Lewis County Forest Products is a private company, and that he is one of eight owners who also form the Board of Directors. Johnson himself is a third generation sawmiller, although his background is in manufacturing. He also studied law in college, before getting involved in the lumber industry. Johnson says that five of the eight owners work at the mill on a daily basis and are all experienced sawmillers. 

The logs being processed at Lewis County Forest Products are 100 per cent Douglas fir and purchased within a 100-mile radius of the mill’s location in Winlock, Wash.

Why Winlock?
Winlock is a small farming community, situated between Centralia and Longview just west of Interstate 5. So why open a mill there, and why now? Johnson explains that there is a good supply of logs, and a number of skilled sawmill people already living in the area. He credits Bill Lotto of the local Economic Development Council (EDC) for great help in getting the mill project off the ground. “This area of Washington may be the only part of the Northwest with a surplus timber resource,” says Bill. And the EDC is of course delighted that 80 local jobs have been created by the new mill.

Planning the Ideal Mill
The owners of Lewis County Forest Products traveled extensively in BC and the western U.S. visiting many sawmills, before they decided what kind of mill they wanted to build. The logs being processed are 100 percent Douglas fir, ranging from five to 22 inches in diameter, with an average of nine inches, and maximum length of 45 feet. They are purchased within a 100mile radius of Winlock. The mill produces 8-, 9- and 10-foot 2x4 studs, though some 2x6 are also produced, to help improve the recovery. All the lumber produced is pre-sold by the company’s own sales people. The new Titan trademark and Elephant logo have been well-accepted by buyers, including some of the “Big Box” stores in California and elsewhere. “The market for 2x6 studs hasn’t developed as many thought it would, but there is good demand right now for longer studs to suit higher ceilings,” says Johnson.

Lay of the Land
The mill layout is conventional in most respects, with scanning and computers at the main machine centers. “We feel that scanning and optimization is essential these days,” says Phil. Much of the equipment is used but renovated, purchased from sources up and down the West Coast. Johnson is pleased with the engineering and design work done by Phil Judson of Salem Equipment in Salem, Ore. and Dick Komori of MPM Sales in Surrey, BC, as well as help on controls and optimization from consultant Jim Kelly of Beaverton, Ore.

Briefly, the mill is composed of the following equipment:
• 3 Wagner L80 Log Unloaders to unload trucks and stack logs in the yard
• 1 Link Belt 34B Cherry Picker toreach the high log decks
• 1 John Deere Log Loader for general yard work
• Valon Kone 600 model 24” Debarker
• 72” Buck Saw with 3 overhead camera scanners (to be replaced by MPM)
• Salem five-foot Twin Bandmill with Twin CM&E Slabber heads
• Sharp chain log feed system through the Twin, 350 fpm max speed
• MPM log scanning and optimizationsystem with Hermary HDS scanner looking horizontally across the sharp chain infeed
• Forano (now USNR) five-foot Hori-zontal Resaw with 2 position setting table
• Ukiah Cant Gang 6” x 30” opening,with Coe Detec scanner and optimization
• Coe board Edger 4” x 30” opening, with Coe Detec scanner and optimization
• Lucidyne Grade Reader
• Irvington Trimmer with 8 saws, including movable zero saw
• Stetson-Ross 612 C Planer
• QM 10 bin sorter, stacker and packaging system 
• Armstrong equipped saw filing room
• Nicholson 66” eight knife wastewood chipper.

Changes in the Works
Plant Manager Jim Woodfin came from eastern Oregon to work at Lewis County FP and has worked with Phil Johnson before. He says they already have plans to replace the bucking scanner with a Real Shape optimization system, to be supplied by MPM Sales early in 2004. Woodfin pointed out the specially-designed sharp chain with its accurately machined guideway. He said the company came to the conclusion that a single thumper roll worked best to spike the logs onto the sharp chain, rather than the multiple hold down rolls they had seen used elsewhere. They felt multiple rolls can push the logs over instead of holding them in place. He says they can also drop out and recover shot lumber using a hula saw for trimming. At present, the mill is only set up to plane 2x4’s, but has plans to also plane 2x6’s in the future. There are no dry kilns on-site and all the 2x4’s are planed green. One other unusual note — the planer is in the same building and close coupled to the sawmill. The lumber packages leaving the mill are not completely wrapped; only the center portion is wrapped for marketing reasons, to show the new Titan and Elephant logos. Johnson and Woodfin say the mill’s focus is on accuracy, rather than on super thin kerf sawing. The company’s aim is to produce an accurate quality product using tight target sizes. Jim says they are at 85 percent of target production already, and currently produce around 35,000 board feet an hour, totaling all grades produced. They are shooting for 130 million board feet a year, and no doubt will reach their target very soon.


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