Thinning Down Wildfires
Tools of the Future
Future Trends in Small Milling,
Dehumidification Drying and Mulching
By Carl Clayton
has been the one constant of this industry, and probably always will be. Some
policy issues molding the industry today include global warming, harvest levels,
and forest health. The big question is, "What will all this mean to me and my
business?" New technology, some of which is discussed below, will surely be a
part of our future.
Small Milling "Small milling" of
lumber is one answer both sawmills and harvesting contractors are turning to in
preparing for the future. Each year in the United States, according to Forest
Service sources, tens of billions of board feet of saw logs rot, are burned, or
are used for low value products. Experts estimate that “…less than 20 percent of
the forest biomass" in a harvest ends up in longterm, durable products.
Don Jastad mills once
wasted wood with a Woodmizer LT 40HD.
Don Jastad, owner of Jastad Forest
Resources of Puyallup, Wash., decided more than a decade ago that it was
"criminal" to waste all of that wood. Don says the huge amount of wood
underutilized each year proves an adage his dad taught him: "Opportunity doesn't
just knock, it comes and busts down your door every day." "I'd seen some guys
cutting wood with a portable saw so I looked into the possibilities," says Don.
"Pretty soon whenever we cleaned up after a harvest we would salvage logs that
had been left behind because no one wanted them. We'd load them up, haul them in
and have then sawn down into lumber. What we found was that when you cut ‘waste’
into lumber and dry it you have something that's worth a lot of money, and that
makes your logging more profitable."
Eventually, Don decided to begin
sawing his lumber using a Wood- Mizer portable band saw. The sawmill Don settled
on is a Wood-Mizer LT 40 HD, one of that company's most popular units. The basic
mill can handle a 21' log that's 36" in diameter, and it includes a hydraulic
log turner so one person can operate the machine. Today Don saws high grade
specialty lumbers from salvaged oldgrowth, species production mills reject, and
"junk wood" too rare or difficult for commercial mills to bother with. His
lumber has been used to build pipe organs, guitars, fine furniture, airplanes,
and miniature ships, and is sold around the world. "It gives me a lot of
pleasure to see the incredibly beautiful things created out of a piece of wood I
had a hand in producing, from a piece of what used to be considered waste," he
Dry kiln brings more
opportunities to hardwood industry in the West.
Don is not alone in his pursuit.
For harvesting contractors and sawmill owners alike the potential for "small
milling," according to Kevin Corder, Industrial Sales Manager at Wood- Mizer,
are limitless. Even today, Corder points out, large volume sawmills have
installed Wood-Mizers to recover grade lumber from "junk wood," and have
contracted with Wood-Mizer owners to saw extremely high value woods that their
own systems cannot adequately mill and still maintain value.
So much fiber is wasted in the western woods partially because a hardwood
industry has never developed in the region. One reason has been lack of drying
capacity. Hardwood grade lumbers must be dried to exacting specifications, and
that has always been expensive and difficult, especially in the West. Today, the
work of innovative firms like Nyle Dry Kiln Systems of Bangor, Maine, has
brought lumber drying to the ordinary mill. Once the realm of "drying wizards,"
drying is now done by ordinary people with a minimum of training, with excellent
results. In addition, the dehumidification technology Nyle and similar firms
have developed is dramatically less expensive than older technologies and, in a
hardwood scenario, cuts huge amounts of waste out of the process.
The California Department of
Forestry (CDF) has run a demonstration facility for a number of years to show
the forest industry that the more than 140 billion board feet of hardwoods
growing in California's forests could provide the resource base for a western
hardwood lumber industry. The unit, located at a CDF camp at Parlin Fork (near
Ft. Bragg on California's Northern coastal region) produces about 150,000 board
feet of grade hardwoods each year. The heart of the Parlin Fork operation is a
Nyle L-200 dehumidification dry kiln with a 2,000 board foot capacity, used to
finish dry lumber after it has been pre-dried in drying sheds.
Rayco T275 mulches debri
to avoid burning.
The Nyle unit was chosen,
according to Jim Anderson, founder of the project and a retired forester who
consults on drying, because it required a low capital investment while allowing
the benefits of excellent drying at low temperatures, low operating costs, and
with no pollution. "If you're a big operation running tens of millions of board
feet per year through the kilns, this might not be the best thing for you," he
commented. "But for the small to midsized operator, dehumidification kilns
represent an inexpensive, highly effective, and easy to learn way to add value
to sawn lumber." Dehumidification drying allows drying of small units of lumber,
reduces the waste inherent in other forms of drying, and is a base for a
hardwood lumber industry to utilize woods that could not be efficiently
processed in the past.
Ground preparation after a harvest has never been a huge deal in the Northwest,
but that too is changing. A big reason? Fire! Recent research by national
scientific groups has shown that forest fires and post harvest burns are
significant contributors of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, as well as
injecting large and previously unsuspected amounts of mercury into the air.
Rayco has developed a multi-purpose tool being used by contractors around the
world to meet the need to treat the forest without burning.
The T275 site preparation machine,
equipped with a forestry mower/mulching system, is widely used not only to
transform post harvest land into a prepared landscape ready for reforestation or
property development, but also for a broad range of other forest treatment
opportunities. Scott Muir of Associated Arborists, a vegetation management firm
headquartered in Chico, Calif., says that in recent months, he has utilized his
machine in treating both public and private forests for reduction in the
potential for catastrophic fire, for contracting with transmission firms for
clearing and maintaining rights-of-way along roads and power lines, and for
contracting with cities to remove fireprone vegetation at the urban/rural
Demand for the machine has been so
great, and continues to expand at such a steady pace, that Scott has recently
purchased a second, "Just to keep up with the work." Today opportunity is
bursting through the door of the forest products industry. Harvesting
contractors and mill owners already have many of the available tools needed to
adjust to change in the future. It's simply a matter of foresight.
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