Patrick Lumber Manufacturing has begun work to add a hardwood sawmill at its manufacturing facility located in Philomath, Oregon.
The new mill will be equipped to cut hardwood lumber, an unusual move in Oregon, where the vast majority of mills process softwoods such as Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine, the state’s most common tree species. While softwoods dominate, the forests of Oregon and northern California also contain large volumes of Oregon white oak, Pacific maple, tan oak, madrone, chinquapin, myrtle, and Oregon ash.
Attempts by others to develop markets for these species have mostly failed, other than a few mills that primarily cut alder. With no commercial outlets for the fiber, hardwoods have become a nuisance for land managers working to improve forest health and are an increasing component of wildfire-threatened overstocked stands.
“We saw a real opportunity here,” said Patrick Lumber CEO David Halsey, “We can produce and market products that are in demand while also making it possible for forest managers to more economically perform activities that further the health of our forests.”
Halsey believes the mill will be the only commercial hardwood sawmill in western Oregon that is not primarily cutting alder. As such, its fiber-sourcing area will extend hundreds of miles, from northwest Oregon to northern California. Logs for the mill will be supplied from private, tribal, state, and federal lands.
When complete, the mill is expected to produce about 150,000 board feet of hardwood lumber per month, a four-fold increase over a smaller mill Patrick initially considered.
Equipment being installed at the mill includes a refurbished Salem head rig band mill with a 36-inch opening, three-knee carriage and Inovec light curtain scan optimization, along with a Powell rotary gang edger.
The mill is being funded in part by a $1 million Community Wood Grant provided by the U.S. Forest Service.
“The chance for federal support for the project was a game-changer,” Halsey said. “It allowed us to think bigger and consider how we could make a much more significant impact for the community and the forests.”