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Wood-Mizer’s New Small Log Processing Line: Overseas Experience Offers Solution for Tough Pallet Lumber Markets in the U.S.
Small Logs: European success story highlights opportunity in the U.S.’s volatile pallet lumber market with Wood-Mizer’s Small Log Processing line. Take control of your raw material supply and secure your future just as S&J Contracts has done in Ireland.

By Staff
Date Posted: 8/1/2010

Maghera, IRELAND—Turning small logs into usable lumber and controlling its raw material supply have proven to be a key to the success of S&J Contracts, a pallet manufacturer located in the small town of Maghera in Londonderry County, Ireland. This strategy looks promising for the U.S. market where recent price spikes and market fluctuations in the hardwood market have hammered pallet companies.

            Stephen Sufferin, who founded S&J Contracts in 2005 said, “In 2007 we had difficulty sourcing locally sawn pallet wood, so diversification beckoned. We decided to mill our own timber to guarantee supply and cut costs.”

            Stephen turned to Wood-Mizer with its Small Log Processing (SLP) line, which is now available in the United States. It features a series of products that work together to improve industrial efficiency, and consists of the Twin Vertical Saw (TVS), Single Vertical Saw (SVS), a single or a multi-head Horizontal ReSaw, material handling for loading and transferring, and an EG300 MultiRip Edger. The system can be set up in a conventional, in-line arrangement for maximum efficiency, or it can be setup modularly for convenience.

Small Log Strategy

            By milling his own timber, Stephen can retain his pallet buyers and enjoy profit from new markets. The demand from one sector of the construction industry (Stephen is, understandably, reluctant to be too specific about the product it requires) has been a boon. His ability to supply, he points out, is a consequence of acquiring the Wood-Mizer SLP line.

            Stephen acknowledges that adaptability is the key to surviving tough economic times. Although his sister, Sonia Wright, is almost always in the office, the other team members are multi-skilled. Sawn timber production on the Wood-Mizer SLP line and pallet manufacturing are just two of the operations the workforce at Maghera must be ready to undertake. Conversion of slabwood into saleable products – dried firelogs and kindling – helps ride the rough period that the construction industry is enduring.

            When it comes to battling the recession, the installation of the mill has given Stephen two new lines of defence. First, the business is no longer hostage to the prices demanded by sawn timber suppliers. Second, it can move quickly into other areas which hold promise of being profitable. Stephen explains: “We have enough timber to get on with our normal jobs without relying on sawn timber suppliers. The mill is flexible. I make my money from the sizes of requested lumber I am asked to produce.” He feels there is little profit to be made now producing timber of standard dimensions.

            Urgency is of the essence in securing the best prices, and the workforce of the County Londonderry mill is geared up to respond rapidly to lucrative special orders. Stephen points out that the outlay on the raw material (poorer grade round timber) does not give too much cause for concern.

            “I source my roundwood from the [N.I.] Forest Service and Scottish Woodlands and only buy timber delivered to the roadside.” With topgrade logs long ago taken by the larger sawmills, foresters are usually keen to see the roadside cleared and often accept reasonable prices.

            Even deadwood has been well tested on the decks of the new Wood-Mizer SLP line at S& J Contractors and the machinery has proved more than capable of turning it into usable products. “The Wood-Mizer has no problem handling deadwood,” says Stephen. With markets now secured for slabwood, even low recovery (down to 40% from poorest material) does not cause too many worries. It is true, however, that better grades of roundwood, bought in at higher prices, would significantly increase the yield of primary products.

S&J Expansion Story

            Production of pallets for distribution throughout Ireland and specific timber sizes and cut stock dimensions for the pallet industry – some destined for the UK mainland – are the venture’s primary products. Dried kindling sticks and firewood blocks are additional side-lines. Commended in the BELFAST TELEGRAPH’S challenging ‘Young Business Person of the Year 2009 Awards’ for his innovative approach

to business, Stephen believes a major factor of his success has been wise

investment in the right machinery for

the job.

            “Originally the business was in the old farm buildings, but in mid 2008 we invested in a large facility to accommodate a Wood-Mizer SLP (Small Log Processing) line and semi-automatic pallet assembly equipment,” he explains. A visit to Germany’s LIGNA timber trade show in Hannover left the Ulster businessman in no doubt that, in opting for the Wood-Mizer SLP, he made the right choice.

            While the operator of the log-handler of the Manitou Telescopic loader (MLT 643-120 LSV) feeds the log deck, the rest of Stephen’s crew fits the blades for the new shift. With the TVS (Twin Vertical Saw), SVS (Single Vertical Saw) and four heads of the HR (Horizontal Resaw) running in the line, that means seven sawbands need to be fitted and tensioned - yet it only takes ten minutes. After a run-through to check product specifications and the fine tuning of HR settings, the SLP line is fully operational.

            Blade changing and maintenance was a major component of training, but this hard work paid off. The thin kerf not only increases the yield of lumber from raw material and cuts waste but also helps minimize energy costs. Stephen’s calculations indicate electricity consumption for the full line at $12/hr. The adaptable layout of the SLP is an attraction, too. The conventional in-line arrangement may have had slight advantages in efficiency, but access to a semi-automatic Spanish-built pallet machine from the second entrance to the building was a priority: a cross-transfer deck between the SVS and the HR was an additional expense deemed viable to utilize available space.

            The County Londonderry sawmilling venture looks set to thrive and stay put in the center of Northern Ireland, but, should a change of location be required, the Log Loading Deck, Inclined Log Deck, Twin Vertical Saw, Single Vertical Saw, Cross-Transfer Deck and the four-head Horizontal Resaw can easily be re-located inside or outside of the province.

Easier Maintenance – Key to Efficient Operations

            The loading deck, a strong and robust infeed system, is designed for years of service in the demanding sphere of heavy material handling. But the inclined log deck is able to deliver raw material to the operator of the first stage under complete control - allowing him/her to concentrate on optimum alignment and continuous feeding of the TVS. Employing Wood-Mizer’s top of the range cutting technology, the twin vertical saw’s proven belted wheels and a 184" blade length capitalize on blade life and retain sharpness, which maintains accuracy. Blade life is also prolonged by Wood-Mizer’s unique tilting head which offers straightforward slab removal onto a cross-transfer deck, reducing labor costs.

            A feature of the head’s design is the ease of access it brings to maintenance and alignment areas. This also applies when changing the blade speed to accommodate the species being sawn. Intensive testing of productive local sawmills undertaken by Wood-Mizer at the company’s European headquarters, indicates that 15HP motors fitted as standard create a balance between energy costs and cutting performance. When sawing logs of 4" to 15" diameter and 3' to 11' 9" lengths, the minimum TVS cut width is

3 1/4".

            The Single Vertical Saw shares the same head as the TVS, reducing costs incurred in carrying stock of both blades and spare parts. Normally used for splitting or removing a third slab from the cant delivered from the TVS, the SVS can also edge larger slabs for production of smaller dimension lumber by the resaw. A laser optimisation system maximizes recovery.

Closer Look at Wood-Mizer’s SLP

            Accepting cant lengths consistent with the vertical saws, the Horizontal Resaw is most efficient when installed in MultiHead format. The HR1000 resaw can be configured with six heads, enabling it to resaw cants or slabs up to 12" in height in a single pass. If weight permits or mechanical assistance is available, the sawn products emerging from the steel flat-bed conveyor can be handled in multiples. In the case of the Maghera facility, with four heads on the resaw, the removal of the final slab allows four boards to be loaded with one operator movement.

            Edging down-line from the primary breakdown machinery allows the bandsaws to operate to maximum efficiency. The EG300 Multi-Rip Edger displays versatility of great benefit to those sawmilling businesses that survive on their ability to adapt quickly to market forces. The machine can work efficiently as a twin blade variable width edger or be converted to Multi-Rip mode. The transformation, achieved by the insertion of up to five additional blades and spacers, is simple and quick.

             Wood-Mizer has developed a strong reputation as a manufacturer of both portable sawmills and industrial-grade stationary sawmills. It now offers the SLP in North America. Darryl Floyd, sales and marketing director, says, “We designed the SLP system as an answer for sawyers who are looking to maximize their sawing capabilities when it comes to sawing small logs. Companies all over the world are squeezing every last board out of small logs and profiting in this tough and competitive environment.”

            Wood-Mizer recently demonstrated its new SLP mill for the first time to a North American pallet audience at the recent Richmond EXPO. For more information, call the Wood-Mizer at 800.553.0182 or visit www.WoodmizerIndustrial.com.

View a video of the SLP in action at:


Key Advantages of the Wood-Mizer Small Log Processing Line

1. Simple, low-cost system

     Pricing for individual components of the system starts at $10,000;

     an entire system starts at $50,000.

2. Modular 

     • Twin vertical saws can be used as a simple scragg mill

     • Unprecedented flexibility and configurations possible

     • Components can be added at a later time or into an existing system

3. Narrow-band, thin-kerf technology

     • Higher yields and lower operating costs

4. Profitable conversion of small logs

     • Saws 15" diameter logs and smaller

5. Installation and support from a trusted company





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