Baker Products Celebrates 30th Anniversary, Looks to Develop New Sawmill Approach
Seeking Better Yield: Baker Products celebrates its 30th anniversary as Ed Baker launches his most ambitious sawmill venture yet. He believes his new sawmill approach will take tried and true technology to new heights.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 5/2/2018
Back to the Future-New Scragg Mill Concept
Ed Baker is a man on a mission. He wants to prove that a recombination of existing technology is a better way to break down small diameter “scragg logs” into three-sided cants.
Ed’s inspiration for this idea came from a friend and business acquaintance, Leland Burkholder. He has been refining the idea of a miniaturized sawmill combined with a circle-saw double-end-trim for breaking down scragg blocks.
Years ago Ed remembers visiting Leland and watching him saw. Ed said, “Leland I do declare you are getting everything out of those logs but the squeal!”
As years went by he developed and refined a high production circle tri-scragg. But Ed continued to visit Leland and watch as he kept perfecting his mill. A few years ago he urged Leland to go to market with it. At the time, Leland declined, having no interest. A few months ago, Ed again encouraged him and offered to take his machine to market under the Baker Products umbrella. Leland finally agreed, and Baker will have the first one at EXPO Richmond 2018.
This machine allows one man to process four to five thousand board feet per day into cut-to-length four- and six-inch width three-sided-cants. These four-inch and six-inch cants are automatically separated.
It is difficult to put this into words, but by sawing small logs into three-sided cants with one blade rather than two, you are able to get more yield. There are several reasons for this. One, you are positioning each log exactly....so better placement to the blade. Two, you have more choices rather than just four-inches or six-inches, i.e. you can get two fours or a four and a six and so on. Three, you are not sawing through a perfectly good board as you do on a circular tri-scragg. You are sawing from one side to the other and your taller three-sided cants are increasing your sawing options.
As he observed this over the years, Ed finally concluded that although it appears like a step back, this breakdown method is a better way to deal with small diameter “scragg logs.” He is so convinced this is a better primary breakdown method, that he is currently in the process of building a new cut stock plant. In this plant, Baker plans to have several of these Burkholder designed mills to achieve the overall production volume he requires. And to upend current thinking even further, he is going to resaw the cants totally on single-head resaws only! Sounds crazy? Let’s explore the business case.
“We are all in business to make what? Boards, pallets, machines, widgets? NO, we are all in business to make money,” said Ed.
So in the cut stock business you want above all else to be the lowest cost producer. This means less energy use, lowest blade cost, lowest labor outlay, lowest raw material cost and smallest capital investment. Can all of these things truly be achieved? Absolutely, Ed believes they can with this new approach.
First, lowest energy cost because if the resaw is running, it is cutting a board. Unlike a multi-head resaw where all motors are running but all are not always cutting due to height.
Second, lowest blade cost because on a single-head you will run that blade until all the life is gone. But on a multi-head, you are very likely to indiscriminately change all blades twice a day to avoid downtime.
Third, lowest labor cost per board foot produced. In our existing pallet mill, we have a circle tri-scragg and two seven-head resaws. We track board feet per man per hour. It is already apparent from our observations that this number will only go up.
Fourth, lowest raw material cost. This is due to the more yield efficient way you can break a log down with one saw versus two. Fifth, of course, is lowest capital investment to get onto business and to increase production.
In addition to the advantages listed above, this system gives the owner extreme flexibility. Multiple orders requiring different board thicknesses and lengths can be processed simultaneously. And, as the business grows, it is a simple matter to just add another Mini Mill and another single-head resaw as future demands dictate.
A Spirit of Innovation
With over 30 years in the sawmill and pallet industry, Ed has seen a lot. His company was a pioneer in developing the band resaw. Ed said, “I was surprised at how quickly the United States and then the world accepted and eventually demanded thin-kerf technology. The first year or two we had no competition. Then in only a few years we had over twenty competitors.”
Many companies shifted from circle to bandsaw technology. Ed explained, “The people who bought the first resaws and experienced the significant wood savings and lower utility costs forced many die-hard supporters of circle saw technology to come over to the thin-kerf technology to remain competitive.”
Ed has always sought to reduce wood waste and get the most out of each log. He recalled, “Something that is less known, is the fact that we were among the first to come up with the idea to saw small diameter logs into three-sided cants.”
This approach allowed pallet mills to take small diameter logs that nobody wanted and convert them into small three-sided cants to run through horizontal band resaws. He has more recently developed a reverse-flow edger system for sawmills that was introduced at the 2016 EXPO Richmond show. Baker currently has two such sawmills running in Missouri right now using this lower labor concept.
New Product Development
Hardly new to innovation, Baker Products has been a pioneer ever since it introduced the Baker Band Resaw 30 years ago at the 1988 Richmond Show. To emphasize its strong commitment to innovation in this industry, Baker Products will be showing three new machines at Richmond this year. A new rotary-debarker, the LQ-72 band sawmill for cutting tabletop material from large-diameter logs up to 72" and the Burkholder design sawmill, or Mini-Mill.
Rotary Debarker Development
Beyond its expertise in saws, Baker Products is launching into debarking with its first ever rotary debarker model. The prototype is in development now and is based on designs that have been running in Canada. Baker is convinced that rotary style debarkers are better than drum debarkers for most applications.
Ed explained, “Rotary debarkers in many cases are preferable to drum debarkers because they require almost no maintenance and are practically indestructible. And they don’t require an operator. The return on investment is a lot better than people realize.”
Baker Enterprises has been running a rotary-style debarker for three years and has only had to resurface teeth once per year and only replace one drive chain in that same time period.
“A rotary debarker can process a huge volume of wood quickly,” said Ed. Up to three times the daily capacity of the mill. And it can debark small scragg logs as well as saw logs.
The design being developed by Baker Products has a capacity of logs 21 feet long and any diameter. It can process all species of wood equally well. Bark exits out the bottom to a vibrating conveyor and then goes up an incline conveyor into a pile or truck load out. Although the design is simple, the robust design means it can handle almost anything you throw at it.
If you want cleaner wood, all you have to do is leave the logs in the hopper a few minutes longer. The Baker Products’ new prototype is powered by three 50 hp gear-head motors.
A hallmark for Baker Products has been its willingness to innovate and develop custom solutions. Today, more of Baker’s machines are customized than not. Ed said, “One thing that has kept us willing to customize machines is that innovation has led to new markets and product lines.”
One example is that Baker Products was approached to develop a band saw capable of cutting dry ice. It features stainless steel on all the parts that interact with the ice. Ed explained, “We thought that when you start cutting the dry ice, the blade will get real cold and brittle and will break. But it didn’t. We tried it, and it did not break. We probably are the only company in the U.S. that builds a band resaw to cut dry ice into small pieces for putting into cold packs for various applications such as transportation of perishable goods.”
Baker Products also built a resaw for turning thin pieces of wood into snowboards, which required custom-ization. Ed believes his people can engineer almost any solution. They developed a tie stacker that is practically invisible it is so simple. Ed praised, “It has only four hydraulic cylinders, two bearings and one counter.”
Ed added, “I have always felt I have been blessed with talented people who live and work here. There has never been a problem finding or hiring good people.”
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Seeking Better Yield