Small Wisconsin Mill Specializes in Sawing High Grade Lumber
Go-Fast Grade Resaw Lets G&G Lumber Boost Production, Recovery
By Alan Froome
Date Posted: 10/1/2003
FLORENCE, Wis. -- High production thin kerf band mills and resaw systems to produce grade lumber are not just for the large industrial sawmill businesses any more.
Jay Glime of G&G Lumber recently added a Go Fast grade resaw system from Up Country Manufacturing to increase his production and recovery. The Go Fast system resaws cants produced from the sawmill’s Wood-Mizer LT300 thin kerf head rig.
G & G Lumber is a small, family owned sawmill company. Jay cuts lumber for a living in a very personal, hands-on way. When you call him on the phone, it rings in his home and the sawyer’s cab – Jay is both the owner and head sawyer. Some how, Jay handles phone calls while he cuts lumber. That is hands-on sawmilling in its purest form. Whatever opinions Jay has on equipment and the lumber business in general, he has formed first hand, and they come straight from the heart.
G&G specializes in manufacturing high grade hardwood lumber. About 80% of the logs that go through the mill are close to veneer quality, according to Jay. As a result, the company’s production averages about 70% Select and Better grade lumber.
G&G mills mainly basswood, and hard maple runs second. The company also cuts some red oak -- usually on a Thursday or Friday, when a certain customer requests it. That kind of service is a good example of the flexibility that a small business like G&G can offer its customers.
The mill buys logs as big as 36 inches in diameter at the butt and in lengths from 8 to 16 feet. G&G produces 1x4, 4/4, 5/4, 9/4 and boards up to 4 inches thick. In the case of maple, most of it is sawn into 1x4, and heart of the log is sawn to a 4x4. Some low-grade material is sawn into pallet stock.
When asked where the lumber goes, Jay had a surprising answer. “Well, the nine-quarter basswood goes to China,” he said. Jay sells the 9/4 basswood to a lumber company in Wisconsin that buys rough green material, dries the lumber and finishes it. Some of the finished lumber, like the basswood from G&G, is sold to markets in the Far East. “So much of what we buy these days has a ‘Made in China’ label that it makes me feel good that the U. S. can sell them something, too,” said Jay.
Another Wisconsin customer, Tigerton Lumber Company, buys maple, oak and basswood from G&G and finishes it into lumber for furniture and flooring markets. Tigerton Lumber also buys 6/4 basswood and rips it down to make shutters and blinds.
The Glime family has been in logging for three generations and operates a separate logging business under the name G&G Forest Products, which supplies many of the logs for Jay’s sawmill. G&G Lumber is located in Florence, near Iron Mountain on the northern border with Michigan. Most of the company’s logs come from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula region.
Jay started out working for International Paper at one of their paper mills and later began doing some custom sawing in his spare time for farmers and other customers. His part-time business grew, and in 2001 he entered the sawmill business full time with a Wood-Mizer LT40 Super Hydraulic – one of Wood-Mizer’s top industrial portable sawmills. “I always bought the best unit I could,” said Jay, “and I don’t believe in skimping on the optional extras.”
When he decided in 2002 that he wanted to increase production and have the capability to mill bigger logs, Jay went back to Wood-Mizer for the new LT300. The Wood-Mizer LT300 brings industrial strength band sawing to smaller sawmills at an affordable price.
“I really like Wood-Mizer,” he said. “If I need any advice or parts, I get them direct from the factory in Indianapolis. They have even given me their cell phone numbers, so I can reach them anytime and don’t have any downtime.”
Jay has been equally impressed with Wood-Mizer’s thin kerf band blades. “I’ve tried other makes,” he said, “but I get the best results using Wood-Mizer’s own DoubleHard saw blades. We run them for four hours, then change them, and we get three or four sharpenings from each blade. That’s a lot of lumber cut by each blade.”
The sawmill has a simple layout. Jay runs the Wood-Mizer LT300 head rig, which normally squares up the log into a four-sided cant. The cants are conveyed to the new Go Fast grade resaw, which was installed in the summer.
The resaw operator has an important job, of course, examining the faces of the cant and looking for grade material. The system is equipped with a Go Fast turner so he can look at all sides of the cant.
Jay uses the same 1 ½-inch wide, 0.055-inch kerf blades on both the Wood-Mizer LT300 and the Go Fast resaw. The blade is a little bit heavier than he needs on the resaw, he noted, but it has advantages. “I feel it makes life easier for the saw filer,” he said, “and we don’t need to slow down when we are cutting hard maple.”
Jay sends the blades out for sharpening; they are sharpened by Carney Bandsaws in Carney, Mich. The supplier provides pick-up and delivery. Carney Bandsaws often has 30-40 G&G blades at a time.
The resawn lumber goes to an edger, an older Rusch machine with a 36 inch opening and two saws. It can edge up to 4 inches deep. The movable saw is positioned with the aid of laser lights. The finished lumber then goes to a green chain for grading and sorting.
The new Go Fast grade saw, installed during the summer, already has enabled the company to increase production considerably, according to Jay. In fact, the worker pulling boards from the green chain cannot keep up with the increased production made possible with the Go Fast resaw, so the resaw operator shuts down at times.
The company has a small log yard, and Jay relies on a trucking business to keep it full. Mike Albrecht Trucking keeps in daily contact with Jay to find out what the mill is cutting so he knows what logs to deliver. That kind of close working relationship is vital to G&G’s operations. “If I treat everybody well, they treat me well,” said Jay. “Some loads can be worth $15,000, so if Mike didn’t show up, it would be a real problem, but he never lets me down.”
Jay operates the sawmill five days a week with 10-hour shifts. Including Jay and his wife, Lori, who works on a part-time basis, the mill employs a total of seven people. The staff includes:
-- head sawyer (Jay) on the Wood-Mizer LT300
-- operator of the Go Fast grade resaw
-- operator of the Rusch 4x36 edger
-- grader at the green chain
-- stacker at the green chain
-- yard worker who runs All Trans forklift to move logs and lumber
Besides working at a bank and taking care of their home and three children, Lori handles the bookkeeping and paperwork for the business. “I am really grateful she does it,” said Jay. “I have my hands full, keeping the logs moving.”
The sawmill produces an average of 12,000 board feet of lumber a day; when it is cutting basswood, production may reach 15,000.
If he needs any welding, metal fabrication or other plant maintenance, Jay relies on a local company for service.
Besides delivering logs on an almost ‘just-in-time’ basis, Mike Albrecht’s trucks deliver the lumber for G&G. Most customers are within 100 miles of the sawmill although some of the 4x4 is shipped as far away as Illinois.
Up Country Manufacturing, based in Wittenberg, Wis., has sold six of its Go Fast grade resaw systems. “Practically every one has had some special design feature requested by the customer,” said Ken Bricko, president and founder. “The machine at G&G can cut up to a 16x16 cant. It runs a 1 ½-inch wide blade with 0.055-inch kerf, chosen by Jay for the hard maple. Some of our machines run thinner kerf saws, however.”
The grade resaw system supplied to G&G is powered by a 30 hp electric motor and features a hydraulic feedworks drive. The setworks uses hydraulic-drive mechanical positioning with pushbutton control to a plc with encoder to accurately set blade height.
The Go Fast grade resaw system has a self-contained hydraulic variable feed with the change of a lever. The standard model can cut cants up to 16x16. Blade height is adjustable from 3/4-inch to 8 inches with the turn of a crank of the standard manual positioner. Blade tracking is controlled with the turn of a wrench. Most parts and bearings are standard and available locally.
With some 30,000 machines sold, Wood-Mizer has become a leading manufacturer of portable band sawmills. It has an extensive customer base and experience in designing, building and supporting portable band mills. The company offers both entry-level machines for the hobbyist and professional-level mills for full-time sawmilling.
In 2001 Wood-Mizer went a step further and introduced the LT300. It is an industrial level sawmill intended as an alternative for replacing older circle saws or wide bandsaw head rigs. It is a departure for Wood-Mizer because it is not a mobile machine like its line of portable sawmills; the LT300 is for stationary operation in a commercial sawmill application. The LT300 is the largest, most powerful primary breakdown machine ever made by Wood-Mizer, which also manufactures a multi-head band resaw.
Wood-Mizer was started in 1978 by Don Laskowski in Indianapolis. The company’s first product was a three-dimensional wood carving machine called the Dupli-Carver. Three years later, Don and Dan Tekulve built their first prototype portable sawmill; they sold the first production machine in 1982 to a lumberman in New York.
It was a revolutionary idea at the time – a portable sawmill that one person could operate and safely saw logs into dimension lumber. Wood-Mizer used narrow thin kerf horizontal bandsaws instead of traditional vertical wide bandsaws or circle saws.
Wood-Mizer has steadily introduced new models with greater capabilities. It began selling the LT300 in 2001 and the following year introduced the LT70, its top-of-the-line professional level portable sawmill. The LT70 and other professional models feature hydraulic systems to eliminate much of the physical labor associated with portable sawmills.
The LT300, which can produce between 800-1,200 board feet of lumber per hour, according to Wood-Mizer, features 25-inch band wheels, computerized setworks, air strain tensioning, ceramic guides, chain turners, joy stick controls, hydraulic handling, a 30 hp motor, ‘cruise control’ operation, and more. Options include sawyer’s cab and a material handling system consisting of log deck, inclined conveyor and transfer table.
“The LT300 setworks is right on the money, real accurate,” said Jay, “and the machine is simple to maintain.” Jay bought the LT300 complete with operator cab, and he is glad he did. “When it’s 30 degrees below zero up here, I really appreciate my warm cab. It’s very comfortable to work in, and it’s also a much safer place to work. When that saw is coming towards you and hits a rock or breaks, the worst you get is a scratch on the safety glass window.”
Jay has been pleased with the equipment from Up Country Manufacturing – particularly its speed. “As fast as I can knock four sides off a log, the Go Fast resaw can make three cuts to my one, and I’m a pretty fast sawyer,” he said.
Up Country Manufacturing was founded in 1991 by Ken, who has many years experience in the lumber industry -- including running sawmills. Up Country manufactures and services band resaws, chop saws, de-dusters, trim saws, board-cant sizers, and other pallet and sawmill machinery. The company also is preparing to introduce a grade lumber de-duster later this year.
“Our equipment is designed to be simple and sturdy,” said Ken. One of the company’s slogans is that its machinery is built ‘by lumbermen, for lumbermen.’
Up Country Manufacturing’s plant is situated midway between Green Bay and Wausau, Wisconsin. The company has nine employees, and most have about 20 years of experience in the lumber industry. Up Country normally delivers, installs and starts up the machines it sells. “Ninety-five percent of the time, we deliver and set up the machine,” said Ken, “but sometimes customers prefer to pick up and install it themselves. Some even pay by credit card to get the airline bonus points.” The company can help arrange lease financing.