Koetter dry kiln enables New York lumber firm to add more value to its varied wood products.
DANSVILLE, N.Y. — “Pretty much self-sufficient” are the words Tim Rauber used to describe the way his two businesses fit together and make a perfect whole. Tim and his wife, Pam, own Dansville Logging & Lumber and Dansville Dimension Corp. The two companies take trees from selective harvest through milling to secondary processing.
On some jobs, Dansville Dimension even goes a bit farther along the wood products spectrum. “We do actually install hardwood flooring,” said Tim.
Dansville Logging & Lumber dates to 1983 and Dansville Dimension Corp. was launched five years ago. Both companies were established on a strong legacy of logging and milling, a heritage that spans about 100 years. “We’re a third generation family-owned business,” said Tim, noting that it was his paternal grandfather who got things going early in the 20th century. His father, 82, still puts in some time at the mill on the head saw.
Tim’s father and two brothers introduced him to the wood products sector. The three brothers ensured the logging and sawmill portions of his existing family businesses had a solid foundation.
“The sawdust just gets in your blood, and that’s it,” said Tim about his decision to follow in the steps of his grandfather, father and uncles. Tim’s expertise in the forest products trade comes from his many years of experience plus the wisdom handed down over the years by his predecessors. He also has a knack for picking machines that can have a great impact on revenue.
Tim started Dansville Dimension because he was “looking for value-added to the sawmill.” The company works primarily with 4/4 rough sawn hardwood lumber and pine boards. “We make a wide variety of products with kiln dried lumber,” explained Tim. Dansville Dimension makes wall and ceiling coverings and paneling, flooring, logs for log cabins, log cabin siding, dimension parts for furniture, and other products. Besides these products, it surfaces lumber, doing sides and edges.
Late last year, Tim invested in a model KDK-12600 kiln from Koetter Dry Kiln Inc. in Borden, Ind., in order to add even more value to the company’s products.
Before adding the Koetter kiln, Dansville Dimension contracted for drying. Tim decided to invest in a dry kiln largely “for convenience.” Having its own kiln means that Dansville Dimension does not have to transport lumber to another location, so there is a significant savings in fuel and transportation costs. With its own drying operations, the company also has greater control over production and scheduling, Tim noted.
For an average-size 8/4 board, the KDK-12600 has a capacity of 12,730 board feet. Dansville Dimension dries about 25,000 board feet per month. “We are drying a quarter of what we cut,” said Tim.
Dansville Dimension has what is considered a medium-size kiln. Koetter Dry Kiln also makes large kilns with chambers that can hold as much as 120,000 board feet.
Combined annual production at both businesses is about 3 million board feet for logs and lumber. The logging and sawmill business produces custom sawn timbers, squares, dimension lumber and veneer logs. Sales include exports to countries in Europe and Asia.
Dansville Logging & Lumber performs selective cuts. Its focus is Appalachian hardwoods, including red oak, basswood, white oak, hickory, birch, black cherry, maples and walnut, although the company also does some business in softwoods. Two logging crews use Husqvarna chain saws and John Deere skidders. They work throughout the year, weather permitting.
As a Cooperating New York Timber Harvester, Dansville Logging & Lumber follows best management practices for fostering renewable growth. The company has its own forester on staff, Doug Wilson, who consults with prospective clients about professional management of their timberland.
The company harvests timber within a 75 to 100-mile radius of Dansville and hauls the logs to its mill in Dansville. It moves raw material with two Kenworth trucks. Each truck has a Prentice loader mounted on it.
The sawmill is equipped with an HMC debarker, a Corley circular head rig, an Edmiston edger, an HMC double-edge trim saw and a 58-inch Morbark chipper to convert waste wood into paper chips. The company’s lumber grader is Brian Sarvis.
The reman operation relies on an Auburn Machinery 2000 series planer-moulder, a Newman-Whitney KF24 gang ripsaw, Whirlwind chop saws and a Laguna band saw. The Newman-Whitney gang rip is a “real good machine,” said Tim, who cited its reliability, performance and ease of maintenance. He is rather universally pleased with the machinery at both businesses. “I’m satisfied with all the equipment,” he said.
Koetter got Tim’s attention because he knew another company that had installed a Koetter kiln. He saw and “liked the results” the company got.
The heat source for the Dansville Dimension kiln is a Mahoning wood-burning boiler, which is fed scrap wood from the secondary processing operations. “I did the set-up on my own,” said Tim. The wood boiler also heats the company’s 10,500-square-foot plant.
The Koetter dry kiln had been operational at Dansville Dimension for six months when Tim spoke with TimberLine. The kiln was easily installed and has been easy to operate, reported Tim, who gave it high marks.
While Tim powers his kiln with a wood-burning boiler, that is not the only possibility. Mark Willenborg, who co-owns Heartland Hardwoods in Effingham, Ill. with his brother Craig Willenborg, uses natural gas as a heat source for his Koetter dry kiln. He put a KDK-12600 into service a year ago.
Mark and Craig run an architectural mill workshop in addition to a sawmill. Heartland Hardwoods buys standing timber for its mill and secondary processing. Like Tim, Mark made his own modifications to heat the KDK-12600 with the natural gas fired 400,000 BTU boiler he uses. Like Tim, before investing in the Koetter kiln, he previously out-sourced lumber drying.
The Koetter kiln has been a real boon to the company, said Mark. “It prevents real material handling and gives a little better control of what we’re drying.” In particular, Mark cited the capability to pick certain species of trees and dry them when they are needed.
“It does things in a gentle way,” Mark added. The kiln does increase the temperature in fast increments, he explained.
Over the first 12 months of service, Mark said his Koetter dry kiln has been “very satisfactory.” He especially likes the door seals on the kiln. “We keep it loaded,” said Mark. It is “surprisingly economical to operate.”
Heartland Hardwoods dries about 10,000 board feet every 30 days, according to Mark. Yet the operating costs are remarkably low. Mark estimated that his monthly natural gas bill with the kiln at about $200. Natural gas prices may vary from region to region, he noted.
Koetter Dry Kiln offers a variety of options with its kilns. These include wood waste or natural gas boiler options, construction supervision services, and a boiler connection kit.
The ability to decide which species to dry and when for optimal production of retail wood products is as important to Tim in Dansville as it is to Mark in Effingham. For Tim, adding the Koetter Dry Kiln was another way to fine tune the quality of the wood products of Dansville Dimension. “An advantage we have over others,” said Tim, “is start-to-finish” processing. The company can control quality from the log to secondary manufacturing and finished product.
The company’s wall and ceiling coverings emphasize the natural features of the wood. Burls, figured grain, knots and color variation are integral parts of the finished products because Tim views them as part of the “inherent beauty of the products.” Samples of knotty pine, red oak, ash, cherry, tulip and wormy maple wall coverings can be seen at the company’s Web site, which is located at www.dansvilledimension.com.
Dansville Logging & Lumber and Dansville Dimension Corp. share a 50-acre site. The sawmill and secondary processing plant run five days per week. The retail sales office is open Monday through Saturday. “I am the first generation to retail,” said Tim.
The two businesses employ a combined 25 workers, including seven in the sawmill. Members of the logging crews and the sawmill workers some times cross-over between jobs. Tim oversees day-to-day operations and fills in where needed.
Dansville Dimension does some custom work, too, that has resulted in interesting negotiations and arrangements with customers. One customer, for example, wanted his own standing timber transformed to hardwood flooring; Tim struck a deal for the full spectrum of services, from harvesting the trees, milling the logs, manufacturing the flooring and installing the flooring.
The company welcomes customers at its retail office, whether they are looking for one board or adding a room or building a new home. “We have a pretty good inventory of hardwood lumber,” said Tim.
Dansville Logging & Lumber owns about 1,000 acres of timber land. But most selective cutting takes place on private land, following the prescriptions of cooperating foresters.
All maintenance at the companies, including trucks, is done in-house. Jon Mark is the full-time mechanic for both companies.
Tim belongs to a number of trade organizations, including the National Hardwood Lumber Association and the Empire State Forest Products Association. He keeps very busy managing two companies, and it is difficult for him to take a break for other activities. “I don’t have a lot of free time,” he said. When he does, though, he likes to spend it with his three daughters, Rachel, Laura and Megan.
A native of Wayland, N.Y., which is just east of Dansville, Tim enjoys the forested region where he lives. Nearby is Stony Brook State Park, which is known for a gorge and sheer cliffs and waterfalls.
Dansville is about 35 miles south of Rochester, N.Y. Interstate 390 makes the town easily accessible by highway. The community has about 6,000 residents.
With the two businesses working together and complementing each other, Tim is able to “really retain” the quality of the wood. He likes being able to “select specifically for dimension and flooring” when he dries. Moreover, he sees the focus on quality as the essential element of his businesses, and a sentiment with which his grandfather, father, and uncles would all agree.