N.Y. Sawmill Reaps Benefits from Improvements

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Cleereman Carriage System Increases Accuracy, Production at McDonough Lumber & Logging

VERNON CENTER, New York — McDonough Lumber & Logging is located in the heart of New York State, midway between Utica and Syracuse. As its name implies, the company operates a sawmill and also logs in the same region.

The McDonough family comes from a long line of dairy farmers, but Dan McDonough decided that he was going to do something different. In his words, he “was sure not going to be a dairy farmer.”

Dan and his two brothers, Fran and Mick, operate the business as a team. Essentially they built their first sawmill in 1978, initially to cut pine. The mill has changed since then. It no longer cuts softwood. The company mainly saws mixed hardwoods, including ash, beech, cherry, elm, hickory, maple, oak and walnut. Maple is the predominant species.

Dan, company president, manages daily operations and plant engineer Joel Peters looks after maintenance and keeps the mill equipment running. Fran oversees the logging and procurement side of the business, and Mick concentrates on veneer and transport. The business, which employs another eight to 10 people, contracts out much of the logging to four crews and also most of the lumber deliveries.

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Mick spends a lot of his time visiting the landings to mark up the felled logs for species and quality. This is an important aspect of the hardwood business, noted Dan. “You need to have a lot of experience to do it right, especially for veneer,”he added.

Timber harvesting is done by hand felling with chain saws. Fully mechanized logging would not work well for McDonough’s operations. The company owns two John Deere 648 skidders — one with a grapple and the other a cable skidder — that are used to skid logs to the landings. The company owns two logging trucks, one Peterbilt and one Autocar; each is fitted with a loader.

Following some recent improvements to the mill, production is gradually increasing and is expected to reach between 3-4 million board feet by the end of 2002, operating one shift per day. The mill saws 4/4, 8/4, 10/4 and 12/4 to suit customers’ needs, with lengths normally from 6 to 16 feet.

In deciding how to break down a log, the sawyer first looks at the color of the wood and then defects. Color is the most important factor, especially when cutting maple. At least one face with white sap wood is preferred; it has higher value to the customer than brown on both sides.

Most of the mill’s production ends up in the furniture industry. Some maple lumber is used by AMF Company to manufacture bowling pins. A lot of the lumber produced by McDonough Lumber is shipped to Baillie Lumber Company, one of the biggest hardwood brokers in the U.S. Baillie, based in Hamburg, New York, has three mills of its own in the Northeast plus five concentration yards and exports American hardwood lumber all over the world.

About 90% of lumber deliveries are made by contract truckers. Deliveries usually are within a 100-mile radius, but sometimes they are as far as 300 miles from the McDonough sawmill.

McDonough Lumber & Logging recently made a number of improvements to the sawmill. The log carriage was replaced and a new linebar resaw was added downstream. The company chose a Cleereman model 38 log carriage with a 40-inch opening and three knees and a McDonough 62-inch bandmill resaw. They were supplied by a local dealer, U-CUT Enterprises, located in Jamesville, N. Y., just outside Syracuse.

Dan selected Cleereman to supply the carriage system largely because of its strong reputation in manufacturing sawmill equipment. In researching machinery options, he never found anyone who was not happy with a Cleereman carriage. He also was influenced by the recommendation of Mike Vaughn of Baillie, which operates several Cleereman carriages at its mills. He was glad he took Mike’s advice and is very happy with the result, said Dan.

The new sawmill equipment has enabled McDonough Lumber & Logging to make significant improvements in sawing accuracy, according to Dan. “The accuracy was everything they promised,” he said. Dan especially likes the simplicity of the Cleereman carriage design; the system has fewer moving parts and a low center of gravity. Selecting the right equipment was critical to the mill’s future, said Dan.

The Cleereman company was established in Newald, Wis. in 1912 as a family-owned sawmill. After World War II, the company looked for ways to reduce labor and other costs. It designed a revolutionary rider-less log carriage that required only one man (the sawyer) to operate instead of three. Other mills in the area soon heard about this innovation and asked Cleereman to build carriages for them. The company was reluctant at first, but eventually the demand was so great that in 1969 it stopped making lumber and concentrated on building log carriages and other sawmill equipment.

Today the Cleereman company is run by Francis Cleereman Jr. with his brother, John. Over 800 Cleereman log carriages are in operation. The carriages are designed and constructed for durability and long life, and all wearing parts can be easily replaced. Many Cleereman log carriages eventually are sent back to the factory for reconditioning after decades of service because the owners like them so much. In fact, McDonough Lumber & Logging bought a reconditioned Cleereman log carriage.

U-CUT Enterprises has been selling and servicing Cleereman equipment in some way or other for about 45 years, according to Bob Storrier, manager. U-CUT is a family business that began as Booher Lumber company in Lafayette and now operates as B&B Lumber, producing around 5 million board feet of lumber annually. The business combines a sawmill, saw filing service, and with U-CUT, an equipment dealership.

U-CUT was started in 1993 as a filing service for B&B Lumber. Other mills in the region soon began to take advantage of the filing service. Today the shop employs about 20 people who specialize in thin-kerf wide band saws, and it services about 30 mills on a weekly basis. U-CUT is a 100% stellite shop and represents such blade manufacturers as Lennox, Simonds and IKS. The company’s slogan is, ‘Putting the Edge on Service.’

U-CUT represents other sawmill machinery manufacturers besides Cleereman, including Cornell Manufacturing and McDonough Manufacturing for carriages, bandmills, edgers and other sawmill equipment.

McDonough Lumber & Logging began upgrading its sawmill with the purchase of a McDonough Manufacturing 62-inch bandmill resaw in 2000. Even though Dan shares the same last name as the sawmill machinery company, there is no family connection. “I called them and asked for uncle Frank’s family discount,” Dan said, laughing.

Dan prefers heavy-duty machinery, which is why he picked a 62-inch bandmill instead of something smaller, which might have been adequate.

The company added the new carriage system in the spring of 2002. Installation took eight days. The fast change-over was largely due to the fact that little or no new foundation work was needed. The original 100 hp hydraulic carriage drive supplied by Fitzsimmons was retained, and the new carriage was supplied with Cleereman’s five position air setworks. Hammer dogs were not necessary, according to Dan, nor was a more elaborate setworks system, because the head rig only cuts large cants up to 16 inches square; the McDonough linebar resaw makes most of the cuts downstream. The sawmill maintained some production during the carriage installation by keeping the resaw running.

The upgraded McDonough Lumber & Logging sawmill has a crew of 11 people and consists of:

• 52-inch diameter circular head saw with 0.281-inch kerf

• Cleereman model 38 Carriage with 40-inch opening, three knees, five position air setworks, West Coast-style adjustable track

• Fitzsimmons 100 hp hydraulic carriage drive

• McDonough 62-inch fixed bandmill resaw with 0.125-inch kerf

• setting linebar resaw with computer controlled, servo-hydraulic setworks, Mellott merry-go-round and six-way outfeed

• Corley two saw edger for cutting up to 18-inch wide boards

• Hemco drop saw trimmer with 10 saws at 2 foot pitch plus zero saw enabling odd and even lengths to be cut from 4-16 feet

• 150 ft green chain with four workers hand sorting onto carts.

The mill has no kilns, so lumber drying is done by contracting with other companies.

Dan is very pleased with the new equipment, which has resulted in a significant improvement in both accuracy and production. The company continues to experience steady increases in production each month as workers learn the full capabilities of the new machines. Dan plans to concentrate on refining smaller operational details over the next year or two before tackling any more major improvements.