Texas Hardwood Mill Growing into Moulding

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Thurman’s Hardwood relies on Select Band Sawmill with thin-kerf, double-cut blade

JACKSONVILLE, Texas — Although Thurman’s Hardwood is a relatively new company, owner Doyle Thurman has been in the wood products industry most of his life.
“His daddy was a log hauler,” explained Doyle’s daughter, Lisa. “Then, daddy was a log hauler.”
Eventually, Doyle moved into sawmilling. He owned several mills and even built a sawmill himself. The transition from log hauling to milling kept progressing.
About four years ago, Doyle added a sideline to his sawmill business, Thurman’s Hardwood.
Lisa has been working in her father’s business since she was 17 years old. She will soon be 23. “I do lumber sales and millwork,” she explained.
The scope of Thurman’s Hardwood is lumber, millwork and value-added wood products. “We manufacture cabinets and furniture, grade lumber, moulding, and log siding,” said Lisa.
Eighteen months ago, Doyle upgraded his sawmill to a band sawmill model 4221 from Select Sawmill Co. in Plantagenet, Ontario. As soon as the Select 4221 caught Doyle’s eye, he was interested in it, said Lisa. He immediately called Select Sawmill Co. and ordered a demonstration video.
Watching the demonstration on video, Doyle was impressed. He wanted a sawmill that would prove to be durable and could cut quality lumber in high production volumes. The Select Sawmill has achieved all those goals. In addition, it has enabled the company to reduce labor costs.
The previous sawmill was a circular-type mill while the Select Sawmill runs a band blade. “The thin kerf — that’s a huge, big difference,” said Lisa. The Select model 4221 band sawmill runs a 3/32-inch kerf blade. The thin-kerf blade has enabled the company to increase yield by about 20%, Lisa estimated, compared to the ¼-inch kerf of a circular saw blade. In addition, the band-sawn lumber is of higher quality, she indicated.
Thurman’s Hardwood buys logs from independent logging contractors. The company buys 90% hardwood logs and 10% pine, mostly from loggers working in east Texas and a small volume from trees cut in Louisiana. The logs are weighed and inspected before the company offers a firm price. Thurman’s Hardwood uses Thurman Log Scales for weighing. Lisa said she, her brothers and Dad always find it amusing that they share a surname with the log-scale maker, but they are no relation to the owners of that company.
The company’s principal sawyer is Ed Thurman, one of Lisa’s brothers. He and others who work with the Select 4221 band sawmill give it high marks. “They really like it compared to others we’ve had,” Lisa said, because it has increased production, although she was unable to estimate how much. The mill, which has an automatic electric blade lubrication system, can cut as fast as 2 feet per second. The mill runs double-edged blades, which allows it to cut as it traverses the log in both directions, coming and going. (Band mills typically run single-edged blades, and after making a cut, the head is moved back the length of the log to begin another cut, which takes more time.) Another reason for the mill’s high-volume production is its powerful John Deere 115 hp turbo diesel engine.
The Select Sawmill comes with computerized setworks, which also has benefited the company, said Lisa. The computerized setworks are faster than a manual system because they can be set with the push of a button, and they help produce accurately sawn lumber. The computerized setworks feature eight pre-set board thicknesses and two hold and recall memories for cutting hardwood.
Maintenance on the Select model 4221 sawmill is relatively fast and easy, according to Lisa. Replacing the blade normally takes about five to 10 minutes. Normal preventive maintenance consists of mainly oiling and greasing.
The Select model 4221 has a cutting depth of 14 inches. It can saw a log as large as 42 inches in diameter and up to 27 feet long — logs that are significantly bigger and longer than the capacity of the old mill.
The Select 4221 is equipped with hydraulics for the log turner, blade tensioner, head lift and carriage feed. The hydraulic systems, powered by the rugged John Deere engine, perform their functions well, Lisa indicated.
The sawmill can be fitted with the John Deere 115 hp turbo diesel engine or wired for electric power and comes with computerized setworks.
Thurman’s Hardwood purchased the larger of the band sawmill models that Select Sawmill Co. manufactures. The model 4221 runs a 6-inch double-cut blade; the smaller 3620 model runs a 4-inch double-cut blade. Select Sawmill sells throughout Canada, the U.S., Europe and Africa.
Thurman’s Hardwood is based in Jacksonville, Texas, a small city of about 13,000 residents located about 125 miles southeast of Dallas. Most sales are to companies in the east Texas region. The company supplies railties to a company in St. Augustine that treats them. Pallet lumber, mostly white oak, is sold to pallet manufacturers. Grade lumber is sold to markets in Arkansas. The company also makes other lumber products, such as lumber for corral, fencing, and trailer flooring.
Thurman’s Hardwood is also equip­ped with a Northfield International 36-inch double-head planer, a Weinig six-head moulder, and a shaper for forming tongue and groove material.
“Recently, the main thing we’ve gotten into is moulding and flooring,” said Lisa, which has been more profitable for the company.
The planer mill works entirely on customer orders from builders and cabinet makers. The company also manufactures flooring and wall panels on request. Thurman’s Hardwood sells a good volume of flooring that is installed in truck trailers and trailers used for hauling equipment.
The addition of the planer mill a few years ago has been good for business, said Lisa, just as her father envisioned it would be. Doyle heard of another company in Nacogdoches that manufactured moulding. He investigated the market for moulding and the cost of entering the business, deciding it would be a good way to expand his company. Thurman’s Hardwood started out with a 24-inch planer and then expanded as business increased. The company also added a Nyle dry kiln.
Thurman’s Hardwood does not use log de-barking equipment. Slabs coming off the Select model 4221 sawmill are bundled and sold to pallet companies that resaw them to recover pallet stock. Other sawmill waste goes into a Precision chipper to produce boiler fuel.
The Select Sawmill has helped Thurman’s Hardwoods to improve profitability, said Lisa, by increasing yield and production and reducing labor costs.
Thurman’s Hardwood is a family business. Among its eight employees are two more family members in addition to Doyle, Lisa and Ed. Ben, the eldest of Doyle’s children, unloads incoming logs with a forklift and bucks them into smaller lengths with a Stihl chain saw. Then, Ben loads them on the skidway of the Select model 4221 band sawmill. Penola, Doyle’s wife, works in the office.
Starting with tree-length logs gives Thurman’s Hardwood more control over the manufacturing process and its products, said Lisa. It allows for “less waste, higher quality,” she explained.
Lisa said what she enjoys most about working in her father’s business is “being around family.” Doyle manufactured the lumber to build two houses, one for his family and another for a son, as well as two cabins he later sold.
Lisa also appreciates getting to know the company’s customers. “When I deliver lumber to my customers,” she said, “it allows for time to talk to them and get acquainted further.”
Outside of her work at Thurman’s Hardwood, Lisa has several farm and domesticated animals for which she cares.