Lakeshore Forest Products Adds Nyle Equipment to Shorten Conditioning Time
FRANCIS CREEK, Wisconsin — Taking to heart the old adage, ‘if you can’t beat them, join them,’ Chuck Barnowsky decided to exit logging and get into sawmilling and lumber production.
Today, Chuck and his partner, Rick Falvey, own Lakeshore Forest Products Inc., a company that manufactures hardwood lumber and adds value to it with kiln drying. Chuck is president and Rick is vice president.
Lakeshore Forest Products is relatively young. “I started it in 1996,” said Chuck, “and brought Rick on five years ago in March.” Rick oversees all sawmill operations. Chuck supervises the drying operations, buys logs and timber, and sells the company’s lumber production. The company manufactures about 2.5 million board feet of lumber and dries about 90% of its production.
Chuck and Rick bring abundant forest products industry experience to Lakeshore. Chuck was a third-generation logger before he switched to the sawmill side of the industry. Rick had worked as a mill manager and accrued 17 years of experience.
Chuck’s wife, Lynn, helped him start the business and has played a key roll. A certified public accountant, she handles all the company’s bookkeeping as well as financial records, inventory and costing. “She’s the brains of the financial end of it,” said Chuck. Lynn previously was a controller for a quarry business.
The knowledge and expertise Chuck and Rick bring to their company enable them to sit down together and analyze which business path or investment will add more to the bottom line.
They recently decided to invest in two lumber drying systems from Nyle Corporation, which is based in Bangor, Maine. Both are Nyle L1200 models; each Nyle L1200 lumber dryer can hold 12,000 board feet of lumber per charge.
The drying capacity at Lakeshore Forest Products is supplemented with the use of leased dryer space; the company leases the use of another Nyle lumber dryer at another lumber business.
Chuck and Rick want to increase their lumber drying operations — and sales of kiln-dried lumber. They want to roughly double production of kiln-dried lumber.
Nyle lumber drying systems have proven a good fit for Lakeshore Forest Products. Chuck knows their next kiln investment will be a Nyle system even though he has not committed to a particular model yet. “We’re looking at a Nyle HT-35 high temperature dehumidifier with a Carrier 25 horsepower compressor,” said Chuck. It would add 40,000 board feet of drying capacity.
“The Nyle is an electric kiln,” Chuck noted. That’s important, he said, because a wood-burning boiler at a mill the size of Lakeshore is not cost effective.
Moreover, said Chuck, he likes the efficiency of the electric drying system. “Once it’s running, it draws heat off the electric motors,” recirculating it, he explained. “It’s remanufacturing its own heat.”
Since 1999, the sawmill has operated with a Sanborn thin kerf band mill that runs a 6-inch, 17-gauge blade. “All our sawing is live on the head saw,” said Chuck. The band mill, set at a 35-degree angle, is paired with a Cleereman carriage, and the head rig is equipped with Silvatech setworks. The combination provides good production and lumber recovery, according to Chuck. “Our sawyer, Myron Blair, started with us five years ago,” said Chuck. “He also grades.” Logs are debarked before milling on a Mellot rosser style debarker equipped with a Bark-King head.
Rick and Chuck have considered adding a resaw, but it would require adding more trucks and employees to supply a larger volume of timber to the mill and accommodate the increased production. By contrast, another Nyle dry kiln would enable them to increase production of dry lumber.
Lakeshore Forest Products, which has 13 employees, including nine who work in the mill, sells its green and dried lumber rough or surfaced, in random width and length. Among the species the company works with are hard and soft maple, red and white oak, basswood, cherry, ash and birch. Lakeshore Forest Products also sells some veneer logs and bolts.
The company makes good use of its residual materials. Bark is sold for landscaping. Sawdust is sold for food flavoring products. Slabs and other waste wood are processed by a Montgomery grinder into mulch that is also sold for landscaping.
Chuck’s relationship with Nyle dates to the beginning of Lakeshore Forest Products. He started the company with a pair of Wood-Mizer portable band sawmills and one Nyle kiln. The first Nyle lumber dryer was a model L500. Chuck invested in a Nyle L1200 in 1997 and added a second Nyle L1200 in 1998.
Chuck bought the first Nyle L1200 because he wanted a larger compressor to properly dry maple, which contains more moisture than oak. While getting the Nyle L1200 up and running, he had Wisconsin Public Service power company check the efficiency of the system. To his satisfaction, he found the power draw on the bigger Nyle L1200 system was actually more efficient than the older L500.
Red oak takes 28 to 30 days to dry. Maple and ash dry much faster, in seven to 10 days, depending on whether they have been air-dried. With air-drying first, maple can be kiln-dried in about six days.
“We also have air-drying sheds,” said Chuck. The company constructed the sheds with its own workers; they were designed and built to exploit the natural flow of air driven by a prevailing westerly wind.
A Yale forklift normally is used to load the Nyle lumber-drying systems. “We also shuttle with a Volvo L-70,” said Chuck. The Nyle dryers can be loaded and unloaded in just two and one-half hours, he explained; the brief changeover period allows the kiln to retain some heat, particularly in the concrete slab.
Lakeshore Forest Products is located in Francis Creek, Wis. near the eastern shore of Lake Michigan; Francis Creek, with a population of 300, is just 20 miles south of Green Bay.
The Nyle lumber-drying systems at Lakeshore Wood Products operate year-round. They stand up well to the ambient temperature, even when it is quite cold in the winter. “Maintenance is fairly low,” said Chuck.
Nyle lumber-drying systems are part of a large roster of products designed for dehumidification. For example, Nyle drying or dehumidification systems also are used in the production of leather and food products. Nyle also manufactures specialized chillers and refrigeration systems for various uses, such as potato storage, and the company also makes vacuum pumps.
The Nyle L1200 drying systems in operation at Lakeshore Forest Products fall into the medium lumber-drying system category that Nyle designates. Nyle categorizes its lumber-drying systems according to size — for various lumber volumes — to help customers quickly identify the best application.
In April Nyle was able to help Lakeshore Forest Products speed up the conditioning of lumber at the end of the drying process. Nyle installed a high-pressure conditioning unit to generate fog at the conclusion of the drying cycle, explained Chuck.
“Before that we were using a well system,” said Chuck. The well system could not come close to the pressures required to atomize water, he noted. The Nyle high-pressure fogger can do it easily.
Using fog in the conditioning process has made a real difference, speeding up conditioning of ash to only 12 hours in one of the first trials. “The big thing for us is to dry efficiently and with high quality,” said Chuck. “I’m extremely happy with the fogger.”
The technical assistance and consulting that Nyle provided during the decision making process related to the fogger is something that Chuck has gotten used to. “Over the years, one thing I can honestly say about Nyle — they are extremely helpful and knowledgeable,” he said.
Nyle helped Lakeshore Forest Products get into lumber drying. “I knew nothing about dry kilns” when he got started, Chuck recalled. “I bugged them the first couple of years almost constantly. Their technical support is fantastic.”
Chuck began working in logging in 1982 right out of high school. He attended college for one semester, but the tough recession that year caused him to stop and join his father in business.
It was not the first time Chuck had worked with his father. “I started skidding logs for my dad when I was 12,” he said. “I worked for him weekends and holidays.”
At one point Chuck’s grandfather had a small sawmill, so Chuck had some familiarity with sawmills before getting into the business. He also worked for a time at a veneer mill in Kentucky. It was in the Bluegrass State where Chuck gained experience with Wood-Mizer that led him to make the portable band sawmill his choice for starting Lakeshore Forest Products.
“In 1986, I bought the logging operation from my father,” said Chuck. By 1992, instead of cutting, he was buying and selling logs. And by 1995, he decided it was time to get started with a sawmill.
In 1999, Lakeshore Forest Products said goodbye to one of its first employees, Dan Peters. Dan was an “NHLA lumber grader, very talented,” said Chuck. One day the young man felt ill, entered the hospital, was diagnosed with cancer and died without leaving the hospital. The sadness Chuck felt carried over to the fledgling business.
Some time went by, said Chuck, and then, one day, Rick came to Chuck’s door. Rick asked Chuck where he was going with the new business. At the time, Rick was ready to become a business owner himself. The two men struck a deal and kept Lakeshore Forest Products moving forward.
The hands-on approach of the owners makes a real difference in retaining employees. “We have had basically zero turnover in the last few years,” said Chuck. “I attribute that to my partner and me working with the guys. Our employees enjoy working here. It’s a group of talented guys.”
Rick is in the mill, grading and overseeing the mill operations, and Chuck works with the employees who charge the kilns. The involvement of the owners keeps everyone informed and communicating.
Ninety percent of the lumber manufactured by Lakeshore Forest Products is 4/4, but the company will saw to other thicknesses if requested by customers. For customers that want surfaced lumber, Lake Forest Products contracts with another lumber company that operates a planing mill.
“We have customers as close as 30 miles and exports worldwide,” said Chuck. Deliveries as far as 80 miles away are made by Lakeshore Forest Products, which relies on a 1999 Mack CL613 tractor.
Lakeshore Forest Products belongs to the Lake States Lumber Association, the National Hardwood Lumber Association and the Great Lakes Kiln Drying Association.
When Chuck takes time away from the business, he likes to hunt and fish.
He hopes to take his daughter bear hunting in Canada this summer and also would like to take a hunting trip to Alaska one year soon.