E.R. Hinman and Sons, Inc. sees its small lumber kiln from Kiln-direct as key tool for vertical integration. Adding value to lumber on site, the company extracts more profit from fiber.
BURLINGTON, Connecticut — A perfect match is always nice to find. And Paul Szwedo, the general manager and procurement forester at E.R. Hinman and Sons, Inc., a division of Supreme Forest Products (SFP), said he has found just that in the small lumber kiln from Kiln-direct, Burgaw, N.C.
E.R. Hinman and Sons produces dimensional lumber from native New England — Nutmeg State — hardwoods and softwoods, as well as timbers, furniture hardwoods, shiplap siding, mantels, flooring, sawdust, shavings, and mulch. Last year, expanding its scope, Supreme Forest Products bought a hardwood lumber mill that had been owned by the Hinman family for five generations and had been producing lumber since 1830.
Paul was assigned to oversee operations at the newly acquired mill. His assignment includes brainstorming about how to extract the most value from all the wood sawn.
The mill saws “trailer loads of native hardwood and softwood lumber,” said Paul. Red oak, white oak, ash, tulip, and red maple are among the most common species with perhaps red oak predominating. The “main engine” that drives the mill is “wholesale trailer loads for export,” said Paul. Companies that purchase the lumber dry it, machine it, and re-ship it. When Paul spoke with us in mid-June, he was just about to unload the fourth charge from a Kiln-direct small lumber kiln that was added to the operation in early spring. The kiln allows the mill to dry lumber on site, an important expansion.
“We thought it would be a perfect vertical integration for us,” said Paul. “It eliminates a step, and allows us to better serve our retail customers”. Kiln-direct was the choice for the small lumber kiln because the company showed a thorough understanding of the needs of the mill, said Paul. It is understanding that begins at the helm of the company with Niels Jorgensen, owner of Kiln-direct.
“We met in passing at the Maine Northeastern Logging Association [gathering] in 2009,” said Paul of Niels. “They [Kiln-direct] were willing to offer a new technology, with a shorter learning curve.”
Setting the schedule for a charge is done through consulting tables prepared by the U.S. Forest Service and is fine tuned with Niels’ expertise, said Paul. (The ease of setting schedules quickly won over kiln-shy employees who had envisioned long hours dedicated to developing schedules, something that proved unnecessary.)
Schedules are set via a program developed by Niels that runs on an office desktop. Once the schedules are entered, they are relayed to the kiln via wireless transmission. The process is simple and the schedules, developed by the US Forest Service guide, are reliable.
Paul chose propane as the heat source for the kiln, which the mill installed on a concrete slab. The kiln arrived on a lowboy and the entire installation process – after the slab was poured, was a full day.
The kiln has met all of Paul’s expectations. “It’s an awesome product,” he said. “Niels and Pat Dean, Kiln-direct’s “tech guru” are always available to trouble shoot. A Hyster forklift is used to load the kiln. With 4/4 lumber, the kiln has a capacity of eight-mbf. At 8/4, it has a capacity of ten-mbf.
“Niels knows what he’s doing,” said Paul. “The size is perfect. The design allows for side by side loading with enough room for an eight-footer and a 16-footer.
“We do not need a 250,000-board-foot capacity,” said Paul. Instead, the mill needs – and gets with Kiln-direct – a versatile kiln with just the required space and configuration.
“We bought the smallest one,” said Paul. But the kiln is very much an industrial kiln. Kiln-direct focuses on supplying kilns to small and mid-size lumber companies. The self-contained nature of the pre-sets for drying schedules is mirrored in the overall design. Kilns can be delivered as a complete or modular unit.
“It’s a nice tool to have on site,” said Paul of the Kiln-direct small lumber kiln. It’s a perfect machine to add value to uppers, quarter sawn material, flooring, moldings, and provides an outlet for custom drying. We asked Paul about the first three charges the Kiln-direct small lumber kiln have already handled. The first two loads were pine, one for shiplap siding and one for an 8/4 tongue and groove v-joint roof deck, which will be used in the construction of the mill’s new barn. Both loads entered the kiln “dead green” or at approximately 75% moisture content. They were dried to 8% moisture content in three weeks.
The third load was mixed hardwoods, 1¾” for hardwood flooring, which had seen some air drying and started with a moisture content of approximately 30%. It, too, was dried to 8%. At this juncture, Paul plans to take all loads to between 6% and 8% moisture content.
The mill began construction on a new 3,600-square-foot barn facility this winter to be utilized as offices, a showroom, and a full service woodworking shop capable of moldings, flooring, and furniture building. The new shop is being built entirely from native Connecticut hardwoods and softwoods, which are being sawed and finished by members of the E.R. Hinman team. The structure should be completed sometime this August.
Most of the current infrastructure in the mill was put in place in the 1970s, and there have been some equipment upgrades.
The first part of the process begins with a HMC closed cab de-barker. Logs are advanced on Chase Machinery log decks where they are turned with a 1999 Mellot #5 log turner and staged on to a chase 40″ four-dog auto carriage,. The logs are sawed from inside a closed cab by a chase 52″ main circle saw and 36″ top saw. Boards are edged with a 1989 CMC 48″ three-saw gang edger and sent to a 1976 Blanchard 16’ two-saw trimmer where they are trimmed and sent out to the green chain for stacking.
Custom planing is done with a 1999 Extrema two-sider 20 horsepower top, 15 horsepower bottom planer and a 1969 Newman M68 four-sider planer.
All logs/fiber that enter the mill as raw material exit as some sort of marketable product. The bark is ground for mulch by a 2008 Rotochopper B-66 horizontal grinder. Sawdust and planer shavings are sold to local farmers for animal bedding. Scrap wood and edgings are sent on conveyors to a 1973 Precision 48″ chipper and are used for mulches.
Most lumber sold is 4/4, 5/4, and 8/4; sawing is done to a wholesale buyer’s spec, which keeps the production in synch with market needs.
Seven employees work full time at the mill, which operates one shift, five days each week and opens for retail sales on Saturday mornings.
It is a pleasure being part of the E.R. Hinman and Sons team, said Paul. “Everybody works well together,” he explained. “Everybody’s role is a step of the process. We just have good people.” The head sawyer Michael Hinman has over 35 years of experience sawing and is a NHLA long course graduate. Clairemonde Violette has been the steady edger man for over 15 years. Lumber inspector Doug Abalan has over ten years of lumber grading experience and a NHLA certification. With 38 years of sawmill experience, green chain supervisor Sam Marsh is quick to offer cheerful advice and help. Office manager Victoria Hinman has been keeping the books and the boys in line for over 10 years. Together, the Hinman team produces three-mmbf annually.
Kiln-direct also gets high marks from Paul. “It’s a tool and a good tool,” he said. “It works and that’s a good thing. We haven’t had any problems. It just runs.”
The base for E.R. Hinman and Sons is in Burlington, Conn. Burlington, a town of 7,000 residents, is located in western Hartford County in the north-central part of the state.
Paul’s entry into the wood products industry was more fortuitous than planned. In 2006 he earned a Bachelor’s degree at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., where he studied with the son of the owner of SFP. He is a licensed forest practitioner in Conn., a graduate of Soren Eriksson’s Game of Logging levels I-IV (all levels), and in 2010 was elected to the board of directors for TIMPRO, a statewide trade organization for forestry professionals.
Paul, who is 26 years old, became immersed in the wood products industry thanks to his current position and some parental influence. His father was a forester and a graduate of SUNY ESF at Syracuse University. Paul’s father instilled an interest in the woods from his time spent supporting his son in his journey to achieving the rank of Eagle Scout and remains supportive with professional advice at a moments notice.
The experience of working at the mill is a gratifying one. “I like the people that I work with,” said Paul. “The people are great. You can feel that you’re getting something done every day.” The opportunity to cruise timber, observe it being sawn and then leave as a product of so much utility to its buyers is a good one, he explained.
Free time is in short supply with the demands of the recently acquired mill, said Paul. He played baseball as a shortstop in college and achieved the rank of Varsity Captain in his senior year. Now he takes advantage of the open hours that he gets. “I like to hike and camp,” he said, following on a tradition he and his father established many years ago. He is excited to move forward and see what the future of the wood products industry brings.