Pine Lumber Mill in Granite State Verifies Moisture in Planed Boards with Wagner’s Omega System

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Wagner moisture measurement system assures correct moisture content to the exacting standards of King Forest Industries’ Eastern white pine lumber..

WENTWORTH, New Hampshire — Moisture-pocket-free is the only sort of finished lumber that the secondary manufacturers of windows and doors want. And it is precisely what they get from King Forest Industries, Inc., a 36-year-old company in New England that is owned by John King.
With a total kiln capacity of 1.2 million board feet, King Forest Industries (KFI) dries a great deal of lumber across its 13 kilns; two kilns are Irvington-Moore (USNR) and 11 kilns are Ronan (no longer made since the passing of their designer more than a decade ago). For many years, KFI relied on hand-held, digital moisture meters from Wagner Meters of Rogue River, Oregon, to verify moisture content of lumber in kilns and lumber exiting kilns.
Yet KFI wanted more than just the ability to spot-check with handheld moisture meters, so 15 years ago, KFI purchased its first in-line system from Wagner to measure the moisture content of all of the lumber on one planer line, marking any lumber that violated a preset moisture limit. But now with two planer lines running, KFI needed to measure all of the lumber on the second line to assure 100% of the lumber gets measured for moisture.
“We wanted 100 percent moisture detection in each line,” explained John. “It’s extremely important to our customers. The customers have become much more demanding.” And everything must be dried to exacting specifications. “We wanted a system on each line,” said John.
For KFI, the solution to monitoring the moisture content in planed boards on the second line – and perhaps sending them back to kilns for another drying session – is the current Omega In-Line Moisture Measurement System from Wagner Electronics. Purchased in January 2011, the Omega system provides more features and flexibility, including the ability to better categorize a lumber’s moisture condition.
The older Wagner system only has the capability of a single moisture limit with one marker output, and now works in conjunction with the Yates A20-12 eight-knife planer. The newer Omega model is in-line with the Yates A62 16-knife planer. The Omega has four separate programmable marker settings, and KFI is using two of the available outputs to better define a board’s moisture condition.
In 1997, when KFI bought its first moisture measurement system from Wagner, Jerry Bixby, the supervisor of the planer mill, was working as a planer operator. The success with the first Wagner system influenced the decision to buy the second, said Jerry.
“We had real good luck with Wagner,” said Jerry. Over the years, he and John have always had opportunities to interact with principals from the company as they have stopped by when in the area.
“They’ve been developing a dual-marking system [for several years],” says Jerry of Wagner. And he knew that KFI would be interested in adopting it when it was ready.
KFI takes advantage of the Omega’s mulitiple marking capability by single-marking boards that are above 12 percent moisture and dual-marking boards above 19 percent moisture. No mark on a board indicates it meets the lower-than-12-percent standard.
A dual-marked board gets sent back to a kiln because two marks indicates a board with moisture content greater than 19 percent. Boards that are turned around for re-drying are ultimately re-milled, explained Jerry.
The ability to handle 4/4, 5/4, 6/4 and 8/4 lumber all in the same planer line is a real boon to production, said Jerry. The Omega in-line moisture measurement system from Wagner makes it all possible, he explained.
Moisture content for lumber is serious business. “On your finger jointing, it has to be 10 percent – or 11 percent [at most],” said Jerry. And KFI is determined to give its customers the quality they expect.
Jerry joined KFI in 1978. At the time, he was working for his father, a logger. But he had run a planer and KFI was looking for a planer operator. His father recommended him to KFI, and he has been with the company ever since.
John grew up in a logging family, too. His father was a logger. And when John graduated from high school, he already planned to become part of the wood products industry. He headed to Haywood Technical Institute in Clyde, N.C. where he studied “all things related to sawmill operations,” he said. Among them were sawmill operations, saw filing, grading.
KFI does very little logging, said John. The primary source of raw material is gatewood, which the company purchases. It transforms the logs into several different products at two locations. There is a primarily white pine sawmill in Wentworth, N.H., but hemlock and mixed hardwoods are also sawn. A chip plant and firewood operation in Rumney, N.H. ensures that as much fiber as possible sees service as valuable products.
The firewood operation, which produces green, seasoned, and debarked firewood, depends on several processors from Multitek. Debarked firewood has become popular in the region because it dries quickly and does not leave residue on hands and such.
Cogeneration is used to heat the kilns. Seventy percent of the material that fuels the boiler comes from remnants from the saw and planer mills at KFI.
A 36-inch Valon Kone ring debarker and a HMC rosserhead debarker start the saw line. A seven-foot Sanborn double-cut bandmill receives large logs. The bandmill is fitted with a Cleereman lineal positioning carriage and a Lewis 3-D scanner. Smaller logs go directly to a Cleereman linear carriage with a Lewis 3-D scanner.
The sawmill has three secondary breakdown lines: a 12-inch Comac gang, a sash gang and a five-head Stenner band resaw. All boards are scanned and edged with a PHL optimizing edger. Following grading (and removal of timbers, which take a bypass), lumber goes to a PHL trimmer optimizer. A PHL 60-bin sorting system and a Moco automatic stacker are used to package graded, trimmed lumber.
The simplicity of the Wagner Omega In-Line Moisture Measurement System is a perfect complement to the highly integrated components of the entire KFI operation. The modern design of the Omega series moisture measurement systems began with a thorough understanding of the behavior of moisture in lumber.
Joinery – with finger or box joints, dovetail joints – to lengthen and strengthen or angle, is at the heart of creation in wood-based structures. One piece of lumber with too much moisture can send an entire project into disarray. Dependable moisture readings back at the planer mill where the lumber was first manufactured ensures that lumber with moisture pockets never gets a chance to move forward to secondary manufacturing facilities.
Boards move quickly through the KFI planer mill, which underwent an expansion in 2006. The Yates A62 has hydraulic feedworks for the planer and the feed table. Its feed rates are very high. And it provides a very high quality finish.
The Yates A20 planer produces most of the pattern stock. It also handles the log home timbers that KFI makes.
The large kiln capacity at KFI enables the company to dry almost any product. Even a product with a long drying time can be accommodated by a kiln. Each of the Irvington-Moore (USNR) kilns has a 50,000-board-foot capacity.
The Omega system had been in use for six months when we talked to Jerry in June. “I’ve been very happy with it so far,” he said. Like other equipment from Wagner on which KFI relies to monitor moisture throughout its kiln drying process, the Omega system for in-line moisture measurement is easy to use. It can be combined, for instance with Wagner Meter’s KATview software to enable ongoing moisture management, including the production of trend reports and color graphing; that is the sort of information valuable in fine-tuning processes.
Wagner Meters offers an array of products to improve sawmill, kiln and planer mill operation, including a green lumber sorting system. And Wagner Meters provides moisture meters to sectors ranging from wood flooring and woodworking to concrete.
The Wentworth, N.H. headquarters for KFI is part of Grafton County. The town has approximately 900 residents. It is located in the west-central part of the Granite State.
In 1975, John returned to his native New Hampshire and he and his father combined their operations as KFI. He belongs to the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association (NELMA), the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) and the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association (NHTOA).
“We’d like people to be aware of all the products [we offer],” he said. He emphasized that his company is always looking for new alliances across the industry. Making the most of wood fiber is one of the goals at KFI, and the diverse offerings of the company demonstrate how successfully the goal is being met.
In his time away from the helm of King Forest Industries, John enjoys tuna fishing, flying, golfing, as well as snow shoeing and other winter sports.