William A. Day Jr. & Sons Inc., SII Dry Kilns, SII firewood drying kiln, SII kiln controls, SII kiln self-assembly, Multitek 2040 firewood processor
PORTER, Maine – Good business relationships have a way of moving in new directions — in addition to enduring. Before Al Curry joined the team at William A. Day Jr. & Sons, Inc. as its firewood operations manager in 2014, he bought logs from the company for a firewood business that he and his wife then operated.
Through his firewood business, Al got to know brothers Brent Day, Scott Day and Brian Day, who own William A. Day Jr. & Sons, Inc., the company from which he bought logs. As logs became more and more difficult to procure, Al talked with Brent and Scott about possibilities for how to secure more logs.
In collegial conversation, the possibility emerged that instead of working so hard to find logs, Al might join the Day team. And ultimately he did. (It worked out perfectly for Al’s wife, Heidi Curry, who wanted to devote herself to her growing business, a wedding venue in the 200-year-old barn at the William Allen Farm in Pownal, Maine.)
One of the first tasks for Al at William A. Day was to research firewood drying kilns and make a recommendation for purchase. It did not take him long to be impressed with SII Dry Kilns in Lexington, N.C.
“SII was the easiest [to work with], the most readily available people to talk with to get the customized kiln we needed,” said Al. “They’re tremendous to work with.”
Al explained he got nearly an “instantaneous response” each time he reached out to Brian Turlington, sales representative at SII Dry Kilns.
Day Logging chose propane as the heat source for its SII firewood drying kiln. “Basically, we are not near any natural gas,” explained Al. “Natural gas would have been the choice, but we are in the boonies.”
The SII firewood drying kiln gave a big boost to Day Logging as it expands its firewood operation. In 2015, the company will produce approximately 5,500 cords, which will be a significant jump over the 3,000 cords produced in 2014 — with the kiln in operation four months.
“We fired the kiln in September ,” said Al. “We installed it ourselves.”
Self-assembly proved to be a good choice for reasons well beyond the cost savings. “It’s the first kiln I ever built,” said Al. “Building [the] kiln, you get to see how well it was built.”
The SII kiln is “totally computerized,” explained Al. “The program is very sophisticated. I have ‘infinite’ control. I can run the program from my house.”
With remote access to kiln reports on wet bulb/dry bulb readings, venting and so on, Al can work on establishing protocols to optimize the outcome. The goal is to “dry in the shortest time with the least fuel in changing weather,” he said.
The vagaries of the weather are an important consideration in Porter, Maine where William A. Day Jr. & Sons, Inc. based. When Al spoke with us in early December, mid-morning air temperature was 15 F.
Porter, Maine is located in the western part of the Pine Tree State. It is part of Oxford County. The town of Porter has 1,500 residents.
Maple species predominate among the types of trees that contribute to firewood production. There’s also a fair amount of ash, as well as a little birch and beech.
“The only thing I stay away from is oak,” said Al. “[The kiln is] very capable of drying oak, but it takes a lot longer in winter and uses a lot of fuel.”
The SII firewood kiln at William Day has a 48-cord capacity. When doing research on kilns, Al also developed an idea that loading the kiln with one cord baskets would simplify logistics. Thus, 96 one cord-capacity metal baskets were designed in-house and then fabricated offsite in Cumberland, Maine. With 96 baskets, it’s possible to have 48 baskets in the kiln, while 48 more are loaded to be kiln-ready when a charge is removed.
The 48-cord capacity firewood drying kiln is the largest that SII Dry Kilns has provided to a firewood customer to date, said Brian Turlington, sales representative at SII. “Our entry-level size is 20 cords.” “We worked until we got it to the perfect situation” for Day Logging.
A self-assembly arrangement is common among customers that purchase firewood drying kilns, said Brian. The firewood kilns fall at the smaller end of the size range of kilns sold by SII Dry Kilns and for that reason it is often more economical for the buyer to do the installation. Brian emphasizes, though, that such installers have constant and immediate help by phone from him and his colleagues. Customer service and customization are inextricably linked at SII.
“We’re complete custom,” said Brian. “We can work to customers’ needs. We can help with any configuration…natural gas or propane. We can also work with hot water or steam – either of those could work with wood waste.”
Working with Al was a great pleasure, said Brian. “Al’s knowledge of the firewood business to begin with helped him to explain what he needed. He understood firewood drying. I explained what I could provide for him.”
The feeling about the easy flow of information was mutual. “I have burned firewood since the 1970s,” said Al. “I have a 200-year old farm with an antique cook stove. We needed wood [and started making firewood].”
The realization that “we’re pretty good at this” led Al and his wife to launch the firewood business they ran for the 10 years before he joined Day Logging. Joining the team to which he now belongs was a great decision, he said.
Day’s owners have continued to improve the business with technology being used in support of conservation of resources and preservation of the land. Sensible and sustainable solutions to the management of land tracts and the use of wood fiber are at top tier priority for William A. Day Jr. & Sons, Inc.
Day Logging sells green, seasoned and kiln-dried firewood. Firewood is processed with a Multitek 2040 firewood processor. In 2016, the company plans to add another Multitek 2040 from Multitek North America, LLC in Prentice, Wis.
Al is a big fan of Multitek processors. “It’s truly the Cadillac. I personally feel it’s the top of the line.”
Four employees, including Al, work in the firewood operation at Day Logging. “We do not package,” said Al. “We do not bundle. That may change in the future.” A proprietary system sifts the waste off during processing, giving customers a cleaner and full-integrity – no debris – cord of wood.
Most firewood leaves by tractor-trailer. Much of it is sold wholesale in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The company also sells firewood to homeowners within a 45-50 mile radius of its base. All deliveries are made by in-house team members.
Day Logging has a total of 42 employees, all of whom are fulltime. “We have cut-to-length, mechanized and conventional operations- depending on terrain and landowner [requests],” said Al. “Hand working is becoming less and less common. There are still people [in the area] skidding with horses.”
Mechanical felling at Day Logging is done with a large roster of “John Deere equipment – including bunchers, harvesters, and skidders – also some Caterpillar skidders, and a Tigercat skidder,” said Al. Day Logging is a member of the Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine and the Northeast Master Loggers Certification (NEMLC) program.
William A. Day Sr. founded Day Logging in 1947. Today’s owners are third-generation loggers.
Brian at SII Dry Kilns is also a third-generation team member. His uncle and mother now own the company, which was founded by his grandfather. He himself has been with SII for 20 years.
Al said he is very happy to have had the opportunity to become an employee at William A. Day Jr. & Sons, Inc. “What I like about working with William Day Logging is they have distinguished foresters that care about the landowners and the land,” he explained. “I feel the same way.”
Moreover, Al appreciates the business tie he has formed with SII Dry Kilns. “I really can’t say enough for the people at SII – for the design and the quality of materials,” he said. “We’ve built this with an expandable kiln chamber, so we can increase the size.”
Building business relationships that endure and grow – often in unexpected directions – invigorates the entire economy. “The investments that William Day Logging has made” benefit everyone, said Al. “We’re making a product that people want in an environmentally friendly way. Making a product people want — with no waste. It’s a good feeling.”
William A. Day Jr. & Sons, Inc. works with owners of any size acreage. The company is dedicated to helping land owners handle any sort of land management issue.
As for hours away from work, Al has some definite interests. “I could hunt and fish all the time,” he said, adding that he and his wife have a cabin to which they enjoy retreating.