New lumber kiln is used to take pine lumber to seven percent moisture content.
GHENT, New York – Ghent Wood Products produces specialty products that include siding, paneling, timbers, flooring, tabletops, slabs, glue up and custom millwork. When the company’s owner, Jeff Meltz, decided to purchase a new lumber-drying kiln that would handle mostly 4/4 pine, he zeroed in quickly on Kiln-Direct as his preferred vendor.
Tom Butts, operations manager at Ghent Wood Products (GWP), worked with Jeff on the selection of the kiln. And he acknowledges that he had a few questions for the team at Kiln-Direct in Burgaw, N.C., which Niels Jorgensen, president, heads.
“I spent a lot of time on the phone with Pat [Patrick Dean of Kiln-Direct],” said Tom. In fact, he said, he spent “probably hours” talking with Pat.
What Tom wanted to know is that the Kiln-Direct would be a fit in terms of efficiency and ease of use. For instance, would a propane heat source be economical? Kiln-Direct does not offer an electric kiln and a wood-waste fuel source was ruled out because it would add to work for a lean roster of 25 employees.
Propane was selected as the fuel for the heat source on the Kiln-Direct lumber kiln. It is stored in two 1,000 gallon tanks and the delivery schedule works well, explained Tom.
By the time the lumber kiln from Kiln-Direct was added to the equipment roll in April, Tom was more than committed to the product. He was convinced, as Jeff had been from the start, that the kiln “could be up and running” very quickly.
Tom was also persuaded the kiln would meet all expectations for good outcomes, lumber that was ready to be ripped and shaped into the products end users would welcome under their feet, in room-finishing flourishes, or in select furniture. He was sure the Kiln-Direct lumber kiln would meet the needs of GWP.
“I’m not a kiln operator,” said Tom. “Pat sold me on it. And it’s an American-made product.”
The details of drying time, cost of drying per board foot, and more that Tom had worked through with Pat were just the beginning of a good experience with Kiln-Direct. Setup and startup were smooth and fast.
“I knew it was going to be easy, but I didn’t know it was going to be that fast. “[The kiln] was dropped off, set in place, and ready to be plumbed in an hour and one half,” said Tom. GWP had poured the foundation for the kiln.
The lumber kiln from Kiln-Direct went into service immediately. “We were running it at full capacity right out of the gate,” said Tom.
Pine lumber dried in the Kiln-Direct kiln is taken down to seven percent moisture. The lumber enters the kiln at roughly 17 to 20 percent moisture content after being air dried on the one-acre site GWP occupies. To date, no charge of pine lumber has required more than four days in the kiln.
Although the kiln from Kiln-Direct will be used mostly for pine, it will also be used to dry hardwood species when needed. When we spoke with Tom in early June, a load of ash had just been put in the kiln. Generally, though, the Kiln-Direct is used primarily for charges that begin drier and will be shorter to run.
GWP is the newer of two sister companies owned by Jeff. The other is Meltz Lumber, which Jeff’s grandfather, Emil Meltz Sr. founded in 1946. Emil is still involved in the business and both companies are family enterprises.
When Emil started Meltz Lumber 70 years ago, he did so with a handset sawmill that was powered by a car engine, which he used to saw 2500 board feet per day. Now, Meltz Lumber produces four and a half million board feet of lumber each year. GWP, which produces two million board feet of softwood lumber each year, got its start in 2003 when the Meltz family purchased Tipple Logging & Lumber. Jeff’s two sons, Jeff Meltz, Jr. and Jason Meltz, are very involved in both companies. Both are working hard and looking forward to carrying the family enterprise into the future.
Tom joined GWP some eight years ago. He had been running moulders and planers for another company, which was severely downsized in the recession, and he knew Jeff through that company.
“I started out [at GWP] picking up sticks,” said Tom. He then moved to working with moulders and drawing knives and then later to operations manager.
Experience for Tom prior to the lumber industry includes working at a plastics company and six years selling for a tooling company in New York City. He also studied construction management at a trade school.
Wood working has long been Tom’s passion. It’s something he took up when he was still a child.
The planer mill is a place Tom appreciates to this day. He sometimes fills in at GWP when the team is short. As for his preference of machine to operate, there’s no contest. “I still like to just rip,” he said.
The rip saw in the planer mill at GWP is a Raimann. A seven-head, 18-inch Leadermac moulder, a five-head Weinig planer, and a Newman Whitney shaving mill round out that planer operation. The company also has a Newman Whitney double surfacer.
GWP added the shaving mill from Newman Whitney in December 2015. It converts slabs, blocks and trimmings into a product used in agriculture.
Like the lumber kiln from Kiln-Direct, the shaving mill fits perfectly the overarching goals of GWP. “It’s a local sawmill that emphasizes a quality product,” explained Tom. “We try to source everything locally.”
In addition, GWP strives to make full use of every wood fiber. The company sells chips, bark and sawdust. Grinding is done with a Bandit horizontal grinder. Some wood is also sold by the tri-axle load to companies that make firewood.
The main mill that serves GWP is a circle mill with a Cleereman carriage and a vertical edger. Logs are debarked with a Morbark machine.
Both GWP and Meltz Lumber have their own logging crews and log trucks. The crews use both mechanized and hand-cutting approaches, working closely with foresters.
Ghent, New York is home to GWP. The town of approximately 5,400 residents is located north of New York City on the east side of the Hudson River. It is part of Columbia County.
GWP serves customers in New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts, all within a 200-mile radius or so of its home base. Deliveries are done with both company-owned rigs and by common carrier.
Standard or generic flooring is a big part of the product line at GWP. Custom moulding is another.
In general, while GWP focuses more on retail and pine, Meltz Lumber focuses more on wholesale and hardwoods such as red oak, white oak and ash. The two companies are separated by about 10 miles. Meltz Lumber has 20 employees.
Most of the hardwood lumber that Meltz Lumber produces is exported. The mill at Meltz Lumber uses computerized circular and band saws.
Quality is always foremost in the vision of the teams at GWP and Meltz. Concern about blue stain in pine kept in the yard while awaiting kiln space became a precipitating factor in the decision to purchase a kiln that could be largely dedicated to pine. GWP and Meltz were already running a kiln from Nyle Systems. But more kiln space was needed.
Tom recalls the many questions he had for Pat at Kiln-Direct prior to the purchase of the kiln. He imagines, laughing, that Pat might have seen his number and thought of not answering. But Pat did answer his calls, he said.
Moreover communication between GWP and Kiln-Direct has been excellent. “I call up and get an answer in 15 minutes,” said Tom.
“I thoroughly enjoy using the Kiln-Direct,” said Tom. “It’s a very specialized kiln. The software is very sophisticated.” Should there be an issue that requires attention on the kiln, a text message will be sent to the kiln operator.
Heat recovery on vents and computerized controls are standard. Among the optional lumber kiln features available from Kiln-Direct are an integrated moisture-content meter and internal wood temperature sensors.
Kiln-Direct offers lumber kilns in sizes ranging from 9000 BF to 40,000 BF capacity. It also offers pallet and firewood kilns and heat-treating systems.
Tom is happy to be a team member at GWP. “I enjoy the challenge,” he said. “Every day is something different. Retail customers come through [and discuss needs, projects].”
As for philosophy, we asked Tom if there is one that guides him. “To be honest,” he said. “To listen to everyone’s side. I try to be fair [in all interactions].”
The measured way in which Tom assessed the lumber kiln from Kiln-Direct is a good example of his approach. He wanted to be sure the kiln was the one that would best serve the needs of GWP.
Ghent Wood Products and Meltz Lumber belong to the North Eastern Loggers Association and the Empire State Forest Products Association. Both companies are vital members of a thriving wood products industry.
In hours away from his job, Tom has a very definite interest. “I spend time with my kids,” he said. “That’s always fun.”