MILAN, New Mexico –
A business professor who visited Mt. Taylor Manufacturing gave a succinct appraisal to its CEO, G. Matthew (Matt) Allen: ‘I’ve never seen a small company as vertically integrated.’
Mt. Taylor Mfg. (MTM) has four divisions and has manufacturing facilities in two cities. It has a sawmill that produces pallet cants and timbers and two mills that produce wood fuel pellets and wood smoker pellets for barbecuing. The company also produces wood material for playground surfaces, mulches for landscaping, and products for animal litter and bedding. MTM also operates an industrial machine shop, serving mining and drilling companies as well as the company’s own needs.
“The machine shop allows us to fix, repair, and-or custom build a variety of things for the sawmill,” explained Matt. He also buys used equipment and then can refurbish it in-house.
A key machine in the sawmill is a Select Sawmill Model 4221 double-cut band mill, which is used to saw large diameter logs. The Select Sawmill was purchased used and has been in operation for about 10 years since it was acquired. “It is still running and still does a great job,” said Matt.
The MTM sawmill and machine shop and company offices are located on 15 acres in Milan, a small town in west-central New Mexico, about 80 miles west of Albuquerque. One pellet plant is located on a three-acre site two miles east of the sawmill, and the other is located in Albuquerque.
“Each operation is housed in a variety of buildings providing weather protection from New Mexico’s harsh winds and summer heat and winter cold,” said Matt.
Milan is part of Cibola County, which has a population of 26,448. The town is located near the El Malpais National Conservation Area.
Lumber products account for about 36 percent of the company’s revenues. Sales of pellets contribute another 33 percent, and other biomass products, 23 percent. The machine shop is a source of 8 percent of revenues.
In the past the company has employed up to 96 people. However, employment currently is about 35 workers due to a combination of reasons: a lawsuit by an environmental organization against the U.S. Forest Service, a spring melt that made the mountains too muddy for logging, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 20 people work in the sawmill. Five work at the Albuquerque pellet mill and distribution yard, and two work at the pellet plant in Milan. Two work in the machine shop, the company office has a staff of three, and three truck drivers are employed.
“Most of our employees are Navajo,” said Matt. “They are hard-working, good people.” Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate on the Navajo reservation was about 54 percent, he said. The company’s employees include five members of Matt’s immediate family.
Matt’s brother, Hardy, is president of Mt. Taylor Manufacturing. Hardy “keeps the pellet mill and sawmill in Milan glued together,” said Matt. “I float between all operations, keeping track of production, problems, issues and especially making improvements.”
Matt, who is 60 years old, earned a degree in political science at the University of New Mexico and planned to study law. After later deciding he did not want to be a lawyer, he worked at other jobs before getting involved in the wood products industry.
In the past the brothers operated a plant that manufactured wood moulding. It had been in operation since 1965. However, when the housing industry collapsed in 2009-10, demand for moulding vanished, and they converted the building into a sawmill.
One constant across the 34 years that Matt has been in the wood products industry is his commitment to making the most of every bit of wood fiber, which includes making valuable products from less-than-perfect wood. Harvesting low-quality trees – small diameter, drought-stressed and overgrown — from forests reduces wildfire risk, noted Matt. That benefits the environment. “We perform forest restoration – the harvesting of small diameter, primarily ponderosa pine, trees in order to prevent catastrophic wildfires and save New Mexico’s critical watersheds,” said Matt.
Those kinds of logs do not yield much grade lumber, observed Matt. “Mostly, we do not even attempt to cut grade,” he said. Most of the company’s production is rough green lumber products that will be sawn for pallet stock.
The sawmill produces cants and timbers in 4×4, 4×6, 6×6, 6×8, and 7×9 sizes. If the right logs are available, MTM can custom cut any size and length cant up to 30 feet. Most of the company’s production of cants is sold to pallet manufacturing companies in Mexico.
The sawmill cuts an average of 24,000 board feet per day. Matt has a goal of increasing that figure to 35,000.
“Our sawmill was designed in-house and built in-house and, while not perfect, it does a good job,” said Matt. “I only purchased a single new piece of equipment for the sawmill. The rest was used, purchased at auctions or from used equipment dealers.”
The sawmill processes tree-length logs; ponderosa pine is the dominant species in the region and also, to a lesser extent, Douglas fir. The logs are unloaded and moved in the yard with Prentice, Barko, and John Deere loaders. When they are ready to be cut, they are fed to a log merchandising system to be bucked to the proper length and then go directly to a Morbark C series debarker.
The debarker allows sorting of logs by diameter. “We have two log infeeds,” explained Matt. “Smaller diameter logs are run through two Morgan scragg mills. Larger logs are run through our Select Sawmill 4221 double-cut band mill.”
The Morgan scragg mills work in tandem. The first scragg mill removes two sides from the log, and the second scragg removes the remaining two sides to produce a finished cant.
The scragg mills are the same. “We changed the infeeds,” said Matt. Each scragg mill is equipped with two 36-inch circular saws; the saws can be adjusted to cut two widths. “This actually suits us well,” said Matt. A sharp chain moves the logs through the scragg mills.
The company’s machine shop built a log turner for the first scragg mill. If the log has a crook or ‘belly,’ the turner is used to position the log so the ends are down on the chain to secure the log and move it forward.
Material moves to a chain deck and is transferred to an 11-head trim saw that dates to 1972. “This old machine can cut boards down to one-inch thick and beams up to 7-1/4-inch thick by up to 21 feet long,” said Matt. “It does a great job.”
Finished material is transferred to a green chain. Small-dimension lumber is pulled by hand and stacked. “Large dimension products are removed from the green chain with a Morbark Stac-Trac,” said Matt, to prevent back injuries.
The Select Sawmill band mill was purchased in used condition from a company in Arizona. “We dismantled the machine and trucked it to our plant and put it back into operation,” recalled Matt.
Matt appreciates the design of the Select Sawmill Model 4221. “Unlike so many band mills, the 4221 uses bandsaw blades with teeth on each side,” he noted. “Thus, it cuts on its way down the log and cuts again on its way back.”
Select Sawmill Co., located in Ontario, Canada, manufactures band sawmills and other sawmill equipment. The company offers two band mill models, depending on log diameter. Select Sawmill band mills run double-cut blades, so they cut both ways, back and forth. With a fully hydraulic package for log handling and automation for optimum speed, accuracy and precision, the sawmills can cut up to 3 feet per second.
Select Sawmill band mills feature large band wheels, heavy-duty frame, and computerized setworks with 12 pre-sets and two hold-and-recall memories.
The Model 4221, which runs a 6-inch double-cut blade, can saw logs up to 42 inches in diameter and 22 feet long. It is powered by either a John Deere 115 hp turbo-diesel engine or a 75 hp electric motor.
Select Sawmill also offers a full range of ancillary equipment, including debarkers, edgers, trim saws and chop saws, and transfer decks and conveyors. The company can design and supply complete sawmill systems.
The MTM Select Sawmill is an electric-powered model with a factory bed extension to cut logs up to 32 feet long.
“Our Select Sawmill 4221 has been very reliable overall,” said Matt.
“We all know sawmilling is very hard on equipment. The Select Sawmill has required normal maintenance and a repair now and then, but for the plus or minus 10 years we’ve used it, it has been very good.”
“Select built a very good piece of equipment,” he added, “and they have backed it up with very good service when the rare occasion of a breakdown occurs. They are always nice to work with, and the service is prompt.”
Until recently the sawmill had a resaw and edger that was used to recover boards from slabs. However, Matt noticed one day that the resaw was a bottleneck to production. “I pulled the resaw out and quit making boards completely. We immediately saw an increase in our production of 5-7,000 board feet per shift.”
Slabs and trim ends move via a vibratory trough to a Morgan 48-inch disc chipper. The chips are top-loaded into a moving floor trailer and hauled to the Albuquerque facility. At the Albuquerque facility, which also doubles as a distribution yard, the green chips are processed through a Rotochopper EC266 grinder, screened, and blended to produce material that is sold for playgrounds and similar facilities. It is stored on a concrete slab to keep it clean and free of contaminants. The Rotochopper also is used to produce colored mulch and landscape materials. A second Rotochopper grinder is used to chip feedstock for manufacturing pellets. Both Rotochopper grinders are electric powered.
The sawmill has a second chipper, a Precision Husky 58-inch disc chipper, in a small adjacent building. It is used to chip other slabs that are allowed to air-dry. Those chips are hauled to the pellet plant in Milan.
MTM operates two CSE Bliss Pioneer pellet mills. Each pellet plant is equipped with a Bliss hammermill to process wood material into a 3/8-inch product in order to make pellets.
The pellet plants are organized under a division named Out of the Woods Manufacturing, which also collects clean waste wood and recycles it into wood fuel pellets.
The Milan pellet mill, which produces 40-pound bags of heating pellets, is equipped with a Bandrite sealer and a JEM bagger with digital scale.
The Albuquerque pellet mill, which began operating in 2019, buys hardwood material from a flooring manufacturer in Colorado to produce smoker pellets, and it also buys residual materials from food and nut processing businesses that are used to create the flavors. “Our barbecue smoker pellets are very specialized,” said Matt.
The Albuquerque pellet mill produces 15-pound bags of smoker pellets for barbecuing. Flavors include pistachio, pecan, rosemary, red chile and green chile, and the company continues to develop more.
The Albuquerque pellet plant also produces two types of wood fuel pellets, one made of residual material from the sawmill, and the other made from recycled wood waste material. It also produces pellet material that is marketed and sold for horse stall bedding and litter for small animals.
The company’s engineered wood fiber for playgrounds is branded as Timber Tots. The material, sold bulk, is certified by the International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) to meet standards for playground safety.
Heating pellets and pellets to absorb animal waste are sold bagged.
For landscape contractors, the company offers three types of bulk material: colored mulch, a thicker bark mulch, and a mulch made from pecan shells.
Shredded bark is collected and moved behind the sawmill for storage. When the company has orders for it, it is top-loaded into a moving floor trailer. Surplus material is hauled to the Albuquerque plant and stored for smaller deliveries.
Sawdust is collected separately and passed through a shaker screen to remove oversize material. It is hauled to the Albuquerque plant for storage and is sold for bedding material for horse stalls.
MTM procures logs by contracting to perform forest restoration work through the National Wild Turkey Federation, which works to improve wildlife habitat. MTM subcontracts with loggers to fell trees designated for removal by the Forest Service on federal land. The company subcontracts with Forest Fitness for timber harvesting. The timber harvesting business is owned by Jeremy Hanlon. “He’s the best,” said Matt.
The company has not harvested timber from federal land since September 2019 and has been buying timber from private forest lands. A lawsuit brought by WildEarth Guardians against the Forest Service related to the Mexican spotted owl resulted in limits imposed on logging operations. In addition, muddy conditions hindered logging this past spring.
MTM has an assortment of log trailers and also Wilkens and IMCO moving floor trailers. Six semi-tractors do the hauling – four International, one Freightliner and one Peterbilt. The company also contracts for some trucking.
Most customers for pellets, chips and mulch are retailers in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona.
Trucking and logistics — coordinating deliveries of products with backhauls of raw material or hauling other freight — are an important part of the business. For example, MTM sells and delivers playground chips to Las Cruces, which is almost 300 miles south and only about 40 miles north of El Paso, Texas. On the return trip, a stop is made at a pecan processing plant to pick up pecan shells that are used to make a landscaping material.
Mt. Taylor Manufacturing aims to “do good while doing well,” said Matt. “To do our best to perform forest restoration and provide great products, services and prices.”