|The online newspaper for the forest products industry including loggers, sawmills, remanufacturers and secondary wood processors.|
Westbury Lumber: Business at Its Best
New York Hardwood Business Thrives with Wood-Mizer
By IRI Staff
Date Posted: 1/1/2006
RED CREEK, New York — Jason Smith grew up working in the woods as a logger with his father. While his love for the woods was strong, he was more drawn to the finished product and pursued a career in lumber.
In 1993 he graduated from the National Hardwood Lumber Association school for lumber grading and began work at a large hardwood mill, where his interest in sawing peaked and inspired him to start his own business.
“With $250 in my pocket, I set out and rented my first Wood-Mizer,” said Jason. “I was so impressed with the quality of lumber I could produce; I decided to buy my own Wood-Mizer sawmill.”
Jason’s first mill was a gas-operated Wood-Mizer LT40, which he set up in a vacant field on his uncle’s property. To keep sawing through the winter, he purchased a building without sides and cut lap siding for it, and his operation was under roof.
Over the course of eight years, Jason’s business experienced steady growth. He upgraded his operation with five different Wood-Mizer sawmills, added a couple of edgers, and employed three to four people. Greg Fatcheric, the main sawyer, has been with Jason from the beginning and “does an excellent job,” he said.
“We started running 10-hour shifts straight, staggering our breaks and lunches so the mill would start up in the morning and run straight through,” said Jason.
“Wood-Mizer has been with me every step of the way,” he said. “Their advances in equipment and blade technology have allowed our company to grow at a steady and cost effective pace.”
With his sights on a larger operation, Jason visited Wood-Mizer’s research and development facility in Kentucky in 2002 and began moving to a new site and setting up a new, larger and more efficient mill.
In 2003, Jason constructed a new plant and purchased an LT300 industrial sawmill from AWMV Industrial Products, a division of Wood-Mizer, along with the company’s three-way tables and an E430 edger.
What began as a small sawing business operating in a vacant field has grown into a large hardwood mill. “I am proud to be the first production facility of its kind in the Northeast with an LT300 at the core of the operation,” said Jason.
There were two reasons Jason decided to go with the AWMV LT300 system. One was his experience with Wood-Mizer. “We had such a good relationship with Wood-Mizer’s Northeast Branch Manager, Dave Scott, and his crew. I knew they would keep us sawing. They have been great to work with.” The other reason was cost. Jason figured the LT300 set-up was half the price compared to a big band mill. “I was confident that production would not suffer with this equipment choice,” he said.
About the Operation
Jason’s business, Westbury Lumber Company supports five families and manufactures quality lumber. Westbury Lumber employs five people and saws 42 hours per week, producing 33,000 to 35,000 board feet of grade lumber. All lumber is graded and tallied at the trimmer.
“There are a lot of critics of the smaller band mill,” said Jason, “but we can silence them pretty fast if they give us a few minutes and watch. That little band is hungry! You just have to feed it fast.”
At Westbury Lumber, 90% of the logs are delivered to the yard. Production starts with an industrial debarker, and then the logs head to the LT300 for flat sawing to produce grade lumber before the heart of the log is ‘boxed’ into one of many cant sizes. Material is then sorted with the Wood-Mizer 3-way tables. Waste is converted into pulp grade chips, and boards that need edging are transferred on a Wood-Mizer transfer table to an edger. All boards are double end-trimmed and sent to a green chain for pulling.
“The LT300 is the heart of our production operation,” said Jason. “It allows us to saw 35,000 feet of No. 3 Common and Better hardwood lumber per week in a cost effective and efficient manner.”
Westbury Lumber cuts mainly cherry, basswood, poplar and hard maple. At the end of the year, more maple is sawn than all other species combined.
Jason was once told that he would not be able to saw hard maple on a thin-kerf band mill, but he has proven the opposite. “We saw a ton of maple and never have a problem,” he said. “We saw lumber every day. It doesn’t matter what the weather does or what the market does. We just keep working.”
His customer base consists of hardwood wholesalers, flooring plants, steel mills and manufacturing companies. “If you make good lumber, the rest just falls in place,” said Jason.
Turns out that it is a good place for Jason, too. He received the Grand Champion award for Wood-Mizer’s 2004 Business Best contest. The contest was held to recognize sawyers who operate a successful business with their sawmill. Nearly 50 entries were received in the three categories, which included High Production Mills, Professional Model Mills and Manual Model Mills.
Dave Mann, vice president of the Wood-Mizer Portable Sawmill Division, presented Jason with his recognition plaque. “We were truly overwhelmed with the impact our mills have in the livelihood of owners,” said Dave. “Jason is a true testament of success, and it was a privilege to recognize him.”
Words of Wisdom
For Jason, staying focused on costs has been critical to his success. “You have to stay inside your parameters and keep your costs and buying balanced,” he noted. “It takes a concentrated effort to really know what it is costing you per foot to saw lumber, but if you don’t get a handle on it, you could have a tough time. You have to be pretty aggressive out there because it is a tough industry.”
Jason adheres to the philosophy of treating his vendors and customers well. “You have to get along with all types of people, personalities and viewpoints to keep your operation running smoothly,” he said.
For Jason, owning his own business for nearly 11 years has proved to be very challenging and rewarding at the same time. He enjoys meeting and working with many different people. Additionally, he likes to see the process from a tree being cut and then running it through the mill to make beautiful lumber.
“I am grateful to be able to support my family and be more involved in their lives because I can create my own schedule,” said Jason.
Even with his flexibility, Jason is constantly thinking of ways to improve his business and is working toward capturing more yield through slab recovery. He also is considering adding dry kilns and a second LT300 to increase production.“I am constantly learning, and I do not have a chance to get bored or tired of the same old job,” he said. “It is not a job for me, but a way of life, and one I would not trade for anything else in the world.”
Do you want reprints or a copyright license for this article? Click here
Research and connect with suppliers mentioned in this article using our FREE ZIP Online service.