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Wood Shaving Business Enjoys Growth -- S.C. Company Partners with Jackson Lumber Harvester to Produce Shavings for Horses

South Carolina Shavings – Jackson Lumber Harvester Provides Turn-Key Operation for Wood Shavings

By Peter Hildebrandt
Date Posted: 12/1/2008

AIKEN, South Carolina — It’s not everyday that you find someone who is able to combine a business in the forest products industry with their favorite sport.

            ‘Tiger’ Kneece, 38, has been able to build a company that supplies wood shavings to the equine industry. He has been a polo player for — well, nearly as long as it’s possible to hold out in that grueling sport.

            “I’ve taken more spills than I care to remember,” said Tiger. “It goes with the territory. I think I have broken every bone in my body over the years.”

            Tiger grew up in Aiken, S.C., now considered one of the polo ‘capitals’ of the U.S. His company, South Carolina Shavings, is a co-venture between Tiger and his father, Gene Kneece.

            Gene has been in the lumber industry all his life. He owns Aiken Lumber Company, which has been in the family for four generations. Aiken Lumber manufactures lumber and sells chiefly to contractors.

            Wood shavings are a by-product of Aiken Lumber’s operations. Gene sold the shavings for years to people who own horses, but in recent years he did not have enough to keep them supplied.

            As a professional polo player, Tiger has been heavily involved with the sport and the equine industry.

            Together, they decided to establish a separate business to produce wood shavings; the shaving mill is located on a 15-acre site less than a mile from Aiken Lumber.

            “It has brought together my dad’s expertise in the wood industry’s part of things and mine on the equine end,” said Tiger. “This made a good fit for both of us.”


Marketing Opportunities

            The company sells wholesale, concentrating on serving tack and feed stores throughout the Southeast as well as large horse farms. Most of the company’s volume is sold and shipped in the region around Aiken. With the high cost of fuel recently, the company’s geographic market has been limited, but Tiger also ships shavings to customers in Florida.

            Tiger’s involvement in polo, including his travel throughout the U.S. and especially the Southeast, has provided an opportunity for him to introduce people in the equine industry to South Carolina Shavings.

            As a boy, everyone in Tiger’s family was into riding horses and activities such as fox hunting and show jumping. Tiger did not like fox hunting or show jumping, so his father had him try polo. He started playing when he was 10.

            “Back in those days,” recalled Tiger, “they had a junior league for the sport. I liked the team aspect of it, hitting the ball around and the speed of the horse.” Tiger and his father played together when Tiger was growing up.

            Tiger began to travel during the summer, working under a professional polo trainer from the ages of 15-18. When he graduated from high school, he decided to pursue polo as a profession. He has traveled throughout the U.S. and the world as a polo player. For example, it has taken him to Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, and other European countries. He eventually started a horse farm to buy ponies, train them and sell them for polo.


Shaving Mill, Drying

            Tiger and Gene started their shavings business in 2004. They invested in a machine from Jackson Lumber Harvester Co. Jackson manufactures sawmill machinery and other equipment for the forest products industry.

            When they first launched the business, they produced shavings from green wood and delivered them bulk by dump truck to horse farms. Eventually, people began asking if they could deliver shavings packaged in bags.

            Tiger and Gene added bagging equipment. Shavings made from green wood cannot be packaged in plastic bags because they will mold, so for bagged product they used shavings from Aiken Lumber, which were a by-product of planing kiln-dried lumber. The business quickly grew, however, and soon they outran their supply of dry shavings.

            They went back to Jackson Lumber Harvester, which installed a new system of machinery and equipment to produce dry shavings from green wood. The new rotary drum drying system became operational earlier this year.

            Jackson did a perfect set-up of what we wanted,” said Tiger. “We’ve had a great relationship with them. We’d known them from years back and knew they offered that service, so we didn’t have to do a whole lot of searching for the dryer.”

            South Carolina Shavings is now able to offer dry shavings in bulk to the local equine industry and dry bagged shavings to customers further away.

            South Carolina Shavings has four full-time workers running the plant as well as a part-time secretary and a full-time truck driver. “Basically, the way we are running right now, it amounts to five days per week, and these consist of 10-hour shifts,” said Tiger.

            Shavings for horses are made from softwood logs. “What we’re doing is getting full-length pine trees from area loggers and tree services, which we then cut down into 48-inch sections prior to being loaded onto a 20-foot log deck.”

            The log deck feeds the Jackson shavings box. As the machine shaves material from logs, the shavings are conveyed into the rotary drum dryer. They pass through the dryer, exit the dryer and then enter a shaker screen to remove sawdust. When the shavings exit the shaker screen, they are conveyed to a storage bin.

            The sawdust is collected and sent through an auger system to a fuel bin, and it is used as fuel for the burner that creates heat for the drying system. By removing and using the sawdust  with an efficient burner, there is no need for natural gas, propane or any other fuel.


Bagging Operations

            The holding bin is used to temporarily store shavings. They are either loaded bulk into a delivery truck or put into a hopper and taken to the bagging equipment. The bagging system puts the shavings into plastic bags with a compression system and heat-seals the bags.

            Their bagging operations are the only part of the mill that does not use Jackson equipment; the bagging equipment was supplied by Premier Tech equipment, formerly known as Verville.

            Premier Tech specializes in automated bagging equipment. The system the company supplied to Tiger’s business is designed to package more than five bags per minute; each bag contains about three cubic feet of compressed wood shavings.

            “We also have a super baler creating four-by-four-foot bales as well as a mega baler with a four-by-four-by-eight-foot bag,” said John Marcotte, service technician for Premier Tech in Rivirere du Loup, Quebec. “The larger bagger has one station and the mid-sized one has two stations. Wood shaving operations typically use our VP-400.” SC Shavings uses a three station model in its operations.

            “We have our equipment in Australia, Europe, China – anywhere in the world that requires it. The machinery is very secure and has met approval standards worldwide. The company has been around 38 years, and we’ve manufactured this bagging equipment some 20 years now,” said John.


Jackson Lumber Harvester

            Jackson installed all the motors, conveyors, blowers and augers for our operations,” said Tiger. “Some of the conveyors are very short, and some are quite long. The length of the conveyors depends on what processes are involved. The little auger that takes the sawdust back to the fuel bin is very long, some 60 feet.”

            “This is a complete operation,” said Bill Becker, executive vice president of sales for Jackson Lumber Harvester. “Jackson Lumber installed this entire system, including a Webb Burner, which we manufacture as well. This is a biomass burner using sawdust for fuel.”

            The size and capacity of the burner and dryer depends on what a customer needs and the volume of their production, noted Bill. “There are different size burners and dryers. We manufacture six different models of shaving mills, and there are several different models of dryers, too.”

            “In the case of South Carolina Shavings, the dryer was a reconditioned one. We purchase the dryers used and then recondition them. This set-up in Aiken is one of many, many other similar set-ups out there. We have equipped many different plants this size or larger operating around the country.”

            Jackson shaving mills are running in many parts of the world, according to the company. “We’ve been manufacturing shaving mills since 1960,” said Bill. “We made our first one nearly 50 years ago.”

            Jackson Lumber Harvester Co. was founded by inventor Clinton D. Jackson, creator of the Jackson Lumber Harvester, a portable sawmill. The company has been known since 1944 as a manufacturer of practical, uncomplicated sawmill machinery.

            The company developed its shaving mill in response to the need for equipment to economically produce high-quality bedding material for livestock, horses and other farm operations. The Jackson shaving mills produce curly, fluffy, highly absorbent wood shavings that are ideal for poultry, horses and livestock.

            Jackson began selling its Webb Burners over 10 years ago to meet the need for a more economical way of drying wood shavings. The company manufactures a complete line of biomass burners available in sizes that can produce up to 60 million BTU per hour.

            “We take the real fine material created from the shavings and use it for fuel,” said Bill. “It makes for easy clean-up as well.”

            Overseas interest in the company’s technology has been strong in recent years. “We’ve recently had the best three years in our history,” said Bill. “This is driven by the fact that there is a worldwide shortage of bedding material.”

            “Overseas they are interested in this technology and the fact that we’ve been out there involved with this equipment for quite awhile now,” he added. “We’re well known because we’re the original manufacturer of this machinery and have built many hundreds of them over the decades.”

            Jackson Lumber Harvester has equipped mills in the United Kingdom, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Korea, South Africa, Chile, Iceland and many other countries.


Polo and Business

            Tiger plays tournament games two days per week, he practices two to three days per week, and he rides nearly every day. “I will admit, this is hard on your back and neck,” he said. “Polo players typically can stay at the sport fairly long, probably into their early 40s, but you start to get worn out and realize you’re now playing against men in their 20s.”

            The sport has provided Tiger with a lot of opportunities to travel. He recently played in Sheridan, Wyoming at a new club, the Flying H. The owner of club has a ranch of 36,000 acres.

            “He really just gives you the run of the place when you visit,” said Tiger. “That includes horseback riding, camping and fishing in addition to polo. It’s absolutely awesome.”

            Tiger and his wife, Susan, have four children. She stays busy taking care of the children and their farm, as well as traveling as a family to some of Tiger’s matches.

            When he retires as a professional polo player, Tiger probably will take a more active leadership role in South Carolina Shavings and may expand the business, he indicated.


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