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New DeNubber Brings Productivity Back to Debarking Operation at Blough Hardwoods

Blough Hardwoods replaced its old Rosserhead debarker with Morbark’s new DeNubber debarking head. It has brought a significant improvement in its debarking process and bark product quality.

By Staff
Date Posted: 4/1/2012

Roots in Steam

        Located in Clarkesville, Michigan, midway between Grand Rapids and the state capital of Lansing, Blough Hardwoods boasts a lineage that is impressive even by sawmill standards.

        “My grandfather and his brother started as partners in the sawmill business,” says Chris Blough, son of current owner Marvin Blough. “That first mill was built so long ago that most of the equipment was steam-powered. The two brothers eventually parted ways and my dad formed Blough Hardwoods in the 1970s. We’ve come a long way since then. Today we gather logs from about a 100-mile radius, we average about 10,000 board feet/day through here, and we have a third generation of Bloughs—myself included—working the mill.”

        Virtually everything that passes through Blough’s mill today is graded and sized. The company generates a full range of products including 4X4s, 2X4s, 1X6s, 2X6s, 1X4s and a substantial volume of pallet wood.


Costly Downtime

        To maintain that 10,000 ft./day rate (volumes occasionally reach 15,000 ft./day) Blough works hard to ensure that no single piece of equipment slows the process. To them, the phrase “logjam” is every bit as fitting in a mill as it is on a river.

        “That was really the case with our old debarker, a Rosserhead-type unit,” says Chris Blough. “It had gotten to the point where it seemed it was down for maintenance as much as it was working. The head saw bore the brunt of that problem since it takes logs right off the debarker. But when the head saw is slow in getting logs through, that obviously affects all the downstream work too.”

        Blough says the situation continued to get worse until they could no longer put up with it. “About that same time, the sales

rep from Morbark who had sold us our sawmill system realized what we were

going though and told us of a DeNubber that the company was getting ready to

introduce. We needed to find a replacement, the new head from Morbark offered a lot of promise, and just made sense for us to try.”


Designed for Saving

        The DeNubber to which Blough refers is the first Morbark-built debarking head ever offered by the company. Until its introduction, Morbark had provided only third-party heads with the debarking machines it sold. According to Jeff Grover, Morbark’s Sawmill Specialist, the new product offers a number of features specifically designed to increase production, while at the same time, lowering maintenance costs and concerns.

        “One of the first things we did in designing this tool was try to reduce downtime caused by basic maintenance demands. While maintenance itself is unavoidable—as any sawmill operator knows, this is a really tough application—many debarking heads make that process so complex and demanding that production suffers. We’ve designed the DeNubber head with bolt-on cutting teeth which, when worn or damaged, can be replaced individually. By simply removing two bolts, the tooth comes off the unit and, just as quickly, replaced.”

        Grover says the type of material used in the manufacture of the cutting teeth was as important as the design itself. “One of the complaints we often heard from customers like the Bloughs was that their debarker head would produce a poor quality waste product. Our cutting teeth are carbide-tipped which makes a cleaner cut, resulting in a much more marketable material. We’ve done all that and still managed to keep the replaceable teeth affordable.”

        Grover adds that they will include the DeNubber in all of Morbark’s debarking machinery sales, and make it available for use in other manufacturer’s debarking equipment as well.


Proof is in the Performance

        According to Dan Schrank, Blough Hardwoods’ debarker operator, all the marketing claims in the world really don’t mean a thing if they aren’t backed up by actual results. In this case, he says, the tool might have actually been undersold.

        “The difference between this new unit from Morbark and the old debarking head is like night and day,” he says. “Once the usual startup glitches were resolved production went up immediately. I think there are a number of reasons for that: first, it is much more aggressive than anything we’ve ever used. It is outstanding on taking down knots and high spots, as well as handling bell ends—all of which used to give us trouble. The old unit used to just try and burn high spot and knots off; that’s not the case any more. As an operator my biggest problem now is keeping all that power in check—but I’m managing that just fine.”

        Schrank says the new unit has really proven itself on hickory and basswood, two species that were an issue with the previous head. “Bass and hickory have always been a challenge for us, leaving behind a bark product that was chunky and stringy. Now, the material that comes off looks like a double-ground mulch. We sell this product to landscapers and they’ve told us they like the quality of the product much better now.”

        Chris Blough agrees that the improvement in bark mulch product has been impressive. “The situation in the past was terrible,” he says. “Material from the tough woods would come off so stringy that it would wrap itself around the bearings of the debarker, forcing us to shut down until it could be cleared. We have none of those issues and, as Dan said, our customers really like the improvement in quality.”


Liked What They Saw

        In addition to selling mulch to area landscapers, Blough Hardwoods, like most other sawmills in business today, has found markets for virtually every other waste product generated in the mill. According to Chris Blough, that includes secondary markets for mulch as well.

        “For the landscapers, we sell our mulch product by the truckload. But we also sell to individuals who can purchase it by the yard at about $12/yd. All of our chips are immediately sent for use at a pellet mill, and farmers pay $5 a yard for sawdust which is used as animal bedding. All that is secondary to our lumber operation, of course, and we are seeing some nice overall improvements since adding the new unit to the debarking process. For sawmills, it is all about how much good wood you can move through the mill and the DeNubber is allowing us to salvage logs that, in the past, would have been much lower in quality, if usable at all. Debarking is only a small part of what we do, but it’s an important part, and the new head has improved that process dramatically.


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