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Firewood Processing Is One Component of Diverse Business at Smyth Lumber Mill – Smyth Relies Upon Hahn HFP160 Firewood Processor
Hahn HFP160 firewood processor keeps loader working a full schedule at Smyth Lumber.
By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 1/1/2013
POULSBO, Washington — Are you a logger or a mill operator who sometimes looks wistfully at a front-end loader, which seems too often sitting idle, and thinks that the loader should be doing more work? Denver Smyth, the vice president of Smyth Lumber, had exactly the same concern and did something about it.
In early 2010, Smyth Lumber purchased a Hahn HFP160 firewood processor and put its loader to good use on a much fuller schedule. The Hahn HFP160, which is made by Hahn Machinery, Inc. in Twin Harbors, Minn., transforms a loader into an all-in-one firewood processing operation: One person can pick logs from a pile, cut and split the logs, and then move the pieces to a pad, conveyor, trailer, truck or bin. (Safety also gains with less handling of any log.)
“We put our [Hahn] on the front of a S300 Bobcat,” said Denver. As he sees it, the loader was simply a cost center when it was not moving logs to the main saw (a Wood-Mizer) at the mill. Now, it’s generating another revenue stream. “It’s a good add-on for us,” he explained.
Converting the loader to firewood processor takes no time at all. “Our Bobcat has a hydraulic disconnect,” said Denver. “It takes me two or three minutes” to make the change.
Two factors weighed heavily in the decision to purchase the Hahn HFP160, said Denver. One was significant research that persuaded him and his father, Paul Smyth, president of Smyth Lumber, that the machine was everything they anticipated it would be. The other factor was a long-standing familiarity with Hahn harvesters.
“This machine is simple, fast and rugged,” said Denver of the Hahn. He expected no less, based on his years observing Hahn harvesters at work. Denver and Paul had been around loggers using Hahn harvesters. (Both men logged before they began to focus on milling.) “We felt that the company could build,” said Denver.
Indeed, Hahn introduced the first roadside processor, the Hahn Harvester, to the market in North America in the mid-1960s. Designed for durability and longevity, the harvester is frequently tapped for service in the Pacific Northwest where Smyth Lumber is located.
“We were one of the first people to [purchase the] HFP160,” said Denver. A trip to Minnesota to observe the new machine in action and to watch a machine being built was very helpful to the decision-making. “The entire processor is very simple and very rugged,” he explained.
The home of Smyth Lumber is Poulsbo, Wash., a town with approximately 9,400 residents in Kitsap County. The county is located on the west side of the Puget Sound.
The region around Puget Sound is characterized by abundant annual rainfall and moderate year around temperatures. Fifty degrees Fahrenheit is about as low as the temperature gets in winter, said Denver. Consequently, frozen logs are never an issue.
Smyth Lumber procures logs from within 60 miles of its base. “We primarily cut cedar here [in this region],” said Denver. “We do cut some fir.”
Fir, alder and maple are the species that typically feed the Hahn HFP160 firewood processor. In March 2013, the processor will mark three full years of service.
When we talked with Denver in mid-December, the processor had produced 300 cords across three years. Its toughness had already been demonstrated, said Denver. “All we’ve had to do is sharpen the chain.”
At the core of the Hahn HFP160 are a high-performance hydraulic chainsaw that depends on a high-pressure piston motor and a 25-inch 18H harvester bar with .404H harvester chain. Productivity is increased in small wood by a proportional regeneration circuit.
Small wood is generally not an issue for Smyth Lumber, however. The Hahn HFP160 firewood processor comes standard with a four-way wedge and optional six- and eight-way wedges. Smyth Lumber went with the eight-way wedge.
Logs that range from a four-inch diameter to a 16-inch diameter are fed to the Hahn firewood processor. “The log that produces [optimal results] is the 12-inch log,” said Denver. The processor accepts lengths between eight feet and 16 feet.
Before the addition of the Hahn HFP160 firewood processor to the equipment roster, firewood was being split manually. Smyth Lumber sells firewood retail. Denver also uses firewood for heat.
Denver runs the Hahn HFP160 firewood processor. It is not used at the level it could be because it is an “add-on,” he explained. “It has the capacity to do a lot more.
A processor for professionals, the Hahn HFP160 offers Denver’s company the option of increasing production in the future without changing machines. For now, though, the average 100 cords per year produced seem just the right fit in what is a versatile operation. “It’s a fill-in thing for the mill,” said Denver of the processing. When he is not running the Hahn, he runs the yard, unloading trucks.
Smyth Lumber dates to 1989. For the last 8 years, the focus has been on capturing value from all wood fiber. Varied products include dimensional lumber from Western red cedar and Douglas fir, turned or peeled logs, fencing and recycled wood products.
The recycled wood products tie Smyth Lumber to history. Some of them are made from boomstick logs (from old log tows), many of which were bored by toreros (tiny clams); the decorative pattern that results from torero activity is now coveted.
Other recycled wood products come
from cedar logs that once served as
floats. Read more about these fascinating products at the company’s website (www.smythlumbermill.com).
Sawdust and chips are products of Smyth Lumber, too. And the company brokers specialized products from vendors in which it has great confidence.
A family-owned and operated business, Smyth Lumber has six employees. Denver’s wife, Marianna Smyth, runs the office. “My head sawyer is Aron Brown,” said Denver, noting that the expertise and motivation of Aron are an example to all.
“Customer service” is at the core of the philosophy that guides Smyth Lumber, said Denver. “We always try to make that happen.”
In fact, said Denver, an acute focus on customer service is a philosophy he believes his company shares with Hahn Machinery. “Whenever we’ve had any questions about things, they’ve been Johnny-on-the-spot,” said Denver.
Gary Olsen, the owner of Hahn Machinery, is someone that Denver got to know better when he went to Minnesota to learn more about the Hahn HFP160, an opportunity he welcomed on all counts. At some juncture, he expects to see Gary on site at Smyth Lumber, a visit the pair has been trying to arrange. The feedback that Gary gets from immersion at customer sites is important to his company, as it strives to meet their needs.
Denver explained that he also appreciates the temperament of the team at Hahn Machinery. And he recalls the absolute politeness with which he was greeted when he wanted to do some re-configuring.
“We wanted to make some modifications [early on],” said Denver. “The designer explained in the nicest possible way [why that was not a good idea].” When he began to operate the Hahn HFP160, Denver concluded the designer had been completely correct.
Being able to depend on the Hahn HFP160 firewood processor is important, said Denver. “It’s been really trouble free,” he explained. “I can go grab it. I don’t have to worry.”
Hahn Machinery has aimed from its inception to build quality into all its products. The compact and tough Hahn HFP160 can be attached to any skid-steer loader with at least 20 gallons per minute of auxiliary hydraulic flow. Control is simplified by a cable that attaches easily to the loader. The cable brings the level of control to buttons mounted on the loader’s joysticks.
In 2012, Hahn expanded its firewood processor line to accommodate prospective firewood makers that wanted to begin with a smaller loader. The Hahn HFP150 Compact has a hydraulic requirement of only 15 gallons per minute, or 75 percent of what the HFP160 requires. Mid-sized loaders, which have an engine that operates in the 45 to 50 horsepower range, can generate the power necessary to meet the hydraulic requirements of the HFP150.
Denver began logging summers while he was still in high school. After high school, he began logging fulltime. “I spent about four years doing that,” he said. “I primarily ran a shovel, loaded trucks.” He joined his father’s company 15 years ago when his father was still doing logging.
“[My father] saw a lot of logs going to [waste],” said Denver. Paul believed he could do much more with them, their fiber. He decided to challenge himself to do so. Today, sustainable practices define Smyth Lumbermill.
A piece of equipment that gives a big boost to the maximum capture of value from wood fiber is the stationary Wood-Mizer LT300 on which the mill has relied since 2003. It is the second Wood-Mizer Smyth Lumbermill has owned.
“Paul has used a Wood-Mizer for several years – since the start of his business,” said Marianna. The first Wood-Mizer was a portable model, purchased in the late 1980s.
Paul would take the portable Wood-Mizer to customer sites. “[Customers] had a tree they brought down and wanted dimensional lumber or fencing [or another sawn product],” explained Marianna. Moving to the stationary Wood-Mizer became “a natural transition,” she said.
“Wood-Mizer is a really great company to work with,” said Marianna. “Their customer service is great.” Although Aron is the main sawyer today, Paul and Denver still operate the Wood-Mizer.
“In January 1991, Paul got a plaque from the one million board-feet club at Wood-Mizer,” said Marianna, a milestone achieved in just a couple of years of sawing with the portable mill. Now, of course, with its production of dimensional lumber and custom milling — as well as some lathe work (pole turning) accomplished primarily by Denver, Smyth Lumber much exceeds the board footage of the early days.
Yet custom work is still fitted into the schedule. That means the occasional apple, cherry or walnut is sawn on the Wood-Mizer LT300 as a special request. Those who planted a special tree to mark the birth of a child, for instance, do not want to say goodbye to the wood, explained Marianna. So they will have it sawn and use the lumber to make a treasure box.
In 2013, Wood-Mizer, which is based in Indianapolis, Ind., is marking its 30th year of business. The company offers 12 different sawmill models.
“Originally, I wanted to be a pilot, said Denver. Although he found a calling in the wood products industry, he has taken some small aircraft classes.
Free time is in the eye of the beholder. When Denver and Marianna take some hours away from wood products, it is usually to work in another venue. “My wife and I run a small family farm – hogs, chickens, vegetables,” said Denver.
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