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Pennsylvania Company on Leading Edge: Hardwood Producer Partners with SII Dry Kilns, Embraces New Technology

Hardwood producer partners with SII Dry Kilns; kiln supplier adds relationship with European manufacturer

By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 7/1/2016


                When Pennsylvania-based Bingaman Lumber decided to add lumber drying capacity, it turned to a supplier that had never provided it with a dry kiln in the past — SII Dry Kilns.

                It had good reasons, however.

                Scott Shaffer, vice president of yard operations for the hardwood lumber manufacturer, discussed Bingaman Lumber’s vast business and its investment in two kilns from SII Dry Kilns in 2014.

                Asked what attracted Bingaman Lumber to SII Dry Kilns, Scott replied, “Their reputation. Their integrity. And the quality with which they build their kilns.”

                The company’s faith in the SII Dry Kilns staff has been “absolutely” borne out in the experience of Bingaman Lumber, he added.

                Bingaman Lumber is a family business with humble beginnings that dates to the 1930s. The company purchased its own dry kiln in 1970 and its first sawmill in 1977.

                Today the company measures annual sales in millions of board feet - tens of millions. It has 220 employees at five facilities located in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, a region known worldwide for the quality of its hardwoods.

                At its headquarters in Kreamer, located centrally in Pennsylvania and about 50 miles due north of Harrisburg, it has extensive drying operations as well as manufacturing operations for chopping, ripping, surfacing, laminating, and finger jointing. Drying is also done at its plant in Clarendon in the northwest portion of the state, in the Allegheny National Forest.

                The company operates three sawmills in Mill Hall, about an hour’s drive northwest of Kreamer, in St. Marys, about an hour’s drive southeast of Clarendon, and in Nicktown, which is about 100 miles south of Clarendon and 135 miles southwest of Kreamer.

                Some of the company’s dominant hardwood species are soft maple, poplar, and hard maple. Products include everything from logs to lumber, dimension lumber, strips, glulam beams, and laminated scantlings, which may be in the form of three pieces of dimension material glued face to face to form one piece.

                Leading markets for Bingaman Lumber are manufacturers of moulding and kitchen cabinets as well as makers of furniture and furniture components. More than half of the company’s production is supplied to manufacturers of moulding and cabinetry. Other products and markets include material for windows and doors and door frames. Bingaman Lumber also manufactures hardwood glulam beams.

                “More and more architects are re-introducing wood into buildings,” noted Scott. “It creates less of a carbon footprint than other materials.”

                Bingaman Lumber’s three sawmills provide about 18 percent of the lumber the company sells, and its procurement department buys the vast majority of additional lumber from other sawmills in Pennsylvania. The company also buys from mills in New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia. “We really work diligently to partner with our sawmills,” said Scott.

                Ninety-five percent of the company’s lumber products are dried in Bingaman Lumber’s own kilns; the other 5 percent is purchased kiln-dried. Bingaman Lumber has 20 dry kilns at two of its facilities, in Kreamer and Clarendon, for a combined drying capacity of 1,275,000 board feet.

                Bingaman Lumber already had a business relationship with SII Dry Kilns and its president, Dan Mathews, before deciding to buy two dry kilns from the North Carolina-based supplier. Bingaman Lumber purchased a thermal wood treating system from a Russian business and began thermal treatment of lumber in 2010. It relied on the expertise of SII Dry Kilns to help maintain the Russian system.

                Through that business relationship, executives of Bingaman Lumber eventually decided they wanted SII Dry Kilns to supply the kilns for their next expansion. “We traveled and visited some of their kilns,” Scott recalled, and talked to SII Dry Kilns customers, who vouched for the supplier’s reputation. “It was a no-brainer,” said Scott.

                SII Dry Kilns, based in Lexington, N.C., is well known in the lumber drying and sterilizing industries. The company was launched as a kiln installation and refurbishing business in 1969 and later began offering complete lumber drying systems. The family-owned company supplies hardwood kilns, softwood kilns, pre-dryers, heat-treating systems, and firewood kilns, as well as fan sheds, drying accessories, and control systems. There are more than 1,500 of its kilns operating around the world.

                SII Dry Kilns manufactures conventional package-loaded kilns, single and double track-loaded kilns, various types of fan sheds, as well as multi-zoned pre-dryers. Its pallet heat treating and firewood kiln equipment meets all standards of the American Lumber Standard Committee.

                SII Dry Kilns provides innovative design and manufacturing as well as installation and service, and the company is committed to improving drying of lumber and wood products.

                (For complete details on the company’s kiln design and construction, heating and ventilation and humidification systems and air flow, visit the company’s website at www.siidrykilns.com.)

                Bingaman Lumber purchased its first two kilns from SII Dry Kiln in 2014. Each one has a capacity of about 65,000 board feet.The conventional kilns feature high air flow with powered electric vents and individual frequency drives for the fan motors.

                The recession hit the company hard in 2008-09, as it did others in the forest products industry following the collapse of the housing industry ‘bubble.’ “It was messy,” said Scott. To reduce costs, the company cut employment by 25 percent in his area alone.

                “We also worked at re-defining ourselves,” he said, and service became an even higher priority. We concentrated on creating lumber that our customers want to buy,” said Scott, reiterating the company’s vision statement. The company has rebounded, but has not yet reached those pre-recession levels.

                The company’s mission statement is grounded in a fundamental Biblical principle, that man is to glorify God in all his endeavors. It reads in part: “Certainly God’s word to man is very clear, that whatever man does is to be done for God’s glory (I Corinthians 10:31). We certainly need to be successful financially, but above and beyond this, we must fulfill that task, using God honoring principles as our guide. May every future endeavor of this company be to uphold this important objective.”

                The company has a mentoring program for future leaders, a program aimed at helping them become not only better employees but better spouses, parents, and leaders in their church and community.

                Thermal treatment of wood — essentially heating it to a high temperature — changes its molecular structure. The modified wood is much more durable and resistant to moisture — so much so that it can be used for exterior applications exposed to the elements. Thermally modified wood has a life expectancy of 25 years in exterior applications.

                When the Bingaman Lumber staff began researching thermal treatment of lumber, the consensus was that thermally modified wood products would be embraced in the U.S. “As we looked at it, we felt like this was something that was going to take off in the United States,” said Scott. “We knew it was becoming more popular in Europe. We thought it was a great alternative to plastic and pressure-treated lumber.”

                The unit obtained from the Russian company severely malfunctioned, and Bingaman Lumber invested in a WDE Maspell thermo vacuum that was installed in January 2015. (WDE Maspell, an Italian company, is now represented exclusively in North America by SII Dry Kilns.)

                The WDE Maspell system can dry lumber in a vacuum and also thermally treat the lumber. Bingaman Lumber uses the system to reduce the moisture content of lumber to zero, then increases the temperature to modify the wood. After that, steam is used to re-introduce a small amount of moisture content — Bingaman Lumber gets the wood moisture content to about 3 percent.

                Thermally-treated lumber is available from Bingaman Lumber in poplar, soft maple, red oak, white oak, and white ash. The thermal treatment process can create different colors of wood, depending on temperature and length of treatment time, and Bingaman Lumber currently uses the process to create four distinct colors.

                Production of thermally treated lumber is about 450,000 board feet annually, which represents only 1-2 percent of the company’s overall production. The company supplied thermally-treated ash lumber that was used to build a deck on the roof of a museum in France. It is a niche product for Bingaman Lumber now, but, “We’re hoping to grow it,” said Scott. 

                Bingaman Lumber is a member of the Hardwood Manufacturers Association, the National Hardwood Lumber Association, the Keystone Kiln Drying Association, and the New England Kiln Drying Association.

 

SII Dry Kilns Exclusive Rep for WDE Maspell in North America

Will Offer Full Line of Vacuum Kilns, Thermal-Treating Systems

 

                SII Dry Kilns has entered into a relationship with an Italian company, WDE Maspell, to sell and service its line of vacuum dry kilns and wood thermal treatment systems in North America.

                WDE Maspell has manufactured vacuum kilns since 1962 and thermo-vacuum systems (which combine vacuum kiln drying and thermal modification) since 2011. It has over 5,000 customers worldwide and has obtained 89 patents on its technology.

                “We see vacuum kilns as a complementary technology to our conventional line of lumber drying kilns,” said SII Dry Kilns president Dan Mathews. Vacuum kilns are a “very appropriate addition” for some companies, he suggested.

                Wood dries much faster in a vacuum, and the process can improve lumber quality and reduce degrade.

                Maspell manufactures two types of vacuum kilns. One employs a ventilation system to heat the lumber, the other uses a system of metal plates arranged like a sandwich between the boards to heat the lumber

                The company’s thermal vacuum system has the capability both to dry lumber in a vacuum and to thermally treat or modify wood products.

                The process of thermally modifying wood makes it much more durable and virtually impervious to moisture, making it suitable for exterior applications, such as lumber for decks. “It gives you a way to treat lumber that is more environmentally friendly,” said Dan, because it does not require chemicals such as those in the process to pressure treat lumber and other wood products for exterior applications.

                Thermal treatment technology for wood products is used widely in Europe, where it was developed, and the U.S. lumber industry has slowly begun to explore it, noted Dan. So far, “Aside from decking materials, it’s very much niche markets at this time,” he said, such as wood used in making musical instruments or outdoor furniture.

                Thermal treatment or modification of lumber is a process that actually changes the molecular structure of the wood. “The whole purpose is to be able to have a material that lacks the ‘food or sugars’ that makes it less susceptible to biological degrade,” explained Dan.

                “The beauty of this process is..it allows you to be able to utilize hardwoods that traditionally have never been able to be used for exteriors and softwoods that do not require adding potentially harmful chemicals,” added Dan.

                The initial 6-8% MC lumber is dried in the chamber to 0% MC. After the drying process it is heated to a higher temperature in the same chamber — think of terms like toasting, roasting or baking. Finally, steam is used to reintroduce a low level of moisture.

                Changing the molecular structure of the wood also changes the color; depending on the process, different colors can be created.

                SII Dry Kilns has monitored and researched equipment for thermal treatment of wood since 2008. It had a business relationship with another manufacturer of thermal modification kilns earlier, but it was not successful, and SII Dry Kilns dissolved the relationship.

                “We made a reasonable investment in time and engineering,” recalled Dan Mathews, and still wanted to be involved in technology. “We were looking for the proper company to be affiliated with.”

                In the process of supplying two conventional dry kilns to Pennsylvania-based Bingaman Lumber in 2014, the SII Dry Kilns staff learned about the lumber company’s purchase of a thermal modification kiln from WDE Maspell and began researching the Italian company. They made a trip to Pennsylvania to see the WDE Maspell thermo vacuum system. “We liked what we saw,” said Dan, and eventually contacted Maspell and entered into negotiations to represent them exclusively in North America.

                “Not only does WDE Maspell bring this new technology to our line of offerings, but their extensive experience with vacuum drying is an absolute bonus,” said Dan. “Quite honestly, we do not know of another company in the world with more experience in vacuum drying than WDE Maspell.”

                For more information on SII Dry Kilns and WDE Maspell, see the back cover advertisement or visit the SII Dry Kilns website at www.siidryikilns.com.




 






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