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S. Carolina Couple Builds Business In Wood Shavings

Business producing horse bedding uses shaving mills, other equipment from Jackson Lumber Harvester.

By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 6/1/2003


CAMPOBELLO, South Carolina — Seeking serenity, Skip and Pam Purdy moved from Spartanburg to Campobello (population 465). The relocation provided a quiet environment for their children and, ultimately, the seed for a business.

Skip and Pam own Purdy Stable Connection, a company that manufactures and distributes horse bedding. The business got started when Skip did a good deed. Their daughter was helping a woman clean her stables. The woman wanted a better quality horse bedding — free of sticks and other debris. Skip went to a nearby sawmill and got a pick-up truck full of sawdust for her. Word-of-mouth about the bedding he had supplied quickly spread among people in the area who own horses, and Purdy Stable Connection was born.

"We’ve been selling horse bedding for about five years," said Skip. Two years ago Purdy Stable Connection started to manufacture horse bedding from whole pine trees, largely because it was becoming difficult to get consistent deliveries of bagged shavings from Canada. Today, about 90% of the shavings are produced on site. The company continues to sell bulk bedding, a few tractor-trailer loads per day, mostly to local retail customers.

Skip needed equipment and space in order for the company to start producing its own wood shavings. He liked the machines he saw in a brochure from Jackson Lumber Harvester Co. Inc. in Mondovi, Wisconsin and called the company. Representatives of Jackson Lumber Harvester flew to South Carolina for a weekend of talking about Skip’s requirements and machinery options, and Skip decided to invest in some key machines supplied by Jackson Lumber Harvester.

Purdy Stable Connection is equipped with three Jackson model 30D10HL wood shaving mills. The company has space for a fourth shaving mill, which Skip hopes to add soon. The other principal equipment includes two log decks, several hoppers, conveyor, and a Webb Burner™ (which heats a Heil dryer) and also was purchased from Jackson Lumber Harvester.

The Jackson Lumber Harvester model 30D10HL wood shaving mill is the biggest of five models manufactured by the company. It is designed to produce shavings from wood ranging from 2 to 24 inches in diameter and from 7 to 8 ˝ feet long. The mill has eight knives per head. It can produce between 200 and 700 cubic feet of shavings per hour, depending on the raw material. Although the Jackson wood shaving mill is designed to work with hardwoods or softwoods, Purdy Stable Connection uses only pine for raw material.

"We buy...strictly pine," said Skip. He buys pine logs in various lengths from 8 feet to full tree length. Pine is a must for the safety of horses, Skip explained. Fruit-bearing hardwood trees — notably cherry and walnut — pose a potential threat to horses because they contain toxins.

Purdy Stable Connection’s operations are situated on a 17 ˝-acre site that the Purdys bought along with two steel buildings encompassing 29,000 square feet under roof. The larger building houses the shaving and bagging equipment; the smaller one serves as office and maintenance shop space. The company maintains all its equipment, including blade sharpening.

Before the Purdys started manufacturing and bagging shavings, Skip and Pam persuaded their son, Chris, to work in the business full-time. Chris previously worked as an aircraft mechanic and has considerable mechanical expertise.

When log trucks arrive at Purdy Stable Connection, they are weighed with a Weigh-Tronix scale. Logs are off-loaded with a Husky Brute knuckleboom loader. They are later moved onto the log deck with a Log Haul knuckleboom. A refurbished second-hand buck saw is used to cut the logs into 8-foot lengths. The 8-foot logs go to another log deck, and a worker operating foot pedals directs them to the Jackson shaving mill hoppers. The plant lay-out resembles a T; the mills are arranged in a line, and the shavings are conveyed into the dryer and then to the bagging equipment, which is perpendicular to the shaving mills.

The worker who directs the flow of logs into the mills is positioned so that he can watch the worker who is loading logs onto the deck and coordinate their efforts. With the foot pedals he can control the movement of all the logs coming in on two decks, filling the hoppers that feed the shaving mills.

The shavings travel via conveyor to the 40-foot by 10-foot dryer. The dry shavings then pass over one of the two shaker screens, one a Precision and the other a Progressive. The shaving mills pulverize bark, explained Skip. The fine bark material passes through the screens and is collected in the fuel bin and fed to the Webb Burner, which is the heat source for the dryer.

Working with Jackson Lumber Harvester Co. has been a good experience, said Skip. "They’re very helpful," he said. "They’re always available by phone."

"It works very well," he said of the Jackson shaving mill machines and the Jackson log handling equipment.

Skip did some market research and tests in developing the company’s product, Premium Pine Shavings. "We went to a couple of feed stores," he said, "gave them 100 bags and got feedback." Skip responded to the feedback from horse owners who tried the product.

The Jackson shaving mills produce curled, thin slices of wood — much like those from a planer. The dry shavings are compressed and bagged using three machines, one each from Verville, Realtuff and Premier Tech. Purdy Stable Connection packages shavings in three different bag sizes — 2.8, 3.0 and 3.25 cubic feet. Customer orders dictate bag sizes.

Under optimum conditions, using one bag size, the company can produce several thousand bags of shavings per day.

Skip recently invested in a shrink-wrap machine, the Predator from High Light. He is also converting to automated palletizing with a new palletizer from Top Tier.

Purdy Stable Connection is very much a family business. The nine employees include other family members: Tom Weber, Skip’s son-in-law, and Ken Spencer, his brother-in-law. Michael Purdy, the couple’s youngest child and a high school student, occasionally helps out when needed.

Campobello is about 15 miles northwest of Spartanburg. Purdy Stable Connection sells its product to retail businesses in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. It drops pup trailers — loaded with hand-stacked bags — on site for retailers. It also takes its products to horse shows across the Southeast. The business is strictly wholesale. The company has 53-foot and 48-foot trucks for moving palletized, shrink-wrapped shavings.

A native of Long Island, N.Y., Skip previously owned the Real Eel on Sanibel Island, Fla., a combination bait and tackle shop, sporting goods store and seafood market. What he likes the most about the business is the people. "We get to meet so many people," he said. He also enjoys "the challenge of developing and operating this family-owned company." The business has a Web site at www.purdystableconnection.com.




 






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