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A collection of stories and articles about Wood-Mizer sawmills in use around the world, new business ideas, and available market niches in the wood industry

Versatile drying chamber permits tailored lumber

Versatile drying chamber permits tailored lumber More than twelve years ago, Frank Nied, a customer of Wood-Mizer Germany discovered a passion for timber.

Initially he had worked as a toolmaker, becoming a master in his profession but eventually, he embarked on a career as a contract sawyer with a Wood-Mizer LT40. His service consists of rather more than just sawing. He fells the trees, moves the logs with machines or horses, saws and delivers finished boards to clients. This exceptional versatility amongst other attributes led him to become a provider of processed lumber for the manufacture of furniture, fences and bridges in the state-owned forests of Wiesbaden, capital of Germany's Federal State of Hesse. Nevertheless, he still also works for private clients, processing and supplying larch wood boards up to eight metres long.

At the outset of his timber career he soon realised that he had to be able to quickly satisfy the requirements of wood-processing companies, generally for end-dried lumber. However, a large drying system was not a viable option. Such a system is only economical when used at full capacity and, ideally with a single timber species per drying cycle.

Fortunately, he found a low-cost alternative in a Wood-Mizer drying chamber system which can be easily installed in modules. It allows, for instance, converting a 20-feet container into a transverse-flow drying chamber at low cost. Frank Nied simply converted his double garage into a drying chamber. Following the use of insulation panels, he installed the control unit and the ventilation / heating modules of the electrical system. An alternative is the hot water heating system also offered by Wood-Mizer. Previously Frank Nied dried larch wood in the air for half a year before he could sell the boards. Now
it takes ten days. Douglas fir with its high content of relatively dry supporting tissue usually dries within a week.

He has operated his drying chamber for three years now and he has become a reliable supplier of high-quality, end-dried timber products for furniture and window manufacturers. In furniture manufacture the products are processed at a moisture content of eight per cent. For reaching that percentage, an oak log, for example, is normally stored outside for roughly half a year after cutting and then for another six months under shelter. Then the timber still has a moisture content of about 30 per cent. In the drying chamber, 75mm thick oak boards destined for window manufacture need about four weeks to be dried to 12-14 per cent moisture. The chamber can be filled with up to 10m3 of wood per drying cycle, with the quantity not adding to the duration of the drying process.

Since different wood species do not exhibit one and the same drying behaviour, the drying chamber is normally filled with one type per cycle. However, Frank Nied found that it is possible to combine beech with acorn, larch and oak with Douglas fir and walnut with plane-tree.

Frank Nied’s drying chamber is used for about 30 weeks of the year, generally from March to October. The operating cost of a one-week drying cycle is approximately 100 euros. The potential extra yield of the dried and cut timber over fresh wood is far more than 200 per cent in the case of larch. He closely follows market trends and cuts and dries wood as close as possible to anticipated customer needs, permitting him to deliver his products 'just in time'.

In Germany, about 18 million metres of cut timber are processed every year, with only 20 per cent imported. The converter still has to dry a considerable percentage of the purchased timber. There is no statistical data available on the existing number of drying plants. But Frank Nied's example underlines a huge demand for cut and dried wood and that the flexibility of the Wood-Mizer drying system which in many cases permits those sought after tailor-made solutions!

More information about Wood-Mizer kiln chambers:
A timber processing and tailored products operation near Oxford
A description of Wood-Mizer's flexible modular kiln kit

If you are interested in more details about Wood-Mizer's products or services mentioned in this article, you may:

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