At 8 000 feet above sea level, in Colorado, Keeper Enterprises demonstrates a forest products firm doesn’t have to be a giant to set innovation and environmental standards.It makes log cabins and indoor/outdoor fittings from pines which pine beetles have either killed or which are dying.
Keeper utilises thin kerf sawmill technology to both extend the forest resource and to broaden potential markets for the American log home industry. Consequently, it contributes to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, waste avoidance, excessive harvests in healthy forests and making log homes affordable. These advantages are evident as it makes and installs residential log products including trusses, railings, roof systems, siding and stairs.
Initially, logs were custom processed through a hired Wood-Mizer LT30 band saw but increased demand and a need for flexibility justified a company mill. It graduated to an LT40 with an hydraulic log handling package. The upgrade aimed both to meet production demands and to eliminate much of the heavy lifting.
Today Keeper Enterprises produces a variety of tailored natural log siding products primarily from dead or dying Englewood Spruce, Lodge Pole Pine and Ponderosa Pine afflicted by beetles. According to Chris Banning
, son of the founder, the thin-kerf band mill is the key to his being able to create such specialised products, explaining:
"We have developed ways of making precise cuts to produce one-piece dovetail siding and full round siding which a circular saw mill couldn’t.
"One signature offering is a half log siding with full log tails that, when installed on to conventionally framed houses, creates a look indistinguishable from an entirely-log home. Another is a siding line including a tapered natural edge siding and a novel one-piece hewn log siding featuring a 6"x10"dovetail which, apparently is made by no other firm.
The Wood-Mizer saws in stationary mode and its bed is extended to 40 feet to cut very long pieces of lumber. Chris Banning’s products are installed on homes that are otherwise of conventional construction because he sees financial and environmental advantages the technology can provide over ‘whole-log’ homes, adding:
"Conventional homes have no settling issues, no air infiltration problems, are easier to wire and plumb, and they offer more choices for contractors and fewer conflicts with building inspectors. When half log or log siding products are installed on top of their conventional framework, you get the best of both worlds", he claims. The techniques, he points out, provide the charm of having a log home without sacrificing the efficiencies of
Chris Banning’s own 2 400 square feethome is a showcase for Keeper’s products and practices. A two-story engineered structural panel house, the home features dovetail log siding, a round log roof and truss system, log entry trusses and half log gutters. One of the most beautiful log homes in existence, the structure is an energy efficient modern home built at less cost and with fewer hassles than log homes typically entail.