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Swedish parquet manufacturer beats downturn, improves quality with band sawmill
A Swedish parquet floor producing firm has effectively bucked the trend in Swedish small timber processing and the owner reveals that a stationary band sawmill is a key to its success.
Bo Werkstrom started a building company, Byggmostaren AB, at Solvesborg in Southern Sweden, in the 1960s, producing all kinds of domestic houses, offices and commercial buildings. The company grew steadily but stalled as the general economic downturn in Sweden began to bite.
Determined not to stagnate Bo began earnestly looking for additional business opportunities and coincidentally in 1997 won a contract to refurbish the boardroom of an early 20th century bank in Solvesborg, including the replacement of 60 m2 of parquet flooring.
Struck by how expensive it was to sub-contract the special flooring and also how fine the finished effect seemed, he was intrigued.
Surely, here was an opportunity to move into another sector and achieve a healthy sales margin whilst working in a particularly fulfilling medium. He had always enjoyed an interest in natural materials, regarding wood as one of the best.
He researched the types of wood needed and found that oak, beech and other species were readily available in the nearby Ryssberget woods. They have grown there from 100 to 150 years and have a unique character, with beautifully varied structures and a hardness ideal for parquet. He felt that the traditional, much sought-after parquet could be more easily produced using modern techniques which might even improve upon the original.
However, he sensed the factor of quality would be crucial in the business equation if he were to make a go of it. Quality would need to be borne in mind when selecting individual trees for the job as well as when sawing the logs into planks, drying them, finishing them and cutting them into parquet pieces – and even packaging them.
Initial sawing presented particular concern. Circular saws would do the job but create a lot of sawdust and minimise yield, require significant power and call for certain skills. He also had to consider the very quality of the first boards cut so he looking at various band sawmills and inevitably those made by Wood-Mizer, the pioneer of the technique.
Kjell Larsson, whose company, Mekwood AB markets these mills towed one (they come as either portable or static kit) from Gostrike-Hammarby down to Solvesborg in 1996 and sawed half a dozen logs into boards in a couple of hours watched by Bo Werkstrom who comments: "The boards were of surprising quality for such a small sawmill so I bought one on the spot for 200,000 kronors and my new product, which we call Master Parquet was launched."
The Wood-Mizer he acquired is an electrically-powered LT40HD and since he bought it he ha s sawn for one full week out of every six, each year. Bo Werkstrom explains: "I understand that this is using only a tiny part of the capacity of these particular band sawmills, which sometimes cut up to 20m3 per eight-hour day with two men when used with a board edger. However, my requirement is ‘quality’ as much as quantity and the machine fits perfectly into my production system. The quality boards, sawn for that amount of time, is all we need.
"Also, using the thin kerf technology incorporated into these mills means that more boards come out of each log with less sawdust and that therefore less horsepower, less diesel fuel, less effort and fewer logs are needed to produce the same amount of lumber.
"I'm pleasantly surprised at the fine cut we achieve, as are our customers ultimately, even though we run it fast for the seven-to-ten days in question."
Sometimes one of his employees operates the Wood-Mizer, sometimes Bo Workstrom himself runs it. He comments: "The price included a days training and if you’ll allow me to say so I have become almost a professional sawyer!
"Being electric the mill is easy to operate and convenient. We leave it idling between sawing and we hardly hear it - and it apparently uses less power than a comparable circular saw.
"The hydraulics enable us to handle fairly big logs - sometimes weighing 2.5mt, up to 85cm in diameter and three metres in length - lightly and easily, even though the machine is designed for six metres-long logs."
Boards are taken from the Wood-Mizer to a Cotter kiln, also sourced from Mekwood. Subsequen tly the dried boards are planed and cut into pieces with a small circular saw, then planed again on the edges before being packed into special cartons.
Numerous individual patterns bring out the beauty of the wood to its best effect, giving each floor an individual appearance. Virtually all the parquet is sold to flooring specialists in Sweden, Italy and Great Britain - while a very small amount is retained and used for parquet flooring when it is specified in Bygmostaren’s house builds.
In the four years since Master Parquet was launched, revenues have grown to a level which equal those from Byggmostaren’s traditional building activities and the total of the two sales incomes are greater than annual building income at its best before Sweden’s economic downturn.
Furthermore, Bo Werkstrom explains that it is still a relatively new product and that he predicts the best is to come. Certainly sales in the UK and Italy are going well and Bo Werkstrom adds: "We have been lucky not just with the original idea but also with the people who work with us and with our equipment – notably the Wood-Mizer band sawmill.
"It enables us to take out with high precision just what we want from the trees.
"The band sawmill has become a good partner and the pivot of our small timber processing operation, which thankfully has enabled us to beat the trend in Swedish wood operations lately". Modestly, he adds:
"I recommend other timber processors affected by the chill wind of recession look for similar diversification."
Bo Werkstrom, Solvesborg
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