Todd F. Shupe, Chaney, John A., Crain, John Barry | 4/19/2005 10:29:17 PM
POLLOCK – Participants in an LSU AgCenter workshop earlier this month were told that lumber drying is one way to add even more value to the state’s forest production.
Forestry is the largest agricultural industry in the state and contributed more than $3.7 billion to the economy in 2003.
"The Louisiana forest industry is very good at growing, harvesting and producing primary forestry products such as lumber, pulpwood, chip and saw, saw timber and veneer timber products," said LSU AgCenter forestry agent Barry Crain. "But we need to improve in adding value to the secondary forestry products such as kiln-dried lumber, cardboard, paper, furniture and other wooden products."
Kiln drying lumber is an essential step in the process of adding value and being able to further process the wooden material into usable products for a home, said Dr. Todd Shupe, an associate professor in the LSU AgCenter’s School of Renewable Natural Resources.
The kiln-drying process reduces the moisture content in the wood to 6 percent to 8 percent, which is the average moisture content inside most homes or climate controlled buildings, Shupe explained. Therefore, kiln drying helps prevent the wood from shrinking or cracking, prevents the growth of insects and fungi, reduces shipping costs and improves the dimension stability of the value-added wood products, he added.
A total of 42 people participated in the three workshops on solar drying, advanced hardwood drying, and sawing, edging and trimming of hardwood lumber to learn to add value to the secondary forest products May 6-8 at the LSU AgCenter’s Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center.
They learned a variety of ways to add value to the state’s forest production.
"Economic benefits will occur as people begin finding new opportunities in the market and find a way to supply those markets," said Shupe.
For example, additional value can be added by kiln drying the wooden products for a specific market, said Dr. Gene Wengert, president of Wood Doctor’s RX from Madison, Wis., an international wood consulting firm that teaches more than 30 wood-related classes per year.
Drying most hardwoods increases their value by about $125 per 1,000 board feet, he said.
"It is important for a small company to know the customers, know what they want and strive to meet their demands in a timely manner," said Wengert, adding this reduces waste and makes the company more efficient.
Since large companies dominate the softwood markets in the state, it will be difficult for a small company to compete in marketing structural lumber to retail stores, experts point out. But there are more opportunities for small companies and individuals to make profits supplying specialized needs in marketing hardwood species.
When lumber is properly dried, it can be nailed, glued, milled, finished and made into numerous products to supply specialty markets.
Participants in the classes had a variety of reasons for attending. For example, Ronald Britton with Acadian Hardwood and Cypress Lumber Yard in Ponchatoula, who makes flooring and moldings and operates a dry kiln, said he came to the workshop to learn more about drying lumber and how to avoid costly mistakes. The company kiln dries more than 100,000 board feed of lumber per year.
Roger Thibeaux with Thibeaux Specialty Products in Lafayette, who makes flooring, furniture, molding and stair parts, said he plans to set up a dry kiln and wanted to learn the skills and techniques in drying lumber products.
Another participant, Philip Dahl from Monroe said he attended the workshop to improve the quality and add value to the lumber he saws. He operates a solar dry kiln and dries lumber for the woodworking trade.
Shupe said those and other participants should now have a better idea of how to succeed in adding value to the products they produce.