National Hardwood — November 2015
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Maine Woods Offers Customers Products
Terry Miller

"From Forest To Floor"

Portage Lake, ME–Maine Woods Company (MWC), located here, is the largest single manufacturer of Hard Maple lumber in the Northeast, known for producing some of the whitest wood in the region.

Maine Woods is an affiliate of Seven Islands Land Company, a multi-generational, family-owned forest management company based in Bangor, ME. Seven Islands was formed by the Pingree family in 1964 for the purpose of long-term sustainable stewardship of the Pingree Forest. The Pingrees have been in the forest management business for 175 years and own 860,000 acres of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified forests in northern Maine. Maine Woods Company is also FSC certified.

“We are a unique sawmill in that we want to get the maximum benefit from the forest and the logs. The family has been in operation for 175 years and we want to continue their legacy of sustainability,” said manager Jeff Poirier.

Maine Woods has recently undergone numerous upgrades, including an edger optimization using 3-D top and bottom scanning software from USNR; a new Autolog grading system; installation of a resaw cant turning station; a new loading dock; an additional dry storage facility; a tarping station; construction of a dry line facility; a newly implemented quality assurance program at every work station; and a newly redesigned website.

The sawmill consists of three primary breakdown centers allowing Maine Woods to get the most out of each log.

Poirier explained, “The minimill can cut logs greater than four feet long, allowing us to get increased yield out of the forest. The mini-mill was optimized in 2015 with a USNR 3-D top and bottom, 360 degree scanning system. We are happy with the upgrade.”

He continued, “The larger logs go to a McDonough head saw with a Corley carriage and 3-D scanning Lewis controls. It can saw logs greater than 14 inches in diameter and can cut 750 logs a day. The smaller, rougher logs less than 12 inches will go to the maxi mill, which is one of our higher production mills. It will cut 25,000 board feet per shift or about 1,000 logs per shift.”

Once the logs are broken down, the material from the headrig will go to the McDonough vertical resaw to be broken down further. The low-grade part of the logs containing the most heartwood from both the headrig and the maxi mill will be sent to a gang saw where typically a 4x4 cant is made.

The lumber then goes through a grading station consisting of three NHLA trained graders, and then drops into a 62-bin sorter. The Autolog grading system was upgraded in September in an effort to make the system more efficient. A resaw cant turning station was also put in place to ensure optimum grade recovery from the resaw. “We wanted to make sure that we have the best face of the log facing the resaw,” said Poirier.

All lumber is stacked on BreezeDried sticks and the ends of the lumber are waxed in order to eliminate end splits, which is provided by U•C Coatings located in Buffalo, NY. Using American Wood Dryers track kilns, the drying capacity at Maine Woods is 680,000 feet, which includes 500,000 feet of capacity at MWC and 180,000 feet of capacity at their sister company, MooseWood Millworks. The lumber is dried by a 600-horsepower wood boiler. The lumber is under cover from start to finish throughout the production process.

“We are unique in that we have very white wood up here.

We are very serious about rotating our logs and getting the lumber on sticks and into the kilns as soon as possible,” said Poirier.

Other recent upgrades to the facility include a loading dock, which allows shipping containers to be loaded right on site. An additional dry storage facility was also constructed, with over 2 million board feet of dry storage capacity. More recently, a tarping station was built, ensuring that there is always an area available that remains dry for lumber to be loaded onto trucks. The person strapping the lumber onto the truck is belted into a safety harness when tarping to ensure that person does not fall off the truck while strapping the load down.

The largest and most recent capital improvement at Maine Woods is a $1.8 million dollar investment in a new dry line facility that became operational in mid-September. This new line enables the company to better grade and package roughly 40,000 board feet per shift.

Poirier said, “This should really take us up to the next level of quality, providing exactly what the customer wants and expects from us. The new line will give us more consistency in our grading. Before the dry line became operational, we were doing two days of grading in the sawmill. It will be beneficial for us to be able to slow the grading line down and let the grader take a closer look at each board before it is packaged. Secondly, it will give us an opportunity to sort widths better. If we have a customer who wants a specific width or grade sort, we will be able to meet their request. Furthermore, this system will allow us to improve our packaging.”

Poirier added, “We have also recently implemented a quality assurance program. Every work station has a quality assurance checklist in which the operator can provide feedback. This allows us to continually improve and ensures that every phase of the operation has quality in mind. We have a strong safety culture here at Maine Woods and we’re really looking for a high quality culture. I think the slogan ‘Running right, running safe’ applies. Running right means a lot of things and includes both quality and safety. Those values are of equal importance to us.”

Maine Woods produces 65 percent Hard Maple; 4 percent Birdseye Maple; 23 percent Yellow Birch; 10 percent Soft Maple; and about 2 percent White Ash. Thicknesses produced include 4/4, 5/4, 6/4 and 8/4.

Most of the log inventory, which is approximately 3 million board feet before winter sets in, is built up in the spring because the roads are shut down to trucking around the beginning of April as the ground begins to thaw.

Maine Woods Company markets their lumber to distribution yards and manufacturers of flooring, cabinets, mouldings, and furniture. MWC also supplies lumber to Moose- Wood Millworks to produce high-quality flooring.

Poirier said, “We have our own flooring company, but we also sell to other flooring plants. A lot of our No. 1 Common grade lumber goes to cabinet manufacturers throughout the East Coast. The upper grades usually go to distribution yards and to exporters. It was a decision made by the family to not be direct exporters, so we partner with high quality, reputable North American exporters.”

“In the summer, MWC produces almost all 4/4, except for Yellow Birch and Soft Maple, for which MWC produces some 8/4 lumber. In the fall, we saw 5/4, 6/4 and some 8/4, depending on what the market is requesting at the time. Ash is almost always 4/4. The lower end lumber goes to MooseWood, which consumes the majority of No. 2 and No. 3A grade products in Birch, Ash, and Hard Maple,” Poirier stated.

MWC also produces blanks and planks. Poirier said, “Planks are the larger dimensional pieces 4 to 8 feet long, ripped to width, S2S, or rough, which are perfect for a cabinet manufacturer. We pull a small percentage of widths out of a run so as to not affect a run. If we were a company that cut 12 species instead of four, it might take us 45 to 60 days to develop a load of 4 or 5 inch for someone. We can do it in a week or two because of the volume of Hard Maple we saw. Right now our planks and blanks are 7 ½ inches to 8 feet long, three to 8 ½ inches wide.”

Having the land tied to the mill allows Maine Woods to be confident that they will continuously be able to receive a steady supply of logs each year. Seven Islands, which is Maine Woods Company’s largest supplier of logs, has a 50- year strategic plan and a five-year operating plan in place, allowing the company to determine a sustainable harvest level each year.

“The five-year management plan allows the company to review past performance and evaluate forest management objectives going forward,” explained Cassie Vaillancourt, forester, manufacturing analyst, and quality assurance coordinator. “By assessing the current inventory of the land base, the general stand conditions, and forest optimization models of the forest, Seven Islands can develop a harvest plan that is sustainable. This allows Maine Woods to be confident that they will have a steady supply of logs going forward. The quality of the timber is going to get better every year and the wood will become whiter. Most of the older, larger trees with a lot of heart have been harvested, and we are now beginning to harvest the second growth of trees, which are younger and have smaller hearts. The forests have been properly managed over a long period of time, which has encouraged the growth of higher quality trees.”

Being able to harvest timber, process it into lumber, and produce a finished flooring product all on forestland and at facilities owned by one family, distinguishes the Seven Islands family of companies from most of its competitors.

Maine Woods employs 65 people, including the sawmill, log yard, kilns and boiler, dry line, maintenance, electricians, and administrative staff.

Maine Woods Company is a member of the following associations: National Hardwood Lumber Association, Hardwood Manufacturers Association, New England Lumbermen’s Association, Penn-York Lumbermen’s Club, Wood Products Manufacturers Association, Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association, Appalachian Lumbermen’s Club, Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc., New England Kiln Drying Association, and the Canadian Hardwood Bureau.