Milan Lumber Co.: Where Wagner Meters Fuels Success


Located in Milan, New Hampshire, Milan Lumber Company provides lumber to wholesalers like Hancock Lumber and Hammond Lumber as well as to crate and pallet makers. “We also sell to private labels like Gerbing, which sells to Home Depot,” said Steve Halle, the mill manager.

The mill also boasts an extensive log yard. “With 12 million board feet in this yard [at the mill], we have enough for three months,” Halle agreed. “We also have half-a-dozen concentration yards besides this yard.”

“We procure from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and a little bit out of Massachusetts. There’s no money for wheelers [10-wheel log trucks] to travel 100 miles to here, so your procurement area becomes much larger for those local people with the concentration yards.”

“We have two planer mills: #1 runs 1,000-1,100 board feet per minute; #2 runs about 500 feet per minute,” said Halle. “Planer mill #2 is more for the value-added 3X4 and 4X4 boards. Planer mill #1 is more for dimensional cuts: 2X3 up to 2X10; and for big runs and value-added products.”

“In the sawmill, we do quite a lot of custom orders like 3X4 up to 4X10. We’re a dimension mill, but we do a fair amount of custom work.”

Milan Lumber PhotoThe mill has found a worthwhile use for some of their refuse as well. “We burn our planer mill shavings in our Co-Byrne boiler to create steam to heat our buildings and four dry kilns,” Halle pointed out. “We don’t use fossil fuels of any kind. We were selling all of our wood shavings to farmers. Now we burn what we need and sell the balance.”

A Tale of Two Species

“We separate our two species here because there’s quite a difference between drying eastern spruce and balsam fir, from 140-160 hours for fir lumber to only 30-40 hours on spruce,” Halle explained. “We saw both species together in the sawmill and we separate them through a Sap-Tech system where a liquid is sprayed on the end of the wood, then an ultraviolet camera separates the species.”

“We shoot for 19% or less moisture with 15% being optimal,” he continued. “We use a Wagner Meters handheld to check the wood, we have the paddle sensors to check bundles and we have some sensors in the kilns, which have been really good for us.”

Zone Defense

Milan Lumber uses the Wagner MC4000 In-Kiln Moisture Measurement System, which offers a real-time view of the moisture content for each kiln sensing zone, and provides a moisture content trend graph of all of the sensors during the drying schedule. When the average moisture content of a kiln’s Sending Units’ (moisture sensing zones) measurements reaches the set-point, a relay output activation will occur that can trigger an alert notification signal to annunciator panels or a shutdown command to kiln control system hardware.

The MC4000 can help cut losses due to drying-related degradation, minimizing labor-intensive manual checking, and generally making the lumber drying process more effective. The MC4000 boasts a number of features beneficial to any mill including:

  • Displaying moisture content trending of sensors throughout the drying process
  • Reliable operation even at kiln temperatures of 300° F
  • Large sensing zones; obtain average moisture content between sensor plates
  • Automatic alert or shutdown based on moisture set-points
  • Open architecture which allows integration with virtually any computerized kiln controller

Milan Lumber Piles

“Four zones per kiln would be okay, but because we have 8 zones [the MC4000] gives you a pretty darn good reading,” explained Halle. “We used to do 2-3 hot checks per charge.”

“This week, I got a spruce load that’s been in the kiln for 25 hours and I’m down to 22% moisture,” Halle stated. “That’s phenomenal because usually we’re looking at a 40-hour schedule. If you had to stop and do a hot-check, you’d have to cool your kiln down then build it back up. Now we know that we’re pulling that kiln before the end of the day. There’s no way you would have known that before, no way. If it had stayed in for 40 hours, it would have over-dried the wood, causing it to degrade.”

“Our drying quality went up quite a lot with the Wagner Meters products. The money to put Wagner systems in the kilns was well spent.”

How about you? Are you ready to start saving money with Wagner Meters’ line of quality products? Give us a call at 800-634-9961.

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Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan is a senior technician for Wagner Meters, where he serves on a team for product testing, development, and also customer service and training for moisture measurement products. Along with 19 years field experience for a number of electronics companies, Tony holds a B.A. in Management and his AAS in Electronics Technology.

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