Wolf River Lumber in New London, Wis., has a 335,000-square-foot main building. Built in 2001, the building houses the corporate offices, production facility and a large warehouse. On the exterior of the building are 40 steam-heated kilns in which raw lumber is inventoried and dried. These kilns are heated by three 600-hp, natural-gas-fired boilers that are backed up with liquid propane; one of the boilers has the capability to run on biomass material or coal.

Wolf River Lumber receives daily deliveries of lumber such as oak, maple, birch, walnut, butternut, cherry and ash from area mills. The lumber arrives in random lengths and is put on a conveyor. Certified lumber grading specialists sample the lumber, marking the grade.

Following the inspection and grading process, the lumber goes through a scanner that records the dimensions of each board and tallies the total number of board feet of each grade. Then the boards are sorted and stacked by grade in the kilns.

The kilns, constructed of aluminum and stainless steel, are equipped with large sliding doors for forklift access, as well as with steam pipes that dispense heat ranging from 90-160 degrees F and fans for evenly distributing the heat throughout the lumber. The large number of kilns is necessary, given the number of wood varieties and their varying temperature and drying time requirements.

"We have 2 million feet of kiln capacity in our 40 dry kilns, with each one holding a little more than 55,000 board feet," says Mark Christopher, Wolf River Lumber general manager. "All of our power comes from our boilers and we use steam to heat the coils and we actually add live steam into the process to relieve the stress in the lumber."

The production facility has four service areas in which wood processing and finishing take place. After the lumber is dried in the kilns, it is moved into production. First, each board receives a smooth or rough finish from one of two planers (click here to see photo). Precise dimensioning of each board occurs next, as computerized saws cut each board to a standard or custom length. This precise dimensioning is another reason why Wolf River Lumber can position itself as a one-stop shop to customers, who do not have to do their own dimensioning.

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