Moving Beyond Drying

A small drying operation wants to invest in planing, jointing, and ripping. March 18, 2005

We are a small operation east of Columbus, OH. We use Nyle kilns. Most drying is for small operations and local people. We want to expand our operation to include selling surfaced lumber (like S2S and S4S) manufactured from the rough sawn lumber we currently dry and start supplying local shops.

1) What machinery should we be looking at and what is typical cost?
2) How do you determine what to charge? That is a tough one for us to figure out.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor E:
Take a look a the Logosol ph-260 4 head planer, a fine machine.

From contributor G:
A double sided planer will basically joint 1 side and plane the other. This will give you even thickness and good, flat lumber. You will need a straight line rip saw to put 1 straight edge on the lumber. Then you could feed it through again using the fence to cut it to proper width. A 4 head moulder could save a lot of time, since it will plane top and bottom and both edges at the same time. However, you will still need a rip saw to put a straight edge on it, since the moulder also has a fence and needs 1 straight edge to feed. A moulder probably would not decup the lumber very well, so a planer and rip saw would be your best bet. If you want to sand it, then a wide belt sander does a nice job. A drum sander is good for thickness sanding, but a wide belt produces the best finish.

From contributor J:

I have a retail hardwood lumber store/woodworking shop, but I'm buying my lumber already kiln dried. I use a jointer with a powerfeed on it to get boards flat, then a planer to set thickness, then finally an old straight line ripsaw to straighten edges and rip width. I make custom moldings either on a shaper or a four sided moulder.

The cost of the tools will vary greatly with quality and new/used. A new 16" jointer, 24" planer and ripsaw will be $25,000+. You might get all three used under $10,000. Then add a dust collector at $1-5k+.

You can also start one step at a time to see what the demand is. A planer first, then the jointer to improve flatness of the lumber, then the ripsaw. I had been using an 8" jointer until recently. The narrow boards seem to twist more than the wide ones, so it got me by for a while.

The amount to charge will depend on your overhead, speed of the tools, how much your tools cost is and how much people will pay! I've been charging $.30/bf to plane and $.20/bf to straight line rip 100bf quantities, more for smaller amounts.

If you get a 12" jobsite planer, you'd better charge by the hour!:)

From contributor E:
The Logosol ph-260 single phase will do all you said except for the ripping. I installed one with two 3hp chip extractors for under $12,000. It planes all four sides at once. Will make any design t/g you want, plus any style moulding you could need. Great machine, simple to operate.

From contributor S:
Contributor J, just curious. Why do you charge by the board foot instead of lineal foot? Doesn't a 6" board take just as long to go through the planer as a 12" board?

From contributor J:
Does the Logosol joint the bottom of the board or just plane it? I have a four sided moulder that will surface four sides but doesn't joint the board to flatten it. A wide planer is also nice for large quantities since it can plane several boards at the same time, or for wide glued up panels.

On some operations like planing or widebelt sanding, the LF doesn't matter. On smaller boards, you can send several through at a time to keep the width of the machine full. For straight line ripping, I am usually starting with a known number of BF (200bF for ex), so I use that number so I don't have to count pieces and lengths. When I figure ripping or milling moldings, I use a LF cost.

From contributor S:
We too are soon to embark on surfacing and molding. To date we've subbed it out to other millworks but the loading, moving, picking up and bringing home is getting tiresome.

At first, I was thinking that the most bang for the buck would be a large (maybe Oliver) 2 sided planer and either a couple large shapers with powerfeeders or a multi-spindle shaper with a shared feeder. I'm a cabinet/furniture maker too, so I would find many uses for the shapers (currently use a table mounted 3hp router). I assume that a good shaper with feeder would do fine at smaller runs of T&G and picture frame moldings (one of the markets I'm already tied into).

However, we also get a lot of requests for 2000+ sqft runs of random width flooring and/or paneling (usually customers who have already paid us to saw their trees for this purpose) and I hate to see another guy get this work if I'm able to do it myself at a profit.

To accomplish this I've been looking at used moulders in the 6" class (mostly Woods 137s), which it seems I could pick up for $5000 or so (I don't mind machine work).

Contributor J, what kind of 4-head moulder do you have? When you say that it won't joint the board as it feeds, I'm confused. Most of the machines I've seen have the bottom cutter first in line and a good bit out in front. It seems that, while they might not result in a truly flat board like I might get from my jointer and 1-sided planer, it should at least result in a piece of flooring that will lay flat and match nicely when nailed down at the tongue. It this not true?

From contributor G:
The questioner wants to make s2s and s4s lumber and moulding was not mentioned. She is running a sawmill which will produce lumber from ? to 20 inches wide or more, unless she rips it down on the mill. It's going to take a pretty big jointer to flatten lumber that wide. If high production is an issue, and it seems to be a big one nowadays, then she needs a double sided planer and rip saw. S4S lumber must be flat and accurate in thickness and width.

From the original questioner:
Thank you for the replies. Again, we currently only dry lumber people bring us. We want to expand by buying green lumber, drying it and selling surfaced lumber. We are small and want to expand without huge debt.

If you had, for example, 1500bf of 4/4 cherry random width 6 to 8 footers, and you wanted to sell it to cabinet shops, what would you do with it? How would you prepare this kd wood to sell?

From contributor M:
I am in a similar position to you. The difference is I obtain local logs, mill, then dry and resell. For value added, which is what I am reading you are interested in, here is what I do.

I built a straight line rip jig for my table saw. The plans are in Fine Woodworking, I believe in the December 2000 issue. I offer my customers straight line ripping and surface planing for an extra fee per board foot. For now I charge $.20/bf for straight line ripping. I have not calculated a charge for planing as I have not done that service yet.

My charge for straight line ripping is a starting point that seemed reasonable. I will adjust this fee when I have done more and get a better feel for the time and effort required.

My lumber business is in addition to my day time job. I am trying to grow the lumber into a full time effort. Time will tell.

From contributor S:
I'm in a similar situation to yours but different in that I run a sawmill and have my lumber dried by another outfit. Anyhow, I end up in the same situation - KD rough sawn lumber that I'd like to market for the best profit. My sales so far have been either to a broker or for better return, hobby and/or high-end artisans.

The hobbyists are either happy to get good material at a better price than the S2S available at local retail and surface it themselves or willing to pay by the piece to have their picks surfaced by me on my shop equipment - 8" jointer and 15" planer. Typically, they have a cut list already and have me rough cut and surface it for them to be fine tuned for joinery in their own shops. In this case I charge a shop rate of $30/hour.

The high-end furniture makers come to me because I have matched/log sets and/or widths/thicknesses that they can't find at local retail. These folks have the equipment to do their own surfacing or do it by hand.

I have explored cabinet shops as a potential market but find that they are used to buying larger quantities (1000+ bdft) at wholesale prices. Their concerns are immediate availability and price. I've done numbers on this and found that unless I had enormous KD storage capacity and high-production (read 6 digit) surfacing equipment, I would not be able to meet their needs/demands and still make a profit.

Nonetheless, I've investigated industrial surfacing equipment and found that the best deal in terms of production/cost would be an older/used 2-sided planer capable of the widths my sawmill produces - 28" maximum.

These machines are best purchased through a machinery dealer/servicer that regularly takes trade-ins from companies upgrading their equipment. These dealers will typically clean, repair/rebuild and repaint this older machinery and then resell it to folks like us.

Keep in mind though that most of these industrial machines are at least 220 3 phase and many are 440. With proper maintenance though, these cast iron behemoths are unstoppable. For S2S, the best machines in my opinion are the Olivers and the Whitneys. Reconditioned machines may run from $10,000 to $20,000.

Another place to find these machines would be industrial auctions (closing mills) or E-Bay, but in this case you will either need to pay someone to recondition the machine or do it yourself if not averse to a little machine work. My local machinery dealer is Memphis Machinery.

From contributor M:
If you are interested in building a straight line rip jig, order the December 2000 edition of Fine Woodworking; it's issue number is 145. The article is "From Rough to Ready".

From contributor J:
Contributor S, my moulder has the top head first and the profiling is done on the bottom head, which is last. If the bottom head was first, that would make a big difference in the way it worked. I considered a double surfacer, but it was overkill for me at this time, plus I was concerned it would be more complicated for my help to operate.

From contributor S:
I've never heard of that. What brand is it?

From contributor J:
It's a Paulson 2x4 moulder. It will only go as wide as 4 1/2" and 2" high. It was made in 1962. Maybe one day it will be replaced with a nice 5 head machine.