Softwood Forest Products Buyer


Feature Story

John Branstetter, Russ, Emily and Duane Vaagen and Butch Sager make up the management team at Vaagen Bros. in Colville, Wash.

Vaagen Bros., Fostering Healthy Forests
By Wayne MIller

Colville, Wash.--Over 50 years ago, brothers Bert and Bud Vaagen founded a lumber company just outside the town of Colville, Wash. Working out of a single small mill, they produced railroad ties and lumber products to help satisfy the growing demand of the U.S. lumber market.

Since then, shifts in the regional and national economy have caused Vaagen to undergo many changes Ė from periods of rapid growth to times of industry downturn. But through it all, the primary goal has remained the same: produce nothing but the finest quality forest products.

Today, the company is located in the heart of Colville. A large 128-foot crane stands near the mill, moving along its track, unloading trucks and feeding the mill. Much like the company itself, the crane has become a landmark for the surrounding communities. Just adjacent to the mill lies the Vaagen corporate headquarters, where the companyís marketing operations and information technologies systems
This log crane is capable of lifting an entire truckload from the truck and onto the yard.
reside. Itís here where Duane Vaagen, president, and other members of the Vaagen management guide the company and set the vision for tomorrow, according to Duane.

In reality, the vision began taking shape as far back as the 1970ís, when they first saw a way to maximize forest utility and produce the best possible lumber product, by focusing on small logs from smaller trees. These trees have tighter growth rings caused by too many trees in too little space. The wood is dense and strong. The end result is lumber thatís stronger, straighter and clearer. And, because Vaagen engages in thinning and forest restoration rather than large-scale logging of entire mature stands, theyíre able to foster healthy forests and surrounding habitat.

Today the Colville mill operates one Hew saw that cuts over 140 million board feet of dimension lumber and specializes in small logs between 4.5-inch diameter and 11.5-inch. Remarkably, more than half of the logs that go through the mill are less than 7 inches in diameter, a sure sign that Vaagen is truly the small log expert.
Rough, dry lumber is kept at Vaagenís lumberyard in Colville.

Duane Vaagen and the Vaagen team say that you can never rest on your laurels. This desire for progress has led to a pair of major improvements within the last year. First off is the installation of an additional dry kiln. It allows the company to improve drying accuracy and increase production. This will deliver products to market faster than ever. More importantly, it means straighter, more consistent lumber for their customers.
The advancement the Vaagen team is most excited about is the all-new planer line. The only one of its kind in the country, the planer combines machine stress rating and auto grade reading (Finscan). Unbelievable levels of accuracy are attained through the new automated grading system. In addition, the planer line will feature high-tech trimming capability and an automated high-tech paper wrapping system. All in all, it will allow Vaagen to sort its lumber more efficiently than ever.

Dean Golden, dry end superintendent, talks with Russ Vaagen.
53 years ago, Vaagen Bros Lumber was founded with the goal of providing the best lumber products possible. Today, they continue to fulfill that mission with technological advancements and a commitment to producing the finest quality lumber while restoring forest health. 

Surfaced lumber comes out of the grade stamper and is pulled across the planer chain.

Mick Vaagen inspects lumber that has been loaded onto a rail car at the Colville location.

Pam Bardwell runs the stacker at the facility.


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