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Feature Story


COLUMBIA CEDAR Soars To New Horizons

By Merry Schmidt

Panel Crafters, Inc., a sister company to Lazy S Lumber Inc. in Beavercreek,Ore., and Columbia Cedar Inc. in Kettle Falls, Wash., recently began production of their new line of Cedar Craft - Cedar Siding panels.
Kettle Falls, Wash.—Columbia Cedar Inc., headquartered here, and Lazy S Lumber Inc., located in Beavercreek, Ore., have long been known as a leading contender for their innovation and progressive approach in the Cedar lumber industry.

“In spite of tightening supply issues throughout the Northwest, the companies continue to find ways to procure raw product while installing more efficient equipment to further enhance the usage of the raw material that is delivered to the mills,” said Ralph Schmidt, who along with his wife, Merry, own both Columbia Cedar and Lazy S. “It’s a philosophy we’ve had here from day one.”

Columbia Cedar recently completed a new office designed by Mark Schmidt, Ralph’s brother, with interior hardwood panels of cherry, Brazilian rosewood and calico hickory supplied by Panel Crafters. “This is a much needed new office that may eventually become our ‘world headquarters’,” the Schmidts said. “We have plans for an asphalted parking area and a new lunchroom.”

Columbia Cedar also recently completed a new debarker and storage building as stage one in retooling for more efficiency. “Efficiently using the resource is crucial in staying competitive in this market,” Ralph said.

Ralph and Merry Schmidt recently relocated to Eagle Point, Ore., to spend more time at Panel Crafters, but “commute” between Columbia Cedar and Lazy S to provide direction and “problem solving 101” to the companies.  “Our customers have
Bob Wright is the quality control manager and assistant mill manager for Columbia Cedar.
come to depend on and expect the type of products and service that we provide on an ongoing basis,” Ralph said. “We thrive on the challenge that it is to continually stay fresh and innovative beyond just the next six months or even a year. We are optimistic for the future in this industry where many are pulling out.”

Panel Crafters Inc. is located in White City, Ore., near Medford. This facility is a hardwood panel lay-up plant that specializes in hardwood veneers of all species and grades and can produce an industry leading special 5’ x 8’ sizing as well as the standard 4’ x 8’. In June 2008, Panel Crafters introduced two new lines of APA (American Plywood Assoc.) T1-11 sidings. Cedar Craft is a Western Red Cedar panel veneer on exterior grade plywood for home siding. It has all the beautiful characteristics of Western Red Cedar with an economical price.  The other is an okoumé, an African hardwood, panel that has a clear (no knots) face and is used for siding as well as soffit materials.

“We select the logs for peeling from Columbia Cedar, and ship the skins directly from a peeling plant to Panel Crafters, and sales is directed from Lazy S Lumber, enabling the three companies to weave together a very good working team of sales and production staff,” Merry said.  “We’ve selected sound, second growth tight knot logs, and shipped those to be peeled and composed, and then bring the skins to Panel Crafters where they are graded, sorted and laid up into the Cedar Craft line of panels,” Ralph said.  “So I know the quality of the skins and can assure my customers of the integrity of the panels.”

Steve West is the resource manager for Columbia Cedar and Panel Crafters. He is responsible for buying all of the logs and sorts for Cedar Craft veneer logs.
Ralph added, “What makes Cedar Craft unique is the skins are exactly as nature made them. We don’t cut or blow out the knots and replace them with synthetic putty. We only repair the knots that fall out during the creation of the skins, and lay-up, so the natural look of tight knot Cedar is graded into our product line.

“The added rough saw will texture and pattern the panels exactly as specified by the APA,” he said. “We’ve worked very closely with them to assure our customers are getting a product they are familiar with in construction, but unique and natural in appearance.”

Ralph added, “To add versatility to our product lines, we are also providing an okoumé faced line we call Craftsman.  It’s an A-grade okoumé panel that will have the same textured finish as the Cedar Craft panels, but is a true clear, light wood color.”

Nice and Knotty

Chris Retherford, sales manager at Columbia Cedar, said, “Some of our customers have been misled to believe that okoumé is Cedar. I think it’s important to know the difference. Okoumé is an African hardwood and is also known as gaboon. It has a light salmon to tan color, and in veneers it rarely has knots.  Our Cedar Craft panels are authentic Western Red Cedar, from our own Cedar logs, that have all the qualities and appearance of natural Cedar.”
Ralph said, “I’ve been in the Cedar business for more than 35 years, and have on my team the most knowledgeable group of guys in the business selling.  For the Cedar and okoumé panels, call Todd Fox, Dave Duncan or Larry Petree at Lazy S Lumber, or Chris Retherford at Columbia Cedar. At Panel Crafters, the best guys in the business are Mike Palmerton who is
The Cedar Craft product line has earned the APA grade stamp for T1-11 sidings and is manufactured to APA (American Plywood Association) 303 sidings specifications.
our sales team manager, Tom Overbeck and Paul Kell. These guys have integrity and do their best for our customers in service. They are hardwood specialists and can get the job done.”

Green In Many Colors

Paul Kell, sales at Panel Crafters, said, “Panel Crafters is unique in the panel business, because we offer FSC-certified as well as no added formaldehyde products and can obtain products in ranges that most other suppliers can’t.  With our 5-foot wide presses and sanders, we offer product dimensions that save you time and money on both material costs and cut waste that needs to be disposed of after the job is finished.  Our versatility allows us to manufacture panels from 3x6 to 5x10 and any dimension in between. Cross grain, book match, slip match or whole piece.  We like the ‘out of the norm,’ and can mix those with our standard panels.”
Panel Crafters Inc. is a sister company to Lazy S Lumber Inc. of Beavercreek, Ore., and also to Columbia Cedar Inc. of Kettle Falls, Wash.

The companies are owned and operated by Ralph and Merry Schmidt who at this writing have transferred to Eagle Point, Ore., from their home in Kettle Falls, Wash., to spearhead the Panel Crafters “Cedar Craft” project. “This is what we do,” Merry said. “When we commit to a company, we do what it takes to make it successful so the transfer was easy.”

Panel Crafters’ skins come from selected Cedar logs taken at Columbia Cedar. At Panel Crafters, they are graded, sorted and laid up into the Cedar Craft line of panels.
The Schmidts named their products including Smith River 6 patch clear, Deschutes 6 patch premium knotty, Rogue Valley 18 patch knotty and McKenzie paint grade after the region.

“Ralph and I worked on those names while driving down from Kettle Falls,” Merry said. “The area’s rivers are so beautiful and it was a catchy way to identify our products, with the Deschutes being our favorite because we’ve spent so much time on that river fishing for steelhead. If you’ve ever caught a 12-pound keeper, you’ll know what I’m talking about.”

For more information on Columbia Cedar, contact Chris Retherford at 509-738-4711. For more information on Lazy S Lumber, contact Todd Fox and Dave Duncan at 503-632-3550, or Larry Petree at 360-229-4013. For more information on Panel Crafts, contact Paul Kell and Tom Overbeck at 541-830-0088.


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