Kenneth Cox, plant manager, Salem Frame Co. Inc., Salem, Va.; Stefanie Lucas, president and chief executive officer, Rowe Fine Furniture Inc., Elliston, Va.; and Scott England, who is in charge of lumber sales at Gilco Lumber Inc., South Charleston, W.Va.
Grading Chain Expands SALEM FRAME’s Global Efforts
Salem, Virginia—Salem Frame, a business unit of Rowe Fine Furniture, recently solidified its position as a one-stop, full-service lumber drying and grading facility by opening the Roanoke Valley’s only lumber grading chain here.
Lumber from around the country will arrive at Salem Frame for its final preparation before being packaged and shipped around the world. Final preparation includes kiln drying, grading, trimming, ripping and packaging. Prior to the installation of the grading chain, Salem Frame’s custom kiln drying yard was only able to offer lumber customers one particular service, kiln drying freshly cut lumber.
Lumber, which is now able to be processed at Salem Frame, is likely to be shipped around the country and the world and used for furniture, home construction, wine barrels, interior wall panels and almost anything made of wood.
Tim Worrell, lumber specialist, and Kenneth Cox, Salem Frame Co. Inc., Salem, Va., and Scott England, Gilco Lumber Inc., South Charleston, W.Va., help put the two boards together into one, which symbolizes the partnership that now exists between Salem Frame and Gilco Lumber Inc.
As a separate business unit of Rowe Fine Furniture, Salem Frame operates as both a mill, supplying wood components to Rowe Fine Furniture for the making of its upholstered furniture; and as a yard, offering custom kiln drying and grading capabilities to lumber customers around the country and the world. The existing location was established in 1972, and the new 11,250-square-foot lumber grading chain structure is the first addition to the location in over 25 years.
Rowe Fine Furniture invested a total of $500,000 in the construction of the facility including the concrete slab, steel exterior structure and components of the grading chain. The new structure measures 25 feet high, 150 feet long and 75 feet wide.
Industrial weight, breeze-dried panels are drawn and pulled back on a pulley system on both sides of one half of the length of the building, which allows wind for natural ventilation. The mesh panels are pulled aside when carts of packaged lumber are ready to be loaded on outgoing trucks.
Scott England, Gilco Lumber Inc., South Charleston, W.Va.; Tim Worrell, Salem Frame Co. Inc., Salem, Va.; and Tony Love, Gilco Lumber Inc.
“Rowe’s commitment to support Salem Frame’s ability to offer its lumber clients great service and a quality product is in keeping with Rowe’s overall company goals,” explained Stefanie J. Lucas, president and chief executive officer of Rowe Fine Furniture, which is headquartered in Elliston, Va. “Throughout all of our operations, we work to identify opportunities within our existing capabilities to grow the business, maintain jobs and increase both.
Salem Frame’s ability to now offer one stop kiln drying, wood grading and packaging to its customers around the country strengthens our position in the lumber industry as well as strengthens a great Salem-based operation.”
In 1963, Rowe purchased the Roanoke Woodworking Corp. to operate it as a wholly owned subsidiary and renamed it Salem Frame Co. In 1972, Salem Frame moved into a new 188,000-square-foot facility where it continues to be located. The feasibility of creating a one-stop shop for kiln drying and grading became more viable in late 2006 with the closing of Rowe’s wood framing facility in Missouri.
Tim Worrell, lumber specialist at Salem Frame, began to research the feasibility of adding to the existing machinery and constructing a structure to house a complete lumber grading chain. In June 2007, an offer from Gilco Lumber Inc., headquartered in South Charleston, W.Va., helped move the proposal forward.
Kenneth Cox, Eric Collins, engineering manager, and Tim Worrell, Salem Frame Co. Inc., Salem, Va.; and Keith Peek, McDowell Mechanical Service, Marion, N.C.
Gilco Lumber, which is headed by James H. “Buck” Harless and is an employee owned firm, was looking for a wood yard that could handle kiln drying, grading, packaging and shipping. In a strategic partnership agreement, it was agreed that the output from Gilco’s Cabin Creek, W.Va., sawmill would be flowed to Salem Frame. Gilco, which owns and operates four sawmills and two hardwood lumber concentration yards, has two trained lumber graders permanently based at Salem Frame, and also assisted Salem Frame in sourcing a trim saw, which was flat-bedded from Missouri to Virginia for installation.
The construction of the grading chain involved: initial excavation of the site, exterior steel structure and interior concrete slab by Price Buildings Inc., Rocky Mount, Va.; architectural plans by Parker Design Group Inc., Salem, Va.; surrounding pavement by Asphalt Solutions, Boones Mill, Va.; and interior equipment and electrical work by McDowell Mechanical Service, Marion, N.C.
Kenneth Cox, plant manager at Salem Frame, said the construction of the lumber grading chain has helped maintain positions at Salem Frame. The company currently operates from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Charles Serber, left, handles tallies, ships containers overseas and works as a backup lumber grader for Gilco Lumber Inc. at Salem Frame’s Salem, Va., facility. Art Borders, Gilco Lumber Inc., is based out of Cabin Creek, W.Va.
Monday through Friday, but “the potential exists to increase capacity and add additional shifts,” he said. Employees dedicated to the grading chain have already reached an all-time personal record of 34,000 board feet of lumber processed in one day. The team’s goal is 50,000 board feet of lumber in one day.
The grading of lumber involves the inspection by a qualified grader of each board of lumber after it has been kiln dried. Based on the width of the board and the condition of both sides, the grader attributes a ranking to the board, which eventually determines how it will be used and at what price it will be sold.
Lumber is processed through Salem Frame’s complete custom kiln drying operation. First, loads of inbound, freshly cut lumber from the sawmill are kiln-dried. The lumber experiences a natural shrinkage of about 7 percent as the moisture is removed, a necessary process to ensure the wood’s viability and usability. Stacks of lumber are then brought to the entrance of the grading chain structure where the lift operator moves them into position.
Gary Wilson, custom kiln drying coordinator, Eric Collins, and Darrell Cannaday, lumberyard supervisor, Salem Frame Co. Inc., Salem, Va.
The tilt hoist operator oversees the mechanism that tilts the stack up and inwards so that each board gradually slides onto the grading platform, which is a mezzanine heightplatform with a chain pulley embedded in the platform to help move the boards along. As the lumber moves along the platform, each board is inspected by the lumber grader, a trained professional who is familiar with wood species and necessary conditions to attribute a grade to each board.
With an instrument in each hand — a red marker on the tip of an extended stick to apply markings on the board to identify where it should be trimmed length-wise and how it has been graded, and a flexible measuring stick with a metal tip (lumber ruler) to measure the width and easily flip the board to inspect both sides — the lumber grader is the key role in the process.
Each board then cascades down to the trim saw area where the red markings are interpreted and the boards are trimmed accordingly. Each board is then checked after it is trimmed to see if it needs to be edge ripped. The board continues down the horizontal conveyor chain where it is pulled and placed on a cart with similarly graded lumber. Packs of lumber are then packaged and loaded on outgoing trucks or containers for shipment.
Justin True is a lumber grader for Gilco Lumber Inc., headquartered in South Charleston, W.Va., and he is based at Salem Frame in Salem, VA.
For more information on Salem Frame call 540-389-8661, or visit their Web site at www.customkilndrying.com. For more information on Gilco Lumber Inc., call 304-746-3160, click onto their Web site (www.gilcolumber.com) or e-mail them at email@example.com.
John Stanley, senior vice president of operations, Ben Jarrell, director of human resources, and Mark Freitas, chief financial officer, Rowe Fine Furniture, Elliston, Va.