National Hardwood Magazine


March 2013 Feature Story


Johnny Clarke, general manager; Brett Bollinger, president and CEO; Howard Bollinger, chief engineer and sales; and Roy Hollar, service manager, stand in front of the dry kilns installed by BOLDesigns, Inc. at a former Broyhill Furniture plant, which is now owned by Woodgrain.
BOLDesigns—Innovating Dry Kilns For More Than 30 years

By Gary Miller

Lenoir, N.C.—Dry kiln manufacturer and lumber handling equipment manufacturer BOLDesigns, Incorporated was established by Howard Bollinger in 1987. Since that time the company has remained successful and today is owned and operated by Howard’s son Brett Bollinger. Brett, who owns the dry kiln manufacturing company, runs the day-to-day operations of his plant in Lenoir while Howard still comes into the office often. Howard helps with engineering, design work and the sales of the firm’s dry kilns, drying equipment and lumber handling equipment.

BOLDesigns, Inc.’s dry kilns are manufactured and sold to companies like: Hardwood and softwood sawmill operations; lumber remanufacturing plants; Hardwood and softwood distribution/concentration lumber yards; pallet makers; woodworking plants; log home manufacturers; companies that make and sell firewood; and others. Often BOLDesigns, Inc. will help a lumber, or other type of company, that has purchased some dry kilns or lumber handling equipment from a firm that has gone out of business and help the new owner of the used kilns or equipment put the kiln and/or machinery back in working order.

Nelson Weaver is the general manager of Independence Lumber, Inc., while Randall Ellen is the owner of the company. Independence Lumber installed BOLDesigns equipment.
Brett Bollinger said, “We manufacture our dry kilns and lumber handling equipment as much as possible in our plant, and then we hire a crane to help us put it together on the jobsite. We feel it is much quicker to get our dry kilns installed and running through doing it that way. We produce quality dry kilns and lumber handling equipment and we strive to be the lowest cost producer of our product, and, we try to pass those savings on to our customers.” Brett continued, “The history of BOLDesigns, Inc. dates back to 1967 when my father began his career in the forest products industry at Broyhill Furniture. Later he opened a crating and pallet mill called Unifour Wood Products with a family member. It was during this time that he began building his own dry kilns for his company. He invented a wet-air venting system to vent wet air just as it comes off the lumber, a system that is about three times as efficient as the conventional non-powered roof vent system. Additionally he installed a balanced airflow system in his kilns.”

After Howard Bollinger started his own dry kiln manufacturing firm in 1987, his company experienced rapid sales growth, especially in 1993 when he built a newly designed kiln with the framework inside the walls. In the first several years of being in business BOLDesigns, Inc. farmed out getting their dry kilns made, however in 1993 they started their own shop and made their own dry kilns and other equipment in Lenoir, N.C., where their factory is still located today.

Key features of the company’s design include smooth interior walls; wall-to-wall heating coils; center pipe from the control header; solid cast reversible aluminum fans; automatically raised baffles; and patented wet air venting.

This is a partial view of the silo at Independence Lumber that holds 500 tons of wood dust. The wood dust is fed into the wood waste boiler that is housed in the white building next to the silo.
Brett Bollinger explained some of the innovations BOLDesigns has applied in recent years. “All of our equipment has a smooth interior and smooth air flow,” he said. “We apply 1/8-inch aluminum material on the interior and sidewalls of our equipment so that the forklift can’t damage them. We are always concerned about even airflow and trying to take all the variables that man can control in the kiln environment and control them; because, there are so many variables in lumber that you cannot control since it’s something made of nature. So we control what we can, which is heat and air.”

Brett continued, “When building kilns for our customers we use the bi-fold doors, and the reason we do it is because it’s the best way to cover the front of the kilns. The bi-fold doors are up and out of the way when you push the button; and these doors are the safest thing to install in kilns that are in existence. Even if you lose all the cables in them, the door will slowly glide down. The old top doors with the hanger and lift system make it difficult to lift those doors. Furthermore, once the doors get out of alignment, which they do pretty quickly, more problems arise. We’ve solved all those problems by manufacturing and installing the bi-fold doors. Also with this type of door we lift the baffles up out of the way, which keeps them from getting damaged and keeps even airflow in dry kilns. In other words, nobody wants to lose a baffle because if you do you’re going to have uneven airflow. Of course, part of the whole drying process is to keep air lanes as even as possible. When we install steam pipes they’re all center pipes. All the way from the header and the heat source, so when a burst of steam goes in it will disperse the steam among all the heating vents.”

When it comes to pallet treating Brett said, “We use a direct gas fired burner for pallet treaters. It uses similar controls but you don’t dry pallets the same way as you do lumber. In a pallet dry kiln you use a probe that actually is inserted into the runners in the pallet in the thickest material.”

This is a rear view of the seven dry kilns that BOLDesigns, Inc. manufactured and installed at Independence Lumber Co. The fans that pull the moisture out of the kilns are seen sticking out the back of the dry kilns, as well as the steam lines and piping holding the electrical lines to each dry kiln.
The key people at BOLDesigns, Inc., besides Howard and Brett Bollinger include: Johnny Clark, who is one of the salesmen that knows a lot about dry kilns and lumber handling equipment; and, Ray Hollar is the key technician that can usually talk to customers on the phone to help them solve any problems they may have with BOLDesigns’ dry kilns and/or lumber handling equipment. He will go to the customers’ facilities, when necessary, to get their equipment operating, again, smoothly.

Brett Bollinger mentioned that Independence Lumber, Inc., located in Independence, Va., owns seven BOLDesigns, Inc.’s dry kilns. The general manager at Independence Lumber, Inc., Nelson Weaver said, “The reason we purchased BOLDesigns’ dry kilns is because a lot of our product is going overseas now and that product has to be heat-treated. We’re very happy with all of our BOLDesign kilns, and we would recommend that any lumber company that needs dry kilns call Brett Bollinger because his company is experienced and very reasonable on their prices for building their kilns for folks who need them. Weaver further commented, “We started with three kilns in 2007 and ended up with four more when we needed to increase our dry kiln capacity. We’re very pleased with their service also. It’s very rare that we have any problems with our kilns but if we do, we call Brett and he is always happy to promptly help us. The bottom line is overall BOLDesigns does a great job, and again, I would recommend them to anyone in the lumber industry.”

Independence Lumber, Inc., owned by Randall Ellen, is one of the largest single location lumber manufacturing companies in the Southeastern region. The firm produces about 25 million board feet of lumber a year in all grades of lumber including furniture grade and flooring Oaks. They manufacture species of lumber such as Poplar, Red and White Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Ash, Birch, Hickory, Walnut and eastern white pine in mostly 4/4 through 10/4 thicknesses. Independence Lumber sells green, air-dried and kiln dried lumber and has the capacity to manufacture and sort products to meet specific domestic or export needs. Tony Bartlett sells all the lumber for the firm.

Nelson Weaver and the owner, Randall Ellen, are on a hill overlooking the silo, the white building that houses Independence Lumber’s wood fired boiler and the seven BOLDesigns, Inc.’s dry kilns that Brett Bollinger installed for them.
Furthermore, this lumber company makes and sells other wood products such as cants, sawdust, chips, mulch and pallets. They have one of the largest pallet manufacturing plants in the Southeast as well, which is on the same tract of land in Independence, Va., where their sawmill is located.

Besides Independence Lumber, Inc., other clients of BOLDesigns include: Georgia Pacific; Buchanan Flooring Co.; Granite Hardwoods; Anderson Tully Co.; Blandy Hardwoods; Owens Flooring Co.; Stanley Furniture; Broyhill Furniture; Godfrey Lumber Co.; Musser Lumber Company; Baker Furniture Co.; Associated Hardwoods.; Hermitage Hardwoods; Batesville Casket; Fitzgerald Log & Lumber; Shaver Wood Products; Athens Furniture; Webb Furniture; Industrial Timber & Lumber Co.; Kincaid Furniture; and Young’s Furniture Manufacturing.

In closing, Brett mentioned that besides having his own plant in Lenoir, N.C. for manufacturing his dry kilns and lumber handling equipment, he owns a 15,000 square-foot building about two miles from his factory where he could also manufacture his products should companies in the wood products industry get busier and need to order more dry kilns and/or lumber handling equipment.

To find out more about Independence Lumber visit or call 276.773.3744.

For more information about BOLDesigns, Inc., visit or call 800.645.7001.
This is a view of Independence Lumber’s 60-bay bin sorter.


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