While you might think of sawmills primarily as places to large pieces of hardwood lumber, wood slabs, or whole log lumber, most sawmills also do a lot of business in what are called “sawmill products.” The sawmills turn out beautiful boards of big leaf maple wood, curly cherry wood, white oak slabs, and even paneling and furniture. In the process of doing this, a lot of byproducts get created. These sawmill products include bark, sawdust, pine mills, and slab ends.
The byproducts of the sawmill process can be used for all kinds of applications. The bark is chewed up and sold as mulch to be used in landscaping projects. Sawdust can be used as bedding for animals on farms and in zoos. The slab ends are chipped and then sent off to make paper, and pine mills are dried out, saved, and then sold as bedding for horses. By using sawmill products, not one bit of wood gets wasted.
Lifeblood of an Industry
Whereas in the past sawmill products were an afterthought, today they are often the primary moneymaker for a lumber mill. As the lumber industry becomes internationally competitive and American companies struggle to compete with foreign brands that do not have the same regulatory burdens, tax codes, and safety requirements that are in place in the United States, these lumber mills have turned to creativity and efficiency to stay competitive. Finding something to do with every last bit of the wood keeps the industry alive.
Maintaining the Forests
The lumber industry is as interested in sustainable harvesting as anyone else. If the forests disappear, so does their livelihood. As a result, it has been common practice for years for the lumber industry to plant five trees for every one tree harvested; a practice which has been so successful that today there are more trees dotting the American landscape than there were when the country was founded.
Diversification For the Long-Haul
Another benefit of branching out to find uses for sawmill products and other less valuable parts of the boards is the it allows the lumber industry to diversify. Diversification means that it’s possible to survive lean times, because when one area is on a downturn, another product might be selling well.
In the industry, the term is “getting six feet of product out of five feet of board.” Through finding a way to use every piece of the wood, it’s possible for lumber mills to do just. that.