Waste nothing: Using 100 percent of every tree

Oregon is known for its culture around recycling and limiting waste. It is no surprise then that the timber industry, a quintessential part of Oregon, embodies this culture as well.

Oregon Forests Forever recently visited Hampton Lumber’s mill in Willamina, OR also known as Timbertown, U.S.A. This sawmill was Hampton’s first sawmill operation and has been operated by Hampton since 1942. It is also Hampton’s largest facility with more than 250 employees. Our tour explored the various techniques that have been developing for decades to ensure that nearly 100% of every tree is put to use.

High Tech Modeling

Since the late 1990s Hampton has been scanning every log that passes through their Willamina sawmill. After data on the log is captured, computer modeling tells them the exact number and size of planks to cut to make sure each log is optimized for minimal waste. Within seconds, saw machinery responds to that information and adjusts to process the log accordingly.

Curved saw blades, straight planks

Most trees have a natural curve to them, some more than others. Cutting these trees in a straight line would waste wood. Instead, Hampton uses a “curved sawblade.” The blade itself isn’t curved, but countless micro adjustments are made to its position relative to the log so it can follow the curve and the grain to get the most out of every tree. A curved log goes in, and a straight plank comes out.

Even wood chips and sawdust don’t go to waste

As you can imagine, cutting that much wood in one day leaves a lot of saw dust, wood chips, and unusable planks. However, you’d be hard pressed to find any actual wood material in a trash can. Instead, the facility collects these materials for use in pulp and paper making and agricultural and landscaping activities.  Some of this “waste” is sent down the road to Hampton’s mill in Tillamook to be used as renewable biofuel for the sawmill’s dry kilns.

Thanks to Hampton Lumber for this great insight into their process and how seriously they take recycling.


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