We use a pin type and an EMF Scanner type moisture meter to check our lumber. Many test readings are averaged together to account for the variations present in the wood. Once a year I check these tools with an oven dry test to be sure they are accurate. As you get to know your wood and kiln, a simple tap of the fingers - or crosscut with the chop saw tells me the moisture of my wood.
Our newest kiln design is being used now all over the world. Local building methods and materials can be used anywhere. The first solar cycle kiln used about one cent of electricity per board foot to power the fans, but the improvements made since 1988 have cut the electricity cost to about one tenth of one cent per board foot. Air-tight construction, better insulation, and one way air valves are the major changes.
Solar cycle kilns are a little slower than commercial kilns, so we maintain more lumber inventory in the drying operation. Since it is our own wood, with only time invested, the cost of inventory is low and not an issue to us. Having the best quality wood available is very good for business. Using solar energy clearly shows customers our commitment to environmental responsibility, also very good for business!
When the lumber in the kiln is dry, we unsticker the piles and do a two-way sort. Wood that is to be made into flooring is taken to the sawmill shed, and lumber to be stored is taken to our humidity controlled sales room in the loft of our remodeled dairy barn.
Our edger saw is used to rip the flooring blanks from the dry planks. Since we will install our own flooring, we are not tied to standard commercial flooring sizes or specifications. I make flooring in a variety of sizes that minimize the waste of my own lumber. Curved boards are set aside in a pile, then the whole pile is cut in half with a chain saw. The shorter pieces are then ripped into straight blanks with little waste. We have used the WoodMizer to rip flooring blanks, also; Stand a dozen boards on edge and trim off the top edges. Then flip the pile over and trim the other edges - producing straight blanks all the same width.
The pile of flooring blanks is taken to the workshop in the basement of the barn. A single sided planer is used to pre-smooth the good side of the blank and remove any thick spots along the board. By passing the board through the planer at a slight angle, the ridges left by the band sawmill are removed - producing a smoother cut in the Logosol molder. This makes the 4 head molder work even better than a 5 head molder. As the blanks come out of the planer they are sorted by width and taken to the molder.
Traditional flooring - defect free, color sorted, narrow strips, relief cut on the bottom side, and end matched is - BORING FLOORING. If a customer wants that - I'll pass on the job.
We make our flooring symmetrical with both sides smooth and no end match. A scant 3/16th long inch tongue and groove minimizes the waste and energy needed to mold the blanks. We use a variety of widths from 2" to 6" on most floors, and up to 10" wide for the true wide plank look. Sound character is featured = not chopped out! Most people love the mixed species flooring and choose a blend that suits their taste.