By Paul Miller Jr.
Liberty, Pa.—Wheeland Lumber Co. has come a long way in the Hardwood producing industry over the past 50 years. A family-owned and operated sawmill, the company is a manufacturer of lumber products, servicing the world markets and constantly growing with the demands of the wood industry. A clear focus on secondary wood manufacturing and added value marketing has kept the firm in the forefront of the world marketplace.
Located in the lumber-history rich mountains of North Central Pennsylvania, close to the Susquehanna River, the company once serving as the water transportation system for logs and lumber to many mills in and around Williamsport, then titled “The Lumber Capitol of the World.” Today, the company produces more than 8 million board feet of Hardwood lumber cut from some of the finest Cherry, Hard and Soft Maple, Ash and Oak logs in the world. A 100-plus-mile procurement range centered in some of the best Hardwood forests of the Appalachian chain gives the company access to the highest quality timber sources to be found, according to Ray Wheeland, president and chief executive officer.
Wheeland has a keen interest in the sustainability of the forest on which his company depends. Third party certification through Smartwood with chain-of-custody accountability through every phase of procurement, manufacturing his own innovative “Forestry Partnership Program,” and a leader in the Sustainable Forest Initiative of Pennsylvania exemplify Wheeland’s commitment to the protection of the forest resource.
The modern sawmill facility covers 30 acres and includes nine SII dry kilns, which the last three stainless kilns were installed in 2004 as replacements for the original kilns installed in the 1970’s. The total drying capacity of the facility is 500,000 board feet. A 1.5-million-board-foot capacity warehouse for kiln-dried lumber storage is on the property, along with covered green lumber storage of 2 million board feet and over 1 million board feet of log yard storage.
Primary production is through the state-of-the-art 62-inch McDonough double cut headrig equipped with Inovec stereo scan technology. Cants are quickly processed through the 54-inch McDonough linebar resaw, which feeds the TMT edger equipped with Inovec optimization. The firm also uses a 54-inch Pinhiero resaws for smaller cants. Lumber is produced in all thicknesses, from 4/4 to 12/4, with nearly 25 percent of the lumber production of Cherry, Oak, Maple, Ash and Poplar being shipped to more than 20 countries around the world.
Wheeland also offers specialized services and secondary manufacturing, which continues to grow with the industry. Today, as part of a recent redesign and restructuring of the secondary facility, the operation includes sorting and cross-cutting of special lengths and widths, S2S planing through a Newman Whitney S282 planer, straight-line and gang ripping with a Newman 24 glue line gang, equipped with Ca Paul NC optimizing infeed and a Weinig Opticut 200 exact cross-cut saw. Mouldings are produced through the Weinig Powermat 1000 six-head 12,000 rpm spindles and also through a Wadkin K-23 six-head moulder.
The firm manufactures 2.5 million board feet through the secondary manufacturing facility, as well as purchasing kiln-dried items from valued suppliers.
“With the dimension line, we are not only just taking our own production through our whole sawmill facility and dry kilns,” Wheeland said. “If we don’t have the stock for our customers, we will purchase kiln-dried items from our valued vendor’s who gives us a high quality product for our valued customers.”
Wheeland Lumber Co. employs 80 full-time employees and more than 25 sub-contractors. Many of the workforce at the facility have been with the company for years, through the growth that the more than 28-year-old company has encountered.
“Our company has grown 10-fold over the past 28 years,” Wheeland said. “I attribute much of our success to key personnel like my wife, Gina, vice president; my sons Derek Wheeland, who handles domestic and international sales as well as day-to-day operations, Damen Wheeland, who handles veneer log sales and lumber purchasing; Bill Baker, domestic Hardwood and dimension sales; Dave Andrews, yard manager; Tony Massaro, operations manager; and Gary Confair, log yard manager. Our procurement is handled by four foresters.”
Wheeland added that his company is a member of the National Hardwood Lumber Assoc., Hardwood Manufacturers Assoc., Pennsylvania Forest Assoc., Penn-York Lumbermen’s Club, the Wood Products Manufacturing Assoc., The American Hardwood Export Council, the International Wood Products Assoc., the Sustainable Forestry Institutive of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Hardwoods Manufacturers Assoc.
Even though Wheeland Lumber updates its machinery to stay up-to-date with the times, one thing has stayed the same. The company’s commitment to providing its customers with the best products and customer service has not changed in the company’s history, nor will it change in the future, according to Wheeland.