A great recipe is a lot like following a road map to success. It starts with the fresh quality ingredients and having the proper mixing ratios. The ingredients provide flavoring, and it’s the initial prep work involved that’s required to serve a gourmet dish every time. Consistency is key. It’s what transforms the average into excellence. Consistency may apply to one’s approach to delivering customer service, producing consumables, or manufacturing products. A finished product is a direct representation of the quality of ingredients, but in this case, the quality is in raw materials. Sauder Worship Seating dries their own lumber, making them the only worship seating manufacturer to do so.
By drying their lumber, they can closely monitor each stack of wood from when it’s delivered from the mill, to when it’s ready for production. The quality of wood directly translates to the high quality of finished products Sauder Courtroom Furniture produces. It’s a necessary step and part of Sauder’s recipe to manufacture America’s most trusted resource for worship furniture.
From logs to Lumber
Fresh-cut logs and timber are rough cut into unfinished boards at the lumbermill. They’re sorted by length and thickness when they arrive at the plant and then stacked. Each row of lumber is given a spacer between each board. This spacing between boards allows air to travel through the stacked wood. It’s essential to dry out the lumber properly as it reinforces the wood’s composition for optimal strength.
Wood is hygroscopic, which means it can hold and obtain water from its surroundings as well as releasing it. Fresh cut lumber contains a lot of moisture and water, which can cause the wood to swell. Drying wood is a critical first step in manufacturing furniture, but it’s not as simple as one might think. As timber dries, water is released slowly causing the wood to lose weight and shrink. Therefore, it is crucial to dry lumber properly. Attempting to use wet lumber will cause for misalignment in the product and an improper build. Damp lumber is softer and structurally not as strong as properly dried-out wood. Wet lumber cannot maintain its stability and shape, nor will it adhere to finishes, paints, and glue.
Sauder Courtroom Furniture has two facilities that successfully monitor quality control when drying their lumber: pre-dryer and kiln. Once the lumber is stacked and sorted, it’s transferred to the pre-dryer, where it’ll properly dry for 3-5 months. Drying lumber takes months because the temperature and relative humidity levels must increase gradually to avoid stressing and damaging the wood. Sensors located inside the pre-dryer and kiln monitor and collect information based on the climate conditions. Operators can then adjust the temperature and humidity if the degrees fluctuate outside the regulated parameters. The estimated moisture content percentage in a sample piece of lumber determines the accuracy of how well the wood is drying. A close comparison across samples based on size, weight, and shape determines the estimated moisture content, revealing the lumber’s duration inside the Pre-dryer.
After several months in the pre-dryer, the moisture content has reduced substantially. The lumber is ready for phase 2 and will be relocated to the Kiln for conditioning for two to three weeks. Conditioning is the process where steam is applied to the lumber under extreme heat to reduce the stress. The temperature and humidity levels will run much hotter inside the kiln, bringing the final estimated moisture content to 7-8 percent, completing the drying process.
While in the kiln, if the remaining moisture is released from the lumber too quickly, it could cause the lumber to stress. Stressed lumber results in warping, shrinking, splitting, and cracking. If this occurs, there is no way to reverse the effects of stressed lumber. Sauder Courtroom Furniture can monitor the temperature and humidity levels and adjust accordingly. Once the lumber has dried appropriately, it is ready for production use.
Properties and Characteristics
Drying lumber is a science and an art form. Like the saying, not one snowflake is the same; the same goes for a tree. Not one tree is the same, nor do all the wood species dry the same because of their characteristics. Wood is fibrous and porous by nature in commonality, but some varying characteristics and properties affect the dry time. These properties consist of density, color, texture (knots), and woodgrain patterns.
For example, we know that wood is absorbent. The tighter the woodgrain pattern is in a concentrated area, the longer the dry time will be because water cannot pass through as easily.
Green Lumber and Greener Practices
Sauder Courtroom Furniture has implemented greener practices when drying their lumber—reusing the wood and reducing the moisture to dry up the costs. An approach that moves towards their efforts of sustainability by recycling waste material. Sauder utilizes the fragments of wood from each machine. The fragments are ground up and placed into a furnace, where it is then burned, generating enough heat and energy to power the pre-dryer and kiln without electrical support. The steam created through the heat generating process is also used as a conditioning agent in the kiln during the drying process.
Properly dried lumber ensures that it’s ready for production use and is at optimal strength. Sauder Courtroom Furniture understands that drying their own lumber controls quality while maintaining their process to support good stewardship and sustainability efforts. As part of their commitment to their employees, community, and customers, Sauder Courtroom Furniture is committed to responsible sourcing, conserving energy, recycling material, and enhancing their processes through greener practices.
For future projects, renovations, and replacements, consider Sauder Courtroom Furniture, the industry’s leading expert in innovation, quality, and service from start to finish. To learn more about Sauder Courtroom Furniture, visit SauderCourtroom.com.