Article by Rich Donnell

You may notice that this issue includes the 40th annual Lumbermen’s Buying Guide. Wow, 40! It kind of snuck up on me. I’ve been writing on these pages for 35 of those years, which means I missed the very first Lumbermen’s Buying Guide we published in 1979. The magazine itself was only in its fourth year then. I had only graduated from college two years before, was two years into a newspaper sportswriting gig, and still four years away from joining Hatton-Brown Publishers, Inc.

Obviously I had some awareness of what was going in the world at large (as much as a 24-year-old can), but I certainly wasn’t in touch with the forest products industry in North America. So, I recently pulled out our 1979 bound volume of Timber Processing magazines, and here’s what I found:

It had obviously been a good year advertising-wise for the magazines because the bound volume was thick. But many of the editorials in the magazines pointed to early signs of a declining housing market and at the very visible rising interest rates under the Carter Administration. So the healthy looking magazines were really an extension of the previous economic boom that had housing starts soaring above 2 million in 1978. But by the last quarter of 1979, housing was in decline and finished the year at 1.76 million, before dropping further to 1.33 million in 1980 and then really bottoming out in 1981 and 1982 to below 1 million. (I might add that housing starts have “improved” to the 1.3 million range in 2018.)

The magazines, as they continue to do today, featured numerous sawmill modernization articles written by our editors in the field: Following a fire, Union Camp had constructed what the magazine called “probably the most technologically advanced mill of its kind on the East Coast,” at Seabord, NC, installing a Mark II Chip-N-Saw with slabbing top and side heads. Round Prairie Lumber had upgraded its mill in Dillard, Ore. with a Salem 7 ft. bandmill and tilted carriage headrig, the second ever built by Salem according to the article. International Paper upgraded its Eatonton, Ga. sawmill with a new optimized edger from Kockums, a HEMCO sorter, and two Kockums Cambio debarkers. Robert Dollar Company built a new small log line at Glendale, Ore. with side clamping infeed to a Kockums quad bandmill. The Langdale Company installed a Linck chipper canter system supplied by Corley Manufacturing. Simpson Timber built a new small log stud mill in Shelton, Wash.

Note the above references to the new “small log” lines in the Northwest. Not only was big timber on the decline in the Northwest, but timber availability on federal lands was beginning to take a serious hit thanks to environmental lawsuits and wilderness setasides.

In reading through the magazines of 1979 it was also evident a movement was afoot to use wood residuals as fuel for boilers and heating in sawmills. Imagine that.

In reading through the magazines of 1979 it was also evident a movement was afoot to use wood residuals as fuel for boilers and heating in sawmills. Imagine that.

These companies should be commended for their staying power, as should Timber Processing and its buying guide. While we’re at it, let’s give it up for the sawmill industry as well.