This is a story of the sawmill plant of Frost Lumber Industries, located at Nacogdoches, Texas.
Frost Lumber Industries are probably the largest producers of lumber products in the South. They operate nine powerful sawmill plants scattered about Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, manufacturing both yellow pine and hardwood products, likewise a big oak flooring plant and a lumber treating plant in Shreveport.
We have had something to say about these various institutions in these columns in the past, and will have more in the near future. This particular story concerns itself only with the plant at Nacogdoches.
The Texas mills of the Frost organization are composed of three units. There is a two band mill at Nacogdoches; a two band and gang mill at Waskom; and a band and resaw mill at Jasper; all three of which manufacture both pine and hardwood. These three mills are managed from Nacogdoches, where lives H. W. Whited, general manager of all three. Mr. Whited is a member of the famous Whited lumber family which has been associated with Mr. E. A. Frost for two generations. He has been in charge at Nacogdoches since the Frost interests bought the plant from The Hayward Lumber Company, back in 1910.
First he was manager only of the Nacogdoches mill. Later as they annexed the Waskom and Jasper mills, both were placed under his very able jurisdiction.
The Nacogdoches mill was built by the Haywards early in the century. It was destroyed by fire in 1909, was rebuilt on a larger scale immediately, and as soon as it was completed Frost bought it and have been operating it ever since.
It is located right on the outskirts of the pioneer city of Nacogdoches, and the mill town is part of the city.
The sawmill is equipped with two bands, a big- double edger, and regulation piano trimmer. Both carriages are equipped with air "dogs," and only one man is used on each carriage, the setting and "dogging" being done by air. (On the ordinary mill carriage one man "sets" the blocks, and two more men are used for settings the "dogs" that hold the logs in position.) Every move throughout the mill indicates unusual and particular care and exactness in the making of the lumber.
Right alongside the trimmer at the end of the sawmill, the edgings and slabs drop into a conveyor, where they are immediately inspected by men placed there for the purpose of rescuing every bit of edging that will yield any clear lumber, no matter how small. Such slabs and edgings are pulled from the conveyor into a small saving plant placed there for the purpose. By means of a resaw, a ripsaw, and a trimmer in this little unit, the slabs and edgings have all the clear wood sliced away from the bark. The bark then goes back into the conveyor to be burned, and the clear lumber thus saved goes to the kilns to be dried, and then remanufactured into various worthwhile articles and items.
As the pine lumber emerges from the sawmill, that which is to go to the yard is dipped in a tank of L i g n a s a n, including most of their dimension. Their No. 2 and better inch stock goes to the kilns via an automatic edge drop sorter. There are six Moore type dry kilns serving the mill. As the lumber comes out of the kilns it enters a cooling shed. Here it is unloaded onto chains, where it is again graded before being loaded on trucks and dollies for transfer to the rough sheds or the planing mill.
They particularly specialize in air-dried dimension at Nacogdoches. The stock is all dipped, as stated, which keeps it bright in color, and no part of their operation is given more careful attention than the very careful manufacture, seasoning, and dressing of their air-dried dimension. It is beautiful looking thick stock of which the mill management is very proud. As you stroll along the loading dock, you see them loading worlds of wide and long dimension that shouts of good quality and fine manufacture.
They have four rough sheds for storing their undressed lumber, giving them a world of storage room out of the weather. One dressed shed of huge proportions takes care of the dressed stock, and runs along the loading dock at the end of the planer.
The planer is probably the smartest department in the entire plant. Here they bring all the small pieces of clear lumber that they have saved from the edgings, slabs, trimmings, etc., and make them into something worth while. Most of this stuff is taken from right inside the bark of the log, where the clearest, straightest-grained lumber comes from. They make this small stuff into a great variety of useful wooden things, such as end-matched flooring, center-matched six inch stock, mouldings, crates, boxes, frames, table stock, ladder stock, handles, trim, toy-making materials, etc. They cut and turn and fit and even nail it, and make it ready for the user.
They have a sanding and wrapping room in the planer, where they prepare their packaged trim for market, and they have made this particular room dustproof for the protection of the sanded lumber. They have a room where they nail up knockdown crates, and they have an end-matching machine for flooring and center matching that is unlike anything THE GULF COAST LUMBERMAN visitors had ever seen. Usually it requires a small army of men to make end-matched flooring. Here they use only three men. The machine is a big flat table with chains moving across it the wide way, and an end-matching unit on either end. The flooring is fed onto the machine, and immediately one end is worked into a tongue. Then side rolls slide it across to the other side of the machine where another unit cuts the groove into the other end. As it comes off the machine, still sidewise as it went on, two men bundle and tie it, and that is all there is to the operation, which works smoothly and does a beautiful job of flooring making. It will make flooring from 2 to 22 feet long.
All their lumber is graded and trade-marked in the car before going on its way to market. For many years this plant cut large quantities of hardwood timber as well as pine, and they operated across the mill pond from the pine mill, a separate hardwood sawmill. Several years ago their cut of hardwood logs declined so that they closed the hardwood sawmill for good, and the hardwood they now produce in conjunction with the pine they manufacture in the pine mill. They allow their hardwood logs to accumulate at one side of the big log pond, and when they have sufficient for several days' run they cut hardwood on one side of the sawmill, while pine is being cut on the other. In this way they have a steady supply of hardwood lumber, have a considerable hardwood lumber yard, and furnish their sales department with some of the highest grade rough hardwood lumber it has for sale. They cut a considerable amount of big and excellent cypress at this plant, in addition to their regular run of stock hardwood items. They Lignasan dip certain of their hardwood lumber as it comes from the sawmill, and then dry it on the yard until ready for shipping. They do very little dressing of hardwood lumber, and no kiln drying, at this plant.
The entire product of the Nacogdoches mill, like that of all the other Frost mills, is sold through the general sales office at Shreveport, La., of which department John L. Avery is the very competent manager.