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The Ward Family Legacy

"It's definitely more efficient," said veteran sawyer Mike Bombard, his hands grasping two joy-stick-like controls as a log flipped in front of his work station and became half a dozen boards in a matter of a few minutes.

"We've increased efficiency and reduced waste by 14 percent," he said, never taking his eyes from his work.

The Ward sawmill processes around 300 logs a day - which translates into 5,000 boards a day, or about 40,000 board feet. Given a four day work week and room for some waste, that equates to seven million board feet a year.

When sawmill supervisor Matt Miller started at Ward in 1981, the mill was putting out about 18,000 board feet a day, he said.

"The technology changes constantly," Jeff said. "We can't invest fast enough."

After being sawed, boards get edged and trimmed and move along a conveyor to an area where each is graded for purity and stacked. Here, a grader must make split-second decisions, separating each board into four grading categories.

Averaging 5,000 boards a day, graders like Roger Griffin and John Snow have less than six seconds per board to determine grade, and they're held to a 5 percent margin of error.

"I tell school classes that they can pass with a 65 percent, while we are held to 95 percent," Jay said as he scanned the stacks of freshly sawed pine boards stacked head-high in his yard.

After being sawed, boards are then moved to huge kilns where they are baked at around 130 degrees to remove 90 percent of the moisture content.

It takes 10-14 days to attain "dry" lumber, and the wood is then moved to a planer mill where it is honed down. In total, about 30 employees are responsible for turning a log into building material.

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