ShareThis Page
Donegal Township sawmill tour highlights changing lumber industry | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Donegal Township sawmill tour highlights changing lumber industry

Jacob Tierney
| Saturday, January 19, 2019 1:30 a.m

Woodmill

A complex, noisy network of blades and belts turned logs into dowels before a crowd of excited onlookers Saturday.

“I feel like Willy Wonka in the chocolate factory,” sawmill manager Patrick Cannin said as he showed off stacks of thousands of dowels piled high behind him. They will be used to make handles for sledgehammers, shovels and other tools.

About 25 people attended the tour of the Ames sawmill in Donegal Township, organized by the Westmoreland Woodlands Improvement Association.

Ames is based in Camp Hill and has numerous facilities in several states, but the wood used at the Donegal mill all comes from within a 200-mile radius, Cannin said.

“All of the wood you’re going to see here today, I rely on you folks for it,” he said.

Many members of the Westmoreland Woodlands Improvement Association own forests and wood farms. The group is celebrating its 30th year.

It started in early 1989 as an effort to educate landowners about sustainable forestry, and give them a way to meet others with similar interests.

“It’s an educational thing, and a fun social thing,” founding member Tony Quadro said.

The group takes occasional field trips, like the one to the sawmill, to teach its members more about how lumber is used.

“It educates our members to potential markets, and the end result of where their lumber ends up,” association President John Hilewick said.

The mill is a perfect illustration of how the wood business has changed over the years, Cannin said. Some of its equipment is about 100 years old and still going strong, while some is state-of-the-art machinery run by computers.

The sawmill was owned by Babcock Lumber until 2014, when Ames took it over. It employs about 42 people.

Most of its employees, including Cannin, worked there during the Babcock days, and have had to adapt to a new mission.

“We’re learning to become toolmakers,” he said. “We’re getting pretty good at it, I think.”

Forest owners have had their own changes and challenges to deal with, according to Quadro.

One common problem is the practice of “high grading,” in which loggers “cut the best and leave the rest” of the trees in an area, Hilewick said. This can be very profitable for landowners in the short term, but harms the long-term viability of the woodland.

The association works to convince landowners that more sustainable logging practices are better for the land and, in the long term, more profitable.

That’s been a priority for decades, but modern environmentalists and forest owners have new issues to deal with as well.

Insects such as the emerald ash borer have devastated tree populations. Ash used to be Ames’ preferred wood for making tool handles, but the company has mostly switched to red oak because ash is too hard to find, Cannin said.

Meanwhile, invasive plant species such as Japanese honeysuckle are choking out local forests, Quadro said.

There’s also more regulations to follow. Association member Rus Davies owns a small wood farm in Fairfield Township, said he has to jump through lots of hoops to get his operation regularly inspected.

This can be a costly hassle, but it does attract customers who want to buy certified sustainable wood, he said. Many landowners were already dedicated to sustainable practices, he said.

“People are now required to do it. I think most people did it anyway, I think it just weeds out the bottom feeders,” he said.

Not everyone who attended the tour was a forest owner. The trip was open to the public. Sandra and Allan Aahl, of Derry, saw an advertisement for the tour and decided to come along.

“I like the industrial aspect of it,” Allan Aahl said. “Their ability to employ people with local resources.”

Quadro said the Westmoreland Woodlands Improvement Association is for anyone interested in the woods, not just landowners.

It has more than 90 members, the most in its history, and Quadro hopes it will continue to thrive as it enters its fourth decade.


Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer.
You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.


Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter .


653944_web1_GTR-Sawmill2-012019
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Ames facility manager Patrick Cannin (right) shows a stockpile of poplar wood used in Ames Company products Saturday, Jan. 18, 2018 at the Ames Companies’ wood mill on Roaring Run Road in Donegal Township while Bob Pore, (left), of West Newton, looks over the warehouse during a tour of the facility to members of the Westmoreland Woodlands Improvement Association.
653944_web1_GTR-Sawmill3-012019
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Sawdust coats a shelf of tools Saturday, Jan. 18, 2018 at the Ames wood mill on Roaring Run Road in Donegal Township.
653944_web1_GTR-Sawmill6-012019
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Stacks of logged timber sits outdoors Saturday, Jan. 18, 2018 at the Ames wood mill on Roaring Run Road in Donegal Township.
653944_web1_GTR-Sawmill1-012019
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Members of the Westmoreland Woodlands Improvement Association get a tour of a de-barker machine Saturday, Jan. 18, 2018 at the Ames wood mill on Roaring Run Road in Donegal Township.
653944_web1_GTR-Sawmill5-012019
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Ames Companies facilities manager Patrick Cannin explains the process of taking harvested timber and prepping it for creation of wooden components of Ames Company tools Saturday, Jan. 18, 2018 at the Ames wood mill on Roaring Run Road in Donegal Township. Cannin was giving a tour of the facility to members of the Westmoreland Woodlands Improvement Association.
653944_web1_GTR-Sawmill4-012019
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Ames Companies employee Aaron Rugg works stacking wooden rods that will be made into gardening or landscaping products Saturday, Jan. 18, 2018 at the Ames wood mill on Roaring Run Road in Donegal Township. Employees were busy working on Saturday to meet the company’s manufacturing goals while facility manager Patrick Cannin was giving a tour of the facility to members of the Westmoreland Woodlands Improvement Association.
Categories: News | Westmoreland
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.