International Timber is further investing in its state-of-the-art kilning facilities at Parkend next month with the installation of new mechanical handling equipment.

Around £40,000 is being spent on a new vacuum-lifting machine that has been designed to the company’s specification. It will support the additional throughput of material that can be processed through the company’s bank of seven kilns.

The new equipment is due to be installed in February and will be capable of lifting 1.872 tonnes per cycle. However, the built-in safety factor of 4 is based on a normal maximum lift of 424kg. Cycle time of 2.5 per minute would compute to give an absolute maximum of 80m3 per hour based on 100mm material.

The vacuum lift investment represents International Timber’s ongoing commitment to offering a kilning service in the UK. In July last year, the company invested over £250,000 in four new kilns, supplied and built by Kiln Services. Parkend now has a total of seven kilns, all of which are less than three years old, giving a combined capacity of 500m3.

“The combination of being a timber importer with one of the largest and most modern kilning facilities in the UK enables us to offer integrated, high quality timber products,” said regional director Steve Howard. “None of our competitors has invested to this level.”

Control systems

Each kiln has a capacity to hold approximately 70m3 of timber. The control systems supplied with the kilns provide the latest in timber drying technology. The MP4032 microprocessor operated through Windows allows the operator to input, display and store data from one central control. Drying processes for over 250 species of wood are included in the software but, as well as these standard programmes, the system allows the operator to modify or design bespoke programmes. Each programme can have an unlimited number of drying steps allowing for changes to temperature, equilibrium moisture content (EMC) and air velocity. A modem link enables the kilns to be monitored remotely via a telephone line. The accurate control of the EMC is critical, particularly when drying high-value hardwoods.

International Timber’s kilns are equipped with a high-pressure humidification system in which water is supplied to the spray heads at a pressure of 1,400 pounds per square inch (or 95 bar). This produces minute droplets around 30 microns in size that evaporate immediately. The spray resembles a fine mist that penetrates all parts of the timber stack. This process allows the EMC to be achieved quickly, resulting in faster and more efficient drying times as well as improved product quality.

For International Timber, the importance of in-house kilning is in having “first class, quality control over the product”. “Commercial kilning companies drying on behalf of a third party are largely driven by volume, processing wood as quickly as possible,” said Mr Howard. “This can mean partial overdrying and case hardening which leads to increased warp and splitting. This is defective material and essentially waste product that doesn’t even make the customer’s saw.”

By contrast, International Timber’s quality control procedures focus on producing the maximum yield in a cycle, and any degraded product is withdrawn and rejected prior to despatch to the customer.


Another benefit of in-house kilning is the flexibility it gives International Timber to cope with the erratic supply of raw timber that is now a feature of the market. The company can source shipping dry timber, kiln it and then stockhold it to cope with the peaks and troughs of demand. “There has been a tremendous rise in demand for timber windows through greater awareness of wood as a sustainable product and we are able to give our customer base continuity of supply,” added Mr Howard.

Other important benefits from the investment are a reduction in fuel and energy consumption and the environmental improvement that entails. The company opted for the higher specification kilns with frequency inverters for the air circulation motors. Initial comparisons show at least a 30% decrease in electricity usage. The impact of hazardous materials on site has also been minimised by opting to run the boiler and sideloader trucks on the same fuel, fed from one tank of gas oil.