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Forester turns trees into custom-cut lumber

MOSSYROCK, Wash. -- Micheal Hurley, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent, manages his 128 acres of Cascade foothills for custom-cut lumber.

"I love my woods," Hurley said. "I started horse logging with a misery whip (two-man crosscut saw) when I was a kid."

Now, with the help of one employee, he works his slopes with four-wheelers, Bobcats and power saws, harvesting Douglas fir, cedar, maple, hemlock and maple.

Hurley and his wife have lived in their house south of Lake Mayfield since 1997, but he started logging the parcel in 1974.

His well-equipped mill, built from timber off his property, houses a four-head edger-moulder, several planers, a large belt sander and other implements from which he can produce a broad range of wood products including trim, flooring, decking, siding, paneling and framing lumber.

A kiln, also built by hand, can handle up to 1,000 board-feet at a time, drying softwood down to 8 to 12 percent moisture in a few weeks.

In 2008, Hurley joined Northwest Certified Forestry and became certified under the Forest Stewardship Council.

"Mainly that involved drawing up a forest management plan," he said. "I was already doing most of the practices. I grow a staggered forest, with different species and different ages."

From harvesting and processing, he sells most of his lumber directly to the customer.

"Buyers find me through word of mouth, sometimes through various websites," he said. "I've also gotten referrals directly from Kirk Hanson (at Northwest Certified Forestry).

"I don't do two-by-fours or two-by-sixes in the commodity market. I can compete for quality, but I can't compete for price," he said.

Most of Hurley's customers are more interested in the custom cutting a small mill can do than in any certification.

"A lot of what I sell, you can't go to the lumber store and buy, especially the tongue-in-groove in so many different dimensions," he said.

Aside from trying to keep ahead of blowdowns and all the small-dimension alder that grows so thickly on his property, he hasn't harvested much lately, only two cedar trees last year.

"I've got logs waiting for somebody to tell me what they want," he said.

Hurley said he is constantly educating himself about better forest management practices and options for processing and marketing wood products. Northwest Certified Forestry's training sessions and workshops were one of the main reasons he joined the organization. "NCF has sponsored several seminars and classes that I have attended, and I always bring something out of them to make them worthwhile."

-- Steve Brown


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