2-3-2 Community Biomass Enterprise Development Blog Update by Tim Reader

This quarters Blog highlights Members of our Fellows Team visit to Quality Timbers and Wood Products LLC., in the small community of Antonito, Colorado, to facilitate collaboration among their custom milling operation and a developing local guild of Timber Frame Builders in Durango, Colorado.

Established and operated by an Amish family, the mill has been in its current location almost 15 years providing custom milled and graded timbers, beams, logs and lumber using spruce, Douglas-fir, some ponderosa pine, and an occasional “import” of an eastern hardwood or two.

The town of Antonito itself sits at what was the terminus of the Rio Grande railroad and now serves today as the eastern hub for the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.  Just above the border with New Mexico, its footprint encompasses just a half square mile.  Amish began settling in the Valley in 2000.  It is also home to the oldest church congregation dating back to 1850’s.

Meeting up with a former, now recently retired USFS colleague, who now represents a local Timber Frame guild, we left Durango on the approximately 200-mile route south from Colorado into New Mexico, then back up into Colorado and the San Luis Valley.  Rubin, the proprietor, was taking care of a customer when we arrived, and then he spent the afternoon introducing us to his milling operation and custom design services.  Rubin purchases logs from a number of logging businesses in southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico. He is able to pay a premium for raw logs by custom milling for high-end homebuilding and purchasing clientele from across the country, which captures the logs value.

We spent the final part of our visit talking about new opportunities to supply products to our developing Timber Frame guild.  Like all Amish, Rubin was hesitant to be focal point of our pictures, letting the highlights be the products and the beauty of the wood itself.  He is decidedly low key but clearly passionate and committed to his business, his employees, and his community.

One of two band mills they employ to produce their custom sawn timbers and beams.  The band mills do not achieve a high rate of production, but combined with the judgement and experience of the employees, the band mills recover the greatest value and design strength from the timber. Rubin’s team do their own grading under the training and protocols of Timber Products Inspection.  The grading and high-end quality products allows them to achieve a value three to four times greater than the commodity products produced in other mills.
Quality is in further evidence by the “true square” 90 degree angle their products are milled to, and the “capture” of the spruce heartwood in the center of the milled timber; this results in greater dimensional stability, design strength, and value.