Abbey Timber

Abbey Timber

Name of organisation/business: 
Abbey Timber
Harvesting and Processing Grant, Forestry Grant Scheme: £35,000
Scottish Rural Development Programme priority: 
Supporting agricultural and forestry businesses
Contact details: 
Willie Dobie 01361 840251



Abbey Timber
The Sawmill
TD11 3TX

What are the aims of your project?

To increase the productivity of our timber processing and thereby secure the future of Abbey Timber and the livelihoods of those who work within it. Abbey Timber harvests trees from local woodland and processes the logs into a wide range of different products. Some aspects of our production process especially kiln drying and machining are relatively efficient but others were too slow and physically demanding to be viable in the long term.  Two main problem areas were identified. First was harvesting of the trees in the forest which relied entirely on motor manual felling with chainsaws.  and the sawing of the logs into planks. Both processes were slow and physically demanding. 

How did your project achieve these aims?

Our timber harvesting has been transformed by the installation of an FMS 575ST stroke harvesting head on our 8 tonne excavator. This attachment fells the tree, strips the branches off, cuts the stem to length and stacks the logs ready for onward transport to the sawmill. It was designed in Finland and manufactured in Northumberland. The next process of sawing the log into planks has likewise been transformed by the installation of a Mebor 1100 horizontal bandsaw, manufactured by Mebor in Slovenia which is giving us a new standard of quality as well as productivity. The setup includes infeed and outfeed conveyors so that the whole process is completely mechanised and controlled by a single operator.

Who’s involved?

Much of the success of the project has been due to the initial advice and ongoing support of the manufacturers. Tuomo Lahikainen of Dinoma and Kenny Dobson and his colleagues at FMS adapted our excavator for work in the forest and ironed out the inevitable teething problems. Simon Mesec of Mebor guided us towards specifying the bandsaw to meet our individual requirements and his Slovakian colleague Marian Kovacik came to us for a week, to help install the machine and train the operator in how to use it.

How was the project funded?

The project has been funded by the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) grant, a bank loan and a significant amount of our own resources, partly financial and partly labour and materials in the form of foundations and a building to house the new sawmill.

Where did you go for help and advice?

Awareness of the type of machinery available has been absorbed over the years from many sources including trade fairs such as the APF Forest Machinery Demo. Detailed advice came from the manufacturers. Although not directly related to the project, training and support from SMAS (Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service) has strongly influenced our approach to making our processes more efficient. And not least support from the staff of Forestry Commission Scotland eased the somewhat daunting online application process for the grant.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

At the most basic level, the greatest sense of achievement comes from seeing big piles of wood whereas before there would have been small piles.

And the biggest challenge?

The learning curve to master relatively complex machinery has been longer than expected.

Any tips for those setting up a similar project?

Travel and see how others do it. A trip to Slovenia to visit the factory and nearby sawmills was very informative and encouraging. 

Focus on the areas of lowest productivity. Labour, whether family or employed, is the scarcest resource and needs to be used as effectively as possible.

What’s next for your project?

Now that the two main bottlenecks have been removed, the aim for the next few years will be to improve every aspect of the business with a series of incremental improvements and steadily expand our production without overreaching ourselves. Marketing is the least of our worries with a stream of customers beating a path to our door.