(HELENA) Marks Lumber, just outside Clancy, is part of a long tradition of timber products in the area.

“We’ve been sawing steady here since 1989,” said owner Steve Marks. “My father and my grandfather were active from 1940 up through that time.”

On Friday, Marks and his brother Gary, the owner of nearby Marks-Miller Post and Pole, opened their businesses up for visits from the public. It was part of a statewide celebration of Montana Forest Products Week.

Marks Lumber is a specialty mill, which focuses on filling specific orders, rather than constantly putting out products. It employs around 24 people and produces about 1.2 million board feet of lumber each year.

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Marks Lumber usually produces rough lumber for use as flooring, siding or timbers. Steve Marks said he’s able to handle work larger mills can’t.

“We buy the best logs on the market and produce them into these products,” he said. “We call it the Montana Look.”

Marks said much of the mill’s equipment has been salvaged, but they’ve added new components, so operations are now largely computerized. Employees are able to turn and shift logs, then saw off pieces at a variety of sizes. A laser sight helps them position the logs correctly.

Once the rough boards are cut, another machine cuts off the uneven edges. The leftover pieces are turned into chips or sawdust, then used to make byproducts like garden mulch or pressed boards.

“We waste nothing out of the log anymore,” Marks said. “We used to burn massive amounts of waste, and we burn nothing. It’s all utilized for something.”

Friday’s tours were part of Forest Products Week, but also a way for Marks Lumber to show appreciation for its customers.

“We hear a lot, ‘Man, I didn’t know you did that,’ or ‘Geez, this smells good,’ ‘Man, that’s cool stuff,’ and ‘How do you know how to do all this?’” said Marks. “They just like to see where it’s made, how it’s made, when it’s made.”

Marks said he hopes the event will get people thinking about what the lumber industry contributes to Montana. He called mills “essential” to forest management around the state.

“If we don’t have a place to take this fiber coming off this ground to mills, we lose the tool to make the beauty that we have in Montana with our well-managed forests,” he said. “Once we lose these facilities, they will not come back.”

Marks said he’s proudest that he can see the products his company creates in construction all around the area – from fiber boards in schools to mulch at the Montana State Capitol.

“It’s just a very neat process, that we can take a fiber that God’s given us and create a product that you can use in your home,” he said.

The third week of October is celebrated as National Forest Products Week. In 2011, the Montana Legislature adopted it on the state level, as well.

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