Made In Eastern Iowa: Kendrick Forest Products, The Cutting Edge of Edgewood

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EDGEWOOD, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Set back from South Washington Street in Edgewood, the outside of Kendrick Forest Products may appear, to the unknowing eye, as just about sawmill.

Logs amid the precise cuts in the workflow at Kendrick Forest Products. Edgewood-based Kendrick employs about 60 people and produces lumber, veneer logs, custom cabinets, mulch and other products from lumber that is usually from within 100 miles of Edgewood.

"People that drive by on the highway all day probably have no clue that we have all this going on back here," said Greg Blomberg, general manager at Kendrick Forest Products.

Logs from the outside fill the yard, with the end products eventually turning into graded wood, veneer logs, railroad ties, mulch in four colors and even custom cabinetry from Forever Cabinets by Kendrick, a growing part of the business.

Blomberg said KFP employs about 60 people, many of whom handle the lumber that he said is almost all from within 100 miles of Edgewood.

"There's only one natural renewable resource you're going to find on the planet and that's hardwood timber," Blomberg acknowledge as he steered a pickup truck around the edges of the building.

Yet it's inside KFP where the noise is loud but the decisions are precise. Blomberg has worked at KFP for years and his background is in accounting. Whether widgets, microprocessors or lumber, efficiency is critical.

Blomberg and Kerra Boriskey, who is a member of the Kendrick family, guided KCRG-TV 9 through the inner workings of KFP. Saws up to 47 feet long are sharpened for the workload. A large debarker takes the bark off the trees, for the product that eventually turns into mulch. KFP manufactures that mulch into four colors and sells it as "Mahaska Mulch", often sold at regional stores like Menards.

Amid the workflow of taking a raw log and turning It into any of the products requires a handful of critical point people.

One longtime KFP worker oversees the sorting of lumber inside of a large room where a log is cut and recut in a fast motion to ensure that the maximum usable amount of product can come out of each log that comes in.

Another longtime employee, who Blomberg said has worked at KFP for at least a decade, grades the lumber, appraising the wood after the cut room takes its slices.

"Each of those positions can make bad decisions that can impact you for thousands of dollars a day," said Blomberg. "It's critical that you have a workforce that has seen the bumps, day in and day out."

The workflow of this sawmill also leads to a booming business at Kendrick. Custom cabinets from Forever Cabinets, especially in this era of home improvement shows and the pursuit of the dream home.

"A lot of times, you can't go to Menards and buy a cabinet that you saw on Pinterest or those home improvement shows so, yeah, we get a lot of customers coming to us with those very specific ideas and we have a really talented group of guy here and we try to figure out how to build it," said Boriskey, who manages the cabinet business with KFP.

That process is a fusion of the technology he specific cuts...and the actual work. Trying to be the most efficient to also make a custom product one that's top quality... But still affordable.

"Our cut list tells us how much lumber we will need for each job."

Yet for all of the technology in 2016, the need for hand-crafted expertise also has a strong place in crafting the cabinets. The final steps include sanding and staining to make the wood feel smooth and sparkle to the eye.

"If you oversand, wood won't accept stain," said Boriskey. "We spend a lot of time sanding our cabinets."

Company leaders also stressed was the importance of having people at Kendrick who have worked there for years, even as the trends in technology are so critical to keep up with, having those who understand forestry products also plays a major role.

Kendrick offers public tours of its Edgewood facility. The company's website is: