Here you will find some background information on the founding of the sawmill as an addition to the farming business and on its development all the way to being a modern, innovative sawmill and planing business with cutting-edge manufacturing technology.
In 1890, Josef Echtle for the first time used the farming-wise unproductive winter months to make lumber and timber. The simple saw frame was powered by hydropower of the Nordrach river. A board hemmer was available to trim the slabs. While agriculture remained the main source of income for the family for many more years, but Josef Echtle, born in 1870, thus laid the cornerstone for the growth of a successful business that today employs 45 people in Nordrach.
The first frame saw
Purchasing and operating the first frame saw in 1910 made it possible to saw larger logs, thereby increasing the cutting performance.
At that time, the sawmill only employed family members. They produced all building materials that were needed in the area around Nordrach at the time:
- Roof batten
- or planks
Back then, logging was the exclusive domain of the forestry administration. Logs would be placed by the side of the road and sawmill operators had to take care of transportation from there. Initially, that was done by using oxen and horses, they were later replaced by tractor-trailers.
One change occurred in 1919:
Karl Echtle, only 18 years old then, took over company management. Local authorities in Nordrach declared him to be of full age early for that reason.
The age of technology
In World War II, the Echtle family had to pledge to deliver lumber to the Wehrmacht. This ensured full emplyoment and made it possible for the first time near the war’s end to take a big step into the age of technology: a hydraulic turbine was acquired. During the day, it also powered an electric skiving machine in the sawmill and in the evenings it provided the family’s home and neighboring homes with current.
The purchase of the first tractor was a big relief, as it significantly facilitated transportation to and from the sawmill.
The beginning of a success story
The year 1964 became another milestone in the sawmill’s history: Herbert Echtle of the third generation takes over the company. His investments in the expansion of the premises and the acquisition of a second frame saw as well as the purchase of the first fully automated logstacker in the area are visible signs of economic success. This expansion also meant the creation of new jobs.
Through continued automation (e.g. the setup of one of the first partitioning machines for logs in 1972), the sawmill could now grow its production volume annually. The increased demand for lumber in the Rhine-Main area was recognized early and the sales area was extended supraregionally for that reason. In 1974 the demand for dried and planed timber for interior fittings could be met through the construction of a new storage facility, a drying chamber and a planing machine.
Switch to large logs
From 1987, Manuel Echtle took over as managing director in the fourth generation. The two-frame sawmill with a capacity of 30.000 solid cubic meters of timber and dimension goods marked a break for the time and cutting edge technology-wise, but it was realized that the sawing industry underwent change and that either mass-market or niche production would be the future.
For this reason, it was decided in 1995 to build a new band sawmill with re-cutting machine and a sorting unit. Thus, next to the “old” sawing facility with two frame saws a new unit for the block bandsaw was constructed on the company’s grounds of a total 2.5 hectares, complemented with a timber sorting unit with 46 boxes in between the units.
From then on, the Echtle sawmill specialized in cutting logs. As the demand for lumber declined, quality timber was more sought-after. With that in mind, the frame saw facility and the log space were closed in 1999. In 2000, Echtle set up a facility to bark short timber and introduced a two-shift system in the bandsaw plant in order to retain both capacity and staff.
When the round log area was dismantled in 2001, it was decided to enter the field of processing and to set up a new workshop with 2800 sqm in the vacant spot. This new building and the installation of a state-of-the-art machine park it now became possible to process the high-quality timber, for example by fine-cutting, planing, finger-jointing or face machining it.
In the spring of 2003, the production line for manufacturing solid wood floorings made from locally grown silver fir was founded. The Baden-Württemberg minister of rural development, Willi Stächele, visited the company and learned about the vast capabilities of the factory; the first one capable of making solid wood flooring panels from fir.
In 2005, a slab press to manufacture branchless fir solid wood panels with joint-fingered or continuous slats was put into operation.
At the same time, the Echtle sawmill demonstrates that it is committed to the preservation of the threatened silver fir, which is a vital guarantor to natural, ecologically important and storm-proof forests in the Black Forest area. For this reason, the Echtle sawmill is a partner in the FORUM WEISSTANNE (silver fir forum), a not-for-profit association that aims at the wide-ranging conservation of the silver fir.
Our slogan „Saw, dry, plane, cut, dovetail“ describes the range of our business activities as well as the path the timber follows through the sawmill: the round log space receives several thousand cubic meters of timber from the region’s forests per month. Every single log will be checked, as Echtle only works with immaculate qualities.
In the next step, the logs are being sorted and placed in a block storage separated by type of wood and diameter classes. After barking, the cutting-edge bandsaw takes care of apportionment and finally the cutting of the logs. Then, the timber is sorted and stacked for processing. The finishing of products is done by mechanical wood drying, branch cutting, finger-jointing, planing, shaping and glueing. Our drying chambers with a total capacity of some 1000 cbm are operating around the clock.
With the construction of a biomass power plant in 2006/2007, the Echtle company entered the field of power production. Apart from a electrical power output of 900 kW, the power plant has a thermal output of 5.000 kW. By using spare wood, enough energy can now be produced to supply all of the drying chambers of the sawmill with heat for wood drying. In addition, the waste heat currently supplies some 250 households as well as two health clinics, public buildings and Nordrach’s public pool.
As fuel, bark and forest chips are being used, entirely natural fuels that only need to be milled mechanically. Half of the fuel comes from own production, the other half is purchased. The plant has an annual consumption of about 60.000 loose cubic meters of said materials.
In early 2018, the Echtle company took another step into the future and further expanded its vertical integration in the production of high-quality silver fir products by implementing a three-layer panel press. In addition to the well-established solid wood panels in three branchless qualities, three-layer panels with the same surfaces can now also be offered. This has further expanded business activities, particularly for commercial objects and interior fittings.
In order to maintain sustained quality and size accuracy, a machining center to format the panels accurately was additionally acquired.
A robot, newly implemented at the same time, takes over the task of fully automated loading of the machining center as well as for the band grinder, which is set up for finishing after the solid wood slab press.
HolzBauWerk Schwarzwald GmbH
Sawmills Echtle, Kübler, and Streit invest into the future with a CLT plant with industrial-style production. The new company goes by the name HolzBauWerk Schwarzwald GmbH, registered and located in Seewald-Besenfeld (Freudenstadt district).
In this company, highly refined component made from lumber will be manufactured here. Cross-laminated timber or CLT is a cutting-edge timber work product that is multi-layered, completely solid and made from lumber. Thanks to its cross lamination, it is extremely dimensionally stable and is very well suited for the construction of walls, ceilings and roofs.
Production started in autumn 2022.
Here you can find more information about HolzBauWerk Schwarzwald.
Renewal band sawmill
After 27 years of operation and over one million fixed meters, CEO Manuel Echtle decided to renew the band sawmill.
Mr. Echtle decided for a new band sawmill of the company EWD, with the latest and most modern technology. With this new band saw you can work even more efficiently and productively. The block band saw type EBB-2 divides hardwood into a variety of products – tailored to the needs of customers and the characteristics of the log on the jib.
This new band sawmill has been in operation since 26 October 2022. As a result, Echtle was able to switch from the usual two-shift operation to the one-shift operation.