Gabon Sawmills Open Up US Sales Office

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“We want to settle into the market and become a trustworthy partner to the North American companies as THE African source for hardwood lumber.” ~ Tom Gallagher, Sales Manager for Elephant Lumber

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Team members at one of the kilns in Gabon.

Durable products, sustainable sourcing and well-planned execution are some of the hallmarks of Elephant Lumber that have led to the company’s success in the overseas market.

With tropical woods currently being shipped to Asia, Europe, North America and South America, the company, a part of Trinity Hardwoods, is methodically looking to grow its footprint in the U.S.

While Elephant Lumber is a “relatively new company in the U.S.,” Sales Managers Tom Gallagher and Charles Gao said that the Hayward, CA based business is “not in a rush to grow.”

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Elephant Lumber workers cut sap off the wood.

“We want to settle into the market and become a trustworthy partner to the North American companies,” Gallagher noted. “Success can only be achieved through continuous effort.”

The company’s products, including rough sawn lumber, finished decking, prefinished and unfinished hardwood floors, are known for their durability and can be used as a “cheaper alternative to a lot of the South American species,” according to Gallagher.

Currently, the company ships products via sea freight to European countries like Italy, Belgium, France, Portugal and the Netherlands; Asian countries such as Malaysia, India, China, the Philippines and Vietnam; South American countries like Brazil and Panama; and the Dominican Republic in North America.

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One of a dozen company loaders handles logs.

Customers range from end users, such as furniture and millwork manufacturers, to wholesalers.

“Our lumber is flat, straight, heavy and properly dried,” Gallagher said. “Our customers and partners know that we provide a consistent, high-quality product to the marketplace time-after-time with no surprises. Consistency is key.”

Elephant Lumber offers more than 50 hardwood species in various grades, thicknesses and quantities.

Products offered include:
Rough Sawn Lumber
4/4 – 12/4
Random width/fixed width with 10 percent moisture content and container load only
Sapele flat/quarter/mix
Species include Okoume, Okan, Padouk, Tali, Beli Noir, Beli Rogue, Wenge, Zebrawood, Iroko, Sipo, Kosipo and Azobe, to name a few.

Finished Decking
S4S E4E 3-millimeter ratios premium quality
KD 12-16 percent
Species include Padouk, Tali, Okan, Omvong, Dabema and Azobe

Unfinished Solid Flooring
Tongue and groove 5 feet and 6 feet fixed width 2 feet through 7 feet random length
Species include Sapele, Okan, Tali and Limbali

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A fleet of Elephant Lumber trucks delivers logs to one of the company’s mills in Gabon.

The company also takes pride in its use of “environmentally responsible practices.”

“With three sawmills in Gabon, Africa, one in Congo and one in Equatorial Guinea,” Gallagher said, “we ensure a steady supply of top-grade lumber while preserving the delicate ecosystems of the regions we operate in. Our sustainable sourcing methods help protect the environment for future generations.”

Trinity Hardwoods (Elephant Lumber) is the North American sales branch of a global sawmill group that boasts 15 sawmills and employs 1,010 workers, most of whom are in Gabon and Vietnam.

These sawmills produced 36.8 million board feet of lumber in 2022.

“The lumber we manufacture comes from our own sawmills,” Gallagher said. “We want to be your source for those species you wish to procure from Africa.”

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An Elephant Lumber worker studies the best way to cut down a tree in Gabon.

Gallagher added that working with the distribution yards and wholesale distributors is paramount to the company’s success.

“They provide a great service with boots on the ground for their highly specialized and prized tropical and exotic hardwoods,” he added.

The company also gives back to the communities that have “supported us throughout our journey.”

Elephant Lumber actively participates in local community building and environment protection initiatives.

From constructing hospitals to providing access to clean water through wells and promoting education with the establishment of schools, “we are dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of those around us,” Gallagher said.

Elephant Lumber has 45 kilns in Gabon, where the raw materials are obtained.

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Wood is stacked in the paddock after being dried in an Elephant Lumber kiln. The lumber will be shipped to Europe.

The total drying capacity is 1.9 million feet and targeting a 10-percent moisture content for all lumber products.

The lumber drying process takes 4-to-12 weeks, the logs must be turned into lumber, “which is a quick process,” said Gallagher, who has 35 years of sales experience.

“Once the lumber is in the yard,” he said, “we will leave it to air dry for a bit before drying and conditioning it in the kilns.”

When asked to give a brief description of the flow of materials through the plant from the back door to the front, Gallagher said that the first step is acquiring a harvest permit.

“Careful forest research is required,” he noted. During this research, the number of trees from each species must be counted, marked and tagged.

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Dry lumber waits to be shipped to Europe.

“In the first three years,” he said, “what you’re getting is a temporary harvest permit.”

Workers can then harvest trees in the marked areas, which will be one-tenth of the total harvest area.

When the three years end, the government will conduct research to determine whether the harvesting is environmentally sustainable.

Once the audit has passed, Elephant Lumber receives a sustainable harvesting certificate.

“And we will receive a long-term permit for harvesting,” Gallagher said.

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“The country of Gabon in Africa is committed to managing their forest in a sustainable way and Elephant Lumber is manufacturing these unique and exotic hardwoods for valued customers today and for future generations!” Gallagher noted.

“With the investment we have in three modern mills in Gabon, we want to develop long term relationships with the distributors in North America who have a keen eye and pulse of the markets they serve,” said Rex Dou, president of Elephant Lumber in Sutton, MA. “Elephant Lumber does an excellent job manufacturing high quality products and we want to help our valued partners succeed in their markets and not worry about supply. That’s our commitment to you.”

Elephant Lumber is a member of the International Wood Products Association. For more information, go to www.ElephantLumberCompany.com.

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By Terry Miller

Editor, Marketing Consultant, and Third generation publisher. With Miller Wood Trade Publications since 1983.

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