INTRODUCTION Plywood and Veneer-Based Products, by Dr. Fred Kurpiel


               Dr. Richard (Dick) Baldwin blazes a trail few others have been on with the printing of this fourth edition of "Plywood and Veneer-Based Products Manufacturing Practices". The book encompasses five decades of experience beginning as an hourly worker, following his father in the industry, and progressing to owner, investor and manager of production facilities. In these capacities, his responsibilities included meeting payroll, capital budgets and capital ROI goals. Most poignantly, following the severe downturn in the U.S. economy, beginning in 2007 and lasting for the best of six years, two plywood mill that were under his direct management did not lose one employee and had positive cash flow through this period of time. Modifying production to accommodate new technology in product mix along with changes in species and grades were part of this struggle. In such trying times, these mills which slightly more than a decade before were valued at about $31 million were recently sold for $105 million.

               In 2012, I was honored to present to Dick a Lifetime Service Award at the Panels and Engineered Lumber Conference and Expo (PELICE), which I am a Co-chair of in Atlanta. Etched into a beautiful crystal teardrop plaque were the words: To Dr. Richard (Dick) Baldwin - For a Lifetime of Service and Creative Productive Work in the Forest Products Industry.There Will be Moments When Those That Follow, Might Wish the Future Were Built by Great Men of the Past...Including You.   Truly, we stand on the shoulders of those that have gone before us.

               In this book, an up-to-date compilation of theories and applied principles will be a compendium to assist students and practitioners in the plywood industry for years to come. From personal examination of industry history and its implementation, this tome showcases possible end results that will keep managers from losing sleep and help them become the survivors of the survivors.  

               Through decades of high and low inflation, thoughtful politicians and not, mortgage rates at 17% to 3% (in the U.S.), Dick has traveled the globe, seen similar events, and met with managers that have persevered through these challenging times. It is a document of practical and applied practice and a remarkable intellect at work. Dick's career and writing transcends the crush and cycles of daily events. He has an uncompromising honesty that often counters conventional wisdom.

               One example, among many, is Dick's large role in bringing sanded A-faced plywood into the south. Initially, after much trial and error, fir cores were used with pine veneers to adhere together a balanced panel and provide an acceptable substrate for a full sand face. Note: Alan Knokey credits Dick with a number of innovations in the industry, especially during his period in the south.

               Following will be commentary about sections in the book that differentiates it from the previous three. In the end, if the operator does it right, lives are enriched, especially in small rural towns where these plants are typically built, re-built and/or re-engineered. One of the happiest times of my own life was to go to ribbon cutting and 'first board' ceremonies and see the workers and families lined up on catwalks to see the 'first' board come out of the press. They knew this product would pay for mortgages, buy education, cars, put food on the table and provide taxes for the community to continue. Those workers’ children have gone on to study mathematics, commerce, architecture and their children will continue this along with studying poetry, music, etc.   Hopefully, those that adhere to the principles in this book will be those who continue to carry the torch in this great industry.

Fred Kurpiel


Georgia Research Institute