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A Cutting-edge Sawmill
By By Mary Peterson '73G and Beth Potier

The mellow, dark UNH sawmill building on Mast Road in Durham smells like history. A 45- by 100-foot pole barn structure built by UNH faculty and students in 1968, the sawmill is in every way a charming artifact from another time, from the handset carriage and circular saw to the split logs that are used as benches for classes.

Students call this space at the edge of campus their "clubhouse," where logs are processed into boards, wood chips and sawdust; nothing is a waste product; and the only thing that isn't used is the noise.

The sawmill has helped supply New Hampshire's forest-products industry, the state's third-largest industry, with graduates of forestry programs in the Thompson School of Applied Science and the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture. And now, after nearly four decades of admirable but increasingly obsolete service, the sawmill will get a much-needed renovation.

A fund-raising campaign to support the renovation is halfway to its $230,000 goal; the university will match these dollars with an additional $100,000. Donations of equipment and labor will finish the job of bringing the sawmill up to 21st century standards.

"Our students can learn the basics here," says Don Quigley '76, '78G, professor of forest technology, "but modern safety standards have slipped past our technology."

Ross D'Elia '76, president and half-owner of Henniker-based sawmill HHP Inc., says an investment in the sawmill's future is an investment in HHP's future. "To maintain our competitive edge, we have to reinvest in technology and equipment, and we have to have a workforce that can adapt to that," he says. D'Elia has eight Thompson School alumni on his staff.

The new mill will boast a band saw that will recover 12 percent more wood from a log than the existing saw; a heated classroom for UNH students as well as industry and youth groups; upgraded electric service; and running water. "We're going to have a sawmill that's safe, that's efficient, that we can be proud of," says Quigley.

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