Skip to main content

Phil Mitchell

Wood Products Extension Specialist and Associate Professor

Wood Products Extension Specialist and Associate Professor

Biltmore Hall (Robertson Wing) 1022N

Bio

Dr. Phil Mitchell, Wood Products Extension Specialist and Associate Professor at NC State University, works with the value-added wood products industry.  He has taught industry-oriented workshops covering a variety of topics including: lumber drying; lumber cut-up optimization; lumber grading: wood gluing, wood-moisture relations, lean implementation, and CNC manufacturing.  He is author of Rough Mill Improvement Guide for Managers and Supervisors, and Strategies for the New American Furniture Industry.  Current major program areas are cross laminated timbers and the marketing of North Carolina forest products.

Prior to joining NC State in 1996, Dr. Mitchell worked at Weyerhaeuser Company and at Mississippi State University conducting research to improve lumber drying and evaluating drying impacts on wood strength and quality.  Dr. Mitchell received his Ph.D. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Va. Tech).

Additional Publications:

Web-based application:

Area(s) of Expertise

Value-added wood products, lumber cut-up improvement, lumber drying, wood properties and behavior, cross laminated timer.

Publications

View all publications 

Grants

Date: 08/26/20 - 3/30/24
Amount: $65,000.00
Funding Agencies: California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that over 130 million acres of forests are located in U.S cities and towns. From a wood products industry perspective, urban woods only play a minor role and the available resource is not recognized by its optimal ecologic and economic value. The most common end-of-life solutions for urban trees are mulching and in many cases landfilling. However, in recent years, the use of urban wood for furniture and interior design have increased, mostly by efforts of local companies. The popularity of urban wood products is a result of highly variable wood characteristics and a high degree in custom fabrication. However, both aspects create challenges along the chains of processing and production. The goal of this project is to create more capability and confidence in urban wood utilization among companies and consumers. The project aims at achieving the highest and best use for each tree with benefits to local communities. NC Wood Products Extension, with a long history of industry education and support, proposes the development of educational modules as part of an outreach initiative with a special focus on drying. Outreach includes on-site workshops, online videos, and experimental kits to educate about moisture-related properties of urban woods.

Date: 08/01/20 - 12/31/22
Amount: $100,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service

This project will host the National Firewood Business Workshop (NFBW) at three regional locations as a two-day event that offers the split firewood industry educational and networking opportunities. A focus area of the NFBW is to promote the use of forest materials whose removal improves forest health and reduces fire danger on both public and private lands. The workshops will assist with promoting fire resilient landscapes and promoting a safe wildfire response by providing potential markets and options for removal of hazardous trees (fuel) through a thriving firewood industry. This event has been supported by the WERC in the past, with two events held in WV, one each in NY, MD and NC. The NFBW is the only national educational and networking event for the split firewood industry and has been well supported by the firewood and forest products industry. The workshop is a two-day event that offers classroom discussions of the business aspects of the firewood industry in addition to outdoor demonstrations of firewood processing, kiln drying and packaging equipment. This project funds the NFBW for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021. In 2020 this project funds a workshop at the WERC for small firewood and sawmill businesses that focuses on assisting existing and potential owners of small firewood and sawmill businesses information on equipment, business management and marketing. The workshop also attracts public and nonprofit supporters of the forest products industry, such as state and USFS employees, state forest associations, consulting foresters, economic development and cooperative extension employees. The goal is to support successful small businesses involving firewood and sawmill operations. This workshop will take place at the WERC in Princeton, WV.

Date: 07/01/18 - 9/30/22
Amount: $249,758.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service

Proposed development of CLT panel systems in the US has focused on large lumber gluing and layup systems, presses and CNC machining centers that require high equipment and facility costs approaching $30 million. The result of such high investment requirements is that few US CLT operations exist and none are currently in operation in the US South. This project will develop an alternative strategy able to produce 80% of the output of a large size CLT panel plant at 2% of the investment cost. It is possible to quickly develop a forest products industry niche for CLT panels using existing equipment resources once used by the casegoods furniture industry by using a small size batch process format. These presses are capable of manufacturing 4’x8’ panels for residental homes, pressing multiple CLT panels per batch press cycle. These Residential CLT panels (RCLT) can be used for walls, floors, and roof decking for use by general contractors with the support of knowledgeable architects and organizations like the APA. The National Forest System has excess low quality materials that need to be removed to improve forest health, reduce fire danger and assist the local economy. These lower grade materials are plentiful and are suitable for residential CLTs. Material for RCLTs could include Southern yellow pine and the mixed hardwood species that can also be processed into veneers for hardwood plywood. An objective of this project is to evaluate suitable species for lumber and plywood RCLT for use in building residential homes. This project will demonstrate a manufacturing system by making samples of RCLTs in several existing furniture cold presses, pressing a stack of several RCLTs in batches. The project includes the development of joinery types to connect the panels for assembly. The goal is to successfully manufacture RCLT panels that pass the APA PRG 320 Standard using the two lumber grades approved by the APA (#2 yellow pine for faces and #3 for the core and cross bands) and hardwood veneers using this low capital approach.

Date: 09/01/18 - 8/30/22
Amount: $72,500.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service

This project will host the National Firewood Business Workshop (NFBW) at three regional locations as a two-day event that offers the split firewood industry educational and networking opportunities. A focus area of the NFBW is to promote the use of forest materials whose removal improves forest health and reduces fire danger on both public and private lands. The workshops will assist with promoting fire resilient landscapes and promoting a safe wildfire response by providing potential markets and options for removal of hazardous trees (fuel) through a thriving firewood industry. This event has been supported by the WERC in the past, with two events held in WV, one each in NY, MD and NC. The NFBW is the only national educational and networking event for the split firewood industry and has been well supported by the firewood and forest products industry. The workshop is a two-day event that offers classroom discussions of the business aspects of the firewood industry in addition to outdoor demonstrations of firewood processing, kiln drying and packaging equipment. This project funds the NFBW for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021. In 2020 this project funds a workshop at the WERC for small firewood and sawmill businesses that focuses on assisting existing and potential owners of small firewood and sawmill businesses information on equipment, business management and marketing. The workshop also attracts public and nonprofit supporters of the forest products industry, such as state and USFS employees, state forest associations, consulting foresters, economic development and cooperative extension employees. The goal is to support successful small businesses involving firewood and sawmill operations. This workshop will take place at the WERC in Princeton, WV.

Date: 08/01/19 - 7/31/22
Amount: $249,739.00
Funding Agencies: US Forest Service

The North Carolina Statewide Forest Products Marketing Team (SFPMT) is a team of industry professionals working together to assess and review the current state of the North Carolina forest and wood products industry to identify marketing issues and needs, develop solutions and assist the industry to exploit opportunities. Covering all one hundred counties of North Carolina plus the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, economic opportunities identified by the project will benefit local communities for employment and economic activity. Improved forest management and marketing will lower the cost of good forest management for landowners resulting in more acres of forest improvements to be undertaken. This project will support efforts to maintain current forest land use as working forest land, thus supporting environmental maintenance of wildlife and water resources. This project will offer a platform for cooperative education and networking to improve communication among industry participants and to promote better utilization of North Carolina’s forest resources in the US National Forests as well as on private forest lands. North Carolina State University is the organizer of this effort, with a project staff of five industry professionals to oversee the proposed efforts for organization and outreach. The project will update both USFS Product Locators for North Carolina for primary and secondary industry segments. The team will host approximately thirty regional meetings across the state, reaching out to all industry segments, including landowners, loggers, log yards, sawmills and lumber drying operations, firewood, cabinet, furniture, millwork, flooring and composite manufacturers. The use of electronic media tools will optimize outreach efforts and create a vivid, interactive, and resourceful connection to, and within the industry. Our expectation is that our efforts will grow sales, profitability and employment for the forest and wood products industry in North Carolina. This project will raise the importance of networking to a new level as we reach out and include a large number of industry participants that are not connected today and will open new channels for better utilization of forest materials into value-added products.

Date: 09/20/16 - 3/31/19
Amount: $50,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service

This project will review the processing of firewood logs into split wood and kiln dried firewood products in an effort to better understand the processing parameters related to operating a successful firewood processing business. An earlier US Forest Service project in 1980 reviewed the processing parameters at three firewood processing operations and found that understanding the balance of productive and non-productive time offered opportunities for improving the production, sales and profitability of a firewood processing operation. This review will seek out approximately a dozen firewood processing operations and time review approximately one hundred firewood logs at each operation in terms of their productive and non-productive processing times. The productive times include loading, positioning, sawing and splitting time. Non-productive time would include delays, waits, jambs, breakdowns, etc. Results will be analyzed and charted to provide information on productivity versus species, log sizes, equipment types, horsepower, splitting wedges configuration and material handling methods. The review will also collect information beyond the sawing and splitting of firewood to include dry kiln and packing productivity equipment choices. The review will contact firewood processing operations in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee to participate. Effort will be made to use a variety of clients in terms of business size, wood species, and equipment types, and value added operations like kiln drying and packaging. Time review information taken using the digital camera will be analyzed for a breakdown of productive and non-productive times. This information will be presented in charts and tables for a better understanding of how the business choices affects productivity. A review results presentation will be at the WERC National Firewood Workshop to present the results and a project document will be created. Firewood businesses are important in both urban and rural areas to consume low grade hardwood logs that are not suitable for upper grade and lower grade lumber products.

Date: 02/01/18 - 12/31/18
Amount: $30,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service

The main goal of this survey is to assess the production of primary forest product mills during the 2017 calendar year. One goal of this project is to eliminate mill non-responses. This is a key issue in setting an accurate baseline prior to anticipated future program changes. In order to complete the TPO process in a timely manner NC State will need to provide monthly status updates to the NCFS. The overall goal is to complete the 2017 TPO survey by the end of the 2018 calendar year. Completed mill survey reports should be provided to the NCFS. The NCFS will verify reported data and send all completed survey forms to the USFS FIA unit in Knoxville by the end of the 2018 calendar year. North Carolina will survey approximately 185 primary processors for the 2017 TPO cycle.

Date: 08/01/17 - 12/31/18
Amount: $40,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service

This project uses the WERC facility in Princeton, WV as well as other sites to host four workshops that support the utilization of a wide range of hardwood materials to produce value added products. These workshops target a wide range of processing businesses ranging from small local sawmills and firewood processors to large volume producers of value added products like cabinets, furniture and millwork. We will be offering these workshops to business and industry professionals and the public from all thirty-five states east of the Great Plains that are served by the WERC. Some of these workshops will include demonstrations of equipment provided by participants or vendors. The four workshop topics will include: 1) operating a small sawmill and firewood businesses; 2) use of wood for upholstery furniture frames; 3) applying automation techniques for making cabinets, furniture and millwork; 4) proper processing methods to saw, dry and process thick wooden slabs. These workshops will offer support for the full utilization of forest harvests that include lower grades and minor species of hardwoods in an effort to improve the knowledge of their processing into higher valued products. Improving the utilization of these less desirable species and quality offers businesses opportunities for greater sales and profitability, as well as higher rates of removal due the utilization for better markets. Fire protection efforts will be discussed at these workshops in terms of the benefits of full utilization of forest material and thinnings and other harvests by supporting markets that include lower grade materials and minor hardwood species. Handout materials from these workshops will be posted on the North Carolina State University Wood Products Extension website https://outreach.cnr.ncsu.edu/ncwood.

Date: 06/01/18 - 9/30/18
Amount: $15,000.00
Funding Agencies: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

This subcontract covers the work by Harry W. Watt, Wood Products Specialist at North Carolina State University to take a leading role in the development of the project workshop on June 20th and 21st, 2018 National Firewood Workshop under the leadership of the host, Michigan State University. This grant will also provide follow up activities after the workshop.

Date: 07/01/15 - 7/31/18
Amount: $248,804.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service

The goal of this (3) year proposal is to develop manufacturing capacity and innovative wood based energy markets that 1) promote forest ecosystem restoration and reduce hazardous fuels, 2) improve forest health on both private and public forest lands, and 3) promote economic and environmental health of communities. This proposal will look at the economics of energy markets for the Appalachian region by analyzing the impacts of a theoretically operating domestic pellet mill, identifying facilities and sectors that would benefit from using wood energy in the form of cost savings, and gathering data from harvesting sites to develop a business case for logging companies considering investing in equipment necessary to supply wood energy markets. We expect to develop wood supply markets for low value wood through education and outreach and technical assistance. To accomplish this, production forestry- landowners (both private and public), loggers, and industry- along with policy and decision makers must have appropriate information concerning the value added potential of these materials as well as a clear understanding of the benefits brought by expanding the sustainable management and utilization strategies practiced on our forest lands. This project will assess what woody biomass markets are feasible for a challenging political and geographic region where supply chains and harvesting methods differ greatly from the Coastal and Piedmont Plains in the Southeastern U.S.


View all grants 

Groups