Jasper Veneer Mills has a rich heritage. Read Our Story and enjoy our Historical Image Gallery.
A History of The Jasper Veneer Mills, Inc.
Jasper, Indiana is a small city in the southern part of the state where German immigrants settled in the early to mid 1800’s. The land in southern Indiana was bountiful in hardwood- contributing to the wood manufacturing industry that developed. As the manufacturing of desks in Jasper’s pioneer factory (later to be know as the Jasper Desk Company) developed, the need of a ready source of raw materials was found desirable. New techniques called for an increased use of plywood; therefore raising the need for veneer stock.
Encouraged by John Gramelspacher, then manager of the desk factory, a veneer mill (we believe this company was called The Jasper Manufacturing Company) was started in 1890 by Frank Seibert, Sr. and John Hein.
The mill was located on the site now occupied by the Hoosier Desk Co. In 1895 the mill was destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt on its present site at the foot of East Sixth Street on the banks of Patoka, by Mr. Seibert, John Gramelspacher and Jos. F. Friedman. Its at this time that the mill was named The Jasper Veneer and Panel Company. When Mr. Seibert moved to Tell City some time later his interest was purchased by Joseph Friedman, Sr. In 1900 the mill again burned to the ground, but was immediately rebuilt after the interest of Jos. Friedman, Sr., had been purchased by George W. Gramelspacher.
Through the years, Jasper Veneer Mills, Inc. continued to produce rotary cut veneer for the plywood industry and in the secondary line utilized the off-fall material of the veneer mills for strawberry crates, cantaloupe crates and egg cases. The veneer mills specialized in native soft wood lumber such as poplar, cottonwood, gum and sycamore, although considerable white and red oak are also processed. Occasionally orders for kawata veneer, cut from lumber imported from Dutch Guiana were filled. The Jasper Veneer Mills was equipped with the most modern rotary cutting and veneer drying devices. The local plant was one of the first in the world to install practical mechanical drying equipment, and to operate it successfully. Veneer men from Russia., Finland, Holland and China, from the South American countries, and from various parts of the United States, came to Jasper to view this equipment and to learn its operation. Later, the use of particle board and MDF for plywood core became common, because it reduced the increasingly costly lumber core and the ‘core and crossband’ veneer used to make Hardwood Plywood. These developments reduced the demand for commercial rotary veneer, the core and crossband type veneer that the Jasper Veneer Mills produced. By the 1980’s, it was evident that changes needed to be made for the company to survive.
However, Jasper Veneer Mills, Inc. was known to have the best manufactured veneer available for use with plywood, especially molded (curved) plywood. The reason for this reputation was that the veneer was cut at a uniform thickness and was tightly cut, which made it the superior veneer for the manufacture of flat plywood for critical uses, and for molded (curved) plywood. The Jasper Veneer Mills was known as one of the most consistent sources for uniform thickness, tightly cut veneer.
The rapidly increasing inflation our country experienced in the 1970’s and into the 1980’s made it increasingly difficult to control costs. In any economy, and especially during inflationary periods, a manufacturer can pass on escalating costs only so long. To succeed, a manufacturer must continually find ways to cut costs. Likewise, in order to survive and thrive, JVM had to reduce quickly escalating costs. In the early 1980’s, encouraged by our customers, who wanted a continuing supply of high quality veneer, Jasper Veneer Mills embarked on a program to update its manufacturing process. The updates included conveyorized handling of the veneer, and high speed clipping, with the purpose of reducing the labor content in the veneer cost. A splicing operation was added, so that we could supply our customers with a complete product, a ‘ready to lay-up’ veneer that would lower their costs as well. At the time the improvements in production were being implemented, business conditions in our country deteriorated, as our country was dealing with double digit inflation. The Federal Reserve under Chairman Paul Volcker embarked on the difficult but necessary task of fixing the country’s inflationary economy. The remedy was to raise interest rates, which had to be higher than the rate of inflation, which had climbed into double digits. Businesses all across the country faced the unusually burdensome task of servicing their very costly debt. The economy went through difficult times. Due to eroding business conditions, with very high interest rates making it increasingly difficult to offer affordable veneer to our customers, and making it difficult to service the debt on new equipment, and with the future of the economy looking poor, we decided to close Jasper Veneer Mills. An auction of mill equipment was held in November 1984, and the property was sold shortly after.
In an effort to earn income to pay off remaining loans, Jasper Veneer Mills embarked on a program to manufacture sliced veneer. Sliced veneer is used in the making of decorative faces used in the local office furniture industry, on the desk tops, panels, etc. This proved to be a successful effort, as we were able to supply our customers with veneer that served specific needs at a good value. As an example, a local factory was able to procure veneer from us for a very reasonable cost, which helped them to land competitive contracts for custom cut-to-size plywood and molded or curved plywood.
With the loans paid back, during the 1990’s the Jasper Veneer Mills, Inc., continued to produce sliced veneer to satisfy the unique needs of its customers; to provide veneer needed specifically for certain projects. In 1995, the year of the company’s 100th Anniversary, the company was sold to George W. Gramelspacher, who has continued the operation of The Jasper Veneer Mills, Inc.
Just as had been done in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, George W. Gramelspacher continued to operate Jasper Veneer Mills on a part basis. In 1999, George departed Jasper Wood Products to operate Jasper Veneer Mills, Inc. The objective was to continue to serve the needs of the local office furniture manufacturers, and gradually growing to serve markets outside the local area with quality panel and furniture veneer.
Now, in 2010, during Jasper Veneer Mills, Inc. 115th year of service to the manufacturing base of Indiana, we continue to focus on growing our business by maintaining our relationships in office furniture while investing in other markets.
As Jasper Veneer Mills reflects on its rich history – we also look forward to the opportunities that our rapidly changing economy offers.
We used verbal history and articles from the Dubois County Daily Herald. Detailed information can be obtained by contacting George Gramelspacher.