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Logging and Sawmilling Journal November 2014

November 2015

On the Cover:
G R (Mac) Lind Logging of Princeton, British Columbia, has a long history with Caterpillar equipment, and their equipment line-up includes two Cat 320D processors, equipped with Waratah 622 heads, which continue to be proven performers (Cover photo by Paul MacDonald).

Spotlight — Ecosystem management project seeking long term funding
The Ecosystem Management Emulating Natural Disturbance (EMEND) project in Alberta is looking for additional funding to keep its work on evaluating logging practices in the boreal forest—and their impact on forest health—going for the long term.

Revving up Resolute’s Thunder Bay mill
Resolute Forest Products has ramped up production at its Thunder Bay sawmill as part of a larger capital plan for its facilities in northwestern Ontario, a move that will allow the sawmill to capture more higher grade lumber products.

Iron investments
New Brunswick logger Ken Thomas has recently made some significant equipment investments, including a new John Deere 703 harvester with a Waratah H480C head, which has been working well in commercial thinnings—and still does a great job in final harvest.

Figuring out Ontario’s logging playbook
Ontario logger Gord Griffiths is looking to retire, but he’s concerned about who in the next generation is willing to take over the reins, given a constantly changing logging playbook from Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources.

Gradual growth for B.C. sawmiller
Sawmilling operation Vancouver Urban Timberworks started out modestly, but it has gradually grown, and the company recently installed a new mill, a Wood-Mizer WM1000—the first WM1000 to operate in Canada—at their production facility in Squamish, north of Vancouver.

Sawmill Sid shoots—and scores,
with hockey sticks
Producing everything from guitars to hockey sticks, Ontario mill operation Sawmill Sid is working hard to see that the trees in Toronto that have been hit by the Emerald Ash Borer have added value, and don’t just end up in tub grinders.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions and NRCanada.

The Last Word
Jim Stirling on how B.C. forest companies are heading to North America’s lowest cost lumber producing region—the U.S. South.

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Sawmill SidSawmill Sid shoots—and scores, with hockey sticks

Producing everything from guitars to hockey sticks, Ontario mill operation Sawmill Sid is working hard to see that the trees in Toronto that have been hit by the Emerald Ash Borer have added value, and don’t just end up in tub grinders.

By Tony Kryzanowski

Workers for Sawmill Sid, a portable sawmilling and consulting company located near Toronto, position logs on a portable sawmill in an urban salvage yard, for processing into solid wood products.

Experts predict that nearly all of the City of Toronto’s 850,000 white ash trees will die over the next decade because of attacks from an invasive Asian insect called the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). But one enterprising portable sawmill company located north of the city is making sure the fibre doesn’t end up in tub grinders.

The EAB appeared in Michigan in 2002 in packaging material from Asia. It spread later that year to southern Ontario. The current regulated area for the EAB in Canada takes in southern Ontario and southwestern Quebec.

Typically with this type of urban wood fibre infestation, massive amounts of infected wood are sent to landfills for disposal. But a company called Sawmill Sid, located in Perkinsfield, Ontario has found a business niche making solid wood products from these infected trees instead.

Because the company—owned by Sidney Gendron and his wife, Sheila Storey— offers portable sawmilling services, it’s a particularly good fit for processing infected ash logs because the logs cannot be transported out of a quarantined area prior to treatment. So bringing the sawmill to the wood source, processing it into solid wood dimensions, and transporting it locally for kiln drying results in safe, higher value wood products.

Sawmill SidAs the company has discovered since it was founded in 2005, the amount of infected ash is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg of the massive amount of urban wood available for re-purposing into solid wood products. In addition to white ash, which currently represents about 80 per cent of their production, Sawmill Sid also re-purposes other varieties of urban wood. They have even re-purposed the silver maple tree that inspired the writing of the song, “The Maple Leaf Forever” by Alexander Muir in 1867—the year that Canada became a country.

“Parts of that tree have become bracelets for the Pan-Am Games, there’s furniture that has gone overseas, and Jim Cuddy from the band ‘Blue Rodeo’ has made a couple of guitars from it,” says Gendron, adding that their participation and the recognition garnered from this particular job catapulted the business forward. Most other contractors contacted by the City of Toronto about this salvage job just wanted to cut the tree up into firewood.

In addition to re-purposing urban wood, Sawmill Sid also provides a valuable service to forest plantation owners for breaking down large diameter logs into components that can more easily be processed by their sawmill customers.

The backbone of the business is working with individuals and municipalities that want to make better use of wood from old buildings such as barns, trees damaged by storms, trees in forest plantations, wood salvaged from land development, or trees removed from municipal parks and boulevards.

Sawmill Sid provides both consulting and portable sawmilling services, with the goal of finding a home for all tree parts, from the stump to the branches. Their clients have first crack at the solid wood products they produce. In the case of contract work for municipalities, the company will produce lumber according to the needs of their shopping list.

“We don’t leave anything behind,” says Gendron. “It doesn’t matter if it is sawdust, wood chips, the bark—there is a buyer for every part of that tree when we are done. We’ll put tarps down under our sawmills when we are sawmilling, even in the bush, because we can capture that waste and take it to market.”

This is as opposed to the common practice among municipalities of simply tub grinding the wood collected in their landfills or processing as much as they can into firewood as a means of disposal.

“We’re trying to work with people and get them to recognize that there is a better value turning all those logs into valuable lumber,” says Gendron. “We have a number of municipalities working with us now.” That includes the municipalities of Pickering, Markham, and Richmond. They are also in discussions with Simcoe County on making better use of their waste wood.

Sawmill Sid had a portable sawmill custom madeSawmill Sid had a portable sawmill custom made so that they could break down logs up to 60” in diameter. Wood milled by Sawmill Sid has been re-purposed for such end products as hockey sticks and baseball bats.

Sawmill Sid started with a Norwood LumberMate 2000 portable sawmill. Gendron describes it as a very durable and versatile sawmill that has provided the company with a remarkable amount of uptime. While it may look small, they purchased extensions for it and were able to regularly breakdown logs that were 25’ long and 30” in diameter.

Their fleet has since expanded to include a new Wood-Mizer LT40 portable sawmill and a Norwood LumberPro HD36. They also own a custom-made, portable sawmill built for them by a Toronto engineering firm, All-Weld. This custom sawmill allows them to process a 60” log. The company also works with four other portable sawmill contractors to meet their customers’ needs, as required. Because of the amount of work the company is doing and the amount of manual labor involved in this endeavor, Gendron says they have definitely trended toward new portable sawmills with more hydraulic controls to make their jobs less labor-intensive—but they have kept their more manual sawmills around, particularly for use in colder weather when the hydraulics on their newer sawmills struggle. Their business is a year-round endeavor.

Gendron adds that their business model can be replicated in other parts of Canada, particularly in regions where there are a lot of damaged or diseased trees in urban areas. The area infected with the mountain pine beetle came to mind.

They have an impressive customer list that includes Weston Forest Products through its office in Toronto. Sawmill Sid is the only portable sawmill firm that the forest company contracts in Ontario, calling on them to mill larger dimension logs such as red pine into smaller dimensions for further processing in one of the company’s large, dimension sawmills. They also purchase any popular hardwood or softwood dimensional lumber that Sawmill Sid can provide.

Sawmill Sid also works with a large real estate investment firm, Bentall Kennedy, to reclaim downed timber from commercial and residential construction sites and they supply solid wood products to a variety of custom furniture makers and wood workers. An organization in the west end of Toronto called Partners In Project Green are highly supportive of their services because of their urban wood re-purposing mission.

Gendron says the endeavor started like many others—as a hobby, with the intention to mill the wooden structural components from an old barn for use in a post and beam family home. He was working in the home construction industry at the time and credits his wife, who has a strong accounting background, for really recognizing the business potential of offering consulting services for re-purposing urban wood as well as custom portable sawmilling services. The result was an investment in a higher quality, commercial grade, portable sawmilling unit rather than a smaller hobby model.

“It kind of snowballed from there,” says Gendron. “When people who knew us from the construction industry discovered that we had the portable sawmill, as well as other contractors, renovators, and building supply stores, they saw us as a value-added business to them rather than competition.”

Since then, Gendron and Storey have downsized their home construction business to grow their consulting and portable sawmilling business.

Gendron adds that he had no idea just how much urban wood was available to re-purpose into solid wood products until he started promoting his services, and doubts that many members of the public have any idea either.

The business, which now caters to customers throughout Ontario, is on a growth trajectory with the recent expansion of their portable sawmill fleet, “and in a sad way, it has been because of the ash borer beetle,” says Gendron.

Soon, they expect to have as many as 20 employees, many of whom have already received intensive training in portable sawmilling techniques. The company is also a leader in helping individuals, companies like Bentall Kennedy and Ontario municipalities deal with the impact of the EAB, having educated themselves on the rules dictated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on the proper management, transport and use of the infected ash wood fibre.

“They (Bentall Kennedy) are a firm believer in what we are doing and they have been bringing business to us,” Gendron. “We are not just a portable sawmill company anymore. We have actually taken it to the point where these companies will come to us and ask us what they can do with the timber.”

In addition to managing the wood fibre, their clients also want the manufactured solid wood products to stay local. So wood milled by Sawmill Sid has been re-purposed for such end products as hockey sticks, baseball bats, and firewood for pizza ovens. They are even in negotiations with a Toronto company interested in securing some of their wood fibre for the production of biofuels.

“We’ve been doing our research to find the best possible use for this wood,” says Gendron, “and that has garnered us some business and attention.” While the attention hasn’t always been positive, he adds that it’s a different world today where the public wants to find the best possible use for that urban wood resource. People are questioning whether it should be used simply for firewood, or sold to local artisans to manufacture furniture or other value-added products.

“Support local” is a big part of their business philosophy, and that includes the purchase of their portable sawmills. They try to support local business as much as possible, wherever they are working, and they also donate a lot of solid wood particularly to schools for use by students.

“Our company is a value-adding service to basically mom and pop operations right up to multi-million dollar companies,” says Gendron. Their goal is to become the largest portable sawmilling company in Ontario, where businesses and municipalities call them first before anyone else.