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By Paul MacDonald
The Basque Country, which borders Spain and France, is a long ways from the British Columbia Interior, but that’s where the roots for the founders of Nadina Logging, of Merritt, B.C. lie.
Nadina Logging was founded by brothers Angel, Manuel and Gus Maritorena, and their friend, Dominic Mihura, all of whom came from the village of Maya, near the French-Spanish border. The men left war-impoverished Spain to work in France, and eventually decided to move to Canada.
They arrived in B.C. in 1952, and, after doing work on ranches and sawmills, set up a portable sawmilling operation of their own in Burns Lake, B.C.: the Basque Lumber Company. The name was eventually changed to Nadina Logging.
Lumber prices dropped and times were difficult; the men heard that work might be had in Merritt, B.C. and they moved south, joined later by yet another brother, John Maritorena.
Nadina Logging purchased another portable mill in 1963 and did work around the Ashcroft area. They were joined by three Maritorena nephews, Peter, Joe and Mike Etchart.
Lumber prices continued to be up and down, and Dominic and Angelo found work in Merritt, contract falling and skidding with a Cat. What further reinforced a complete move into logging from sawmilling for Nadina was that logs were no longer being processed into lumber in the bush in the B.C. Interior—they were hauled to town and processed at permanent mills.
In 1969, another family member arrived on the scene in Canada. Frank Etchart, Mike’s younger brother. Frank was then a student, and came to visit the family and learn English, and fell in love with B.C. and Canada. Frank went on to work in the mining and oil industries for a decade, before returning to Merritt to start a family—and join the family company.
Further changes followed for Nadina Logging, with retirements, and today the logging contracting firm—which will soon be celebrating its 60th anniversary—is now owned by Frank Etchart, who is carrying on what has now become a family tradition of logging.
Over the years, the company has worked with a variety of logging equipment. “When I started with Nadina, we had some Link-Belt, Cat, Komatsu machines—a little bit of this equipment, a little bit of that equipment,” recalls Frank. He noted, though, that Nadina was the first contractor in the region to work with Komatsu equipment in the late 1960s.
“Eventually, we moved mostly to John Deere equipment back then, with the exception of Timberjack feller bunchers. And then we went to Tigercat bunchers.”
Frank says they have received excellent service from Deere dealer, Brandt Tractor. “Service-wise, they can’t be beat—they offered good training, on the spot service. We never had any issues with Brandt Tractor.” In fact, they still have two John Deere skidders, a 748 HIII and a 648 GIII.
Today, they have two Tigercat bunchers, both 830 machines. Among their most recent purchases was a Tigercat 630D skidder. All of the Tigercat equipment came from B.C. dealer, The Inland Group (formerly Parker Pacific).
More recently, Nadina Logging has made a move to Hitachi equipment, from B.C. Hitachi equipment dealer, Wajax Industries. Frank noted that much of the Hitachi logging equipment is manufactured at Deere-Hitachi Specialty Products (DHSP), a forestry specific excavator manufacturing facility located in Langley, British Columbia. As a joint venture company formed between John Deere and Hitachi, DHSP manufactures two different brands of forestry excavators—John Deere and Hitachi. DHSP produces purpose-built equipment such as log loaders, stroke delimbers, and processors.
“The Hitachi equipment, with the new four-cylinder Isuzu engines, is very efficient,” says Frank. “We really noticed the savings, especially when diesel prices were high. If you can save from six to eight, and sometimes up to 10 litres an hour, that makes a difference.” He added that with all of their other costs being pretty much fixed, the only way they can rein costs in is by reducing fuel consumption.
Nadina Logging is now heavily into Hitachi equipment. In their line-up are six Hitachi ZX 210F machines, two ZX 240F machines, and an older ZX 200 machine.
They also have a John Deere 2154 for processing and Cat D5 equipped with a grapple, for skidding in steep/wet ground. “We find that we don’t use the Cat that much these days—we can manage quite well with the skidders and doing hoe chucking.”
The Hitachi equipment, with its fuel-saving Isuzu six cylinder engines, is delivering the goods for Nadina Logging. “We are doing small wood most of the time, so we are working our equipment fast. We might have to tweak the Isuzu engines a bit to get the torque we need, but they are working out well.”
New engines in general can also be a bit of a challenge. Frank said that it seems like with some of the equipment manufacturers, there is a price to be paid with increased fuel consumption with every tier they move up with emissions regulations, such as Tier 3 and Tier 4 engines.
Frank acknowledges that there might be other machines out there that are more powerful (and consume more fuel) but it can be hard to measure performance, and measure productivity, machine vs. machine—it’s not always apples vs. apples.
“There can be a lot of variables, so it can be very hard to measure one machine against another machine. You’d have to put the exact same operator doing exactly the same type of work in exactly the same location.
“Where we are operating, though, the wood can be very different 50 or 100 metres apart—the wood profile can be very different, the diameters can be different, it could be greener wood or dryer. So it’s not easy to do direct comparisons.”
Deere equipment equipped with Waratah heads had worked well for Nadina Logging. “We had very little downtime,” says Frank. They found, however, that the Logrite system worked better for them than the TimberRite system, on the Waratah heads.
These days, Nadina Logging is working a fair bit with Southstar heads. What got Frank interested in Southstar is the fact that Dave Cochrane, who founded Waratah, was involved in the company, as was Marcel Payeur. “I hadn’t worked with Marcel before, but he was well known for service—he stands behind his product and really supports the contractors.”
The first Southstar heads produced were the 600 series, which are designed for bigger wood. “We don’t do big wood, so we waited for the QS500 processor head, with four sets of wheels.” The QS 500 features 4X4 extra wide feed rollers for increased surface contact with the log.
“Southstar sent me a head, and I liked it,” says Frank. “And the week following, they sent me another one, and the third week, they sent me a third head.” Last year, they took delivery of another two Southstar QS500 heads, for a total of five heads.
“With Southstar, we’ve had excellent service—there have been just little glitches, like a small problem with the harness.
“They have solid reliability—you know when you come in Monday morning, the head is going to work. The guys like it, and that’s what counts, too.”
Nadina Logging’s operations supervisor Gordon Weisse has been impressed with the in the field performance of the Southstar heads. They went over 900 hours before they had to change the chain on one of their processing heads. “We sharpen them once a week, and touch them up, and we were able to go over 2000 hours before we had to re-do the tip on the ¾ inch bar—that’s basically one year of operating without having to touch it.”
The Southstar equipment comes with DASA5 control systems equipped with full optimization capability. “Gordon really likes the heads,” says Frank. “We never have to calibrate, we never have to adjust the control systems—they’re amazingly accurate.”
They have a Waratah head, a 622B, mounted on a John Deere 2154. “And I like it. The Waratah on the Deere has been excellent; they are very reliable.”
While the Southstar QS550 is promoted as a multi-stemming head, Frank said it really is not practical for Nadina Logging to do multi-stemming with its size of wood. “We have to do a lot of sorting by length and diameter, and species—we can have 10 or 12 sorts at any one time.
“The pine and spruce is blended together, the fir and balsam is separate, and then we will cut peelers in the bigger stands. We also do sorts for pulp, post and rail. We can have a lot of decks going at any one time.
“The multi-stemming works if you have uniform stems, but our stems can be all over the place in terms of size. So if you multi-stemmed, you’d handle the stems a lot, separating them, aligning them, zeroing them out at the right place.”
Most of their logging is done for Aspen Planers in Merritt, which in addition to their Chip ‘n Saw line, also has a Comact DDM small log line.
Aspen Planer does upwards of 1.2 million cubic metres a year between its own wood, purchased wood and the wood it harvests through agreements with First Nations bands in the region.
Nadina Logging cuts 250,000 cubic metres a year. “We have good partnerships with the First Nations groups,” says Frank. Over the years, it has purchased other contracting operations in the region, such as Ace Logging, and it purchased the quota of Sanders & Co Contracting.
Working in bug-killed wood has been a fact of life for Nadina Logging for a long time. “In the late-1980s, we used to go to Princeton in the summer and do small pockets of beetle wood, maybe six or seven loads here and there,” explains Frank.
“The beetle has been around for a long time—but when the warm winters came, things basically exploded.”
They are still working in a lot of beetle wood now. “They were originally figuring that maybe five years might be the life of beetle wood, but now they are finding out that some of the beetle wood is fairly sound after 10 years, and even 15 years.” He noted that the Comact small log line at Aspen Planer seems to do a particularly good job of achieving recovery of marginal beetle wood.
As Frank noted, they are working in small wood. “We don’t do quite as small as .1 cubic metres a stem, but it is not unusual for us to work in wood from .22 down to a .12 piece size. It’s very small wood.”
He added that they can have blocks of .4 and even .5 cubic metres a stem. “There are some tenure areas that are wetter where we can get some larger wood. But in the B.C. Southern Interior, you’re generally looking at a dry climate, with slow growing wood.”
Frank noted they have been fortunate in that Aspen Planers operated through the downturn and, aside from a few short shutdowns, kept them busy through the down times.
In terms of maintenance, Nadina Logging has a shop in Merritt, with one heavy duty mechanic and a helper, and a shop truck out in the bush. In addition to the logging equipment, they have six logging trucks, all Kenworths from Inland Kenworth—“they work well for us,” says Frank—and seven trailers, including a low bed, and they use the services of local truckers, as required.
“That part depends on the distances and cycles,” explains Frank. “If we can do three trips a day, we use fewer trucks, but if we can only do two trips, we rely more on the outside trucks.”
Frank noted that Gordon Weisse handles overall operations out in the bush. Weisse knows the operation inside and out—he was the operation’s original truck driver when they only had one logging truck. “Gordon knows what is needed and moves equipment around,” says Frank.
These days, most of Nadina Logging’s founders have passed away. But Frank still keeps in touch with Dominic Mihura, who was the youngest of the partners, and still lives in Merritt. Mihura recalls the days when all the bucking was done with chainsaws, and the wood was hauled into the landing with a cable skidder.
“It has changed so much,” says Mihura.
Frank says he has been fortunate in benefiting from all the hard work the original partners, such as Mihura—none of whom spoke English when they emigrated to Canada—put into building Nadina Logging.
“They had the guts to start something, those guys,” he says. “And it’s meant a lot. “When I came to Nadina Logging, the road was already paved, in terms of the business—these guys did all the hard work. I’ve always appreciated the work and effort they put in to get the company where it is.
“I have huge admiration and respect for these guys, who were pioneers. Our strength today is in our employees, and the values and work ethic that have been passed on to us by the company’s founders.”
Franks says they’ll continue to build on the heritage of the company, which will be celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2016.
Frank, and the Nadina Lake employees—many of them long term—will no doubt celebrate the anniversary—and then likely head right back to work. “I still like the work,” says Frank.
On the Cover:
A significant investment by C & C Resources in its Edgewood Forest Products sawmill in Saskatchewan includes a new breakdown line provided by German-based LINCK, and other equipment changes that will allow the sawmill to process a wider range of sawlogs into solid wood products.
An exit, by choice, from the logging business
Long time logging contractor Derek Stamer recently exited the business—but he still believes there is opportunity in the industry, and he had a few words of advice for young loggers, following the final auction of his equipment.
Major Saskatchewan sawmill upgrade
C & C Resources has invested $25 million in its Edgewood Forest Products sawmill in Saskatchewan, which it expects will pay off in a 20 per cent increase in solid wood recovery.
Nadina Logging—which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year—has a rich family heritage that still forms the foundation for this modern logging company that these days is very capably dealing with harvesting small wood in the B.C. Interior.
Finding its niche
B.C.’s Wadlegger Logging and Construction has truly found its niche on the mill side—producing large dimension Douglas fir product—and on the construction side, the company is moving into building more road, with the addition of a rock drill.
Dust control in B.C. sawmills
A culture of increased safety has emerged in the B.C. forest industry around sawmill dust control, four years after two horrific sawmill accidents that claimed four lives.
Canada’s Top Lumber Producers
Canada’s total lumber shipments increased by more than nine per cent in 2015, but some Canadian forest companies are continuing their pivot to the U.S. South, with both Canfor—which continues to be Canada’s top lumber producer—and Interfor adding to their sawmill counts in the U.S. South during the year.
B.C. Saw Filer’s Conference Preview
The upcoming B.C. Saw Filer’s Association conference—being held in Kamloops April 29-30—is expected to be another success, with solid attendance, and good participation from the equipment companies that supply the filing rooms which form the backbone of sawmills across B.C.
Logger, sawmiller—and cattler farmer
With logging, sawmill, cattle and farming operations, to say that Darcy Coleman’s days are busy would be an understatement.
Lobster trap lumber
Nova Scotia’s AFT Sawmill was born out of necessity to provide lumber for the A. F. Theriault & Son Ltd. boatyard, but it now produces a broad range of products—with a significant “value add” lumber product being lobster trap components.
Alberta’s Robill Contracting fully understands the value of prioritizing efficiency over volume—and when it comes to their logging operation, the focus is truly on the family.
New lathe linecuts a brighter future for plywood plant
With a new $15 million lathe line now in place at its hardwood plywood plant in the Ontario town of Hearst, Columbia Forest Products is looking to ramp up production—and better secure the jobs it provides, being the largest employer in the northern Ontario town.
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
The Last Word
Canada’s veterans could take on many of the forestry jobs the industry is currently looking to fill, says Tony Kryzanowski.