By Tony Kryzanowski
There is only one word to describe Shawn Moore’s successful venture into specialty wood products: evolution.
Tired of the feast and famine business cycle that is common in the oil patch, he now finds himself in partnership with his wife, Natalie, in Trimmed-Line Tree Services Ltd. The company is a purveyor of finely appointed, sawn and kiln-dried—and sometimes rare—wood products destined for anything from countertops and coat racks to slabs of live-edge wood and handcrafted furniture.
The business—located in Red Deer, Alberta—diversified seriously into production of wood products from salvaged trees only a couple of years ago, but they are already looking for more land to expand.
“We’ve gone from a small crawl to the steps being almost leaps now,” says Moore.
Moore’s career in the wood industry started fresh out of high school, at the end of a chainsaw in 1991 working for a land clearing business. It progressed to seismic line clearing work for the oil and gas industry in 2005, with most business activity taking place in the winter. Along with this was a ‘full circle’ residential tree service, which included dangerous tree removal, stump grinding, salvage wood recycling, kiln drying, and tree planting , when the seismic line work dropped off in summer.
Moore, who is a qualified level four tree faller tutor, says that a lot of the wood he was falling and chipping for private landowners and municipalities was ending up in landfills, and it seemed like a huge waste of a valuable resource.
“I was sitting there one day watching as 20” logs went into our large capacity, whole tree chipper, thinking how other people were talking about biomass and greening up the world, and here I am shredding 20” marketable material,” says Moore. “I just made a conscious choice that I should look into other opportunities for that wood.”
There were pressures from his seismic line clearing business that pointed him into more diversification. A constant challenge was keeping good employees. Depending on the time of year and the amount of seismic work that was available, the company would employ anywhere from two to 15 workers. During the slow season in summer, workers often found jobs elsewhere to pay the bills—and didn’t return.
Recently, Moore began to notice that the number of seismic line clearing jobs was becoming fewer and fewer, “and the ups and downs of the economic crash really hit home.”
By mid-2015, with oil prices dropping to less than half of what they were a year earlier, thousands of people employed in the oilpatch were being laid off. Suffice to say that seismic jobs had become very scarce and this was having a significant impact on Trimmed-Line’s cash flow.
“Everybody seemed to be holding onto their dollars,” he explained, “and we made a conscious decision—when the oilpatch was looking very grim—that we were going to go to this bare bones crew and get our kiln and added value project off the ground.”
The income potential of diversifying into a supplier of kiln-dried wood or handcrafted wood products was just too good to ignore.
Whether it was for private landowners or the oilpatch, he essentially was being paid to remove the wood fibre. Moore calculated that instead of paying the $67 per tonne to deliver wood chips to the landfill, he could divert the merchantable salvaged wood fibre he had acquired for free to his business—and pay an employee what he was saving in landfill disposal fees to produce a valuable and saleable solid wood product.
Also, diversification made Trimmed-Line Tree Services less dependent on business from the oilpatch and also provided year round employment for key staff members.
When the company won the award for best Small Booth at the Red Deer 2015 Home Show—the first year they participated in the event—Moore knew that their products had plenty of public appeal, and that the business had a strong chance for success.
Today, Moore describes himself as an urban logger. Unlike high volume, commodity-driven lumber producers where most of their lumber is used in structural applications, Trimmed-Line Tree Services is focused primarily on lower volumes of sawn and kiln-dried wood products used mostly in appearance applications. “We’re selling live edge slabs into a fairly consistent market at $14 per board foot versus 75 cents per board foot for 2” X 4”s,” says Moore. “It was a no brainer for us.”
That said, they do produce some dimension lumber for non-building construction uses and for custom orders in an effort to find a market for as much of their salvaged wood fibre as possible.
They saw various log diameters depending on the species of wood, the wood grain it presents, and the market demand for the product.
“With even a small chunk of two inch lilac, we’ve been selling it to wood turners for pen blanks and toothpick holders,” says Moore.
The logs salvaged from Trimmed-Line’s tree removal jobs come from about a 150 kilometre radius of Red Deer, representing more than 10 tree species.
“We have just about everything that is planted or native to central Alberta,” says Moore. This includes: mountain, green and black ash; black poplar; aspen; spruce; mayday; schubert chokecherry; apple; elm; Manitoba maple; oak; and various willows, including their favorite, laurel leaf willow.
The on-site process starts with chainsaw operators taking down trees. Other equipment will accompany the takedown crew as needed. This includes a Rayco RC20XP whole tree chipper, Bandit 3500 forestry mower, Rayco C140 forestry mower, a Takeuchi TB180 mini-excavator to load trucks and remove trunks, and a Kubota SVL90 tracked loader.
Some of the salvaged wood is still chipped on-site and delivered to the City of Red Deer for use in their landscaping projects. None is landfilled. Merchantable logs are transported by truck to the Trimmed-Line Tree Services yard, sawn on a new Wood-Mizer LT50 portable bandsaw, and if necessary, edged on a Wood-Mizer EG200 twin blade edger.
“The Wood-Mizer product had a lot of accessories to grow my system, and I thought it had good trade-in value,” said Moore. “It’s a really simple and strong machine.” He adds that the edger is a good asset to have when making dimensional lumber, and allows a three-man crew to work very efficiently.
The goal is to discover and preserve the unique wood grain of each merchantable log. After careful inspection, the saleable slabs produced from the bandsaw are dried in a custom-built wood dry kiln, with heat provided by a wood waste-fired boiler. The fuel is wood waste collected from the bandsaw and edger. The heat from the wood boiler also heats Trimmed-Line’s shop and warehouse.
After drying, each slab from each tree from each species is ‘laid down’ like an expensive vintage of wine in various corners of the warehouse, waiting for calls from customers. Sometimes it is partially prepared in their woodshop for customers. To accomplish this task, they use a 20” Laguna planer, Laguna bandsaw or one of several tablesaws, bandsaws or chop saws to fulfill customer requirements. Sometimes, Moore’s business partner, custom wood worker Chad Yanulik, converts wood slabs into attractive, handcrafted wood products in-house.
Their list of customers grows almost daily—artists, woodworkers, cabinet makers, builders, designers, and businesses like restaurants looking for that special slice of wood or slabs from the same tree with the same grain characteristics for their special woodworking project. The company finds that once they supply one or two pieces to a project, they are asked to supply a lot more product for customers’ future projects, because they are so enamored by the wood’s appearance.
The entire business concept came together rather quickly, stemming from a bid to salvage trees from a local school project and a promise to use the wood to build park benches. This helped the builder achieve LEED certification.
After the purchase of the Wood-Mizer bandsaw and edger, the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place with the help of veteran specialty wood manufacturer Peter Schmutz, owner of Solar-Dri Timber Specialties near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta.
Schmutz advised Moore on the construction of a dry kiln, using a 40’ shipping container. The wood-fired boiler takes up 20’ and the kiln takes up the remaining 20’, with fans installed inside to circulate the air. The internal temperature and humidity can be monitored externally. The temperature will be ramped up to as high as 60 degrees Celsius for a specified period of time for phytosanitation. Depending on the species, it can take three to six weeks in the kiln to achieve their optimum moisture content. Wood destined for woodworking projects are dried to below 10 per cent. They have two more 40’ shipping containers on site to accommodate expansion.
Once the City of Red Deer approved the kiln installation, the company hasn’t looked back. The City is also helping to support the business.
“We have a pilot project starting up with the City parks department to start rescuing park tree waste,” says Moore.
At present, he says that the business is undergoing a complete switch in focus.
“This business (wood products) used to be our summer business, which was a back-up to keep us going until the winter,” Moore says. “But we’re doing a complete switch. Our summer is becoming our main core business, and if we get anything in the winter, that will be a bonus.”
On the Cover:
On the B.C. Coast, it’s about getting the wood to the water, but before it hits the water, it needs to be harvested in the woods. And this September will see the full range of harvesting equipment working at the DEMO 2016 show being held in Maple Ridge, B.C. Please see the preview story on DEMO, beginning on page 28 of this issue. (Photo of B.C. dryland sort by Paul MacDonald).
Beetle attack: but this time it’s the spruce beetle
As if the B.C. Interior has not been hit hard enough by the mountain pine beetle, there have been recent increases in the spruce beetle population in the Central Interior of B.C. Details on what is being done to fight/contain the latest scourge in the forests.
EACOM Timber partnered with equipment supplier Autolog to optimize the company’s Val D’Or and Timmins sawmills, achieving value uplift at both operations, strengthening them and giving them more market resilience.
Logging partners in profit
An award-winning logging partnership between the Quatsino First Nation and Western Forest Products on the B.C. Coast is delivering efficiencies—and profits—to the two partners.
A (sawmill) offer you can’t refuse
Weyerhaeuser Canada made Alberta sawmill owner Guido Unger a (good) offer he couldn’t refuse: the purchase of a used USNR line that will allow his sawmill to ramp up production considerably.
Coming in September: DEMO 2016
Full details on the upcoming largest logging equipment show in Canada this year: DEMO 2016, being held in Maple Ridge, B.C. from Sept. 22-24, with all of the major logging equipment manufacturers represented.
Hands-on harvesting approach
Nova Scotia logger John Dorey has been recognized by the Canadian Woodlands Forum for his hands-on approach to meeting the needs of woodlands clients, and excelling at partial harvesting.
Getting more control over log hauling
Weyerhaeuser’s Grande Prairie, Alberta timberlands operation is phasing in more tire pressure-controlled equipped log haul trucks, allowing them to increase their access on steep logging roads, even in bad weather.
More chips to go...
New Brunswick’s Billy and Ronnie Gillespie are innovators when it comes to their chipping operation
Urban logging in Alberta
Alberta’s Shawn Moore has moved beyond the oil patch, and his tree removal business has now morphed into doing urban logging—and they’re diverting trees from the landfill.
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 and Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions.
The Last Word
Winters aren’t what they used to be, and that simple fact is impacting the forest industry, says Jim Stirling.