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Logging and Sawmilling Journal October/November 2010February/March 2011

On the Cover:

With business conditions for the
forest industry gradually improving, things are getting busier out in the woods. Logging and Sawmilling Journal recently caught this Hitachi ZX 210 supplied by dealer Wajax Industries, equipped with a Waratah HTH 622B processing head, working north of Kamloops for Quesnel Bros. Logging. Watch for a story on the Quesnel Bros. operation in an upcoming issue.

(Photo by Paul MacDonald)

Spotlight

The mountain pine beetle scourge was late in hitting the Smithers area in west central B.C., but the Wetzin’kwa Community Forest has been acting quickly to harvest and utilize as much of the infected wood as possible.

Sinclar Group wins award for reducing energy use

Sinclar Group Forest Products in British Columbia is taking a serious cut at reducing its energy use. The company and its employees—such as those at the Apollo Forest Products sawmill in Fort St. James—were recently recognized with an award from BC Hydro for their efforts.

People Power Energy

Conservation at Tl’oh Forest Products

The right equipment combo

Logger Jamie Enright has found that a TimberPro 620 carrier with the Risley Rolly II processing head is the right equipment combination to fell and process logs at the stump on the private land that he logs in southeastern Ontario.

Log Max 10000XT heads for Vancouver Island

Logger Steve Pierce has been a pioneer in mechanical harvesting on Vancouver Island, and has been a long time user of Log Max heads. Pierce is finding their newest head, the Log Max 10000XT, is the perfect fit for large west coast wood.

Logging in the Old Country

Though there are differences, there are also some striking similarities to the harvesting that goes on in Scotland with that of Canada, as Jim Stirling’s recent visit to the Scottish Highlands revealed.

Tech Update — Sawfiling Equipment

With the uptick in the lumber market, sawmills are looking at making improvements on the sawfiling side. Logging and Sawmilling Journal has the latest sawfiling equipment information in this issue’s Tech Update.

The Last Word

We should help save an endangered species—the Ontario logger, says Tony Kryzanowski.

Supplier Newsline

 

 

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Success from salvage timber

Success from salvage timber

A small remanufacturing business on Vancouver Island, Woodland Flooring Company, has found success using only salvaged timber that it sources through a network of small sawmillers on the Island—and it’s also used beetle wood from the B.C. Interior and timber from a massive blowdown in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

By Paul MacDonald

Like perhaps many businesses, Vancouver Island’s Woodland Flooring Company Ltd started out by accident—truly by accident.

The company’s owner, Steve Roscoe, had been doing renovation work at the lodge of the local ski hill, Mount Washington, near the town of Courtney. The job involved using yellow cedar and hemlock harvested from the mountain itself, and some local alder. The general manager of Mount Washington looked at the wood, and said that it would make a nice floor, as well. Roscoe agreed—and that could have been the end of it.

Shortly after, Roscoe was recuperating from an injury from a table saw, and serendipity was about to go into action.

Steve Roscoe of Woodland FlooringSteve Roscoe of Woodland Flooring, with some of the flooring produced from blowdown wood from Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

“I had kind of made a mess of things, getting my thumb stuck in a table saw, and couldn’t work,” explains Roscoe. “So I used the time to come up with a business plan on how to use local wood to produce wide plank flooring.”

And like many businesses, Woodland Flooring actually started out in a garage—but it wasn’t there for long.

Roscoe looked for capital to get the business going, and it was hard to find. But Community Futures Strathcona, a quasi-government agency which helps small local businesses, saw that Woodland Flooring was creating local jobs and using local wood, and stepped in to help out. “Next thing I knew, we were leasing the 6500 square foot building we are in now.”

Right now, Woodland Flooring is humming along nicely, but Roscoe notes that they have had their ups and downs.

The company was started in 1998, not the best of economic times. “It’s actually not a bad time to start a business up when the economy is down because you have time to develop and get things going,” says Roscoe. “As the economy picked up, we kind of grew with it.”

Sourcing wood was one of the main challenges.

“We would go to the sawmills and they would say, how many truckloads a month do you want? Well, we do not need want truckloads a month. We’re looking for maybe a couple of truckloads a year of a species.

“We saw how the forest industry was not going to work with us because of how small we are, and we couldn’t go out and buy hardwood or softwood from the wholesalers because they wouldn’t send us what we needed,” he says.

“We realized what we needed was a grade that was proprietary, and we needed to work very closely with the sawyers. And the small portable sawmills in the area better identified with our needs and what we needed. Their level of size matched our level of size and it was a good fit.”

The small mills were able to provide the quality and consistency of product. And every single piece of wood that comes out of the Woodland Flooring plant is produced from salvage timber, from these smaller mills.

Like the much talked about 100 Mile food diet, Roscoe tries to follow a 100 Mile wood diet. His wood comes from a group of sawmillers, some with circular saws, some with band saw operations, from Duncan in the south to as far north as Port McNeill, on Vancouver Island. They now deal with about a dozen small sawmillers, some involved with salvage wood on public land, others that have their own woodlots.

“We’ve taught them our grade and our lengths and size and structure, and we have a very close connection with the sawmill guys. We treasure that connection and appreciate them because without them, it would be darn near impossible to get wood any other way.”

Woodland FlooringWoodland Flooring looked for capital to get the business going, but it was hard to find. But Community Futures Strathcona, a quasi-government agency which helps small local businesses, saw that the company was creating local jobs and using local wood, and stepped in to help out.

At the beginning, word got out among small sawmillers in the area, and before long, Woodland Flooring was being offered alder and maple. “And we found there are a large number of people out there in the salvage industry that have access to great Douglas fir. It may not be perfect enough to go into the high grade export market, but we can certainly work with it. We don’t need 32–foot lengths. We can work with eight- and ten-foot material. We usually cut everything to 8 foot, six inches, for optimizing our kiln loads.”

The price point is higher for their flooring product, but Roscoe was not shooting for a low price point, mass market. “We realized we had to be a niche producer, we were not going to be out there competing with the flooring stores, with product from Quebec and the U.S. And China was not an issue back then.”

In early 2000, when the company set up its website, the U.S. market took off. The value of the Canadian dollar was in their favour, and the market grew to the point that almost 45 per cent of their sales were in the U.S.

“Then the softwood lumber issue hit, and it was insane,” says Roscoe. “They slapped a 23 percent duty on our softwood flooring going to the U.S. And they made it retroactive for 18 months, so we were on the hook for duty on wood flooring that had been paid for and already installed in people’s homes in the U.S.”

The whole experience left Roscoe with no faith in how government is supposed to help business. “The federal government just viewed the value added sector as collateral damage in the softwood trade war—that never should have been allowed to happen. Lumber should have been lumber, and finished product should have been treated differently. How could they describe flooring as lumber? It drove me crazy.”

The hoops he had to go through to claim back the retroactive duty money through the Canadian government was a production in itself. So much of a production that he decided to approach the U.S. customs directly to get the money back—and had a cheque in three weeks.

“That showed me that our government is not here to help us—they’re just not here for us. It was horrible.”

Roscoe also has no time for the junkets that visit B.C. mills and woodworking operations. He talked about one group from China that visited his operation, and essentially wanted him to go to China to show them how to make flooring there.

“I’m in the business of making flooring here in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island—I’m not in the business of teaching the Chinese to make flooring and compete with me.”

What the government is doing with these junkets borders on the naïve, he believes. The Chinese companies are going to eat our lunch, as the saying goes.

“You know, I applaud Obama for his protectionist actions. We should be doing that here in Canada, and we’re not. We should be protecting our manufacturers.”

Roscoe is also very outspoken about log exports from B.C.—there should not be any log exports, he says.

Woodland Flooring opted to purchase its own kiln so they could best achieve the target dryness they needed for the local market. They purchased an 8,000 board foot, side loading kiln from North Carolina-based Kiln-Direct.com. It came fully assembled, so they were able to put it to work right away.

“I don’t think we can have a strong wood manufacturing base as well as being exporters of logs. I think exporting logs undermines our ability to be manufacturing from a raw product. It’s like having a gold mine and selling the rocks that contain the gold.”

To help break down the B.C. wood equivalent of gold that they work with, Woodland Floors have purchased a Kent re-saw, and they have a Weinig moulder along with a Cantek wide belt two-head sander. They also built their own end matcher because Roscoe could not find the equipment in the market that could do what they needed.

The company opted to purchase its own kiln so they could best achieve the target dryness they needed for the local market. They purchased an 8,000 board foot, side loading kiln from North Carolina-based Kiln-Direct.com. It came fully assembled, so they were able to put it to work right away.

“We don’t have to dry to four or five percent, such as the Quebec manufacturers who have to deal with super dry places all winter long, where it is 20 percent or less humidity, and boards can expand and cup.

“We can dry to 7.5 percent in our 45 to 50 per cent humidity world here on the Island, and we can do it with wide planks, mixed grain wood, and create a very stable product.”

All floors are finished through their custom built coating machine that applies a special UV-cured vegetable oil and wax finish.

The company now employs 10 people and currently sells primarily along the B.C. coast, into the Whistler and Vancouver markets on the mainland, but also into Victoria, Tofino, Nanaimo and, of course, their home base of the Comox Valley.

Along the way, they have produced some very unique flooring product. They took Japanese-grade wood produced from West Chilcotin Forest Products in the B.C. Interior—that had been rejected due to the mountain pine beetle stain in the wood—and made flooring and paneling out of it.

And one of their most unique products has been flooring produced from salvage wood from Vancouver’s Stanley Park. The park was hit by a huge wind storm in 2006 that left thousands of cubic metres of timber on the forest floor. There was everything from Douglas fir to alder and maple.

“We did not know this, but the timber from the blowdown in Stanley Park ended up being sold at auction, and we had a call from someone in Vancouver who bought it,” explains Roscoe. “We worked with him and bought small amounts, ran the logs in a mill in Vancouver, and brought the wood over as we needed it.

“It was a blast to do the Stanley Park wood, it kind of just fell in our lap. But the wood was horrible to work with—our waste factor was over 50 per cent and there was a lot of really bad stain.” Getting into the nice wood was hard. The timber had been sitting around for two years at that point, some of that time in the water.

Roscoe takes great pride in producing wood products from beetle wood and the Stanley Park blowdown.

There is a sentimental connection to Stanley Park, too.
Roscoe’s great grandfather, Seaton, was among the founding members of the lawn bowling club there some 95 years ago.

“I want to provide customers with something that has value to them, with wood that comes from somewhere they identify with,” he says.

“The beetle wood is a great example of how people in B.C. are embracing this. There is this huge forestry disaster happening in our province and they can feel like they like are doing something buying wood from it, being part of the solution, instead of just standing back and watching it happen.”