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TimberWest November/December 2013

November/December 2015

ON THE COVER
Photo of Bighorn Logging’s yarder taken by Lindsay Mohlere.

Emerald Valley Keeps on Keeping on
Resolve and flexibility are the hallmark of Emerald Valley Thinning

The Challenges of Change
Harve Dethlefs retired from electronics and began a career in logging

Don’t Overlook the Value of Alder
Defiance Forest Products discusses the marketability of Alder

A Lifetime in the Woods
Gardner Logging & Road Construction

Biomass Column
Colorado Woody Biomass Plant Plays Waiting Game

Pacific Logging Congress Review

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Tech Review - Portable Grinders

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Defiance Forest ProductsDon’t Overlook the Value of Alder

Defiance Forest Products discusses the marketability of Alder

By Andrea Watts

With market prices that rival—and in some cases eclipse—Douglas fir, red alder cannot be overlooked when you’re assessing the value of a logging job. Even if you’re not sure what veneer-quality alder looks like or if you find a stand doesn’t contain the volume of alder needed to fill a truckload, Defiance Forest Products is there to help you every step of the way: from cruising to sorting.

For 24 years, Tacoma based Defiance Forest Products manufactured Douglas fir and western hemlock for use in doors, windows, and veneer. In September 2014, brothers Travis and Terry decided to expand, on a trial basis, into exporting alder for veneer. Pictured is a Doosan DX300LL. (Below) Harold Raines assisted, since his company Rainestree Log Yard exported alder to the East Coast mills since 2005.

Alder in Demand

Travis Tebb, co-owner of Defiance Forest Products, says the best alder is found out here in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Yet it’s not in the Pacific Northwest where alder is in demand. Instead it’s mills back East—in Kentucky, Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan—and even in China, which turn to his company as their alder source for use in veneer. The reason for alder’s demand is it “can be stained any way you want…and can be manipulated to look like any wood,” Tebb explains.

For the past 24 years, Tacoma-based Defiance Forest Products manufactured Douglas fir and western hemlock for use in doors, windows, and veneer. In September 2014, brothers Travis and Terry decided to expand, on a trial basis, into exporting alder for veneer. Harold Raines had already proven it was a viable business operation; since 2005 his company Rainestree Log Yard exported alder to the East Coast mills.

Harold RainesSourcing Alder

Raines entered the market quite by accident. His 20 years of experience with the Grays Harbor Scaling Bureau, followed by working as a consulting logger, hadn’t prepared him when a Canadian client asked where he could source alder for veneer. “I had no experience [with alder], but I knew who to talk to,” Raines says.

After nearly 10 years of running a log yard based out of Shelton, Raines was ready to retire, yet buyers weren’t willing to buy the log yard without his experience. Tebb wanted that experience too but he also knew of Raines’ desire to spend his afternoons on the tees. The men reached the compromise of Raines coming on as a part-time consultant, and the partnership has proven fruitful. There are a lot of moving parts to this business, and Harold has developed the network to make it work, Tebb says.

Their alder is sourced from a network of 500 clients, primarily small private landowners located throughout most of Western Washington, spanning Grays Harbor, Lewis, Pierce, Kitsap, and Mason Counties, even down to Woodland. They have an open-market policy, Raines says, which means they never know day-to-day, week-to-week what’s going to come in.

Defiance Forest ProductsDefiance Forest Products are sourced from over 500 clients.

Marketable Alder

April through October is the peak time for logging alder, and Tebb says that Defiance Forest Products sells three to five truckloads per week. Depending upon the client’s order, these loads may contain four grades of alder: grade A, which has no knots, to Rustic, whichin spite of its imperfections, is a sought-after wood for high-end uses such as finishing. Sales are constant throughout the year.

The alder that is marketable for veneer is generally 50-60 years old and has at least a 15” DBH. If clients want an assessment of the market value of their alder, Raines encourages them to call, and he’ll come out to conduct a free assessment of the stand.

“Once I show someone [what to look for], generally they can do it on their own next time,” he says. Customers appreciate that Tebb will buy all grades and accept mixed-species loads. One caveat for the alder is they only take fresh-cut timber to minimize the splitting that occurs.

When it comes to running their business, both Raines and Tebb say that maintaining trust and honesty with their customers and clients is critical. One practice that Raines advocated for continuing when he joined Defiance Forest Products was paying customers not only good money but also on time. “Honestly, we try to do the best we can for them and us,” Raines says.

Defiance Forest ProductsThe best alder for veneer is between 50 and 60 years old and at least 15 inches in diameter.

At the Yard

Once the alder arrives at their yard in Tumwater, Raines sorts the logs into the grades requested by their clients. Though some clients will make the trip to the log yard and judge the sort themselves, Tebb says that many of their clients trust Raines to sort the alder for them.

From there, shovel operator Duane Bell, who has worked with Raines since 1997, sorts the logs into piles. Ray Willis, who has been with Raines since 2005, prepares the logs for shipping. To prevent the logs from splitting and staining during transit, Willis waxes and sprays each log. In logs that have visible cracks, he inserts plastic clips in the cracks to prevent further splitting.

Alder Making Its Mark

With their alder being sourced from both “mom and pop” and large landowners, Tebb says they are bringing in the volume, which really puts Defiance Forest Products in a niche. Raines adds proudly, “I believe that now Defiance may be the largest exporter of alder veneer on the West Coast.”