By Jim Stirling
Seeking a traditional, land-based lifestyle seems incompatible with a modern world driving the horizons of artificial intelligence.
Selectively dipping into parts of both worlds, however, can indicate technologies in one that can help promote the goals of the other.
The community of Colville Lake provides a case in point. It recently acquired a new and sophisticated portable sawmill to help address the community’s need for improved housing while creating a foundation for increased self-sufficiency.
Colville Lake is a frontier community of about 160 people about 750 air kilometres northwest of Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
It is about 50 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and connected to the rest of the world by air and a winter ice road. It is home for the Behdzi Ahda First Nation where trapping and fishing are traditional mainstays.
“The people here didn’t want the dependency of the government system. They want to get away from that and be independent,” explains David Codzi. Codzi wears several hats including being president of the local land corporation, vice-president of the economic development organization, and assistant to the band manager.
Colville Lake’s geographic location and its peoples’ desire for more independence places a premium on finding ways to save money and shorten the supply line to the south. For example, the community is involved in a solar and diesel hybrid power system. Colville Lake is dark for much of the long winter months and light all summer. “We look at the tried and true and the experimental R&D to see what might work for us,” says Codzi.
The community got a bit of both with its new sawmill: a proven, effective design augmented by innovative features. Colville Lake chose D&L Timber Technologies to supply it with a commercial DL 1224 diesel sawmill with a 180 degree swing blade. D&L is based in Lac La Hache, in British Columbia’s Cariboo country. Codzi admits the community hasn’t had too much time working with the new mill since its acquisition in 2015. Road construction, for example, has been the priority in 2016, he points out. But Codzi recognizes the potential of the D&L mill.
“We’re working out the kinks,” reports Codzi. “The swing blade (feature) is a little bit different for us,” he adds. “Over time, though, yes, it will do what we want,” he believes.
The raw material is readily available around the community. The land is the building supply centre. Spruce in the 12 inch diameter range is plentiful with larger stems in the better growing sites, he notes.
Codzi says he also brought into Colville Lake a building shell for his own use at the same time as the D&L portable sawmill. The building package of ready-to-assemble timbers was designed by Heartland Timber Homes, a ‘sister’ company of D&L (see sidebar story).
Lindsay Flett is the owner of D&L Timber Technologies. “Our family has been in the sawmilling business owning, designing and manufacturing for our own operations since 1950,” explains Flett. “D&L has been manufacturing our own designs since 1990. My father and I started the company and my son, Clayton Flett, is the fourth generation,” he adds.
“Our market has evolved by customer demand and request along with our ideas and experience in the sawmill business to produce a machine that fits the needs that exist out there.”
The DL 1224 model delivered to Colville Lake was designed to meet commercial market needs, with all-hydraulic functions and diesel power.
“I went to work and designed this by incorporating the frame design of our twin saw models and the 180 degree swing blade models,” summarizes Flett.
The 180 degree swing blade model delivers inherent advantages compared with the 90 degrees on other units, says Flett. Safety is paramount.
Sawguides swing with the saw and remain in place. Double cutting is simplified; the operator can cut from either side of the log and beams up to 12˝ by 24˝ feet can be cut without log turning.
D&L uses carbide tipped thin kerf blades with in-place sharpening that the company says has been proven effective in both hardwoods and softwoods.
The stories regularly surface about the deplorable housing conditions in aboriginal and rural communities across Canada. The situation seems especially acute in isolated northern communities. The reasons for the inadequacies are complex and interwoven. But while native leaders point fingers and politicians pour in money, little seems to change.
Heartland Timber Homes (HTH) and partner D&L Timber Technologies do not presume to have the answers. But they do, however, offer a housing provision option for those communities and individuals willing to examine the possibilities.
“HTH is as much a community development firm as a housing manufacturer,” points out Dave Loeks, president of HTH based in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Essentially, the company offers a range of ready-to-assemble housing packages to First Nations and other communities across Canada, the western United States and Alaska, he explains. D&L Timber Technologies based at Lac La Hache, B.C. is responsible for engineering and manufacturing the processing machinery to manufacture HTH’s building system.
The advantages of the HTH system for remote communities are its cost, structural integrity of the finished product and speed of construction, says Loeks.
HTH’s post and beam timber frame homes are sold in three principal packages ranging from turnkey to building shells. HTH says walls of any length can be constructed by two people without a crane or heavy equipment, which is frequently unavailable in isolated communities and expensive. The company estimates it is feasible to construct a 1400 square foot home in nine to 14 days.
On the Cover:
The Weyerhaeuser sawmill in Princeton, B.C. has added two new Volvo wheel loaders, a Volvo L350F and a Volvo L150H, from B.C. Volvo dealer Great West Equipment to help manage log operations. Read about how the equipment is helping make the operation more efficient beginning on page 10. (Photo by Paul MacDonald).
Tapping into the growing bio-economy at Alberta’s Bio-Mile
A new $11 million Clean Energy Technology Centre recently opened in Alberta and among its goals is supporting greater product diversification within the forestry sector, and encouraging more participation by the industry in the bio-economy.
Volvos delivering volume
Some new Volvo wheel loaders are helping the Weyerhaeuser sawmill in Princeton, B.C. deliver efficiencies in the millyard, in feeding logs into the high production, two-line sawmill, and handling chips and hog fuel.
“Big Data” already being utilized by forest industry
Although “Big Data” has become a buzz term in business circles in recent years, the forest industry is already well on its way to using Big Data in a number of areas, from machine centres at the sawmill, to woodlands operations.
Hard work = successful sawmill
Though it requires a lot of hard work, Alberta sawmiller Colin Ruxton says that small sawmilling can pay off—and he’s proven it with both a band and circular sawmill.
Going from logger—to lumber producer
New Brunswick’s Pierre Friolet has used skills developed as a logging contractor to set up an added-value operation that produces thermally modified wood, finding customers from architects to guitar makers for the unique wood product.
Lean log handling
B.C.’s coastal forest industry and the provincial government are working on streamlining the log handling process through making changes based on the “Lean” philosophy that is practiced in other industries—and it’s already showing results.
Family fencing operation
B.C. specialty mill operation Nagaard Sawmill, run by brothers Darrol and Dale Nagel, has found its niche—and it’s in producing fence components from western red cedar for a growing market, with a mill that features a fair bit of home-made equipment, and lots of ingenuity.
Liking the Log Max/Doosan combo
New Brunswick harvesting contractor Remi Doucet is a fan of the Doosan/Log Max harvesting combination, and recently upgraded his equipment with a new Log Max 7000 head.
BUILDER of business relationships
B.C. logger Shane Garner says a successful harvesting contracting operation is all about business relationships, from his employees to his John Deere-heavy logging equipment fleet.
A life in logging: from horses—to Tigercats
Long time logger Alan Costain may have started with yarding horses, but these days the horsepower in Costain Lumbering is of a very different sort, with equipment such as a Tigercat 822.
The frontier community of Colville Lake, 50 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories, has acquired a new portable sawmill which will produce building materials to help address the community’s need for improved housing.
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
The Fort McMurray fire of earlier this year could have ripple effect on the cost of insurance for the forest industry, says Jim Stirling.