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Small Logs Pay Off for Ledwidge Lumber

Nova Scotia's Ledwidge Lumber is making greater use of the local timber resource with a small log line featuring a Hewsaw R200

By Tony Kryzanowski
Copyright 1998. Contact publisher for permission to use.

A decision two years ago by one of Nova Scotia's largest sawmills to install a small log line has resulted in much more efficient and responsible use of the province's central interior timber resource. So far, the investment has paid off for Ledwidge Lumber Company Ltd.

The Ledwidge family operates a stud mill near Enfield, west of Halifax, and has been in the sawmill business for over 55 years. Right now, father and founder Laurie Ledwidge is company president, while one son, Douglas, is general manager and another son, James, is woodlands manager.

As the market for large timbers dwindled because of cutbacks in the Maritime fishing industry, thus reducing the need for timbers to build wharves, Ledwidge Lumber recognized the value of greater mechanization. They also noted the success of other Eastern Canadian sawmills operating small log lines, specifically in New Brunswick and Quebec. Two years ago, they spent $4 million installing their small log line, centred around a Hewsaw R200 break-down unit.

The province is home to three pulp mills, but none are in close proximity to the central interior area. Therefore, loggers harvesting wood in the area found it difficult to sell their small wood for chips.

Log diameters within individual Nova Scotia cutblocks tend to run the gamut. While it takes longer to grow a large, mature tree, these trees yield lumber valued for its superior strength.

About 85 per cent of timber harvested in Nova Scotia is on private land. Douglas Ledwidge says that along with many other private landowners in the region, they had difficulty finding a market for small wood harvested on their own 16,000-acre woodlot holdings. The answer was a small log line.

"It seemed like a good area to expand into," he says. "Primarily the reason was our difficulty in selling our own pulp wood. We experimented with a few small-scale systems to try to saw it. But after a while, it was go big or stay home." They started their small log line in April 1997, and overall mill production has increased from 30 million board feet to over 50 million board feet per year.

The small log line has also resulted in a more secure timber supply. They not only compete with local sawmills for their wood resource, they also have competition from across the US border, specifically from Maine. "It has allowed us to accept a smaller stick from private individuals," says Ledwidge, "and it makes it more attractive to supply us both with the smaller wood and the larger wood now."

They source their wood from about a 150-km radius, occasionally going as far as Cape Breton Island. They contract out all of their harvesting and most of their trucking.

Their old log line manufactures dimension lumber from logs measuring 5.5" to 16". Their small log line can accept logs as small as 3.3".

Just as they pondered the installation of a small log line, a stroke of good fortune came their way. They noticed from a trade magazine that a Hewsaw R200 had been sitting in a crate in a Montreal warehouse for a few years - a deal having gone sour between the previous Canadian Hewsaw supplier and a West Coast sawmill. It was for sale, and at a bargain, so they bought it.

The Hewsaw R200 consists of a four-sided canter and double arbors coming down vertically. Its saws meet in the middle to manufacture lumber from small-diameter logs. During a recent maintenance shutdown, Ledwidge Lumber installed a movable saw attachment into the Hewsaw to maintain production flow.

"The saw is computer-controlled. Now what we are doing is installing a servo-hydraulic system to make that saw movable between each sort," says Ledwidgel, "so that between each sort we can change our sawing patterns to what we desire within a couple of seconds, rather than taking three or four minutes."

They use a variety of SPF species, but primarily spruce. They feel it is uneconomical to sort small log sizes in the yard or demand that contractors sort by wood species in the bush. So they count heavily on their bin system and the ability to change patterns quickly on their Hewsaw. Plus, they sort the spruce from the fir by manually marking fir studs.

The line starts with a new Carbotech double-rotor debarker; they have also installed a second, double-rotor 18" cambio supplied by Carbotech. After debarking, the logs feed into a bin-sorting system, with the larger logs flowing toward the older stud mill, and the small logs divided into four separate sorts before being fed into the Hewsaw R200.

After the Hewsaw, the wood flows to a common transfer deck, where it merges with wood from the large log line. The wood proceeds through a double unscrambler system, and up to a grade station where the fir is marked and sorted into separate bins.

"We are seeing a higher percentage of fir these days than we had originally," says Ledwidge. "That's what needs to be cut more than the spruce, because dense fir stands tend to mature at a smaller diameter. We have quite a few stands of over-mature fir, so we are seeing more and more fir."

After sorting and grading, the wood passes through a PLC lug loader and another grade station. Finally, it passes through Autolog scanning heads and into a Carbotech multi-saw trimmer where the sawmill has the option to produce dimensions from 4' to 9' lengths, in l'increments. Then the trimmed lumber enters a Carbotech 30-bin sorter, eventually flowing downstairs to a packaging system and stick placer, in preparation for kiln drying.

This is another area where Ledwidge Lumber has made a significant investment, resulting in more value-added lumber. Five years ago, they purchased a Salton double-air-pass dry kiln and a boiler, with heat supplied by burning their own shavings. They recently purchased a larger Salton double-air-pass dry kiln, with a low-pressure-steam, 350-hp boiler provided by KMW.

Their main market at present is the eastern US, particularly the Boston and Florida regions. While the United Kingdom has traditionally been a good market, Ledwidge Lumber has faced stiff competition from sawmills located in countries of the former USSR, such as Latvia. But there is an interesting twist to reduced market penetration in the UK.

"As strange as it sounds, we have a local hardware store operator who buys lumber from us and he is shipping packaged homes over to Latvia," says Ledwidge.

Despite many often unforeseen changes in the marketplace, the owners of Ledwidge Lumber have managed to keep their complement of employees steady at about 85, and have succeeded by taking advantage of new market opportunities, and through efficiency in their own operation.

They also try to maximize the value of their residuals. They sell their bark and a portion of their shavings to the Stora Forest Products pulp mill in Port Hawkesbury. Their sawdust is sold to Shaw Resources, which converts it into wood pellets to burn in wood stoves, and the majority of their shavings are sold to a flakeboard plant in St. Stephen, New Brunswick.

Next on their agenda is an upgrade on their planer mill to capture more value, and to convert it into a less labour-intensive operation.

Ledwidge Finances Private Land Reforestation

Concerned about a potential serious decline in available timber if sawmills and pulpmius in the province do not step up to the plate, Ledwidge Lumber Co. has made a significant financial commitment to the reforestation of private land in Nova Scotia.

About 85 per cent of available timber in Nova Scotia is held on private land, and Ledwidge Lumber is among the first sawmills to develop a private land silviculture program.

They launched their program this past May to compensate for the now-defunct joint federal/provincial program that provided private landowners in the province with financial assistance for reforestation.

"Something had to be done," says company general manager Douglas Ledwidge. "Eventually, there won't be near as much timber available years down the road if things aren't properly taken care of."

A joint committee, with representation from Ledwidge Lumber, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and private landowners, manages the program.

Each private landowner who supplies Ledwidge Lumber with wood will be eligible for $6.00 per cord assistance for reforestation. Half the money will come from the company, $2 from DNR, and $1 from the private landowner. Ledwidge Lumber will absorb all administration costs, and will set up a trust fund in a separate bank account. They will not be allowed to draw from the fund to perform reforestation on their own land holdings.

The reforestation work will involve planting, vegetation control, pre-merchantable thinning and shelterwood. Excluded are such items as road construction, fire ponds and boundary lines.

Hewsaw R200

Ledwidge Lumber recently installed a servo-hydraulic system on the Hewsaw R200 to make the saw movable between each sort.

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