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Tolko’s recently upgraded Quest Wood operation has become even better at handling small, crooked logs.
By Jim Stirling

The Quest Wood Division sawmill of Tolko Industries in Quesnel, BC recently got a whole lot better at what it does best: delivering quality lumber from misshapen lodgepole pine logs in the BC Interior. Tolko’s Quest Wood, a small pine mill, has been viewed as an industry specialist since the 1980s when Quesnel’s licencees were directed to salvage what they could from a massive and widespread mountain pine beetle epidemic. Quest Wood’s mill and people became highly accomplished at handling and processing small pine logs. Key to the mill’s most recent improvement was the installation and smooth startup of a customized HewSaw. About four years ago, Tolko was successful in acquiring a 10-year, 53,000 cubic metre opportunity wood licence. The suppressed, high stand density pine in this licence is between five and seven inches on the butt and Tolko is obliged to harvest material down to a 2.75 inch top.

Astraight stem at that size is an anomaly. “With the opportunity wood licence, we knew we’d be in the small pine for the long term,” says Ian Lindsay, Tolko’s sawmill superintendent. The company also brokers fir and oversize wood from its operating areas to other mills in Quesnel for small pine. Between 85 and 90 per cent of the mill’s fibre diet is small diameter lodgepole pine. That log profile was paramount when the mill management team went shopping for a new primary breakdown system for its small log line about two years ago. The research was conducted on a widespread basis geographically and was consistently thorough. During the process, Tolko looked at about a dozen small log processing systems in Quebec, including two plants running HewSaws. “What we saw was the quality of the product they produced. And from what they were doing with the saw, you intuitively knew the recovery was there,” says Lindsay. “We were looking basically at getting a good quality product out of our small wood.” The mill produces 1X3 and 2X3 and dimension lumber up to 2X10, in finished lengths from the planer from six to 20 feet, as well as lumber in metric sizes.

The larger material is produced by the mill’s second line, an optimized CanCar Chip N Saw with double length infeed and log turner. Tolko’s new HewSaw is far from an off-the- shelf model. Its features are the result of successful design dove-tailing between the Tolko team and HewSaw engineers. Lindsay, a millwright and saw filer, spent a week at HewSaw’s Finnish factory as part of a training/familiarization program. Officially, Tolko’s machine is a model R200 MSA-SE (movable saw assembly, separate edging). “Ours is very different from the HewSaws in Europe,” says Brian Ramage, Tolko’s maintenance/mobile shop superintendent and HewSaw installation project manager. Tolko does not have a single, pre-sorted size passing through the machine at any one given time. “We scan and set for all sizes. We vary our sets constantly, adjusting and optimizing. Every piece is scanned,” explains Ramage.

straight_1.jpg (19358 bytes) Small, crooked lodgepole pine, such as this log headed in on the HewSaw infeed, is the rule rather than the exception at Quest Wood. Installing a new customized HewSaw machine has allowed the mill to increase its production and recovery. Mill quality control supervisor Grant Mitchell (above) shows a piece that would have ended up in the chipper before the installation of the HewSaw.

High-speed throughput is facilitated by variable frequency drives. They also help maintain chip lengths, says Ramage. Tolko’s HewSaw has an innovative dual ring log turner with an impressive operating speed capability of 600 fpm. The HewSaw was achieving piece counts of up to 5,200 a shift within its first two months of operation, with the mill was running three shifts a day. The Tolko team is confident the HewSaw will process 6,000 pieces a shift when the logs can be delivered to it. Improving the mill’s bucking capabilities is an anticipated upgrade. The HewSaw’s edging ability also translates into substantial reductions in volumes requiring re-manufacture.

Ramage appreciates the HewSaw’s close internal tolerances and fine cutting deviations along with its high speed, full optimization and variable frequency drive fea-tures. “It’s a precision machine. We’re finding that what was acceptable maintenance on another machine is not the same with the HewSaw. The machine provides the opportunity to upgrade the other equipment to the HewSaw standard.” Ramage says HewSaw supplied North American motors at Tolko’s request. It also specified “North Americanizing” mechanical components like reducers for more readily available parts. Tolko carefully monitored its quality and process control setups throughout the de-bugging process. “It’s an all-new program and we’re writing it as we go,” says Grant Mitchell, quality control supervisor at the Quest Wood Division.

He’s confident the HewSaw will produce better than anticipated recovery. It’s significant that the mill’s 2X3 production has doubled since the HewSaw’s installation. “The curve sawing advantage is significant to increase recovery from our crooked logs. It’s a very tight little machine that’s far more accurate in positioning and processing the log than the machine we had,” continues Mitchell. The benefits flow downstream, delivering a better quality product to the planer. The HewSaw complements and enhances the advantages achieved from the recent installation of a Newnes trimmer with Coe optimizer and 70 bin J-bar sort system. “With the HewSaw we have allsawn faces on our lumber and hopefully that better finish will open up new mar- kets,” adds Mitchell.

Their chip quality is much better than anticipated, he says, although the HewSaw’s conical heads pro-duce a slightly narrower chip than before. Tolko involved its major chip customer in the design stages. And HewSaw incor-porated machine modifications to help pro-tect the chips. The pulp mill customer con-tinues to use its existing chip size classi-fication system but chip quality, which has traditionally been Tolko’s strong point, is not an issue. “We’re still getting a sub-stantial chip quality bonus,” says Mitchell. The Tolko team is confident the HewSaw will get only better in terms of recovery, grade out-turn, production and ease of maintenance as crews become more familiar with its potential. Other major BC participants in Tolko’s HewSaw project included: Central Mill Construction of Kamloops as mechanical contractor; MPM Engineering of Langley for optimization and controls; Del Schneider Hydraulics of Prince George for hydraulic systems and temposonics; and Service Electric of Quesnel as electrical contractor. HewSaw sub-contracted Hollins Industries of 100 Mile House, BC for the infeed and scanning conveyors.

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