Living a Sawmilling Dream

by | Jul 1, 2023 | 2023, DIY, Small Scale, July/August, Logging & Sawmilling Journal, Sawmill

Scierie Chassé was created out of Daniel Chassé’s dream to have his own business and be his own boss. Growing up in Kedgewick in northwestern New Brunswick, Chassé gained a good deal of mechanical and equipment operating experience working alongside his father, Armand, in the family backhoe/gravel truck business.

When it came time to build his own business, Chassé decided he would like to work with lumber and wood manufacturing.

In 1999, he launched his business with the purchase of a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill. Rather than build a business on the portable aspect of the equipment, he installed the sawmill in a large wood framed building—basically in the backyard of the family home. Chassé hung out his Scierie shingle and began producing lumber.

In addition to the Wood-Mizer, Chassé also purchased a Valley edger, recognizing that it would increase the overall production of his operation.

Scierie ChasséDaniel Chassé in the sawyer’s cab. In 2015, Chassé made a major upgrade to his operation with the purchase of a Select double-cut sawmill equipped with an electric motor.

When the diesel engine on the mill expired after five years of heavy use, Chassé relied on his mechanical aptitude to adapt an electric motor to operate the mill.

“The electric motor made the operation a lot cleaner, quieter and resulted in better air quality in the building—it worked very well,” commented Chassé.

Realizing the spruce/pine/fir side of lumber production was well served by large, high production sawmills throughout the region, Chassé decided to focus on less commercially popular species, that typically went looking for markets, or were left standing on harvest operations because of lack of demand by mills. In particular, cedar, tamarack, pine and poplar logs often had only limited, or no regional markets.

Chassé has built a strong business relationship with a handful of contractors who operate on private woodlots, who appreciate the market for a good deal of the less-popular tree species that come off their operations. Contractors contact Chassé when they have logs available, and deliver directly into the Chassé mill yard.

The mill’s product line continues to include interior panelling, flooring, mouldings, log cabin siding, squared timbers, and for a period of time the business included assembled cabins. Chassé and his crew would saw the necessary lumber and then assemble the cabins inside his spacious sawmill building. Cabins were transported to customers’ lots by trailer. In addition to selling to individuals, some cabins were supplied to fishing camp operations. In 2000, Scierie Chassé produced 15 cabins. While the cabin construction business has stopped, the production of siding, panelling and trim has increased.

In order to produce high quality flooring and panelling products, Chassé required kiln drying and moulding and end matching capacity.

The kiln drying demand was met with the purchase of a small kiln based on a highway trailer. Chassé set up a Wood Doctor outdoor furnace in a small building adjacent to the kiln, which supplied heat for the drying process. The furnace was hand fed waste wood from the milling operation, supplemented with firewood logs. While cost effective from an investment perspective, the kiln schedule performance was less than optimum because of inconsistent (long cold nights) heat delivery.

Scierie Chassé

The mill equipment line-up includes a Morbark debarker and a Morbark chipper to handle green slabs and trim. The chips are sold, along with sawdust, as biomass feedstock to the Groupe Savoie hardwood sawmill in St. Quentin, NB. Trim material from kiln dried lumber is packed in large tote bags and sold to households in and around Kedgewick.

After the furnace building and furnace was destroyed by a fire, Chassé upgraded the kiln operation with a propane-fired burner.

“Propane gives us a constant controlled heat,” he explained. “Since it is automatically controlled, we don’t have to dedicate time to handling wood and feeding the furnace. It’s made the kiln much more efficient.”

Dry kiln controls were supplied by Innovative Control Systems, based in Bancroft, Ontario.

Chassé purchased a Holytek moulder to transform dried lumber into mouldings/trim products and flooring/paneling products. An end matcher and a Holytek sander rounds out the equipment line for flooring, moulding and paneling production.

Chassé has developed his business skills along with skills to saw and machine lumber. He and his staff of five people have the talent and the equipment to produce very high quality products. While cedar, tamarack and poplar are not utilized for frame construction, they do milling and follow-up machining/processing on these species to produce very attractive products which have their own particular and distinctive grain patterns, and visual tones, that add appealing accents to homes.

In 2015, Chassé made a major upgrade to his operation with the purchase of a Select double-cut sawmill equipped with an electric motor. The double-cut band blade is 6” wide, running on 36” band wheels. Power is delivered by a 75 hp electric motor. The mill features hydraulic components including log turner and setworks. Cutting speed is spec’ed at three feet per second.

“The Select mill allowed us to double our sawing capacity,” he says. “It works very well and we are very happy with its performance.”

Scierie Chassé

Along with the new Select mill, Chassé added a new infeed deck which is loaded with a Volvo wheel loader. The Volvo L70H, from dealer Strongco, which has a branch in Moncton, is their principal yard machine. In addition to handling logs to the debarker and mill infeed, the loader handles snow plowing through the winter.

Chassé has maintained his position as chief sawyer in the operation. The Select mill is operated from a sawyer cabin which features a video monitor that provides views of various operating centres in and around the mill.

Along with the new Select mill, Chassé added a new infeed deck which is loaded with a Volvo wheel loader through a garage door. The garage door remans closed when the weather is cold or wet, keeping it comfortable in the building. For the past couple of years, they have used a Morbark rosserhead debarker set up in the mill yard, a short step from the log infeed, for log debarking.

A pressure washer takes up station adjacent to the log infeed. In addition to being available for cleaning mobile equipment, it is sometimes used to wash ends of logs that show a lot of dirt and grit. Clean ends make for longer use of blades between filings.

The principal yard machine is a Volvo L70H, from dealer, Strongco, which has a branch in Moncton. In addition to handling logs to the debarker and mill infeed, the loader handles snow plowing through the winter.

Mill equipment also includes a Morbark chipper to handle green slabs and trim. The chips are sold, along with sawdust, as biomass feedstock to the Groupe Savoie hardwood sawmill in St. Quentin, NB.

Trim material from kiln dried lumber is packed in large tote bags and sold to households in and around Kedgewick.

The sawmill facility also includes a dry lumber storage building with capacity for 8,000 board feet.

Scierie ChasséFinished products are sold regionally, primarily in New Brunswick. Customers typically pick up their order from the mill.

Chassé has continually worked with white pine, selling it almost exclusively as interior paneling. In recent years he has been supplying kiln dried white pine to a door and window manufacturer in Moncton. When that customer requested product beyond what Chassé could supply from the white pine delivered by his contractor suppliers, he applied to the provincial government for a Crown land allocation. His efforts eventually secured him a one-million board foot allocation.

Chassé says that while he is grateful for the opportunity to buy Crown wood, his Moncton customer has requested that they supply them with six million board feet of white pine. Chassé said that his efforts to increase the Crown allocation have not been successful since most of the white pine allocation in the province is dedicated to a major licensee.

Scierie Chassé’s sales office is located along the side of the mill building. The interior is paneled with a variety of wood species, providing a quick and ready way to show customers the aesthetic characteristics of the different woods. The sales office also carries a large inventory of Livos Canada stains, oils and waxes to provide the finishing touch for Scierie Chassé trim, flooring and paneling products.

Chassé shared that COVID brought a significant increase in his retail business, with lots of home owners buying his products to do household building and renovation projects. Since COVID has levelled off, demand for his products has only eased somewhat. Chassé, along with his crew, look forward to continuing to provide their customers with very
unique and attractive finished products.

Forestnet

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