Hit ‘n Miss Dressing

Most independent lumber retailers in the Northeast expect their lumber – and their customers – to be dressed. Here is a case where a shopper surprised staff at Curtis Lumber in Saratoga Springs, NY when she showed up in the rough. Barbara Lefleur reportedly “shocked customers as she traipsed through the aisles and told an employee to ‘have a good day’ – and asked for the time,” according to the Daily Mail here.

Clear Cutting Encore

The tree shredder on full display at Harderblog earlier this month attracted record views for a single post (see Clear Cutting, 12 Aug. 2014). A comment received today suggests the dramatic images of whole trees being reduced to pixie dust demand more information. “Why are they chipping instead of logging, which is the highest and best use?” the reader asked, pointing to environmental concerns. Good question. I decided to phone Denis Cimaf, the industrial brushcutting company profiled in the video, to find out.

Owner Laurent Denis answered the phone. His YouTube video in question has gone viral – over 1.5 million hits. “We’ve made lots of videos,” explained Denis, “but that one blew up on the internet.” He explained it was a land-clearing job for a new housing development in the middle of Sherbrooke, Quebec. He acknowledged this particular operation was extreme, an opportunity no doubt to record the excavator mulcher’s full capabilities. With little merchantable value for lumber, a number of trees (“half a dozen”) were chipped. Denis was well-versed in forest stewardship, noting in the past that wood waste was piled up and burned, releasing stored carbon. Chipping, on the other hand, preserves the stored carbon benefit while amending the soil. As to biomass, it was interesting to learn that transporting the wood fibre “over 30-35 miles” makes it difficult to recover value at the mill, according to Denis.

We’re told at their website that Denis Cimaf is “a family-run company that adheres to the core values of respect for the environment, innovation, and customer service. Well established in Canada, the United States, Brazil, Chile, and Japan as a leading manufacturer of vegetation control equipment.”


Comes to distribution. “Think of it as a triathlon,” writes ProSales Magazine editor-in-chief Craig Webb. That’s how he characterizes life in the rapidly changing world of lumber and building materials (LBM) distribution since the U.S. housing market crash. Like a triathlete, LBM companies who survived the deep frigid waters have emerged on dry land, only to “climb onto a bicycle and continue the race in a new way”. Success will “hinge on how good your bicycle is,” suggests Webb, before confirming that the bicycle is data. Webb goes on to reveal how some LBM leaders are utilizing information to pull away from the pack. It’s a good read for dealers and distributors alike.
See: Embracing Big Data Benefits Your Business – and Your Customers.

“We still are an industry that’s dealing with technology. We should be dealing with information.”
– Jim Enter, LBM Consultant

“Freight is still the fattest rabbit we’ve got – it’s 4% to 16% of sales.”
– Leonard Safrit, Safrit’s Building Supply

“The No. 1 technology innovation that ProSales 100 dealers plan to invest in this year is mobile applications.”
– Craig Webb, ProSales Magazine

Dear Fred

The email came from Fred (name changed to protect individual privacy). He was interested in a career trading lumber. “What is the path to do so?” he asked.

No doubt there are many avenues. With no work experience in a sawmill, I sought to learn the ‘language of lumber’ by taking courses offered at the time by the Council of Forest Industries (COFI), including “Lumber Tallying” and “How Lumber is Sold in North America”. A more intensive two-year diploma followed at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in “Wood Products Manufacturing” which included an “A Ticket” in Coast Species Lumber Grading. There are a number of lumber wholesalers working on local trading floors today who graduated from that excellent program.

Wood, the sustainable building material, is trending. There’s appreciable interest from marketing students across the lower mainland. Our Planning Committee for the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) Regional Meeting in Vancouver has strengthened student ties of late, under committee member Ian McLean’s initiative, with the Sauder School of Business (Faculty of Commerce, UBC). Ian presented at the 2013 Industry Insights: Forestry forum at Sauder. Industry is also well-connected to BCIT. Both NAWLA and the BC Wholesale Lumber Association (BCWLA) have reached out to BCIT’s Marketing Management Program (Professional Sales Diploma Option). A small group of students from both UBC and BCIT are comped tickets to the NAWLA Regional Meeting in Vancouver each spring.

Beyond that, sales courses tell us that the studying variables such as product knowledge, dynamics that shape markets, and key element of building trust in customer/supplier relationships are integral to the lumber trading experience, and chances for success. Oh, and don’t forget the sweat and tears!

Wood Creativity

My friend Bill shared details today of creative woodwork that is featured prominently in his Victoria office:

“Frame is African Mahogany (the cheaper one, Honduras is the expensive variety). Tree is cut out of a piece of Baltic Birch ply (5/8″). The image is of a real tree. I took a picture, emphasized shadows and light, then sketched from my computer screen to paper. Scanned the sketch, then used a projector to blow it up on to the plywood and copied it from there. Then cut out with a jigsaw.”


Hottest U.S. Homebuilding Markets

  1. Boston, MA
  2. New York, NY
  3. San Jose, CA
  4. Houston, TX
  5. Oklahoma City, OK
  6. Orange County, CA
  7. Austin, TX
  8. Dallas, TX
  9. San Francisco, CA
  10. Los Angeles, CA

“Construction activity is highest relative to the local norm in Boston, New York, San Jose, and Houston, which are on track to build at least 50% more new homes in 2014 than their local historical average. In contrast, building activity is running at three-quarters below normal levels in Fort Lauderdale and Detroit, and below half of normal in Las Vegas, Sacramento, and several Midwest markets. In Chicago and Atlanta, too, construction is more than 40% below normal despite sharply rising prices.”
– Source: Trulia Hottest Homebuilding Markets of 2014

Forest Seasons

The little camera remained in the remote cabin’s window for 16 months, patiently snapping over 40,000 still images, reports The Guardian here (HT: @UVTRL). The result is Samuel Orr’s wonderful time lapse video below, accompanied by original music from Johnny Ripper featuring season-appropriate animal sounds native to the woods near Bloomington, Indiana.

Firm Offers?

It’s interesting to learn of B.C. government initiatives to further boost lumber trade to China. The rationale for increasing offshore shipments – in the face of beetle-kill salvage logging in BC coupled with a fibre deficit in China – has been characterized in the past as helping support lumber prices here in North America. Random Lengths has acknowledged that North American suppliers gain price leverage in offshore markets.

According to today’s Vancouver Sun, Forests Minister Steve Thomson has confirmed the value of wood exports to China this year is up 6.6 percent. As more timber supply areas in this province approach the end of beetlemania, some might be asking how we reconcile a memorandum of understanding aimed at growing offshore shipments year after year.

“The industry is smaller today and it’s going to be smaller tomorrow in British Columbia.”
West Fraser CEO Ted Seraphim, BNN interview  24 Dec. 2013

“What people seem to forget – and I don’t really understand this – is that there was extra capacity created to process this lumber when the beetle reached its peak. Surely people then realized that this was a temporary thing; that it wasn’t going to last.”
– Dean of the Faculty of Forestry at UBC, John Inness, Vancouver Sun  26 June 2012

Timber Skyscrapers

As a lumber trader, stories involving wood, the renewable resource, always catch the eye. Local media do a great job of covering innovations in the forestry industry… so we’re aware that referencing a story in today’s Vancouver Sun, in which local architect Michael Green’s visions for construction of 40 or 45 storey wood-frame buildings, is offering additional insight to local readers. However, we note that Harderblog’s vast international readership tells us visitors to this site have appreciated our referrals that usually have direct or general connection to forestry – not necessarily restricted to the price of studs.

Back in 2011, Oscar Faoro of the Canadian Wood Council told us of a growing national campaign to increase the use of wood in commercial, industrial and institutional construction (see post here). Today, technological developments involving wood structures are making news on all fronts (HT: R. Falletta). Bethany Lindsay of the Vancouver Sun reports here that architect Michael Green’s firm designed the Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George, a seven-storey mass timber building at the University of Northern B.C. that was recently completed and should be cleared for occupancy in a few days. We’re told that Green will submit his proposal for a ground-breaking, new 16-18 storey wood building at UBC that will house the university’s school of architecture and landscape architecture. At the same time it’s reported that Green’s firm is working on “a very large timber project” in Minneapolis with a large developer that has traditionally built skyscrapers.
These are heady days in wood structure construction.

Clear Cutting

Our understanding of clear cutting might have taken on expanded definitions with the kind of technology displayed in this video. It’s evidence of cutting edge offering almost limitless possibilities in efficient backyard clean-up or extreme hedge trimming. Some might suggest its reach could extend over neighbourhood fences, if necessary, to chip away view-blocking trees. (HT: KT)