Snowfall is measured in metres in the winter time in the small valley in Golden, British Columbia, surrounded by towering peaks of the Rocky and Purcell mountains. The extreme headwaters of one of North America’s mightiest rivers, the Columbia, flow nearby.
It wasn’t until late in the last century that the now transcontinental Canadian Pacific railway tapped the valley and its surrounding timber, allowing sawmilling to start here. And the beginning of Golden’s wood panel production only came about in 1965 when Evans Products fired up its original green end, together with two dryers. Conventional spreader plywood began six years later, followed by automatic lay-up in 1991.
As in many parts of North America, average log size grew smaller over the years and this prompted the 1997 addition of a new Raute lathe designed to peel 16 blocks per minute down to a 25/8in core.
The goal was to produce a net 30,000ft2, 3/8in basis, of veneer hourly. This is predominantly Douglas fir, although some lodgepole pine and hemlock is in the mix. The project moved fast. During a three-week shutdown, the new lathe was installed, the boiler re-tubed, log merchandiser built and composers modernised.
The latest product for the Golden operation is laminated veneer lumber (LVL), beginning in 1998 under an interim owner, Georges C St Laurent Jr, a Vancouver, Washington entrepreneur.
Folk hero
He bailed out the former Evans Products ownership which was heavily in debt and even closed for a short time, a story in itself – a dozen supervisors entered the plant and restarted it to show negotiators that it was a viable business. With a C$100m (US$63m) investment, Mr St Laurent became a folk hero in Golden. North American giant Louisiana-Pacific Corp retained the Evans Products name when it bought the business for C$134m in 1999. It is now running four shifts turning out three million ft3 of LVL annually; a second LVL line was added in 1999.
The existing plywood plant runs a single shift and suitable veneer from this operation is channelled to the LVL plant. The combined operation, known as LP Engineered Wood Products Ltd, now employs 350 and is Golden’s largest employer.
Plant manager Rick Johnson said: “We’re happy we have the LVL because we don’t know where we’d be if we didn’t have it. We have a good quality product.”
Minus zero weather during the winter can maintain a snowpack of a metre or two, yet the mill floor is kept toasty warm – a real plus for the employees.
The plant buys limited amounts of veneer, but its own green end supplies the major part of the raw material. The high-speed plant is designed to peel 16 blocks per minute,
Mr Johnson said: “All the logging is contracted on Crown forests. The firm buys,  trades and sells logs also. The cold deck area can accommodate about 100,000m3 of logs. Average log diameter is 9.8in.”
A Nicholson 85-ring debarker removes bark, followed by a log merchandiser cutting 8ft blocks that go to eight cast concrete vats for 18 hours of hot water heating. The 120°F to 130°F (49-54°C) water temperature produces 90°F to 100°F (32-38°C) core temperatures. The treatment is required for quality peeling, but it is also necessary to thaw the frozen logs during the long winter. Company boilers supply steam to heat the water.
A log loader loads the vats and feeds the lathe deck. The Raute lathe has an x/y charger and operates at a maximum speed of 1,000ft per minute on 80% Douglas fir. Three catch-up trays feed the Durand Raute rotary clipper.
Three Durand Raute bin stackers then segregate heavy sap, light sap and heart. Drying is accomplished in Coe 12- and 14-section cross-sectional dryers. A Prentice 19-section dryer was recently rebuilt by West Mill Industries.
More additions
Mr Johnson explained that a third Durand-Raute core composer will soon be added. Associated work will also revamp present residue utilisation, where composer waste goes to the hog. The hog will be replaced with a chipper for pulp chips. Green end residues are chipped and an outside chipper will take lilypads (log end trims) and small diameter logs.
The plant’s rough sheathing plywood side runs one shift, with four shifts on the dryers. It is equipped with a Durand automatic lay-up line feeding a 36-opening Burrard press equipped with American charger.
Globe panel saws are followed by a putty line. A six-head Kimwood sander touch-sands the sheathing panels which are stacked and then manually-strapped for, mostly, truck shipment.
The LVL section added 88,000ft2 to the existing plant, all under one roof. This nearly doubled the plant area.
Metriguard grading equipment is installed on all three dryers to ensure the LVL raw material is on-grade. There is also one each on a re-dry line and scarfer. Two Raute scarfing lines scarf all the veneer for LVL.
The two Raute LVL lines are identical except that one cold pre-press is 32ft long and the other is 48ft and one has two curtain coaters. These are ahead of the two 80ft two-opening steam-heated hot presses that produce 200ft3 per hour per line.They operate at 300psi and 300°F (150°C).
Production leaves the press line through a blister detector. Two seven-and a- half-ton overhead cranes lift the billets from the hot presses and these are then ripped on a gang saw and trimmed to order. They are end-and edge-sealed to order in a spray booth before manual wrapping and strapping with outside storage, although there is some inside hot stacking. The water-resistant coating can provide extra weather protection during construction.
A laboratory on the mill floor tests the production. Outside handling is by a Cat 938 20-ton loader with 30ft forks.
Production is in lengths from 8ft to slightly more than 60ft in 11- to 30-plies, from 11/8in to 31/2in thicknesses, sawn to numerous widths. The product supplies LP’s own mills with headers and flanges in addition to open market sales.