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Vaagen Brothers bringing Midway mill up to speed

Vaagen Brothers Lumber is currently working to resurrect the Midway mill site and production could start as early as October.
Mark Deverson

Work to resurrect the Midway mill site is underway, with tear down set to be complete this week.

The mill, which is under lease to Vaagen Brothers Lumber, could start production as early as October and Mark Deverson, project manger for Vaagen Fibre Canada, said that  work is going well.

“We’re on schedule. We’ve got about 20,000 square feet (about 1,858 square metres) removed so far,” Deverson said, adding that once demolition is done they can start the rebuild.

The main addition to the mill is the new saw.

“We’re putting in a brand new HewSaw,” Deverson said. “It’s an R200 MSA (movable saw assembly) machine, with a log positioner.”

They are also putting in three new log bins to complement the two existing log bins that are already at the mill site.

The bins are used to store the logs before they go through the saw after they are debarked. The logs are sorted by diameter, so it is a different diameter for each bin. That way, similar diameter logs are kept together and the milling process is streamlined. Whenever the diameter changes, the machine has to readjust.

“That way we can run a complete bin at once and run them a lot faster,” he said, adding that this way is much more productive than if the diameters are inconsistent, since the machine has to reset for different diameters. “It’s a lot more efficient,” he said.

There will also be three debarkers that will dump logs into the bins. Debarkers remove the bark from the logs.

“We’ll have five log bins feeding the machine,” he said.

Deverson said that Vaagen Brothers will reuse the existing trim saw, J-bar sorter system and stacker system.  They are putting in the new merchandising system to cut the logs to length and sort by diameter.

The company is also putting in a whole log-chipping system.

The HewSaw is a small line machine, so only processes logs under 15 inches (38 centimetres) in diameter. It’s a specialized small log mill.

This will be the fourth HewSaw that Vaagen Brothers Lumber has put to use.

“They’re very familiar with them and how to run them to their utmost efficiency,” Deverson said.

He said that the machines are not that rare in Canada, since he was recently looking at a HewSaw in Wynndel, B.C.

“Not a lot of mills specialize in small wood though, they think the bigger the wood, the more money there is to make, where this is the exact opposite philosophy,” he said, referring to the Midway mill. “The smaller the wood, the faster we run it, the more money we make.”

Deverson said logs would begin coming in to the log yard Aug. 15, with the first log set to go through the HewSaw Oct. 7, if all goes according to plan.

The mill will employ about 35 people at the opening in October and if the markets go well, they hope to get a second shift in June, upping the number of workers to 55.

“We’re trying to hire as locally as possible because Boundary Sawmill Inc. bought this mill for the valley, for their rejuvenation of the valley, so we’re definitely trying to keep it local,” Deverson added.

Currently, there are about 50 workers on site to tear down and rebuild the mill.

Doug McMynn, president of Boundary Sawmills Inc., recently took a tour of the mill.

“It’s going good, as far as I can see,” “It’s very impressive, actually.”

McMynn said that though he can’t speak for Vaagen Lumber, he thinks the mill seems to be coming together.

Boundary Sawmills Inc. owns the property beneath the mill, which it leases to Vaagen Brothers Lumber.

Vaagen is a family-owned operation out of Colville, Wash.

For video of work on the Midway mill site go here.