From Farming to Custom Sawmilling in Alberta

By Tony Kryzanowski, Wood-Mizer Contributing Author

From Farming to Custom Sawmilling in Alberta

 

When the chance to purchase a custom sawmilling business in southern Alberta fell into Dave Slingerland's lap, he didn't hesitate. He was looking for a change from his 24/7 farming occupation to spend more quality time with his family and after more than a decade in the sawmilling business, he has no regrets.

Dave’s company, HC Forest Products, was established at its current location along busy Highway 3 in Cowley by two retirees in 2007. It was originally their retirement plan but the growing success of the sawmill business was more work than they really wanted.

That’s when Dave visited the business looking for leads to purchase a small firewood manufacturing company in the area. On the day he arrived, the former owners had been talking about selling the business and the opportunity evolved from there. “We thought that cutting timber was better than cutting firewood, so we jumped in with both feet and started swimming,” said Dave. "You miss all the chances that you don't take."

 

 

When Dave purchased HC Forest Products, the sawmill was processing only about seven truck loads of logs per year. Now, they are up to about 30 truck loads, or producing about triple the volume of wood products. Today, Dave and his wife, Calinda, are sole owners of the business.

HC Forest Products manufactures custom timbers and lumber, timber frame material, post and beam construction products, mantles, decking, trailer decking, wind fence and ranch gates exclusively from Douglas fir and cedar. Up to 80 percent of their product line is timbers. “We do basically anything that you can’t get in a lumber yard but the backbone of our business is Douglas fir timbers pretty much in any size,” said Dave. "Douglas fir has a lot of the same oils and tannins in it that cedar has. The strength is better than cedar and it should last almost as long, but it is way, way cheaper. It’s been a really great alternative to cedar and cosmetic-wise, it’s a beautiful wood.”

 

 

His main source of logs is from area loggers. They arrive tree length and are then bucked and sorted in the yard for the best potential recovery, depending on their quality. Dave supplements his wood supply with a Commercial Timber Permit (CTP) he has acquired from the provincial government.

The backbone of the business is a Wood-Mizer LT40 Super Hydraulic portable sawmill which allows him to produce fine-manufactured timber and lumber products to customer specifications. That was another attractive feature to HC Forest Products as the portable sawmill came with the business. Slingerland now owns a second sawmill across the border in Hosmer, British Columbia. It operates a larger and longer Wood-Mizer LT70 Hydraulic portable sawmill.

 

 

Dave describes his Wood-Mizers as well-built, very accurate sawmills that produce high quality products. His Wood-Mizer LT40 Super Hydraulic portable sawmill had 7,000 hours on it when he bought the sawmill and now it is pushing 20,000 hours.

“It’s an amazing sawmill,” he said. “We’ve replaced every moving piece, roller and bearing on it multiple times but it still cuts as true as the day it was made.”

They equip the sawmill with a Wood-Mizer 1¼” sawmill blade exclusively, featuring a 10-degree hook angle, and they have performed superbly for them. Each sawmill blade cuts for about an hour and a half before being changed out. “A sharp blade is pretty much the key to quality timber,” said Dave. Dave aims for at least 80 percent timber or lumber recovery from each log and with the thin kerf on his Wood-Mizer sawmill blade, there is very little sawdust.

The building where his sawmill and twin-blade board edger is housed is ideal, offering interior working conditions and plenty of room to both operate the equipment year-round and to store inventory.

 

 

The company tends to fill orders as they arrive, delivering products usually within two weeks. They never operate the bandsaw mill just to stockpile lumber. Their lumber inventory simply develops from edged timber sideboards. This allows Dave to maintain a small lumber inventory for walk-in traffic and quick sales.“Dimensional lumber comes off the side of each timber so we always have anything from a 1 x 6 to 2 x 12,” he said. “We can cut up to 26 feet long here and we have cut up to 20 x 20 timbers.”

They also manufacture a lot of 8 x 8 timbers as they are in high demand. In terms of log dimensions, the largest log they can process is 36” in diameter and the smallest they prefer is 10” in diameter.

“The most unique product we make is probably live edge fireplace mantles,” said Dave. “A lot of times we can get the bark to stay on, so people can put up mantles that have moss and lichens still stuck on the bark. It makes an absolutely gorgeous mantle.”

 

 

Currently, their wood products are air-dried as needed but they have plans to build a custom dry wood kiln using their sawdust as the fuel to provide the heat.

What they have noticed, particularly in their neck of the woods a couple hours south of Calgary, an hour west of Lethbridge, and a half hour from the British Columbia border is a trend toward building with timbers because wood is environmentally friendly and a renewable resource. "It's about the greenest material that you can build with,” said Dave. “I think as people are becoming more Earth-conscious, they are finally realizing that the best way to build is to cut trees and replant them. I think it is a trend that we are going to see for quite some time.”

 

When the chance to purchase a custom sawmilling business in southern Alberta fell into Dave Slingerland's lap, he didn't hesitate. He was looking for a change from his 24/7 farming occupation to spend more quality time with his family and after more than a decade in the sawmilling business, he has no regrets.

Dave’s company, HC Forest Products, was established at its current location along busy Highway 3 in Cowley by two retirees in 2007. It was originally their retirement plan but the growing success of the sawmill business was more work than they really wanted.

That’s when Dave visited the business looking for leads to purchase a small firewood manufacturing company in the area. On the day he arrived, the former owners had been talking about selling the business and the opportunity evolved from there. “We thought that cutting timber was better than cutting firewood, so we jumped in with both feet and started swimming,” said Dave. "You miss all the chances that you don't take."

HC Forest House

HC Forest logs

When Dave purchased HC Forest Products, the sawmill was processing only about seven truck loads of logs per year. Now, they are up to about 30 truck loads, or producing about triple the volume of wood products. Today, Dave and his wife, Calinda, are sole owners of the business.

HC Forest Products manufactures custom timbers and lumber, timber frame material, post and beam construction products, mantles, decking, trailer decking, wind fence and ranch gates exclusively from Douglas fir and cedar. Up to 80 percent of their product line is timbers. “We do basically anything that you can’t get in a lumber yard but the backbone of our business is Douglas fir timbers pretty much in any size,” said Dave. "Douglas fir has a lot of the same oils and tannins in it that cedar has. The strength is better than cedar and it should last almost as long, but it is way, way cheaper. It’s been a really great alternative to cedar and cosmetic-wise, it’s a beautiful wood.”

HC Forest home

HC Forest island

His main source of logs is from area loggers. They arrive tree length and are then bucked and sorted in the yard for the best potential recovery, depending on their quality. Dave supplements his wood supply with a Commercial Timber Permit (CTP) he has acquired from the provincial government.

The backbone of the business is a Wood-Mizer LT40 Super Hydraulic portable sawmill which allows him to produce fine-manufactured timber and lumber products to customer specifications. That was another attractive feature to HC Forest Products as the portable sawmill came with the business. Slingerland now owns a second sawmill across the border in Hosmer, British Columbia. It operates a larger and longer Wood-Mizer LT70 Hydraulic portable sawmill.

HC Forest milling

HC Forest portable sawmill

Dave describes his Wood-Mizers as well-built, very accurate sawmills that produce high quality products. His Wood-Mizer LT40 Super Hydraulic portable sawmill had 7,000 hours on it when he bought the sawmill and now it is pushing 20,000 hours.

“It’s an amazing sawmill,” he said. “We’ve replaced every moving piece, roller and bearing on it multiple times but it still cuts as true as the day it was made.”

They equip the sawmill with a Wood-Mizer 1¼” sawmill blade exclusively, featuring a 10-degree hook angle, and they have performed superbly for them. Each sawmill blade cuts for about an hour and a half before being changed out. “A sharp blade is pretty much the key to quality timber,” said Dave. Dave aims for at least 80 percent timber or lumber recovery from each log and with the thin kerf on his Wood-Mizer sawmill blade, there is very little sawdust.

The building where his sawmill and twin-blade board edger is housed is ideal, offering interior working conditions and plenty of room to both operate the equipment year-round and to store inventory.

HC Forest sawing

HC Forest board edger

The company tends to fill orders as they arrive, delivering products usually within two weeks. They never operate the bandsaw mill just to stockpile lumber. Their lumber inventory simply develops from edged timber sideboards. This allows Dave to maintain a small lumber inventory for walk-in traffic and quick sales.“Dimensional lumber comes off the side of each timber so we always have anything from a 1 x 6 to 2 x 12,” he said. “We can cut up to 26 feet long here and we have cut up to 20 x 20 timbers.”

They also manufacture a lot of 8 x 8 timbers as they are in high demand. In terms of log dimensions, the largest log they can process is 36” in diameter and the smallest they prefer is 10” in diameter.

“The most unique product we make is probably live edge fireplace mantles,” said Dave. “A lot of times we can get the bark to stay on, so people can put up mantles that have moss and lichens still stuck on the bark. It makes an absolutely gorgeous mantle.”

HC Forest Mantle

HC Forest beams

HC Forest Deck

Currently, their wood products are air-dried as needed but they have plans to build a custom dry wood kiln using their sawdust as the fuel to provide the heat.

What they have noticed, particularly in their neck of the woods a couple hours south of Calgary, an hour west of Lethbridge, and a half hour from the British Columbia border is a trend toward building with timbers because wood is environmentally friendly and a renewable resource. "It's about the greenest material that you can build with,” said Dave. “I think as people are becoming more Earth-conscious, they are finally realizing that the best way to build is to cut trees and replant them. I think it is a trend that we are going to see for quite some time.”

HC Forest Truck

HC Forest lumber

HC Forest cants

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