Friday Offcuts – 21 July 2017

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A new report out this week from Wood Resource Quarterly says log exports from New Zealand have fallen for two consecutive quarters. They were reported at 3.8 million m3 in the 1Q/17, down 12% from the two-year high from the 3Q/16. China, as expected, still continues to be the major market with 70% of all shipments going there over the first three months of this year. Aside from log export volumes still accounting for over half of the country’s total harvest, it’s pleasing to see that lumber production has risen by about ten percent over the last three years. The US also has now overtaken Australia as the number one export destination for NZ lumber.

Engineered timber and opportunities for use in mid-rise residential construction and high-rise office buildings have also been well documented. More and more architects, engineers, specifiers, builders and developers are starting to work with large-scale mass timber buildings. Check out some of the six wooden ‘plyscraper’ projects from around the world that are already pushing the boundaries.

Australian companies for a number of reasons, have moved ahead of their New Zealand counterparts with an array of large timber building projects with companies like Lendlease and Strongbuild among the current industry leaders. Both are going to be involved in the Changing Perceptions of Engineered Timber in Construction event running on 28 September in Rotorua, New Zealand Further details on this and the earlier WoodTECH event are contained in the story below.

So rarely do we get the forestry industry painted in a positive light. Even rarer is the profiling of women who work within what’s traditionally been a male-dominated domain. An excellent piece was covered this week by Stuff that showcases three young women working as skid or machine operators in a harvesting crew and as a log truck driver in the Nelson region of New Zealand. Check out their stories (a rarity in mainstream media) through the link given below.

This week we’ve also got an update from two NZ ports, both booming right now with log exports. At one, the port has worked alongside log marshaling and stevedoring companies and together they’ve shattered log loading records for June. They’re also working on increasing their wharf frontage to cater for increasing wood volumes anticipated to come out of the East Coast region. The other, at the top of the South Island, appears not to have planned quite so well for increasing log volumes from the region. Three-hour waits and queues of up to 40 trucks at Port Nelson are reported to be causing the industry angst right now and it’s costing log carriers, the port and forestry industry, both in time and money.

Finally, for more industry news this week we’ve got an update on last week’s story on the "critically endangered" Leadbeater's Possum in Victoria where scientists are now questioning the status, we cover again the expansion of the radial sawmilling operation in Victoria and we look at some radical research currently being undertaken on wood-based concrete to take it into new load bearing situations in construction. Enjoy this week’s read.

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Australia to aid B.C.’s wildfire response efforts

With British Columbia continuing to battle wildfires during an exceptionally severe wildfire season, a contingent of specialized wildfire personnel from Australia will be coming to B.C. to assist with wildfire response. About 50 wildfire personnel, including a combination of officers and technical specialists, were scheduled to arrive in Vancouver on Wednesday 19 July. These personnel will be deployed throughout the province, based on current and anticipated wildfire activity. They could remain in B.C. for up to 38 days.

The Australians’ expertise will help maintain the BC Wildfire Service’s high success rate for containing new fires. They also will augment the response to existing fires by allowing B.C. personnel to take mandatory days off so they can begin another cycle of fire suppression operations.

British Columbia has fostered a mutually beneficial wildfire management relationship with Australia for over 10 years and has a resource-sharing agreement in place with the State of Victoria. This agreement allows for the exchange of personnel, knowledge, skills, equipment, technology and mutual support in the event of an emergency. The cost of bringing in the Australians will be covered by the Province of B.C.

Wildland fire personnel from B.C. were deployed to Australia in 2007 and 2009 to help respond to busy fire seasons there, since the height of the Australian fire season typically occurs during B.C.’s winter and spring months. Personnel from Australia also were deployed to B.C. to assist with firefighting efforts in 2009, 2014 and 2015. These personnel will join more than 1,600 provincial staff, 940 B.C. contractors and over 450 out-of-province personnel already actively engaged in fire suppression in British Columbia.

Hot and dry weather conditions have once again elevated the fire danger rating throughout the province. Most of B.C. is currently experiencing a “high” to “extreme” fire danger rating, which means that forest fuels are easily ignited. Firefighting crews are on standby in all six of B.C.’s fire centres in preparation for an anticipated increase in fire starts over the next few days.

The BC Wildfire Service has responded to 657 wildfires so far this season. Canada was also deploying military aircraft to battle rapidly spreading wildfires in British Columbia that have forced 39,000 people from their homes. Earlier in the week there were 159 fires across the province in an area between 150 km to 350 km northeast of Vancouver, including 17 new ones, although the total numbers were down slightly from 162 on Sunday. The province has reportedly spent $90 million on fighting 188,928 hectares of wildfires since April 1.

Source: Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

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NZ log exports in Q1 drop for second straight quarter

Over 50% of the timber harvest in New Zealand is being exported in log form. However, some sawmills in the country have taken advantage of the growing demand for softwood lumber in the US over the past few years, with the total export value having gone up 37% from 2012 to 2016, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly.

New Zealand’s log exports have fallen for two consecutive quarters and were at 3.8 million m3 in the 1Q/17, down 12% from the two-year high in the 3Q/16. China continues to be the major destination for the radiata pine logs, accounting for 70% of the shipments during the first three months of 2017, followed by South Korea (16%), India (9%) and Japan (4%), as reported in the latest issue of the Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ).

No country in the world exports a higher percentage of its harvested conifer timber in unprocessed form than New Zealand. Although the share has declined over the past three years, the log export volume accounted for 52% of the total harvest in 2016. There has long been a debate about how the country could expand domestic processing of forest products and increase exports of lumber and other further processed forest products. The good news is that lumber production has gone up by about ten percent over the past three years.

The “less good” news is that there has not yet been any major progress in the expansion of lumber sales to the international arena. Quite to the contrary, New Zealand lumber export volumes were 15% lower in 2016 than in 2013. The exported logs from New Zealand value was just over 1.6 billion US dollars in 2016, which was almost three times as much as the price for softwood lumber. The total export value for lumber fluctuated within a fairly narrow range over the past seven years, ranging between 570 million US dollars and 660 million dollars, reports the WRQ.

The biggest shift in market export sales in the past few years (by value) has been that the US has overtaken Australia as the number one destination for pine lumber produced in New Zealand. In terms of value, New Zealand is the second largest overseas lumber supplier to the US, behind Chile, but ahead of lumber exporters from Europe. Shipments from New Zealand have gone up 37% over just the past four years and during the first five months of 2017, the upward trends continued with another 16% increase from the same period in 2016. With lumber demand expected to continue to improve in the US market, there continue to be opportunities for overseas lumber producers to expand their sales to North America in the coming years.

Source: Wood Resources International

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Global sawmill troubleshooters coming to Australasia

For the first time in Australia and New Zealand, a series of troubleshooting workshops have been designed to run as part of September’s WoodTECH 2017 series. They’ll be providing a unique insight into how sawmills can extract the best performance out of their saws, their machine centres and sawing operations”.

Workshops of between 60-120 minutes are being given in both countries on;

- Quality & lumber size control
- Troubleshooting and improving band-mill, gang and board edger performance
- Selecting, operating and maintaining log carriage and optimiser (softwood and hardwood) operations, and
- Saw-guide selection, installation, operation and maintenance.

WoodTECH 2017 workshop presenters (well-known throughout the global sawmilling industry) include;

Joe Shields, Machinery Support Technician, USNR, USA. Joe has over 40 years’ experience in troubleshooting sawmill electrical, electronic, and mechanical systems. He was instrumental in the development of formulas used for designing the proper application of saws and chippers and designed the alignment methods for the first multi-line scanner, for USNR. Alignments and system diagnostics has become his main focus for service trips around the world including working in mills in both Australia and New Zealand.

Marv Bernhagen, VP/COO, Lewis Controls, USA. Like Joe, Marv has been in the sawmilling industry for over 40 years, working in roles as diverse as sales, sawmill Q.C. and project managing new equipment installations. After a role as GM of Lewis Controls he became VP COO of the company and is still active in sales and emergency “hands-on” servicing of sawmills and equipment.

Chuck Boaz, President, Corley Manufacturing, USA. Chuck graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1979 with a degree in Forest Management and has spent his entire career with Tennessee based, Corley Manufacturing. He’s filled various positions and currently is President of the company. After 38 years of employment he actively assists the Territory Sales representatives and is the primary sales contact for all large mill projects and international jobs. He also works with field installations crews in a hands-on capacity and lends his years of practical experience as an advisor to their Engineering Department.

Nick Barrett, President, SiCam Systems, Canada. Nick is a leader in the field of emerging technologies supporting lumber size control and predictive maintenance. He’s worked in both aviation systems and robotics but has focused the last 17 years on the wood products industry. Nick is the original designer of the SiCam size control products.

Josh Bergen, Owner, Precision Manufacturing, Canada. Josh is the founding partner of Precision Machinery, a CNC machine shop, R&D facility and industrial manufacturer of saw guides and guide dressers for sawmilling customers worldwide.

Udo Jahn, General Manager, Modern Engineering, Canada. Udo’s entire working life has been spent in the manufacturing sector. As General Manager at Modern Engineering since 1986, he’s built the company to be one of the largest CNC milling operations on the West coast of Canada.

The sawmilling event runs in Melbourne, Australia on 20-21 September and then again in Rotorua, New Zealand on 26-27 September. For full details on the two-yearly WoodTECH 2017 series, please visit

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Industry leaders capturing timber's commercial advantages

Australian companies are moving ahead of their New Zealand counterparts in commercial building. Wood is one of the key factors in the advantages they have gained. There is now a strong trend for new commercial buildings being built in timber. Engineered wood is clearly giving industry leaders the edge over traditional materials in many ways.

Companies like Lendlease and Strongbuild are among the leaders in Australia, and are at the leading edge of the building industry for both mid-rise residential construction and high-rise office buildings. First mover advantages such as speed of construction, material savings and performance on certain sites are giving the leaders an edge over traditional materials.

Both companies are part of an upcoming conference called “Changing Perceptions of Engineered Timber in Construction”, running on 28 September in Rotorua, New Zealand. This second annual conference will draw building owners, developers, architects, engineers, specifiers and many service and supply companies.

The keynote speaker is a senior project manager – Karla Fraser – from Urban One Builders. This leading-edge company delivered a new tall timber building – the now world-famous Brock Commons building on the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus in Vancouver, Canada. The project was completed ahead of schedule and was officially handed over two weeks ago.

At 18 stories high, Brock Commons is now the tallest timber building in the world. However, recent project announcements in both the UK and USA will see that record being claimed elsewhere soon.

Conference director, John Stulen of Innovatek, says, “Building on the great response from our audience of over 150 industry professionals last year, we’ve added more case studies and a focus on showing where commercial advantages are being found.”

“We worked hard to find the right mix of speakers. With our event partners, Timber Design Society and Building Officials Institute of New Zealand, we‘ve got a great one-day conference for building professionals to learn from,” added Stulen.

“We’re thrilled to have Karla as our keynote speaker. Her expertise, enthusiasm and project experience will be very valuable, especially what she gained from the Brock Commons project.”

UBC’s building requirements reflect the university’s commitment to sustainability. Wood, as a renewable material, was chosen in part to reflect this commitment. Brock Commons was also designed to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification requirements.

The fire safety design of Brock Commons underwent a peer-review process involving a panel of leading fire safety experts, scientists, authorities having jurisdiction, and firefighters. In a fire, heavy timber chars on the outside while retaining strength on the inside, slowing combustion and allowing time to evacuate the building. Brock Commons has been designed to meet the one and two-hour fire ratings required for this type of building, exceeding fire and seismic standards for a concrete or steel structure.

Rotorua was the obvious choice as host city for an international commercial building conference with its ‘Wood-First’ policy making it a local leader in encouraging sustainable commercial buildings. The conference is set to be part of a wood technology week of events coming to the city in September, including the FIEA WoodTECH 2017 two-day conference and trade expo.

For further information and registrations for the event, please click here.

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NZ forestry collaborates on 532,000ha LiDAR project

Interpine Innovation is currently around 50% through the LiDAR capture of 532,000ha of plantation forest in New Zealand. It’s a collaborative project that brings together forest owners, which affords efficiencies in both LiDAR capture and processing.

LiDAR which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the ground below. These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system— generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the ground and its surface characteristics, including detailed 3D models of the forest canopy.

The survey is using a world leading LiDAR sensor to capture the highest density airborne LiDAR acquired at this scale anywhere in Australasia, and likely the world. Digital terrain models derived from the data will be used to improve the engineering of our forest activities; including modelling of the drainage and catchments for better environmental management, and allowing for forest harvesting advances for improved safety and efficiency of operations.

Much of the area captured will also implement Interpine’s LiDAR Imputation methods for deriving forest yield. Detailed representations of the forest canopy structure are derived from the 3D point cloud forest canopy metrics. These canopy metrics are then modelled through machine learning and applied analytics to provide estimates of commercial forest yield by log-type, a key driver of forest valuation and wood-flow marketing and modelling.

Interpine Innovation based in Rotorua, has been at the forefront of developing and applying LiDAR within the forestry sector in both New Zealand and Australia.

Some of the new technology, operational trials and research findings around LiDAR will again be a key component of this year’s ForestTECH 2017 series that will be running for resource managers, GIS specialists and inventory foresters in November. Further details and an early programme for both countries can now be found on the event website,

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3D printing with plants

Engineers have developed a way to use plant cellulose as a feedstock for 3D printers – a solution researchers say is not only environmentally friendly but could also be cheaper and stronger than conventional alternatives.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) post-doc Sebastian Pattinson said a lot of products which used cellulose could benefit from the kinds of customisation that 3D printing enables. "Cellulose and its derivatives are used in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, as food additives, building materials, clothing – all sorts of different areas."

The MIT team used cellulose acetate, a widely available cellulose-based material that can be dissolved in acetone and extruded through a 3D printer nozzle. The acetone evaporates quickly, allowing the material to solidify. The high availability and low cost of cellulose, when compared with other filament materials used in 3D printing, should make it commercially attractive with further development.

On the local front, FWPA is funding a research team within the University of Southern Queensland investigating the types of 3D printer feedstocks that can be processed from forestry and wood processing residue.

Concurrently and also with FWPA funding, a multi-disciplinary team at the University of Sydney is investigating the types of construction materials that can be produced via 3D printing for use in current construction projects. The investigation focuses mainly on architectural panels, produced using waste lignocellulosic materials including macadamia nut shells as well as other forestry and wood processing by-products.

Source: FWPA R&D Works

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Eastland Port smashes log throughput records

Despite a wave phenomenon that kept ships from the harbour for a week, Eastland Port in Gisborne and log marshaling and stevedoring companies ISO and C3 shattered monthly log throughput records in June. A total of 287,349 tonnes of wood was loaded onto 14 log vessels as they berthed one after the other at wharf 8.

Eastland Port manager Andrew Gaddum says shifting that amount of wood is testament to the reliability and professionalism of ISO and C3 staff. “Both ISO and C3 have worked hard to increase their ship load rates, and while we still collectively have work to do in this area, the huge volume exported during the month is testament to their hard work and focus.

“The fact that there were no significant safety issues identified or reported during that extremely busy month is also exceedingly pleasing. When ships are alongside a port, it’s costing the exporters money, so these guys are the ones that through their skilfulness and shear hard work, can get the ship turned around and off to market as quickly as possible”.

ISO employs around 110 people and C3 employs around 70. Mr Gaddum says June’s throughput figures are the highest the port has achieved since Eastland Port, part of Eastland Group, was formed 14 years ago.

“We saw an 83 percent occupancy of wharf 8. With 14 ships docking during the month, and each one taking one to three days to load, we are getting closer to maximum capacity.” The figures are all the more impressive because between June 12 and June 19 we couldn’t dock any ships due to infra-gravity waves rolling into the harbour, says Mr Gaddum.

“Long waves or infra-gravity waves cause problems in harbours around the world. These waves can't be seen as they are usually masked by the sea and swell waves. But they can energise a moored ship and cause excessive movement and surging against the mooring lines. When the time between wave peaks becomes extended we have issues in our port with ships becoming difficult to manage alongside the wharf, meaning we have to hold ships at the anchorage until the surge event passes.”

Mr Gaddum says the combined length of wharf 8 and wharf 7 is 360m. Eastland Port can currently accommodate vessels 200m long but with the greater volumes of wood forecast to arrive over the next 15 years, Eastland Port needs the capacity to berth two 200m ships simultaneously at wharf 8 and wharf 7. Within our port we don’t have enough wharf frontage to berth two 200m vessels at once. We need to extend wharf 8 by about 80 metres to get both ships in safely and we need to do it now.”

Source: Eastland Port

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NZ Carbon Market Update

NZU prices continue to move around even with little news emanating from the bowels of power. We (OMF) have seen prices hit a low for the year at $16.35 just a few short weeks ago only to rally over $1.50 in three weeks to just short of the year’s high at $18.

This volatility is simply a result in the failure of government to keep the market informed. Most officials exist in bubbles either unaware of market requirements or have market experience that could be written on the back of a postage stamp. The old saying “no news is good news” is an anathema to markets. They need news, updates, input like a human needs air.

We understand that some of this information may be deemed sensitive in nature but that is no excuse to be completely silent. The Reserve Bank is a case in point – the foreign exchange and interest rate markets expect regular timely updates and every six weeks they get that. In addition - RBNZ officials are often quoted at lunches and presentations on expectations or market views. Our government and officials need to be more open and transparent.

We do expect prices to move higher longer term – all the fundamental risks are to the upside – the election, likely changes to the ETS such as the $25 price cap removal, the unwinding of settings and the simple fact New Zealand needs much more carbon that is currently available once Paris begins.

Source: OM Financial Limited

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Log truck drivers frustrated with Port Nelson

Nelson's logging carriers say three-hour waits and queues of up to 40 trucks at Port Nelson are costing them and exporters time and money. An estimated 30 per cent increase in overseas demand for New Zealand logs in the last year has put pressure on available resources at the port, with carriers saying a lack of space is causing chaos for log trucks.

The port says it is aware of the problem and aims to spend NZ$8m working on improving the efficiency of log unloading and storage.

Waimea Contract Carriers executive director Jenny McIntyre said the problem had been ongoing problem "off and on" for around three years but had been exacerbated by the market being so good as well as the lay out changes to Port Nelson.

"It's a case of having a lot of demand for our service and having a lot of time sitting down there – I said to one of our forest owners that effectively we could have carted 72 more loads for them last month." McIntyre said wait times for trucks had been up to three hours and cost the company $1 for each minute a truck unit was waiting.

She was aware of queues of up to 40 trucks waiting to unload on some occasions. They worked out their rate based on trucks taking 50 minutes to be processed. "We've only got GPS in 25 of our trucks and we had waited 214 hours over and above [the model time] for the month – that only represented 58 per cent of our trucks down there."

Based solely on that portion of its fleet, the company would have lost at least $12,840 in labour due to waiting times over that period. Not only are we paying labour costs, you're looking at having to carry the same sort of volume that those trucks are capable of if they were used efficiently – it's a $500,000 spend to add units which is not necessary." Read more.

Source & Photo: Stuff

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Women making the cut in forestry

Balanced on the bonnet of a forestry ute, Veronica Hall's freshly baked chocolate cake is carefully sliced and eagerly devoured by her workmates – loggers in hi-viz marked with grease and mud. A cold wind carries the smell of fresh cut pine and the view from the ridgeline looking toward the St Arnaud Range, south of Nelson, is spectacular. The CWL crew's two diggers, hauler, and Bell timber grab are silent for the smoko break.

Veronia Hall (Photo) got into forestry through her father. Nannying had been an option for Hall when she left school. Then her forester father invited her to the skid site and put her in a hauler. That was 20 years ago. "I said I would stay a year and get out – and here I am."

Hall's one of two women working for crew boss Willy Waldren. Her time is spent operating either one of the diggers or the three-wheeled Bell. "The big thing is working around guys," said Hall, 38. "You go to work, do the job and go home. We are a team and everyone works together. There are no egos."

Married with two children Hall said the hard part was the long hours. The work van picks her up from her Brightwater gate at 5.45am and drops her home at 5pm. "When I first started with Dad I had to prove myself because I was family rather than because I was a girl. In this crew no-one is sexist, but if you are not confident and good at your job it would be difficult."

Hall said the perception logging was dangerous was wrong. "It's only dangerous if you make it so. I love my job. I don't enjoy being away from my family, but I will not give it up." Read more.

Source & photo: Stuff

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Draft special species management plan released

The Tasmanian Government has just released a consultation draft of the state’s first Special Species Management Plan (the Plan). The Plan has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Act 2014.

The Plan has been developed to provide a management framework for the long-term and sustainable harvesting of Tasmanian special species timbers. Public comment is now being sought on the development of the Plan. Submissions must be received by no later than 9am Monday 28 August 2017.

The draft management plan and a flow chart explaining the existing convoluted process is available from:

Source: Government of Tasmania

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Possum advice ‘flawed’ forestry scientists claim

In last week’s issue, we covered some of the recent debate around the estimated loss of earnings to the Victorian timber industry from setting aside habitat for the Leadbeater's Possum and the suggestion that the size of the exclusion zones should be reviewed with more colonies being found. Continuing with this discussion, the Institute of Foresters of Australia says that leading Australian forestry scientists say that advice which led to the Leadbeater's Possum being classed as "critically endangered" is flawed.

In a submission to the federal government, The Institute of Foresters of Australia contended not all available evidence was considered by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, and that the body relied on erroneous and questionable assumptions to make its April 2015 determination.

The scientists said the TSSC's assumptions, such as the extent of possum habitat, population density, actual population numbers of the possum, and the impacts of harvesting and wildfire, were not based on sound science. The TSCC examined five criteria population numbers, geographic distribution, area of occupation, number of mature individuals and probability of extinction with the 'critically endangered' determination based on population numbers.

"Under the other four criteria the species would be considered vulnerable or endangered," the paper read.

"...the identification of at least 400 new colonies during 2014-16 (many being in young regrowth forests) would perhaps double the estimates used by the TSCC in its determination." Given the difficulty in surveying the possum, the IFA said the TSCC used habitat as a surrogate for population numbers.

To be classified as critically endangered, a species must lose more than 80 per cent of its population over the last three generations, 18 years in this case. The TSCC's decision was based on habitat lost due to wildfire and timber harvesting, and the high likelihood of a further 80 per cent reduction in habitat due to wildfire over the next 18 years.

IFA contended in its paper that the assessment was flawed because of estimates of habitat area, habitat occupancy and the unsupported conclusion on stopping timber harvesting. The IFA said it strongly supported measures to increase the population and the conservation of the Leadbeater's Possum, but the measures needed to be based on sound science and the best available information, rather than assumption.

Read more.

Source: gippslandtimes

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Radial sawmill taking concept to commercial reality

We’ve covered this story and innovative sawing process before and we have had tech updates from the mill at recent FIEA wood processing programmes. For many though, we think you'll find this recent article interesting.

The deafening din is the same as any sawmill, but the timber rolling off the conveyor belt is far from conventional.

It has been radially sawn, a milling technique that delivers some enormous advantages over existing methods. "Basically, we cut up timber differently to other people," explained Chris McEvoy, former CSIRO wood scientist and now a joint owner of a company called Radial Timber.

A new AU$6 million sawmill at Yarram in Victoria's east is the culmination of three decades of invention and careful development. It takes the radical idea of radial sawing from a concept to a commercial reality. The technology has its origins in the tall eucalypt forests that thrive in the nearby steep hills.

Inventor and ardent conservationist Andy Knorr was tired of seeing prime sawlogs sent to a district woodchip mill, so Mr Knorr invented a prototype mill that utilised up to 80 per cent of a log — about double that of conventional milling. His quest to improve the technology continues, but a few years ago he sold his Yarram mill to Mr McEvoy and several other investors who saw the merits and potential of radial sawmilling.

Read more

Source: ABC News

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Concrete from wood

In Switzerland, houses can be made of wood, as they were in the past – or of concrete, as they are today. To build for tomorrow, the two building methods are being combined: These hybrid structures, which contain both wood and concrete elements, are becoming increasingly popular in contemporary architecture. In the context of the National Resource Programme "Resource Wood", Swiss researchers have now developed an even more radical approach to combining wood and concrete. They are fabricating a load-bearing concrete which itself consists largely of wood. In many blends, the volume fraction of the wood is over 50 percent.

Cement-bonded wood products have been around for more than a hundred years. Yet previously, they were used only for non-load-bearing purposes, such as insulation. Daia Zwicky, head of the Institute for Building and Environmental Technologies at the School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg, wondered whether it wasn't time for a more ambitious use of wood-based concrete.

Together with his team, Zwicky experimented with the content and granularity of the wood as well as diverse additives and subsequently subjected the various blends to rigorous tests. The main difference from classical concrete is that the gravel and sand content is replaced with finely ground wood. In other words, sawdust rather than small stones is mixed in with the cement. Thanks to the high wood content, the new building materials show good flame retardance and act as thermal insulation.

"They weigh at most half of what normal concrete weighs – the lightest of them even float!" says Zwicky. Moreover, as the materials are based largely on renewable resources, after dismantling they can be reused as a source of heat and electricity. The wood content can be burnt in waste incineration, although for everyday use it conforms to fire protection standards. Initial 1:1 stress tests show that the new wood-based concrete is also suitable for slab and wall elements and can provide a load-bearing function in construction. The process is also suited to prefabricated units. In this context, in particular, the Fribourg group would like to deepen their expertise through a broader range of tests. The researchers want to find out which wood-concrete composite is best for which applications, and how it can be produced efficiently.

"It will take several years before we see the first buildings in which lightweight concrete containing wood plays an integral role in the construction," says Zwicky. "The level of knowledge required for widespread application is still too limited."

Photo credit: Swiss National Science Foundation Source:

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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on ... electricity blues

A little old lady answered a knock on the door one day, only to be confronted by a well-dressed young man carrying a vacuum cleaner.

"Good morning," said the young man. "If I could take a couple of minutes of your time, I would like to demonstrate the very latest in high-powered vacuum cleaners."

"Go away!" said the old lady. "I haven't got any money! I'M BROKE!!!" And she proceeded to close the door.

Quick as a flash, the young man wedged his foot in the door and pushed it wide open.

"Don't be too hasty!" He said. "Not until you have at least seen my demonstration.."

And with that, he emptied a bucket of horse manure onto her hallway carpet. "If this vacuum cleaner does not remove all traces of this horse manure from your carpet, Madam, I will personally eat the remainder."

The old lady stepped back and said, "Well I hope you've got a darn good appetite, because they cut off my electricity this morning."

And on that note, have a great weekend. And for the Kiwis - again - wrap up this weekend. Rain and snow will be blanketing the country. Roll on summer! Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
Distinction Dunedin Hotel
6 Liverpool Street, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
PO Box 904, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (03) 470 1902, Mob: +64 21 227 5177, Fax: +64 (03) 470 1906
Web page:

This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at

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