Phil Stannard cuts a cookie off the end of a log during an inspection. The cut will provide
him the only look he’ll get at the interior wood tissue, and help him determine whether
the log will make the grade for veneer.
“But I can recognize it,” Stannard said. There are other internal
characteristics that he looks for, like a consistent growth rate.
If the tree was growing slowly in a forest, then a patch cut let
sunlight flood in, and growth accelerated, the change will be
reflected in the spacing of the growth rings. “You’ll actually end
up with two different grains,” he explains. “That doesn’t mean
that it’s not a veneer log, but it means that the value of the veneer
you’re going to produce from it is lower.” When it comes to the
growth needed for veneer, “consistency is the most important
thing, but slow growth that’s consistent is the best,” he said.
The internal examination also includes a look for “tension
wood.” If a tree is growing at an angle, the tissue can build differently on one side versus the other to support the tree. “Then,
when you relieve that tension and slice the veneer thin and dry
it, the cells are ruptured, and it buckles,” Stannard explained.
Like many internal defects, tension wood is difficult to see
unless you have a trained eye; it might show up as just a slight
difference in color or a fuzzy appearance when he makes a
cookie with his chainsaw as the fibers tear rather than cutting
cleanly. “Those logs, I reject them,” he said.
Primarily, Stannard looks for logs at least 13 inches in diameter. There’s no such thing as a log that’s too big, but he said that
logs with a diameter between 15 and 20 inches tend to produce
better veneer than larger logs, perhaps because there’s less wood
where defects could be hidden.
Stannard buys between 300,000 and 400,000 feet of veneer
logs a year. “This year, we’re looking to produce more maple than
we did last year, so we need to be able to source more of it with-
out sacrificing quality,” he said. “That’s the cardinal rule when
you’re a veneer-log buyer: you can’t sacrifice quality for quantity.
You can’t say, ‘Oh, I’ll just buy those logs there to fill out a load.’
The production costs are so high after we buy the log that if you
buy a log that’s going to produce poorly, you’re not only losing
the money that you spent buying and trucking the log. You’re
losing all the money it costs to put it through production.”
Even with years of experience and a knack for knowing what
clues to look for, there’s only so much you can know from a visual
examination of a log. In other words, not every log that a buyer
purchases is going to make the grade once it reaches production.
“You’re not always right, but you have to win more than you
lose,” he said. There’s plenty of pressure in the profession, given
the high prices involved. “But I really enjoy it,” Stannard said.
Wagner Forest Management, Ltd., is pleased to underwrite Northern Woodlands’ series on forest entrepreneurs. www.wagnerforest.com
Phil Stannard cuts a cookie off the end of a log during an inspection. The cut will
provide him the only look he’ll get at the interior wood tissue, and help him determine
whether the log will make the grade for veneer.