This study was conducted with the aim of assessing the effects of log storage time and conditions at a BC mill yard on veneer production under mill production conditions. The second objective was to validate the FPInnovations LogdryTM drying model for developed for wood piles in Eastern Canadian mills. The software was used to generate drying rate predictions under the BC mill’s prevailing weather conditions and storage times for comparison with some measured residual moisture contents of Douglas fir logs kept in storage at the mill for six and nine months, sampled and peeled in a laboratory trial in 2016.
The 2016 lab trials suggested little effect of lengthy (winter) storage up to 9 months but mill experience suggests this is excessively long and logs deteriorate in terms of veneer production and quality considerably earlier. Unfortunately due to experimental circumstances the mill peeling trials for the 9 month stored logs were unable to provide an accurate assessment of the true effect on production. Mills trials indicated % heavy sap had remained fairly stable largely within the mill target of 14% to 17% over the storage periods. During the mill trials there were unavoidable heavy confounding effects of different average diameter for log groups and peeler knife condition affecting the expected veneer production variables.
The trials also demonstrated how pile size and height play a major role in protecting logs from drying; with very dry logs having a deleterious effect on veneer production. Logs held in small piles for 12 months or more, even with artificial ‘drying retardants’ such as end sealant and tarping were too dry for reliable peeling, causing very rapid knife wear, spinouts, veneer break-up and line blockages and significant lost recovery. The % heavy sap offtakes from these trials were just 2% to 4%.
LogDryTM provides a fairly good estimate of likely drying rate trends of mid-sized (35 cm/14” to 41 cm/16” range) Douglas fir under the BC mills historic weather conditions over 6 and 9 months.
LogDryTM (Birch setting) was closest to measured log MC in large diameter (46 cm/18”) logs but the Aspen setting was closer to measured MC in small logs (<30 cm/12”). In the limited sample of logs available from the mill in 2016 the 12” logs were much drier after 9 months storage than the model predicted, even on the Aspen setting. Further sampling of piled logs in the small diameter range is needed to verify this observation.
LogDryTM was used to estimate drying rates of logs stored before or after Summer. Modelling indicated a shorter viable storage window for logs delivered before Summer compared to just before Winter, especially in the 6-month range. Residual log MCs were very similar after 12 months regardless of start time.
Further work is required to better calibrate LogdryTM for major Western Canadian species, particularly Douglas fir, Spruce and Lodgepole pine, and reduce the calculation time for simulations. Further adjustment may be needed for simulating real drying rates in very small logs. The model assumption of similar residual MC after 12 months regardless of start time also needs to be verified.
A total of 48 peeler blocks and 256 mini-billets were sampled from mills to investigate the effects of yard storage time, and artificial yard drying and sprinkling on residual moisture contents (MCs) and veneer quality. MC in fresh and stored log inventories varied greatly across mills according to geographic location of their wood supply zones, bark damage and loss, and storage time and conditions. The main findings were as follows:
1. DF logs supplied by three BC mills from the Cariboo, Thompson Okanagan, or Kootenay regions were highly variable in wood MC.
2. Winter-cut DF logs with high sapwood MC stored had good bark retention and high moisture retention over 6 and 9 winter-spring months. No effects on veneer peeling roughness from longer-term winter storage up to 9 months.
3. Summer-cut logs had little or no residual bark, or the bark slipped off very easily during debarking. Exposed, bark-free summer-cut logs can dry and crack on edges and ends very quickly, within a few weeks.
4. A marked decline in veneer quality with piling time in Summer for spruce and DF, suggesting an optimum window of processing of such exposed logs of about two weeks. Veneer quality and recovery suffered markedly once the logs had fully air dried mainly because of edge splits creating natural fragmentation of the ribbon.
5. Mills receiving dry-zone logs with much lower MC have a very limited storage window, especially over winter. As little as 2-3 weeks if bark is damaged or missing.
6. Veneer quality could not be definitively tied to log residual MC. Under the controlled laboratory conditions used here it was observed that peeling quality could still be good at low sapwood MC (35-40%) and or very high (MC>100%). Whether this is still the case in mill production is unknown.
7. Logs must never be allowed to fall below FSP and develop edge-checks or deep end checks.
8. Wax emulsion end sealants were effective at hampering drying and end checking on high MC logs, but not effective on low MC logs.
9. Sprinkling retained log freshness and peel quality in high MC DF for several months and prevented log drying and end splitting as well as inner log staining. Ends absorbed considerable extra moisture. Some variability in peel quality was noted.
10. The prototype EM1000 Ground Penetrating Radar could only be reliably used in log edge mode in DF. The unit would also require re-calibration for the very high sapwood MC in spruce and wet-zone DF logs.