As the debate continues over whether Guyana should be allowing the exports of logs, instead of concentrating on ensuring investors set up processing facilities that can assure more local jobs, one local company is more than convinced that it can and should be done.
As a matter of fact, Bulkan Timber Works at Yarrowkabra, Soesdyke/Linden Highway, has been involved in wood processing for so long that it has mastered the art of wasting nothing.
From kiln drying, moulding, doors and pre-fabricated wooden homes, the facilities at the former glass factory compound is an interesting model of what can happen in Guyana.
Directors George and Justin Bulkan are cousins and the second generation in a family that has honed their skills in the wood business for a number of decades.
The business, which has a sister company involved in making shingle roofing from Wallaba wood, has been buying wood from small loggers for years now. The wood arrives at the Yarrowkabra location on trucks that belong to private operators.
The shingle products are big business in Europe and Asia with the demand growing. The Bulkans has been able to make inroads in even the non-traditional overseas markets with its products.
The company has invested in several drying facilities called kilns. These ovens are being powered by wood waste which is fed into a boiler. Literally nothing is wasted in the factory.
According to the Bulkans during a recent tour of their facilities, the importance of properly dried lumber before it is sold to the customers cannot be understated.
Currently, the majority of wood being sold at lumber yards and sawmills are raw and not treated for termites or dried to ensure that movements after installation are limited.
While it costs a little more for kiln-dried woods, the long term benefits are tremendous.
“So you have a wall that has been made of woods that are not treated. No home-owner wants to see a wood wall that has creases. Instead of the wall lasting 10 years, it should be around for at least 30-40 years. That is what proper processing and proper handling does to woods. It makes them last longer,” says George Bulkan.
The company has been able to take the Wallaba wood, manipulate its moisture content by baking them in the kilns and offer them as wall-boards and flooring. It is by no means an easy task as Wallaba has long been used for power poles and are ideal in fence building. However, it has never really been used internally on walls or on floors because of a sap that is always present.
The Bulkans have found a way to extract the sap using its kilns.
The factory has also been able to introduce technology that makes what is called end-matching lumber. This simply means all sides of a piece of wood come with the “groove and tongue” feature which allows it to be fitted together.
“What this means is that you can literally fit an entire flooring without the use of nails on top, allowing for a beautiful finish,” Justin explained. The end-match wood is becoming increasingly popular.
The company is now preparing for a major overseas wood show in which it is showcasing its shingles, Wallaba decking and wall board.
Bulkan’s processed lumber, including its Purpleheart, has remained a big seller on the overseas market.
The Yarrowkabra factory has established a number of show rooms built with not only Guyana’s exotic woods, but with what is called the lesser used species. Everything that the Bulkans are offering; from doors to mouldings to windows, are on display.
But perhaps the biggest attraction that the factory is banking on its pre-fab homes which has quietly been growing at a rapid pace. The wooden homes are way cooler for Guyana’s tropical climate compared to concrete homes.
Instead of ordering a 12 by 15 ft wall, the Bulkans, because of the end-matching service says that customers can order by the square ft.
“What you would not see is excess wood being left back because we will be supplying you with an entire wall…all pieces being fitted neatly together. This ultimately saves the customers money too,” George explained.
There were crates upon crates of the value-added wood products stacked and ready to be packed for export.
But if that section of the factory was anything to talk about, it was a visit to the shingle-making section that would attract the most interest as far as value-added activities are concerned.
Wood shingles for roofing has always been around, but Wallaba shingles are relatively new. The operation involved sawing the logs into pieces before a piece of equipment splits it in half. This is then moved to another section which slices the wood into shingles. This is then checked to ensure uniformity in quality before the shingles are packed into crates.
The ends travel on a long conveyor belt to the outside of the compound where scores of residents from nearby communities have been benefitting…for free. Several men using makeshift rakes separate the pieces of wood from the waste. These are then picked up by both men and women who have coal pits in the area.
Yes, the waste woods are big business for the Yarrowkabra residents, many of them single parents. They would burn the woods into coals. Some are exported while buyers are even trekking to the area to pick up the bags.
The wood waste is also given free to chicken farms in the area.
The company is getting ready to move in a big way to produce doors, increase interest in the lesser used species of wood and a host of other services.
“Very soon, we will be introducing services in which our experts will sit with customers, and based of the measurements given, we will be able to advise them and offer tips that will save them monies.”
Directly and indirectly, almost 500 persons depend on the Yarrowkabra operations for a living.
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