Times have never been better in OSB, engineered lumber

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Things are humming along at Tolko’s Athabasca Division plant near Slave Lake. As fast as the mill can produce its OSB panels and engineered lumber, it’s off to market. Being produced while The Leader toured the plant last week were 24’ x 12’ panels for an RV manufacturer located in Indiana. One of those sheets makes up the entire floor of the big rec vehicles. Also new at the mill (since the last time we visited) are a lot of replacement parts, filling up all sorts of formerly empty spaces.

Mill manager Trevor Brander says due to COVID, a regular maintenance shutdown has been postponed until this fall.

Another interesting tidbit from Tolko: no fewer than 30 millwrights are employed at the mill, not to mention several electricians and welders.

Speaking of tradespeople and engineers, Brander says Tolko has set up a program by which local high school students, upon graduating can get scholarships and summer jobs at the mill. If it goes well, they’ll have a guaranteed job the following summer as well, when they are back from their studies. Four such students are due to start work via that program once university gets out in a couple of weeks.

“Now we’re trying to find the next crop,” Brander says, adding, “it’s a good program.”

OSB sheets hot off the press are cooled before being stacked and prepped for shipping.
Tolko mill manager Trevor Brander shows a 2 x 4 Tolko stud, an example of the ‘engineered wood products’ the mill specializes in and the company is keen on promoting as an alternative to conventional lumber. A $20 million addition to the mill allows the production of the lumber simultaneous to the regular OSB panels.
Ian Penninga conducts strength tests on chunks of Tolko OSB . He’s a university student from British Columbia, doing a stint in the Tolko lab.

on rolling

A very long sheet of newly-formed OSB moves along the conveyor at Tolko’s Athabasca Division mill near Slave Lake. It is about to be cut into 24-foot lengths and will be shipped to an RV manufacturer in Indiana.

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