Friday, July 31, 2009

Bottomless bounty: DeadHead Lumber finds new markets for old, sunken logs

Todd Morrissette, 39, founded DeadHead Lumber in April 2008 a company that salvages logs from the bottom of lakes and rivers with the help of an Aqua-logger. The pontoon boat has been specifically designed to salvage logs from the bottom of lakes and ponds. It is Mr Morrissette's office during the summer months, when he scours Moosehead Lake in America with his sonar looking for sunken logs, also called deadheads, which, for some, last saw the light of day 150 years ago during log drives on the lake.

Mr Morrissette is currently working at a spot off the western shore of Moosehead Lake’s Sugar Island where logs cut from the island were floated to a plywood mill on the southern end of the lake. "Hardwoods like birch do not float, so loggers built rafts of buoyant softwoods like spruce and piled the hardwoods on top. Some of the logs never made it to the mill. On the journey, bad weather could create waves as high as 4 feet that would break apart the rafts, sending thousands of hardwood logs to the bottom of the lake where the lack of oxygen and sunlight preserved them," said Mr Morrissette. The typical hardwood log harvested from today’s forests averages between 12 and 14 inches in diameter. Morrissette’s deadheads average between 18 and 20 inches, with the largest being 36 inches in diameter. “You can’t find that now,” he says.

Once he gets the logs up, Morrissette mills them into rough planks, then dries and sells them to flooring companies or high-end cabinetmakers. Since the logs are old growth, planks can sell for as much as 20 times the amount per board foot of logs cut today. Old growth birch grew slowly in the shade of pines and spruce over 100 years, and therefore have fewer blemishes and knots and tighter growth rings. “When you have tight rings, it makes the wood more stable, harder, denser,” Morrissette says.


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