Industry Archives | West Wind Hardwood

The Mysterious Death of the Namesake of the Douglas-fir

Was David Douglas trampled by a wild bull, or lured into a trap?

Hidden off the beaten path, the slopes of Mauna Kea, the dormant Hawaiian volcano, there’s a rough stone spire that marks the spot where the famed botanist David Douglas is said to have died. But what this monument to the namesake of the Douglas-fir doesn’t allude to is the story of the strange events surrounding Douglas’s death. There is no mention, for example, of the former convict who will likely always be implicated.

Edward “Ned” Gurney was an Englishman from Middlesex, about the same age as Douglas, but the two couldn’t have been more different. “Gurney is raised just above street urchin,” says Mills. Where Douglas had come up surrounded by education and palace finery, Gurney had run afoul of the law at an early age and had been paying for it ever since. According to Mills, Gurney had been caught stealing around three shillings worth of lead fixtures off a house, and as punishment, he was sent to the infamous Botany Bay penal colony in Australia. At the time there were only three sentences for those sent to the Australian penal settlements: 7 years, 15 years, and life. Gurney got the lightest sentence.

Eventually, Gurney was sent to work on a ship and by simply disembarking in Hawaii, he was able to start a new life. He became a cattle hunter, establishing himself in a hut on the slopes of Mauna Kea. Gurney had been on the island for years by the time Douglas stopped by for breakfast that fateful morning. What exactly happened to Douglas that morning may never be fully known, but whether his death was the result of a simple hiking accident or something more sinister, the lives of both he and Gurney effectively ended that day.

The LO(n)G of the Law

The LO(n)G of the Law

This past April, we had unexpected visit from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.  Three Natural Resource Officers (NROs) – in full uniform – drove into our parking lot.  Turns out they were looking for agents of logs.  How did they figure we dealt with logs?  Well, we’re listed in the Victoria Yellow Pages under ‘Millwork’.  True story!!  They thought we were a mill.

Nevertheless, this prompted us to ask questions and this is what we discovered.  Compliance & Enforcement (C&E) is the law enforcement arm of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.  Its main purpose is to make sure that a variety of resource management laws are being followed on and in BC’s public lands, water and forests and to take action where there is non-compliance.  They also have been designated as Special Conservation Officers, Land Officers, BC Parks Rangers and Fisheries Inspectors with the authority to enforce the associated legislation.

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The Art of Buying Lumber

The Art of Buying Lumber

by Dick Burrows

Lumber grading guidelines are very clear; however, the expectations of the purchaser and/or the realities of the project can be subjective. We have discovered a wonderfully written article by Dick Burrows on the “art” of buying lumber. It is an easy read, and clearly identifies the important issues for both the casual buyer and the experienced craftsman.
Shelley Nielsen

One of my woodworking specialties is the art of cajoling lumberyard workers into letting me sort through their lumber piles, looking for that perfect board for my next project. Sometimes I have to pout and threaten to take my big-time business elsewhere. Usually, though, I get permission simply by promising to restack everything when I’m done.

And so, I’ve spent many a morning working in another guy’s business, lining up about a quarter ton of lumber just to get a few boards that suit me.

I’ve met quite a few fellow woodworkers during these hunts. Some know exactly what they want, be it wood free of knots, splits, and ugly dark streaks, or that elusive “pretty board.” But others bypass all the sorting and just buy the top-read that as most expensive-grade available, whether or not they need it. There are times when the best grade is the best choice, but more often, you can save money and get the perfect wood for your project by using lower grades if you know a few basics about buying lumber.

Finding Diamonds in the Rough

The first thing you need to do is rid yourself of the idea that you have to use top-grade lumber or a perfectly clear board for everything you make. Most furniture makers don’t. They use fairly short or narrow pieces that can be cut from even the lower grades of lumber. You can, too. Just take the time to analyze the size and type of parts you need before you start.

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West Wind Factory Tour: Lunch and Learn

luncheon with BC Architects

April 30, 2015 – Exploring BC’s Millwork Industry: Beyond the Basics

Seminars, Demo’s and Factory Tour for the Vancouver Island Chapter of Architects

Partnered with Roy Manion, Manager, Specifiers Program of the BC Wood Specialties Group
Hosted by West Wind Hardwood Inc
Driven by Joel Radford and Shelley Nielsen
Attended by 25 Architects and Designers from Southern Vancouver Island

This was both a challenge and a hoot for us. We’d never considered offering an on-site learning opportunity until Roy approached us. He nurtured us; coddled us; encouraged us. And it was a success, as born witness by this excerpt from the Vancouver Island Chapter of Architects’ Newsletter………

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From Air to Water

In Memoriam

Water bomber in Thunder Bay Ontario -a

air-to-water-largeMy father (1919-2013) was born with salt water in his veins.  Boats were it for him.  And although not formally trained as a naval architect he was a self-taught boat designer and member of the Society of Small Craft Designers.  My childhood holds memories of him spending long evenings – night after night – hunched over his drafting table deep in the dungeon of our basement.

One of his customers was William (Bill) Smith – an airborne pilot and member of the BC Forest Service.  Bill had a dream and came to dad.  Together they came up with a design and a plan.  Unfortunately, he contracted Lou Gehrig’s Disease and as I was still ‘knee high to a grasshopper’ my details are sketchy.  I do however remember the hours both my Dad and Bill spent on this project.  Sadly Bill died far too young before achieving his dream.

I do not recall what happened to Bill’s family or the boat – which was never finished.  I do have a vague recollection of Margaret (Bill’s wife) finding a seller for the hull.  As I was sorting through my dad’s boxes and file cabinets (I’m talking income taxes from 1957; utility bills from the 80’s) I did come across this photo (below right) and felt it deserved sharing.

We all have dreams.  Certainly Jan has more than his fair share.  Long may they live.  And if we only see a quarter to closure, we are surely blessed.

Forest Fact: What’s in a Name?


Logger – usually refers to a number of workers whose job it is to harvest timber and bring it to a mill. The term “lumberjack” is similar to logger but is not used in BC. It is an eastern North American term.

Faller – Fallers are specialists who may have voluntarily become certified for this dangerous position. They are specifically trained to hand fall trees and are highly skilled.

Forester – usually refers to a Registered Professional Forester (RPF). Foresters have university degrees, or equivalent, specializing in forestry and have spent at least two years articling before passing a rigorous registration exam.

Tech or Technologist – usually refers to a Registered Forest Technologist (RFT). RFTs have a two-year college diploma, or equivalent, in forestry and have spent at least two years articling before passing a rigorous registration exam.

Accredited Timber Cruiser (ATC) – a cruiser is a specialist who is trained to accurately figure out how much and the quality of each tree species is available for harvesting. A cruiser has on-the-job training and must demonstrate competency before being allowed to use the title ATC. Note that RPFs & RFTs may also be ATCs.

Accredited Timber Evaluator (ATE) – a timber evaluator is a specialist similar to an ATC however, the timber evaluator has more experience and is able to supervise a team of cruisers. Like ATCs, ATEs must demonstrate their competency before being allowed to use the ATE designation. Note that RPFs & RFTs may also be ATEs.