Original article published by Telegraph-Journal, written by Fiona Anderson and published on June 14th, 2016 

When the Brunswick Mine shut down in 2013, Robert Lennon, along with 1,000 others,found himself out of a job.  But the shutdown didn’t come as a surprise.

The mine had run out of ore and had been planning its shutdown for years, so Lennon had lots of warning. And, as a senior manager at the mine, Lennon had lots of opportunities. Lots of opportunities that meant travelling away from his hometown of Bathurst

In the early 2000s, his brother­-in­ law, a wood harvester working in a sawmill in Belledune,told Lennon about his idea for a business. Lennon, who knew the mine closure was looming, was seriously interested.

Lennon’s experience was in putting together business plans. His brother­-in ­law had forestry experience and he recognized the value of new technology he came across – technology that thermally modifies wood.

Thermal modification uses heat to stabilize the wood for outdoor applications, Lennon said. Through heating, all the organics and sugars in the wood are removed so it doesn’t rot.It’s the equivalent to pressure­treated lumber, without the chemicals.

“This is created by heat and steam,” said Lennon who is now director of international marketing and sales of ThermalWood Canada. “So in the green world [it is] an environmentally friendly product.”

Thermally treating the wood will also make the wood darker. How dark depends on what the customer wants. It also pulls out the grain of the wood making it esthetically a lot nicer, Lennon said.

It was “a new technology in an old, mature market, the wood industry,” Lennon said.

Lennon started working on the project in 2005 and they launched Thermal­Wood in 2008, which was the year the mine was originally scheduled to close. In retrospect “2008 was not the year you were supposed to start a business,” Lennon said.

Originally the company only treated wood belonging to others and charged a fee. For example, companies that made flooring might want their wood thermally treated, so they would bring their wood to ThermalWood, Lennon said.

Right away the company had 30 customers. And then after the crash in the fall of 2008, when the United States housing market crashed and credit dried up, it had zero. And a $3.5 million investment, including the $2.1 million oven that thermally treats the wood.

So they had to reinvent themselves.

Originally they had focused on Eastern Canada, now they set their sights on Europe, which had not yet been hit by the economic downturn, Lennon said.

Europe was already familiar with the technology. In fact the technique was developed in Finland.

What Europe didn’t have, though,were the hardwoods, like maple and birch that ThermalWood buys locally and oak and ash that it gets from Quebec,Ontario and the United States.

One of the partners in ThermalWood owned a sawmill that supplied high­quality wood to furniture manufacturers and musical instrument makers. So it was a very specific grade. But the rest was considered waste, Lennon said.

“So that gave us access to a whole bunch of very beautiful wood,” Lennon said.

Which gave the company something to offer beyond just providing a service.

“So we went from not offering any products whatsoever to everything in our showroom is a product we make” Lennon said.

That includes decking, siding, flooring, mouldings and much more. The company was even approached about making Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

“We’re a custom operation,” Lennon said. “We’ll do anything.”

And they still treat wood for clients for a fee.

One of the big advantages of being able to thermally modify wood is that it allows species of wood to play in markets they’ve never been able to go in before, Lennon said.

“We make a maple siding and a birch siding,” Lennon said.  “Maple is traditionally only used for flooring and furniture. Now we can put it outside.”

All of it is made to order, following the customer’s specifications.

And business is picking up. Architects are starting to include thermally treated wood in their plans, so contractors track down ThermalWood through Google. In January the company secured a major distribution deal in California. And last month a company that builds kit homes put ThermalWood on their “preferred option” list.

“People are starting to know who we are,” Lennon said.

In May, ThermalWood was a finalist for a Knowledge and Innovation Recognition Award, or KIRA, award for innovative new product in the private sector.

ThermalWood is still innovating. Right now it’s working on creating butcher block countertops that “feel like ceramic but has the warmth of wood,” Lennon said.

And best of all, Lennon gets to say in Bathurst, at least when he’s not travelling for work

To view the article online, please see the following link for complete article: ThermalWood Canada brings new technology to the forest industry

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