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  • Writer's pictureBarış Şahin

Interview with ThermalWood Canada

Interview with Bob Lennon of ThermalWood Canada

Introduction

This interview delves into the innovative practices and sustainability efforts of ThermalWood Canada, a leading company in thermally modified wood products. It explores the company's commitment to eco-friendly processes, the technological advancements in wood treatment, and the impact of these practices on the global wood industry and environmental sustainability. Through a series of comprehensive questions, the interview sheds light on ThermalWood Canada's mission, product offerings, and the challenges and opportunities in the market for thermally modified wood, as well as their latest innovation called "Obsidian Ebony". The discussion also touches on future trends, the company's strategic direction, and its contributions towards creating more sustainable and durable wood products. This interview serves not only as an informative piece on ThermalWood Canada but also as a reflection on the their approach to the guitar wood industry under the influence of innovation and environmental consciousness.

 

ThermalWood Canada

Can you provide an overview of ThermalWood Canada and its role as a guitar component supplier? What inspired the founding of ThermalWood Canada?


The inspiration behind ThermalWood Canada was one that was born out of necessity, one of the biggest employers in our region was closing after 50 years. And the company plan was to move me to another location on another continent.

My business partner and brother in law was already involved in the wood industry as a forestry contractor responsible for harvesting trees for a local sawmill.

During a tour to find some new equipment for his operation, he came across this new heat treatment technology, ThermoWood. He came back home with an armful of samples and dumped them on my kitchen table and asked me to help him put a business plan together. After doing some research I quickly found that this might be the opportunity I was looking for to stay in our beautiful region and leave the mining operation.


The technology was designed to treat softwoods, but due to a relationship that we had with a gentleman called Dale Smearer, who supplied wood to the music industry, we started treating his waste hardwood material. We then introduced this new product into the industry and have been active and growing that market ever since.


Can you provide an overview of the unique thermal modification process that ThermalWood Canada utilizes to enhance its products?


We operate a Kiln that was built and certified by the ThermoWood Association. This association is the only governing body in the world that has set standards and that require a yearly audit by a third party to be a member.

There are three phases in our process, drying, thermal and conditioning/cooling phase.

Your recent achievement is called “Obsidian Ebony”. Can you please introduce it to our readers?


After being involved in the music market for a number of years we started hearing about the issue with Indian Rosewood and Ebony. We had been asked if we could get the wood as black as ebony, but this process  made the wood too brittle.

It was only when we were approached by a couple of scientists to see if they could infuse resins into our thermally modified wood that the possibility of creating a product that could be used as a real wood alternative to Ebony came to light.


At first we were presented some pieces that were a fusia color, they used this color to be able to measure the penetration of the dyes in the wood. Once we saw the samples, the question about black came on the table.


Many years of experimenting came after that using some of the big industry names to test and validate that we had something that could be used to replace Ebony.


Once we had industry validation, we needed to design and build the equipment. CCNB Innov, a group of innovators that work out of the local community college, did all this work for us and delivered the equipment in March 2020


As you know there could not have been a worse time to look at starting up a new process, nobody could come in to commission the equipment and our supply chain had been totally disrupted.

The equipment finally got commissioned but the supply chain could not be repaired and we needed to start from scratch with the ingredients setting us back a few years.


In the last year we finally dialed all these issues in and have come up with a sustainable plan for  consumables and process.

I believe you complited the field tests of Obsidian Ebony as a luthier tool. How were the first reactions from luthiers?


The response back from the marketplace has been exceptional.

Last week I had a well known Luthier that told me that he could not believe the results he has got after some testing of the tonality of the Obsidian Ebony. He said it was in the same range as Ebony. Others cannot believe the color, consistency and smoothness of the product


Obsidian Ebony as a Fretboard

So you turn maple into something very close to ebony. What other woods can be used as a base instead of maple?


We have been very successful with birch. We could probably do many other species, but for now maple is more commonly used in the guitar world and other species not as much and we only want to introduce small changes at the time.


What other guitar tone woods can you “design” as a replacement?  Do you have other innovations on the guitar industry?


Well we can supply head stocks and bridge blanks. We can also do different parts for the fretless instruments like violins, violas and cellos


thermalwood canada logo

Whatare some of the key benefits and advantages of using ThermalWood Canada's products compared to traditional wood alternatives?


  • The process makes the wood denser

  • It also makes the wood structurally stable

  • The process replaces 35 years of natural air drying and gives it that vintage sound, this is why we also treat accoustic tops and backs in a variety of different species

  • The color of the wood becomes more exotic


What sets ThermalWood Canada apart from its competitors in the industry?


I would like to believe that we leave our customers with the feeling that they can trust us to make sure we take ever precaution with their wood. We want our clients to have the best experience and that they are able to meet the expectations they have set.

We offer custom work, therefore meeting our customers expectations not for them to change theirs to meet ours. We listen to our customers so that we can give them exactly what they are looking for.


Howdoes ThermalWood Canada approach sustainability and environmental responsibility in its operations?


We are reinvesting in our company to make sure that very little waste material  makes it into the landfill.

We are doing as much research as possible to find or develop new products with or waste streams. Smoker chips for BBQ’s with our end cuts, A supper dirt with our dust, An product to soak up oil spills without dust, Solar panels to reduce out dependency of fosil fuels.


Could you provide insight into the current and future projects or initiatives that ThermalWood Canada is working on?


Mentioned above in the waste stream reductions. Investing in new equipment that recirculates the exhaust from the kiln to reduce heat requirements for the operation.


ThermalWood Canada

How does ThermalWood Canada prioritize quality control and ensure that its products meet the highest standards?


We are audited every year by the ThermoWood Association for quality of each load that comes out of the kiln. As we create and develop new products, quality control checks are made and we have one person that is dedicated at making sure that those standards are met.


Can you discuss any recent developments or upcoming initiatives that ThermalWood Canada is excited about?


We are growing our market share in a number of different market areas. One example is the music world but in the fretless maket. Another is the B to B world where we can supply components to existing manufacturers that will only have to assemble. We are putting together a strategy to expand our operational capacity.


Can you elaborate on ThermalWood Canada's commitment to customer satisfaction and support?


We want to differentiate ourselves from our competion  buy giving our customers an unforgettable buying experience, as previously mentioned. We are proud of being part of their project and want to make sure we check off all the boxes of their great experience. It is all about building a long lasting relationship, that is hard to find today.

We want to make sure that our customers and potential customers call us if they have a question and consider us like one of their friends that they would call up at any time for advise or just to say hello.



Interview with ThermalWood Canada

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