Forest Products Industry Says Goodbye To Walter

Article by Rich Donnell, Editor-in-Chief, Panel World March 2024

Article by Rich Donnell, Editor-in-Chief, Panel World

 

Walter Jarck, whose career in the forest products industry spanned 65 years and ranged from logging machinery to engineered wood products, died January 3, surrounded by his children, in North Wilkesboro, NC. He was 92.

 

Jarck spent the last two decades of his life trying build a high scale, commercial production TimTek (formerly Scrimber) composite lumber manufacturing facility, and nearly pulled it off; but long before then as a forest engineer he was a pioneer innovator of pulpwood loading and forwarding machinery, and log harvesting and processing machinery.

 

Jarck was born on May 7, 1931 in Queens, New York, and learned a hard work ethic from his immigrant parents. It was when he moved with his mother to the Catskill Mountains of New York that he fell in love with the woodlands.

 

He graduated in 1953 from the New York College of Forestry at Syracuse and entered Naval Officer Candidate School. He became a destroyer officer and ultimately retired from the Naval Reserves as a Captain. He recalled while in the Navy working with ships and mechanical, propulsion, steam and hydraulic systems.

 

Upon leaving the Navy he went to work for Caterpillar Tractor Co. as a logging engineer and spent a year in their sales training program and experienced the welding, mechanical and engine shops and was involved in the development of root rakes. “By the time I left I knew how a scraper was built, how a bulldozer was built, so I was really turned on by that,” Jarck said.

 

In 1958 he moved to the South and went to work as a forest engineer for Bowater, which was building a paper mill in Catawba, SC. “My boss said, ‘we have a six hundred million dollar paper mill being built and we’re going to be relying on the sweat of a few laborers to hand load and to bring wood in. There’s got to be a better way.’”

 

While Jarck was supervising the construction of buildings and wood yards for the new mill, he started looking at ways to mechanize logging equipment, which would alleviate the traditional practice of mills having to stockpile six months of logs in their wood yards to overcome the winter weather.

 

In the early 1960s Jarck led the development of the Go Getter pulpwood forwarder and in the mid 1970s working with Charles Allen the Allen Jarck Harvester for felling pulpwood and processing it into sticks, an early version of today’s cut-to-length machinery.

 

In 1982 Jarck joined Georgia-Pacific as assistant vice president and senior forester. He was involved in policy making and in several acquisitions. He retired in 1996 from Georgia-Pacific as corporate director of forest resources and then taught industrial forestry courses at the University of Georgia for several years.

 

Jarck was far from retired. In 2001 he and partner Geoff Sanderson acquired the world rights to the Scrimber technology from the Australia government interests that invented it in the mid 1970s. Scrimber was produced from small plantation trees to form a reconsolidated wood product with uniform properties comparable to sawn timber.

 

Jarck and Sanderson formed TimTek (they didn’t purchase the Scrimber name) and their newly formed company purchased the pilot plant in Australia and relocated it to the campus of Mississippi State University.

 

They wanted to build a true scale plant that would produce a product up to 48 in. in width, up to 6 in. in thickness and almost any length. TimTek beams, they said, would compete favorably in the large sizes for trusses, garage door headers, joists, rimboards and long-span structural timbers.

 

Jarck wrote: “Our process can best be summarized by crushing the debarked small diameter stems in a scrimming mill, then drying the scrim or mat of fibers, adding adhesives, collating the mats, steam pressing, then cutting to size and finishing. The resource can be softwood or hardwood in the 4-8 in. diameter classes. Resources of this nature are available at delivered prices that are one-fourth or one-fifth the cost of resources purchased in the sawtimber or veneer log categories.”

He also believed the TimTek products would satisfactorily counter the non-wood and steel framing increases in residential construction. “The steel stud manufacturers have somehow convinced the environmental home buyer that their steel product has lower impact on the environment than that of using wood,” Jarck said. “While we know this is false, a new product such as TimTek not only uses fast grown plantation trees, renewable every 10 to 12 years in the South, it is a lower user of energy and is a great carbon sequester.”

Jarck sub-licensed his product and technology to a company in Mississippi that publicly announced it was building a plant, but it never materialized. He thought he was close to another project in the Western U.S. and one in Canada, but they went away as well.

 

Jarck had married his high school sweetheart, Marilyn Matthews, on September 26, 1954, and they were happily married for 66 years. She passed away in 2020. They had five children, Lisa Arney, Nancy Clontz (Ted), Paul Jarck (Vicki), Laura Dennis and Chris Cunningham (Lance). They also had 12 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

The family wrote upon Jarck’s death: “The words that best describe Walter are strong, determined, talented, and devoted. Walter was a strong leader and 1role model for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Walter was devoted to God and his family. He was a great man, loved by many, and will be truly missed.”

The family asked that in in lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Wounded Warriors Project.

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