French Sawmillers’ Adventures in America

By Clark Williams,
Armstrong Marketing Manager

en Franšais

Batard27.jpg (103077 bytes)
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How do you say "lucky dogs" in French?

We were lucky dogs ... with a French connection ... but we didn’t know how to communicate our undeserved good fortune to our French guests in their language. So we just said "welcome" (bienvenu in French) to seven French guests who visited Armstrong in October 2000 and invited us to be their guides to local sawmills.

Neither Don Grey, Armstrong’s territory manager with responsibility for sales & service in Europe as well as for Oregon and Washington, nor I know more than a couple of hundred words and phrases in French. But we knew our guests would enjoy the warm hospitality of western saw filers and appreciate the opportunity to share information with these innovative saw experts. We also knew from experience that when saw filers get together face to face (vis a vis) they quickly break down any language barriers.

Luc Batard, one of France’s finest saw experts, is Armstrong’s stocking distributor for Western Europe. He teaches saw maintenance techniques to saw filers in France, Switzerland, Spain and Germany. His company motto "A fast saw is a good saw" could be the motto of most American sawmillers, too.

The "Batard Brigade" was the nickname we applied to our visitors collectively because "brigade" means an organized band of workers or soldiers in both French and English. In one week the Brigade traveled 1250 miles (2000 Kilometers) to visit seven sawmills, one laminated beam plant, and two National Parks.

Along the way we met dozens of filers who generously showed us through their mills while explaining their saw maintenance techniques. We shared meals in lodges, at people’s homes, in cars while driving, at one of the world’s largest picnic tables in a city park, and in the cold and dark outside a gas station that had just closed for the evening. We drove through forests, through rain, through snow (and once had to drive around a volcano because the road was closed due to an early snowstorm).

The following schedule had to be modified nearly every day. None of the American saw filers spoke French, even though some, like Mike Neveau of Willamette’s Dallas sawmill, have a French ancestry. Only three of the French sawmillers spoke more than a smattering of English. Yet the American saw filers and their French guests still managed to have long, productive, and enthusiastic conversations.


Batard’s Brigade

October 9 – 13, 2000







Monday October 9th



180 miles

Tour & Lunch

Dinner at Chez Williams

Tuesday October 10th

7 AM



Clark Williams, local guide

8:00 / 9:30

Willamette Dallas

65 miles

Curve sawing edger

Mike Neveau & Mike Gish

10:30 – 11 & 11:45 – 12:45

Hull Oakes

50 miles

Steam Mill

Tomy Coggswell

11 – 11:45


1 Mile

Picnic Lunch

with Tomy

1:30 – 3 PM

Willamette Vaughn

30 miles

Glulam Mill

Gary Hamilton

7 PM

Crater Lake

165 Miles


Dinner: 9:30 PM

Wednesday October 11th

9 AM



Load cars


10:30 / noon

Crown Pac

63 Miles

Pine Mill

Larry Averett

noon / 1:00


close by


with Larry

7 PM


225 Miles


Thursday October 12th

7 AM



Don Grey: New Guide Takes Over

8:30 AM / 10

Weyerhaeuser Green Mtn

75 miles

Curve Saw Edger & More

Pat Shima

10 / 1:30

Mt St Helens

80 miles



2:45 / 4 PM


75 miles

Curve Saw & More

Will Tanner

4:45 PM

Rainer Park


Park Entrance


5 / 5:45 PM



Very Big Trees


6:30 PM



Rustic Lodge

Dinner @ 7 PM

Friday October 13th

8 AM



Load cars

Everyone Goes

9:30 / 10:30

Cascade Hardwoods


Fast Hardwood Mill

Mike West

Fast Lunch on the road


1:15 – 2:30 John usually leaves at 2 PM

Weyerhaeuser Enumclaw


Curve Saw & More

John Gammelgaard

3:00 / 4 PM

To SeaTac


Rush To Airport

6:10 PM

Bon Voyage!


The members of the "Batard Brigade" were:

  • Luc & Brigitte Batard, the Armstrong distributors for Europe. Luc is the saw doctor. His wife, Brigitte, is the sales manager and one of the principal translators on the trip.
  • Vincent Colineau is a friend of the Batards who manages the main French laminated beam manufacturer. He is also the present president of FIBRA, the well known association for the promotion of wood industries in Rhone-Alpes.
  • Philippe Siat, owns and manages (with his brother) one of the largest sawmills in France. Philippe spoke enough English that he was able to independently investigate technology that he was especially interested in.
  • Christian & Bernadette Cheveaux (with Christian's sister) own a mid-sized pine sawmill in the Bourgogne region, South East of Paris that is world famous for its wine.
  • Christian Nicolas owns and operates with his wife and sons a familial sawmill in the south of Les Landes forest massif (Atlantic coast). Their companies operate in forest tapping, first transformation (lumber), pallet manufacturing, and holidays chalets manufacturing (for seaside).

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