Dave Byers, owner of One of a Kind Woodworking in Parksville, stands in front of panels for a campground yurt while leaning on a sample cutout of the insulated log he invented to build live-in yurts. — J.R. Rardon photo

Parksville businessman a well-rounded woodworker

Dave Byers invents insulated logs for use in live-in yurts

Whatever else you can call Dave Byers, he’s no square.

Byers, owner of Parksville’s One of a Kind Creative Woodcrafting, is staking out a niche on Vancouver Island with a custom-made, insulated log he invented while running a large business in New Brunswick. The logs, which can be made in a variety of sizes and with various types of wood, are used to create round yurts by stacking the logs vertically, instead of the traditional horizontal construction of whole-log cabins and homes.

“Round is the new square,” said Byers, whose company also makes round cedar hot tubs and barrel saunas as well as custom furniture of all shapes. “I love everything round.”

Byers moved to the Parksville area with his wife Shirley in October of 2015, after his 34,000 sq. ft. woodworking shop in Belleisle, NB, collapsed during an epic, 17-foot snowstorm earlier that year. Due to an “insurance loophole,” the couple lost nearly everything. They sold the rest and moved west with little more than some tools and a dream to re-establish a business on Vancouver Island.

“I’ve always done woodworking,” said Byers, 63, who at age six helped his father build his first log cabin. “I don’t know anything else.”

One of a Kind can do all kinds of woodcrafting jobs, but what really sets the business apart is the insulated log Byers created over a period of a couple years back in New Brunswick. The logs are made by laminating rounded wood pieces to a block of rigid, compressed foam, and can be made in a range of sizes and lengths. The “logs” are triple tongue-and-groove, and are assembled with caulk and sealing tape to create an airtight, round log building.

The invention was sparked by a request after he constructed a campground yurt of 2×6-inch cedar, which adds privacy and security to structures that are typically built of canvas and lattice.

“We showed this to a First Nations group that had campgrounds back east, and the chief said, ‘Finally, someone came up with what looks like a 21st-century tipi,’” Byers said. “’How can we live in one?’

“I said, ‘Oh, my God, you can’t. There’s no insulation; it’s only an inch-and-a-half thick.’

“But how can we live in one?’ That’s what started me on the road of coming up with the insulated log, the insulated floor and the roof. And we did the first one back east there.”

The construction of the logs allows for various types of looks in different rooms of a single house.

“You can have knotty pine in the great room and cedar in the bedrooms,” Byers said. “One we’re working on in Ucluelet, they want cedar on the inside and outside. Because we’re making the log, we can give you your choice and be room-specific with your wood choice, which has never been done.”

Since opening One of a Kind in February, 2016, in a 2,500sf workshop on Springhill Road in Parksville, Byers has hired three people and sold five yurts. He said money from each of his sales will go toward additional equipment that will allow him to automate and expand the business and hire more workers.

He had hoped to find a partner or investors to get the equipment he lost with the collapse of his shop in Belleisle, but so far has gone it alone.

“Eventually, we’ll have it all again,” he said. “If I do it myself I won’t have to give up any equity. But if somebody else wants to come in and they’ve got the money, I don’t mind sharing.”

After high school, Byers spent six years in the Canadian Armed Forces, where he was a structural technician with the engineers corps, working as a painter, carpenter and mason. When he left the service in 1978, Byers said, he and his father purchased a church furniture manufacturing business in Sussex, NB, that had been in the same family for three generations.

“My father didn’t actually enter the business; he was offered a job teaching school,” he said. “I was 25 years old, I hired the two previous owners and some labourers and went at it myself. I learned a lot.”

The business created items like church pews — including seating for 700 in the newly constructed St. Benedict Catholic Church in Halifax in 2010 — and courtroom seating, including benches and chairs for the courthouse in Monckton.

In 1981, Byers moved to Calgary, where he spent nine years in a woodcrafting business, then moved to Williams Lake for another 11 years, where he created furniture and other items for both the credit union and the hospital in Bella Coola.

He still keeps a hand in the church furniture business — one of his current projects is work for the Lutheran Church in Langford — and does a variety of renovation and cabinetry projects including work for the Lighthouse Community Centre in Qualicum Bay.

But his real joy is taking on custom requests from clients.

“People have asked me for years, ‘What do you do for a living?’” Byers said. “I say, ‘I collect people.’

“I surround myself with tradespeople — stained glass, graphic artists, 3D rendering people, woodcarvers, metalworkers. And I go out and do the sales. I try to pull out of you what you would like, and we make it happen for you.”

Byers invites clients to offer him a challenge by calling him at 250-415-9628 or using the project order form on his website, www.oneofakindcw.com. Project quotes are free.

jr.rardon@pqbnews.com