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How lumber is made

Craft & Design

Ever wonder how you can get rectangular lumber from round trees? I figured that it involved a lot of sawing, but didn’t realize how much handling was required. The video above is of the Jackson Lumber Harvester 3 Saw Vertical Edger. [via core77]


8 thoughts on “How lumber is made

  1. Morgan says:

    The lumber mill I use to work at went through 2 million board feet in 8 hours, ran 24 hours a day and shut down on weekends for maintenance. 10 saws, 6 debarkers, 2 canters, 2 edgers, 2 j-bars. There was 200 trucks feeding it logs. They use the waste bark to heat the kilns to dry the boards and they are installing their own 3.5 MW power plant to run on the waste not used for the kilns. The chips are sold to a company that makes newspaper. The sawdust is blown to another building on site that manufactures MDF.

  2. craig says:

    The mill in northern Wisconsin I toured as a kid (30 years ago) was impressive. In addition the mill buildings were heated by scraps (in an area that sees below zero temps 3 months per year) kilns included. In California brownouts force industrys to close, mills are seld sufficient. And larger scraps that were workable were zipped into 1X2s and a guy spent 8 hours a day plopping 1X2s on a mesh, foot pedal dipped it in glue, the mesh transfered the glue to the wood, he racked it into a clamp devise with 60 clamps on a circular conveyor chain. He was making cutting boards. One per minute was removed from the clamp, new one glued and clamped in, 60 per hour, one hour cure time per cutting board. SCRAPS employed a man, supported his family, and provided cutting boards to the market. I tell you, NOTHING in a lumber mill goes to waste. WOW!

  3. Gary says:

    In the early 1970’s my late father was a sawyer at a small custom saw mill in northern Minnesota. I worked on the mill after school and some Saturdays, working as a lumber piler at the back of the mill, pushing sawdust away from the sawdust chain, and loading logs onto the skidway with a forklift made from an old truck with the body removed and turned backwards.
    The logs were rolled onto the carriage by hand and turned by hand with a cant hook to position it for the cuts. The sawyer locked the log to the carriage with two locking dogs, and turned the log with a cant hook for each successive cut. My old man had powerful arms from turning all those logs!
    On breaks, the sawyer would sharpen the saw with a saw grinder and replace any missing teeth.
    Edging was done on a separate machine. The edger-man had to adjust the blades by hand for each board and had to have a keen eye to get a board as wide as possible to avoid wasting wood, yet avoid leaving too much bark on the edges of the boards.
    My dad was known for the amount of board feet he could get from the old mill in a day, and often worked at other mills when their regular sawyer was out. I can only imagine how much he could have produced with a mill like this one!

  4. Sean says:

    Add to this, plywood. You take a log, chuck it up in a lathe, and spin it against a knife blade to spit out veneer which then gets trimmed into strips, plugged to fill knot holes and other voids, edge glued into nominal 4 x 8 layers, glued, laid up and then stuck in a hot press between sheet iron plates. From there, it’s trimmed and sanded to thickness.

    Back in the day, there were lots of large logs that made this extremely easy. They weren’t so green friendly then and we’d get peeler cores from 12″ to 24″ in diameter to saw up for firewood. Now, the timber is more the size of what the industry used to reject, and anything unusable for plywood is chipped for use in laying up Oriented Strand Board (OSB).

    My uncle used to run a one man gyppo operation over in Coos Bay. He’d go find pond lillies (logs left floating in ponds and arms of Ketching Inlet) and truck them or float them to his catchment. He had a big 6 cylinder marine diesel engine (originally bar start) that he’d fire up when he had enough material. The chain lift would be engaged, you would float the log into the chute and it would pull it up onto the carriage. You peavied the log into place, dropped the dogs when you had it oriented properly and then wound the bed over to take off your first cut. The blade was about six foot in diameter with teeth held in by a semicircular wedge. You would inspect the log for embedded rocks and such as you didn’t want to shed teeth. As I remember, he had upgraded to using HSS steel teeth which were more expensive than the original steel teeth so it was a little expensive to go busting them off. After a couple of passes you’d get a nice flat, so you’d turn the log. After squaring it, you could start cutting dimensional lumber which could do directly on the truck. Then you shut the head saw down and engaged the trim saw part of the operation. All the non-dimensional was then then sent through the trimming operation to dimensionalize it. Everything left over that had a round surface was sold for slab fencing which was pretty common around here in the day. Anything left over was burned for heat.

    My uncle created this sawmill from odd bits and pieces scrounged from local industry and small time logging and sawmill operations. Welding and machining were basic skills expected to be learned and put to use. Millwrights in the day were self-taught and on-the-job trained engineers who built some pretty impressive milling operations. We’ll probably never see anything like this ever again.

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