File Week

Canadian Forest Industries is highlighting innovations in the filing room, from new processes and techniques to new technologies, during File Week 2018 from April 30 to May 4!

For the second year in a row, our File Week coverage is serving as a hub for saw filers and sawmillers to learn best practices and find the latest information on advancements in saw filing technology.

We’re posting cutting edge content both from our archives as well as brand-new stories and product news from the BC Saw Filers Association convention that took place April 26-28 in Kamloops, B.C.

We are highlighting:

  • stories from the filing room
  • technical articles on saw filing automation
  • equipment spotlights on the latest saw filing gear
  • columns from long-time contributor and filer Trevor Shpeley, head filer Josh Penner, and Modern Engineering’s Udo Jahn
  • strategies for employing the next generation of filers, and more!

Stay tuned to this landing page and our social media (#FileWeek) for the latest stories and videos during File Week 2018!



Jan. 2, 2012 - "As the forestry industry is being revitalized, everyone wants to be in a position where they can take advantage of that,” notes Mike Cloutier. “Companies are upgrading, and I think every major sawmill will have filing room automation in their mills within the next two to three years. This also helps address the labour shortage.” Cloutier is the president at Cut Technologies, a west-coast saw manufacturer and distributor for Vollmer, MVM and Kahny that is experiencing strong demand for items like Vollmer’s CHD 270 robotic automated grinder. “It allows facing and top-grinding at one machine center, and allows you to put 100 saw blades in of different sizes and walk away,” Cloutier notes. “Vollmer is selling quite a few in the U.S., and although we’ve sold none to Canadian sawmills yet, we’ve done a lot of quoting.” Simonds and Armstrong brands also offer automated machines for levelling bandsaws and circular saws. “Simonds offers a machine to automatically straighten bent bandsaw teeth while working as a back-feed on a saw sharpener,” says product manager Russell Barratt. “Armstrong offers machinery to automatically swage and shape wide bandsaws and operates in line with the bandsaw sharpener.”

Key Knife’s new HY2 Spiral Chipping Head for drum chipping applications, such as Chip N Saw and curve gangs. By spiraling the segments, the HY2 allows more knives to fit into a given diameter, allowing mills to run their line speed at 700+ FPM. Photo courtesy of Key Knife.
Representatives of the BC Sawfilers Association (BCSA) agree that more automation must come as filers continue to retire. “We’re getting inquiries [from companies in need of filers] every week from all over B.C., so we’re already hitting a crunch,” says BCSA vice-president Bruce Doroshuk. “Although the wages being offered are great, some filers aren’t willing to relocate to areas where the cost is living is a lot higher. You can’t replace 30 years of knowledge with a new person.”

Garry Ponipal, BCSA president (and head filer at Tolko Lavington), agrees. “In a couple more years, the skill and experience lost through retirement will mean a severe lack of trouble-shooting ability in the filing rooms of the industry,” he says. “It’s critical that the skills and knowledge are passed on.” Ponipal points out that the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in Vancouver did offer a four-year apprenticeship program in sawfiling, but in 2008, when companies started struggling and began holding off on training apprentices, the program suffered – and it’s currently being shut down. “We’re working with government and industry on a new program, and it’s supposed to be up and running by end of this year,” Ponipal notes. “We’re not sure which institution will be involved.” 

The economic downturn has also affected vendors, but Ponipal gives them top marks for continuing to innovate and develop new products that make things easier for filers, such as a linear slide for band mill grinders. Armstrong offers a lineal slide retrofit for its #4 Bandsaw Sharpener, which Barratt says allows better utilization of grinding wheels and provides ease of use and setup. Other innovation has stemmed from customer demand. “Dimensional lumber in building supply stores now carries barcoding on the end as well as company logos, so the ends now need to be extremely smooth,” Ponipal explains. “This has led to the development of V-top carbide tips for planers, which require a V-top grinder, and several manufacturers such as Vollmer, Wright and Williams & White have stepped up and developed them.”

Williams & White’s V-top grinder is integrated as opposed to a bolt-on solution, says CEO Justin Williams. “This results in greater power to the grinding wheel from the drive motor.” The company also recently launched a new hydraulic top and face grinder, the TFH-Series 2 for circular sawblades. “The feed-finger design reduced the amount of moving components, which means greater reliability and durability,” Williams says.

Quebec-based Équipements YGE Inc. recently created a new cutting-edge lubricant called GuideLub. All lubricant systems had been based on a long-term study conducted in the 1970s and ’80s that assumed the existence of a hydrodynamic layer between running saws and the babbit wear plate, says production manager Jérôme Guillemette. “This quickly led to the oil viscosity as the main parameter to the film thickness.”

Mike Cloutier of Cut Technologies with a fully Robotic Vollmer service. Photo courtesy of Cut Technologies.
However, most of the time the saw is floating on air pressure, when the machine idles between logs and even sometimes during cutting. “There is actually no need for a steady creation of a hydrodynamic layer,” says Guillemette. “Because it is water-based, GuideLub allows water to come in contact with the saw to remove build-up heat created by the cutting action, instead of oil that tends to form an isolating layer.”

GuideLub also biodegradable, and YGE is working on a biodegradable vegetable oil-based product for bandsaw 

More Innovation
Filers like Ponipal are also seeing an increase in plate thickness and kerf that provide faster sawing. Companies face a trade-off, notes Dr. Bruce Lehmann, between thicker plates and higher speeds and using thinner blades that waste less wood. Lehmann is the Sawmilling Western Group Leader at Canadian forest research institute FPInnovations’ Wood Products Division in Vancouver, and he says that most of itssawing R&D work over the last few years has focused on how to run circular saws at the so-called “super-critical speeds,” or with thinner plate. “We’ve found that this is possible, but the speed needs to be carefully selected,” he says. FPInnovations has done this for many sawmills with good results. “The mills could do trial-and-error testing themselves, but this is expensive (cost of new pulleys) and if the change doesn’t work, lost production,” Lehmann notes. “In some cases, we’ve also been able to avoid washboarding by redesigning the tooth shapes. In our lab we can test the mill’s saws to determine the best speed beforehand.” He says the combined benefits of either increasing the feed speed or reducing the plate thickness is usually in the range of $100,000 to $200,000 per year.

To help companies increase line speeds, Key Knife recently introduced its HY2 Spiral Chipping Head for drum chipping applications, such as Chip N Saw and curve gangs. “It’s the next step in our popular HY2 product line,” says Don Corcoran, vice-president of international sales and marketing. “By spiralling the segments, the HY2 allows more knives to fit into a given diameter, allowing mills to run their line speed at 700+ FPM (feet per minute).” For example, a 15-inch diameter can fit up to five knives per segment, and a 16-inch diameter can fit up to six knives per segment. “The HY2 also has a larger gullet capacity, decreasing the likelihood of downtime caused by plugged gullets,” notes Corcoran. “Lastly, the new configuration with larger gullet capacity has proven to decrease pins and fines. All this will allow sawmills to increase their production of high quality lumber and improve the overall value of their chips.”

An Accu-Sharp TFX-CH system from Williams and White. Photo courtesy of Williams and White Inc.
To help reduce wear, applying chrome to the outside surface of saw blades is also becoming popular. Cut Technologies recently introduced its Cougar XX Chrome saw, which is its highest-performing blade. The company has also sold about 50 Kahny automatic carbide-tipping machines in Canada. “We’re also seeing a strong push for mills to run faster processing times with new machine installation,” says Cloutier. “This created a demand for a higher performance saw which will hold inboard saw deviation and give the mills run times with no unscheduled saw changes.”

There is also more competition among mills to produce value-added, customized products, says Ponipal, which means the equipment and personnel in the filing room must be top-notch. “Regular dimensional lumber markets are saturated, so if you can provide custom products, such as ties with vertical grain, you’ll not only gain a better dollar but you’ll work towards making sure your business survives,” he notes. “You have to be able to meet customer needs whatever they are. We cut a lot of custom ties here, and they’re green-sawn right to the customer, and so the quality of sawing has to be high. That means tolerances are very tight in the filing room. Cutting out the planer and drying is a huge win, but the pressure is on filers and their equipment. Both must be excellent.”
March 29, 2016 - The battle for skilled labour across Canada is hitting sawmills sooner rather than later, particularly in the filing rooms. To combat the shortage of qualified saw filers, some sawmills have been forced to hire back filers who have already retired on a contract basis to keep things in their filing rooms running smoothly.

“Call it a labour crisis,” says HMT Machine Tools Canada’s Eric Gabara. “The fact is we’re coming up against the wall… that’s a big challenge. The other challenge is how do you attract young people to an industry that’s shrinking but needs highly skilled people?”

Hiring retired filers back on a contract basis is obviously a Band-Aid-styled answer to a very important and complex issue for mills across Canada. So what’s the long-term solution?

“There will be less and less filers, but they’ll find a way around that. It’s just keeping up with the technology,” says Cut Technologies’ Mike Weckel.

He adds that the proper training of the current and future generations of filers will be key to a mill’s success. 

“The training of filers is important,” Weckel says. “The skill set these filers have is hard to replace. Pushing that off to the next generation of filers is hard, too.”

Attraction through automation
Mat Harris, product manager for Oleson Saw, a division of York Saw & Knife Co., says that as the potential talent pool that mills can draw from dwindles, automating aspects of the file room will be that much more important.

With the younger generations being born into a world of ever-changing technologies, saw filing rooms will need to adapt and reinvent themselves, in some cases, in order to get the attention of the next generation of skilled labourers. 

“All the kids of this generation coming on board use iPads, cell phones, instant-access everything,” says Simonds International’s Ray Eluskie. “There’s absolutely no fear of technology from this generation.”

He says that saw filing equipment with touchscreens and other newer technologies can make older generations uncomfortable, but if you didn’t have these types of technologies saw filing will be that much harder of a sell to a younger workforce.

“I have kids that are 23 and 21 years old, and you won’t attract them telling them they’re going to work in a dirty environment and saying they’re going to be using a straight edge and a hammer on an anvil,” says Sylvain St-Hilaire, CEO of B.G.R. Saws. “They need to see some high-tech equipment showing up in the filing room.”

“The younger up-and-coming people in the industry want to see hands-off, robotic applications,” says Justin Williams, CEO of Williams & White. “There are big pushes for safety, computerization, robotics and automation. It gets people excited, it gets people engaged… compared to the traditional skills that are a little bit harder to market.”

In addition to updating filing rooms with the latest technologies, mills will also need to maximize the value of its remaining experienced filers going forward to cope with the shortage of people.

“There’s a lot of innovation coming into our filing rooms right now – the biggest thing sawmills are suffering from now is a lack of support for the people in the filing room,” explains Josh Bergen, co-owner of Precision Machinery. “It’s an industry where a lot of guys are retiring so there’s a lot of areas that can be improved because we don’t have the people to perform the tasks we used to have.” 

Although automation will be a necessary component to counter the shrinking workforce in the filing rooms, it will never serve as a replacement for the decades of knowledge that may potentially be lost forever by the outgoing waves of retiring saw filers.

“You need to keep the known skill set of saw filers relevant and ensure it’s a worked on skill set, because no matter how automated you need to have the people with the knowledge,” Williams adds.

“You will be required to put some equipment in that will increase the automation level in the filing room and use the knowledge of the qualified people to make sure that all of the equipment delivers consistent results to the sawmill,” St-Hilaire adds.

Gabara adds that some older, experienced saw filers need to overcome their hesitations towards embracing new technologies both for themselves and for the next generation.

“I think we’re still in a scenario where a lot of guys are successful with what they have and don’t want to mess with that success,” he says. “If you’re going to attract a younger generation to that trade you have to have technology that the younger generation sees for their future.”

Supplying training
To ensure that the next generation of saw filers get the training they need, suppliers are going to need to play a role in their training. 

“I think the industry will have no option but to work with people like us,” St-Hilaire says. “This is our business. I’m always telling people in the sawmills, ‘I’m not going to tell you how to cut lumber, you are the expert,’ but this is as true as trying to tell me how to manage cutting tools in your business because that’s what we’re doing. So I think the level of cooperation between vendors, suppliers and the industry will have to get to the next level.”

One of the solutions to ensure the proper training for the next generation of saw filing staff is achieved, may involve customized training that changes from mill to mill. 

St-Hilaire says getting people custom trained for their sawmill is a solution that creates a perfect partnership between suppliers and sawmills. He says removing generic training due to the wide variety of equipment available in the marketplace could help filers at the tail-end of their careers adapt easier to the equipment being installed.

Clean it up
Another challenge for attracting people to the filing room is the perception, and sometimes reality, of a dirty working environment. 

”In a lot of cases we simply need to clean them up,” says Simonds International’s Russell Barrett. “We need to enforce better standards of air cleanliness, that’s been neglected for a long time. In the better mills now, you see filing rooms that are kept properly cleaned, have machines with good functional dust collection systems, where guys aren’t afraid to sit down from fear of ruining their trousers… we’re seeing this in the high-end mills and it needs to trickle down.”

Barrett says the willingness of the younger generation to go to work in what could be considered a “grubby” environment is just not there anymore.

“By it’s nature, grinding saws and knives is a grubby process, so we’ve go to pay attention to what it takes to clean that up so that the work atmosphere is more pleasant. We’ve certainly got more conscious to potential damage for hearing, and that’s certainly being taken more seriously… but just the environmental aspects of the process need the same kind of attention that the mechanicals are getting.”

The doctor is in… demand
One of more attractive qualities of becoming a saw filer that needs to be promoted to the younger generation is the employability factor.

“A competent saw filer can find work, essentially in any circumstances,” Barrett says. “It is a very portable trade if a man or woman elects to move their family into a region with sawmills. Competent saw doctors can always pick up work.” 

He says too much emphasis has been placed on younger generations going to school for degrees instead of skilled trades, especially now that a large number of “professional” jobs that required a college or university-style education are being shipped offshore. 

“Your electrician, your plumber, your heating and air conditioning people, your construction people, your saw doctors, millwrights can’t be shipped offshore, that work is here,” Barrett says. “And [saw filing] is a trade that can provide a good income and provide really solid prospects for employment. There’s a lot that is attractive. We’ve certainly not promoted ourselves very effectively as an industry that can offer kids that.”

Location, location, location…
Williams says that the increasing urbanization of Canadians has also created challenges for attracting young people to filing rooms. 

“You’re going to have a more acute problem trying to hire highly skilled labourers in a rural environment,” he says. “I don’t see that many sawmills opening up in cities.”

Training the next gen
Even if you are able to attract young people to the filing room, they still need experienced filers to take them under their wings to be properly trained on the goals that the machines are supposed to achieve before the current generation retires and takes their knowledge with them.

“They will need a mentor to ensure the transition,” St-Hilaire says.

Without the proper training, many young saw filers risk being burnt out quickly by jumping into the industry with too much responsibility too fast, he warns.
April 5, 2016 - Canadian Forest Industries checks out the latest tech for the filing room.

Automatic benching machine 

The Iseli RZ-1 Automatic Benching Machine offers fully automatic levelling, tensioning and back measuring-adjusting of the saw blades in one operational setup. It handles blade widths ranging from 70 to 360mm and blade thicknesses of 0.8 to 2.0mm. The unit has a working speed of 15 m/min. The machine is equipped with a modern, selectively programmable control unit and touchscreen display. The order of levelling, tensioning and back measuring-adjusting can be selectively called and programmed. The programmed values can be downloaded and recalled with the same values for duplication of saw blades of the same specification at a later time.

Universal sharpening machine
The Vollmer CHP 840 is a universal sharpening machine for carbide-tipped circular saw blades ranging from 80 to 840mm (33”) in diameter. It is built with four CNC-controlled axes for accurate grinding in one cycle. Additional features include a newly developed multifunctional handwheel; oscillation grinding; and automatic central lubrication. The unit is hydraulic-free, V-Top grinding capable and no tooth pitch input is required. The CHP 840 uses imperial or metric inputs.

Automated bench
Simonds International’s model 095 Automated Bench is designed to improve filing room productivity for bandsaw mills. The 095 AB features a large touchscreen control panel for performing levelling and tensioning tasks. It can simultaneously level and tension saws up to 15” wide and up to 65’ long, while measuring to .0004” across the entire area of the saw – length and width. The learn mode on the Simonds 095 AB allows the filer to load a properly levelled and tensioned saw on the AB and the machine will measure, document and learn the bench work specifications such that it can be stored and reused on subsequent runs.

CNC guide dresser
Precision Machinery’s CNC Guide Dresser features a fast-setup design that allows operators to quickly change between guide profiles and store up to 90 customized guide settings with the standard package. The unit comes with a touchscreen interface for maintaining accurate targets. Multiple insert face mills are available in two sizes and indexable carbide inserts are readily available and can be easily rotated up to four times if worn or damaged. Precision ground slides are adjustable in increments down to 0.0002”. The unit also features a granite machine base and a three-point frame.

Anti-deviation device
Saw+ADD is a bandsaw lower guide holder with integrated force sensors. It measures side forces on the saw that are a potential for deviation; as well as the saw strain and the additional sawing strain, which is a measure of the sawing power. Features include meters that provide saw and machine performance indicators; software that provides feed speed adjustments to stop deviation then return to optimum speed; and force sensors that are sensitive enough to measure the maximum desired force with one thousandth of an inch deflection.

Modern Engineering guarantees the accuracy of its precision sawguides within 0.0002” and each one is CMM tested before being shipped out. The sawguides are designed to reduce wastage and downtime, to ensure that mills are running as efficiently and productively as possible.

Knife grinder 
DK-SPEC’s multifunctional knife grinder is designed for heavy heads of high-speed planers that need accuracy and repeatability when grinding. It has a grinding wheel diameter up to 12”, a cutting head diameter of up to 20”, and a maximum cutter head length of 15”. It is built with a 5 hp grinding spindle motor and features a variable speed of 900 to 3,500 rpm. The grinder is designed for simple installation and can come with an optional overhead crane. An appropriate set-up stand is recommended.

Saw control system
The Saw Control System marries control parameters set in the file room to the sawyer’s feed-handle position. The sawyer has complete control of entry into the cut and holds the joystick position throughout the cut. The Saw Control System is designed to enhance speed, depending on the depth of the cut. Benefits for filers include: alerts of guide buildup and/or guide wear problems; helps determine saws for correction tension, tire and tooth shape; alerts of bad saws or guides; warns of bearing problems; shows saw cracks, as well as dull and sharp saws; and assists in evaluating saw filing equipment.

Automatic Measuring Machine
The Gerling Automatic Measuring Machine model GSPM is designed for measuring axial runout, tension and flatness of the saw body. With an integrated touchscreen control panel, the results are shown in a graphical display. The GSPM is designed for fast and accurate changeovers to various saw blade sizes and to ensure quality control of saw bodies. This machine will allow filling rooms to maintain consistent anvil room output regardless of the number of staff and experience that they have.

Circular saw sharpening
Williams & White’s RoboSharp-AX10L2 is one of the industry’s newest and most advanced circular saw sharpening machines. The grinder is equipped with robotic loading technology and is capable of top, face and side grinding a circular saw with one set-up. The grinder offers dual blade capacity coupled with independent grinding spindles, creating the ability to top and face grind two blades simultaneously. This solves a statistically recognized bottleneck in saw maintenance and production facilities including filing rooms, saw shops and saw manufacturers. The two spindles also come together to “dual side grind” a single saw blade.

June 26, 2010 - Ask Rick Gush how many saws he and his crew will handle in a year and he thinks about it for a few seconds before working through the numbers in his head. “About 40,000,” he proclaims, “And that doesn’t include the cutoff saws,” adds Gush, who is the head filer at Weyerhaeuser’s Princeton, B.C., dimension sawmill.

Looking at the filing room Gush is in charge of, you would never guess that he and his crew of nine process that kind of volume. On a recent visit, not one item in the filing room appeared to be out of place. Workbenches were free of clutter, tools were where they should be, and it looked like you could eat off the floor. If the filing room is quiet, looks organized and his crew isn’t frantically troubleshooting, “that means things are running well in the mill and all is good,” notes Gush, with a hint of a proud smile as he qualifies this statement by adding, “that’s the way it is around here most of the time.”

Gush is the first to admit that this scenario wouldn’t be possible without the support of Weyerhaeuser. He says they have made the kind of investment in the filing room that is needed to keep things running smoothly in the mill, and he notes that it pays dividends in the long run. “The company has invested in the tools we need and they recognize that there can be a significant payback in recovery if we are effective at our jobs,” he explains. “If we utilize the technology available to us, use high quality saws, and maximize quality control techniques, we can run with thinner plate saws, which increases the recovery factor at the mill’s machine centres.”

As an example, Gush points to the Princeton mill’s small log line – a Kockums CanCar (now USNR) chip ’n’ saw. “Most mills would run .080-in. to .090-in. plates on this line,” he says. “We run at .060 in., which gives us an extra .015 in. per side and a .090-in. kerf. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up at the end of the day.”

Gush says on the mill’s large line, which also features a Kockums CanCar chip ‘n’ saw, they run .080-in. plates for a kerf of .110-in. On both chip ’n’ saws they use Cougar XX saws from Cut Technologies. The Cougar saws, which are manufactured at the Cut Tech plant in Penticton, B.C., are part of the company’s premium round saw line. At the Princeton mill they specify 17-in.-diameter saws with 42 teeth on each saw.

Working Relationship

“We work closely with Cut Tech,” says Gush. “We have a ‘Make&Hold’ program in place with Cut Tech that allows us to keep some inventory at their facility, allowing us to get what we need, when we need it, and they are constantly improving saw design to provide us with better products.”

In addition to supplying the Weyerhaeuser Princeton mill with saws, Cut Tech is the Canadian distributor and factory service representative for much of the major hardware used in the mill’s filing room. That includes four German-made Vollmer grinders that are sold and serviced by Cut Tech (one CHF210 side grinder, two CHC Eco top and face grinders, and one CHC 250 top and face grinder), and a Kahny tipper (Cut Tech is the exclusive North American distributor for the Kahny line). The mill also has a Wright grinder, which Gush says they “inherited” from Weyerhaeuser’s Merritt, B.C., mill when it closed down, and a Simonds leveller, which is used to eliminate any bumps in thinner plate saws. On the quality control side, Gush says they have a Forintek (now FPInnovations) Video Tooth Inspector machine. “It’s been here longer than I have,” he jokes, “but it really helps us track down problems if anything occurs. Basically, it takes a picture of the saw’s teeth and that allows us to clearly see the face and make sure all of the angles are straight.”

Another method of maintaining quality control includes the use of SizeCheck automatic lumber size monitoring software from EB Associates. “I have access to the data from the mill’s SizeCheck program, which allows me to see if anything unusual is going on,” says Gush. “Plus we all have pagers and if something is happening in the mill, they all buzz and we go to take a look, because if there’s a problem, the first thing we do is check the saws.”

For Gush, having good quality control methods in place is important, but so is experience. He has worked for Weyerhaeuser for 39 years and for 38 of those years he has been a saw filer. He is well aware that although the filing room is tucked away in a quiet corner, it is critical to the overall success of the mill. “Having an effective filing room is one of the easiest ways to improve your lumber recovery factor,” he concludes. “Specifying good saws and using good filing room equipment can easily allow you to drop your kerf down and improve accuracy.”
March 27, 2015 - The shortage of saw filers in the forestry industry is a big problem, especially in Western Canada. Putting all the reasons for the shortage aside for a moment, let’s focus on solutions.

One way to take some of the strain off the filers who are still in the mills is through the use of automation systems. Equipment companies have recognized this and have been hard at work developing new automated systems, many of which are either currently available or will be very soon.

 One company that has experienced a surge in interest and demand for new automated sharpening solutions is Vollmer.

Shannon Fox, manager of sawing technology for Vollmer, says that his firm offers a wide variety of automated machines for the servicing of cutting tools, such as circular saw blades, band saw blades and polycrystalline diamond (PCD) tooling. Different levels of technology are also available within the Vollmer line-up, from cam-driven sharpeners up to field-proven fully automatic service centres.

A sharp increase in sales
Cut Technologies of Penticton, B.C., has seen interest in automatic sharpening machines increase significantly in recent years.

Mike Weckel, vice-president of operations and sales manager for Cut Technologies, says sales have increased by 200 per cent on Vollmer automated products in both 2013 and 2014, and he expects 2015 to be a record year.

The Vollmer CHD 270/CHF 270-ND 340 Service Center – an automatic computer-controlled cutting (CNC) machine that loads and sharpens all the sawmill saws, and will run “lights out” is one of the company’s top sellers.

These machines feature four loading carriages and a data input station, are extremely reliable, and offer excellent repeatability on saw geometry angles and kerf, says Weckel. One of these units is going to be installed at a West Fraser mill in Quesnel, B.C., in the near future.

Cut Technologies has also experienced an uptick in sales of the Sawmill Kahny round saw tipping (tip-brazing) machine.

“These machines are fully automatic and allow the labour for re-tipping saws to be allocated to a different task in the filing room,” Weckel explains.

The Sawmill Kahny possesses extreme precision and speed, he notes, and has been recently redesigned. There are 40 of these units now running in major Canadian sawmills.

Williams & White of Burnaby, B.C., will be rolling out an automated saw filing machine in the near future, the patent-pending RoboSharp Multi-Function Saw Sharpening Center. The unit is the result of two years of development and is able to top and face, dual side and plunge grind a circular saw blade with a single setup.

The Robosharp’s robotic loader retrieves the saw blades from the carts magnetically and can retrieve two blades at a time, explains Riley Kufta, director of marketing for Williams and White.

“The saws are then loaded into the machine, where they are fed into the grinding area,” he adds.

The automated tool changing system is a combination of a large tool bay, where grinding wheels are stored, and advanced probing technology. This technology monitors the grinding wheels in use, and when wheel wear reaches a specific level or wheel damage occurs, a new wheel is automatically retrieved from the tool bay.

“The entire process, from detecting the need for replacement to completing the change, is done automatically with no human intervention,” says Kufta.

Tension tech
Pennsylvania-based Oleson Saw Technology also offers an automatic bandsaw leveller and tensioning centre.

The computer-controlled Iseli RZ-1 is programmable by the operator to automatically produce consistently levelled and tensioned band saws.

“The computer touchscreen and technology are user-friendly and make inputting instructions straightforward and uncomplicated,” says Mat Harris, Oleson product manager. “Tension, levelling and back are adjusted as the saw is fed through levelling rolls controlled by the feedback from the electronic non-contact sensors connected to the RZ-1’s computer.”

The sensors control the proportional hydraulic rolls quickly and quietly, notes Harris, and the end result is a finished saw, benched completely to customer specifications. The RZ-1 will accommodate saws that are three to 16 inches in width, and 20 Ga. to 14 Ga. in thickness.

Tuning up the band
Simonds International, which has Canadian offices in Granby, Que., and Langley, B.C., also has a new automated product, the 090 Automated Bench (090 AB).

This unit replaces the original 980 model and is designed for processing bandsaws used in high-production softwood mills, high-production hardwood mills and mid-sized hardwood mills.

Simonds has sold over 100 Automated Benches all over the world since they were first introduced in 2013.

“The Automated Bench has allowed current staff to keep up with their duties in the filing room – even with the staff shortages,’’ notes Simonds product manager Ray Eluskie.

The 090 AB follows the success of the original Simonds Automated Bench, says Eluskie. It simultaneously levels and tensions the bandsaw blade while measuring to .0004 inches across the entire area of the saw – length and width.

The machine performs all scanning via a contact sensor. The measurements made via the sensor are fed into the computer, and the machine performs all calculations, and adds the appropriate back, tension and tire line to the band.

The 090 AB features a touchscreen control panel that can be operated even while saw filers are wearing gloves.

“It has a unique ‘Learn’ mode feature that allows the filer to load a ‘Best Practice’ saw,” adds Eluskie. “When instructed, the machine will scan the saw and record all the measurements in memory. Using the memory function, the filer can recall a stored saw and duplicate the specifications from the stored saw on all saws in 
the future.”

The 090 AB has the capacity to store up to 999 different saws. Watch a CFI video of Simond’s Russell Barrett explaining this machine on our video carousel at

Big tipper
In Charny, Que., B.G.R. Saws says the Kirschner L1 automated tipping process machine highlights its automated line-up.

B.G.R.’s president, Sylvain St-Hilaire, says the unit’s perfectly centred tip brazing maximizes grinding accuracy, as well as workload on the grinding centre.

The L1 also provides consistency in the brazing quality because of the pyrometer, which precisely controls when the proper temperature for brazing and annealing is reached.

Another benefit is found in the high-frequency generator that does not affect steel structures. This technology is available in a semi-automatic version as well as a fully-automated version with automatic loading and unloading. 

Automation for safety
In addition to speeding up saw filing tasks and allowing saw filers to focus on other duties, automation is also being used to create safer saw filing environments. Williams and White has created a robotic Babbitt pouring machine.

“The concept of the Auto Babbitt is quite simple,” says Kufta. “It is to end the days of manually pouring Babbitt in the filing room. Handling molten metal, regardless of cautions taken and experience of the operator, is an unsafe task. Our hope is that with the help of the Auto Babbitt, burns and fume exposure will be things of the past.”

The fully enclosed robotic machine replaces having an employee for the task of Babbitt pouring, which is used in most saw mills to create Babbitt pads that are bolted to saw guides. Babbitt wears quickly and needs to be melted down and moulded and reshaped regularly.

“Much like the RoboSharp, we do not yet have an estimate on how much time the Auto-Babbitt will save, although it will be considerable,” says Kufta. “The main selling point for the Auto Babbitt is safety, as it eliminates Babbitt burns, which are quite common, and fires, which are less common but still happen.”

To complement the Auto Babbitt, Williams and White has developed a tabletop robotic screw-fastening machine, which is designed to decrease repetitive motion injury caused by fastening Babbitt pads to saw guides, while speeding up the task.

Automation in the saw filing room has come a long way, and companies are continuing to innovate. This automation is making various tasks quicker and freeing up saw filers to do other things, allowing fewer people to handle the workload. Automation is also making things safer and preventing injury. Stay tuned for more automation innovation to come.
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