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Saw Filing 101: 2021’s saw of choice


March 24, 2021
By Paul Smith

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In any business, we tend to speculate as to what changes will occur or what new technology will come along. Throughout 2020, I began to notice a change in sawing taking place – more filers are sawing with circle saws. And it appears that trend will continue in 2021.

New mills are not installing many bandsaws and a lot of mills that are upgrading are using circle saws and taking bandsaws out. Circle saws seemed to be the saw of choice with new mill start-ups during 2020. Of course, many of the older mills continue to run bandsaws. But, among those mills moving towards circle saws, we are seeing a push for improvements in the guided saw.

What improvements are we seeing? Better quality plate from the steel manufacturer, tighter tolerances at almost every step of manufacturing, and improvements in tipping (methods and product). Filing rooms are setting stringent guidelines with regards to radial and tangential angles to improve the sharpness of the tooth. Saw design is becoming more critical in order to make sure the gullet design and capacity removes the chip and meets the mill’s needs. Today’s filing equipment is allowing the filer (and saw manufacturer) to hold the tightest tolerances, thus allowing the mill to cut quality, high-grade lumber at faster feed speeds.

Going into 2021, we understand there are no shortcuts in the filing room. In the past, we have learned that a saw can run with less side clearance than old-school information suggested, especially with the new saw plates being manufactured today. Just a few short years ago, industry standards on plate thickness was plus 0 and minus .002, but now we order plates to the exact thickness required. This means that saw filers are able to tighten their guides to accommodate the plate with the exact tolerance needed. Good, well-designed saws, accurate guides with close tolerances and a good clean arbor that has a good fit with the saw’s spline bore will be one of the best tools to ensure that the saw performs well.

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One thing that is trending and proving valuable with guided circle saws is being able to track and keep records for each individual saw. By imprinting an identification number or bar code on each saw, the filer now has trackable info regarding tipping, guide wear, dished or wrecked saws. 

Recording this information each time the saw is worked on will allow a mill to know exactly how and for how long the saw has performed. By determining this information with production numbers, a mill now can know their exact saw cost both by time and footage. Just about all of the saw manufacturers will provide saws with individual IDs if asked and normally without any additional charge.

This year, the mills may find themselves having to focus less on saw issues and more on the sawmill itself. Keeping the cants and material fed to the saws may be the biggest challenge that needs to be addressed in 2021. With more volume of lumber being pushed through today’s mills, attention may have turned from saw problems to mill problems. Alignment, bearings, sprockets, software and everyday maintenance on the mill itself may prove this year’s challenge.

With the proper saw maintenance and scheduling, today’s mills are succeeding in scheduled saw changes that do not take away from production. Today’s saw filers have proven their ability to keep up with mills’ demand. As we move on in the new year, we will continue to strive to share ideas, solutions, and knowledge. I look forward to learning and sharing any information that comes our way to continue to help make a better and sharper saw.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and the absolute best for 2021. Please feel free to share any thoughts on sawfiling that may help make this article more informative and or interesting. 


Paul Smith is the owner and CEO of Smith Sawmill Service LLC with locations in Texas and Louisiana. Reach him at paul@smithsawmillservice.com.