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Saw Filing 101: A properly greased filing room


February 18, 2022
By Paul Smith

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Photo: Annex Business Media

Lubrication-related filing room equipment failure plagues most sawmills. And it seems the problem is on the rise with the widespread use of automatic grease units. It’s easy to become dependent on these automatic lubrication units to do the job. But when the automatic lubricator fails and it goes unnoticed, damage can happen very quickly to filing equipment.

On most saw sharpeners, a single auto lubricator unit may supply grease to multiple lube-sites on the machine. The grease tubes or lines can easily become loose, blocked or even unattached. Air entering the line can cause it to become air-locked, which prevents the grease supply.

Sawmill filing rooms see their share of reactive maintenance, unplanned downtime and lost productivity because of lubrication failures or maintenance oversights. Grease locations need to be checked at least once a week to make sure the proper amount of grease is reaching the correct lube-sites. An indicator of lubrication failure is when grease has not been added to a lubrication device in the past few months.

Running a lubrication unit too low or empty is one way that air enters the lines. Maintenance will then have to purge the line before the unit will operate correctly. Problems can also arise when a lower value or incorrect lubricant grade is used. Avoid mixing lubricant brands or grades, which can cause the lubrication device to function poorly or not at all. This is especially true for auto-lubrication units that typically need high grade, marine type flow grease to operate properly.

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Automatic lubrication units are adjustable to supply the correct amount of grease to each moving part. However, if a unit supplies grease to multiple areas, it’s likely the same amount of grease will go to each location. Unit adjustments instead determine how often the pump activates to inject the lubrication. You may have to let some locations get a little more than they may need to allow for enough supply to other locations.

Filing rooms that have grinders and sharpeners using oil coolant instead of a mix water coolant are way ahead when it comes to lubrication problems. However, bearings and moving parts still require the proper lubricant/grease. Although oil coolant helps, it’s not the correct lubricant or grease these parts need to work properly. An outside oil coolant spray will not properly grease or enter the bearings to protect them. While oil and grease provide different benefits, they should not be mixed. Properly greased parts and bearings reach 99 per cent of their expectant service life. Using oil for a coolant in saw sharpeners/grinders is great to keep the heat down without damaging the tooth. Oil coolant provides a layer of protection to the machine, keeping moisture and corrosion at a minimum. Bearings and moving parts, however, need to be identified and greased properly.

Filing rooms that use water coolant are more prone to bearing and moving parts failure. Corrosion and rust are more damaging to machines that use a water coolant mix, especially when the coolant is not maintained and properly mixed. Keeping the machine bearings and moving parts properly greased or lubricated will help to seal off and prevent the entrance of water, dirt and grime that damage and shorten the life of bearings and other moving parts. For these reasons, it’s hard to over grease or lubricate filing room machines.

Grease is also good to use on your babbit pouring fixtures. A thin layer of grease allows the babbit to turn loose from the molds quickly and easily. Only takes a thin layer to do the job.

Lubrication is a crucial part of maintaining a successful filing room. Keep in mind that selecting the wrong grease or lubricant can cause failure in the filing room. Improperly lubricated and/or greased grinders and sharpeners will not be able to work smoothly and efficiently and, thus, will not sharpen saws correctly.

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