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Saw Filing 101 profile: Weyerhaeuser Drayton Valley

Filer and seasoned CFI columnist Trevor Shpeley is bringing readers inside saw filing shops in 2019. For his second profile, he gets to know Weyerhaeuser Drayton Valley in Drayton Valley, Alta.

April 30, 2019  By  Trevor Shpeley

Maintenance supervisor Justin Sheen (left) and head filer Serge Lacoste at the Weyerhaeuser Drayton Valley filing room. Photo: Trevor Shpeley

As one of the world’s largest forest product companies, Weyerhaeuser employs around 10,000 people in facilities all over North America. Many of those locations are sawmills and the mill we will be focusing on for this issue’s filing room profile is in the bustling resource community of Drayton Valley, Alta., about an hour and a half drive west of Edmonton.

Head filer Serge Lacoste understands the challenges that come with the bitter cold of a long Alberta winter. Carbide tips become brittle and the horns of even the best saws fly off like frightened birds under the stress of hitting frozen knots at high speed. Keeping the busy Weyerhaeuser mill supplied with saws that can handle whatever nature throws at them and still produce a perfect board is what Lacoste and his crew excel at. Their skill is not surprising, with a staggering 140 years of saw filing experience divided between five certified filers. An apprentice has joined the group and is progressing nicely with two years and counting.

Weyerhaeuser has owned the Drayton Valley sawmill since 1988 and four years ago the decision was made to move the filing room into a new location to better serve the growing mill. The present shop is approximately 1,600 square feet and is entirely devoted to servicing circular saws, which were deemed the best choice for the mill’s fibre diet consisting mostly of lodgepole pine with a generous smattering of the other species in the SPF group – primarily white and black spruce.

Two circular quads, a large vertical double arbour (VDA), a small line VDA, a three-saw shifting board edger, and an 11-saw trimmer keep the boys busy. Thanks to Weyerhaeuser’s policy of embracing new technology and automating much of the filing room’s drudge-work, the crew has time to exercise their skill on the saws without having to run around doing the time-consuming simple jobs that are better served by machinery than by busy filers.


A sawfiler sets up the Gerling tipper.

One of the recent acquisitions in the filing room is a Gerling Sawmaster auto-tipper from HMT Machine Tools Canada, which replaced an aging tipper that had served them well for many years. Lacoste admits there was a bit of a learning curve switching over to the Gerling, but he has been very impressed with the reliability, accuracy and speed of the new machine. In a mill that uses nothing but roundsaws, a good tipper is worth its weight in gold and the Gerling is holding its own, and then some.

Another piece of equipment that has earned its place in the filing room is the ILS guide dresser the mill purchased from Precision Machinery four years ago. Replacing five older single-guide units, the ILS has freed up a lot of real estate for other machinery and extra work space, which is always in short supply in any filing room.

If you had to look at one machine that has had the strongest impact on the Drayton Valley filing room, it would probably be the Vollmer five-cart robotic system with a CHD 251 top and face grinder and a CHF 270 side grinder that they purchased from another mill. With a capacity of over 200 saws, the Vollmer system sharpens all sides of the carbide without the need for supervision by filers, who are then free to do tasks that better utilize their skill and experience.

“The automation of our saw shop helped us retain an aging workforce by reducing the manual labour we used to have to manage and, at the same time, made the sawfiling trade in our facility attractive to a younger generation who are much more tech savvy,” maintenance supervisor Justin Sheen says.

Another component of the successful filing room is Weyerhaeuser’s support for its filers, especially when it comes to sharing knowledge among its many divisions. Each year at the BC Saw Filers Association convention in Kamloops, B.C., Serge and his Weyerhaeuser head-filer colleagues meet and discuss what is going on in their respective mills, compare experiences with equipment and discuss safety concerns. It’s this type of co-operation and dedication to an ongoing learning process that have powerful impacts on a company’s bottom line.

The filing room in the Weyerhaeuser Drayton Valley mill is a great example of what we all strive for: a harmonious relationship with management; good equipment in good repair; and all the experience you could want in a mill where the weather can be fierce and the wood-cutting a challenge. Serge, Don, Len, Wayne, Dave and Riley have worked nearly 20 years without a reportable safety incident and love doing what they do. A well-equipped shop is always the strong silent partner in any successful operation and the Drayton Valley filing room is the perfect tool to get the job done.

We are looking for other filing rooms that would like to be profiled in this space. If you are interested, please ask your mill management for permission. The mill will always get final approval on the article before printing. I can be reached at trevor.shpeley@gmail.com.

Equipment matters

  • Vollmer 5-cart robotic system with CHD251 top and face grinder and CHF270 side grinder
  • Vollmer CHC250 top and face grinder
  • Vollmer CHF210 side grinder
  • Gerling Sawmaster auto tipper
  • Williams and White 36-inch stretcher roll
  • ACME post grinder from Cut Technologies
  • ILS guide dresser
  • Williams & White gauge grinder

The article is part of our 2019 #FileWeek coverage. Read more here.

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