Many plants have been shut down temporarily due to the market conditions.  Maintenance departments frequently take advantage of this time to repair or perform tests that can’t be done when the machines are operating.  Many times the only attention a hydraulic system might get is an oil and filter change.  Yet, there are several checks and procedures that can be done during down periods that will improve the efficiency and operation of the system when production demands are high.  The following are preventive maintenance checks that will improve the performance of the systems and machines.

Here’s just a teaser of what you’ll see at this year’s show, March 12-14. Remember that now that the shows are just every second year, you either go now, or wait until 2010. For details on any of the 240 plus exhibitors at Wood Tech 2008, visit


Comact GradExpert

Automated lumber grading is here to stay, as over 20 of these fully automated transverse systems have been sold. This is a completely automated lumber grading system that does not require any assistance from a check grader. It performs the work of three to four experienced graders while ensuring a reduced margin of error due to over grading or under grading. The GradExpert easily manages a rhythm of more than 13,000 boards per hour with a margin of error reduced to less than 2%.

In practice the GradExpert hits its payback in less than 10 months, allowing it to be paid for within a budget year. The integration of the GradExpert in an existing production line is very easy. In fact, programming and configuring is child’s play, and only approximately 10 days are required for it to reach its maximum performance and for line operators to be completely trained. Finally, thanks to its clean lines and strong construction, the

GradExpert needs minimal maintenance for continuous and painless performance.
Full grading is available in SPF, SYP, Douglas fir, hemlock, white pine, and more. The stable transverse scanning ensures accurate measurement of bow, crook, twist, skip and wane, while the vision system provides an accurate detection of knots, pith, blue and red stains, decay, bark pocket, paint marks(MSR/wet), splits, shake and worm holes, all without additional marking or recognition systems., or booth 659.


JoeScan for Boards

JoeScan has introduced the JS-20 WX Scan Head, a wide-angle laser scanner that delivers accelerated and precise profile measurements for transverse scanning of boards and cants. The latest in the JS-20 series, it provides accurate length, width, and thickness measurements of boards and cants using one type of scan head. With points every 1/8", the scanner provides more data and detects finer details and defects. “Given the importance of transverse scanning, JoeScan has engineered a product that is fast and accurate,” says president Joey Nelson. “The JS-20 is capable of 650 profile measurements per second, with each profile containing up to 243 data points. It is substantially faster, collecting as much as 10 times more data than the typical multi-point scanner.” More info at, or booth 1071.


Matthews Prints on ends & tops, lumber, panel or EWP

If you make it, Matthews Marking can help you make it stand out, with rugged industrial systems for product identification. This includes systems designed for engineered wood products, panel products of all kind, and lumber. One example is the Jet-A-Mark Drop-On-Demand Ink-Jet Printers and High Resolution InkJet, a flexible system for printing company logos, sorting codes or grading information on the end grain of timber. Another is bar coding systems for manufacturers who need to provide finished wood products with bar codes for internal tracking purposes, where Matthews has High Resolution InkJet printers for automated coding., and booth 440.


MDI has affordable metal detector for planer mill

The tramp metal protection experts at Metal Detectors Inc. (MDI) have an affordable surround planer metal detector to help protect valuable planer knives and uptime. The HP-3000 Planer Metal Detector is MDI's newest technology, using construction techniques that allow it to provide, at the request of its customers, an affordable planer system. This and other metal detection systems can be seen at or booth 412.

West Salem grinds the big volumes  

The 4064 Horizontal Grinding System from West Salem Machinery Co. is a high-volume stationary grinding system available with chain, vibratory, or belt infeed conveyors. It features a massive, overhead power feed mechanism to provide a controlled, metered feed to the grinder. The upstroke grinder design provides a large feed opening and the mill-duty, disc-type rotor allows multiple hammer configurations for superior performance in a wide variety of applications, including high-volume processing of wood waste into board furnish, mulch, fuel, re-grinding for bedding or play-chip, etc. More info at or booth 847.



Xylexpo expands to include semi-finished materials and components he Italian woodworking, wood processing, and furniture technology show Xylexpo has expanded its horizons to include new product categories. These new display areas include semi-finished materials, supplies, furniture components, and all wood-based products. The idea is to allow visitors a complete view of the wood industry supply picture, from machinery and technology to materials. The show is slated for the new FieraMilano centre in Milan, Italy, May 27-31, 2008. More info at



NX-Tek offers high-speed lug loaders to western mills rince George based NX-Tek International offers an array of technology and services to sawmills and planer mills in western Canada, including the GIXI-E-4000 high-speed lug loader from Carbotech International. This lug loader handles wood from 6 to 24 ft long from 1x2 to 2x12, including 3x3 and 4x4 squares. Speeds can hit 225 lugs per minute, and the system comes with Allen Bradley CompactLogix PLC and a touch screen interface for setup and troubleshooting. More info at


MEGTEC helps LP clean up

Louisiana Pacific has gone with CLEANSWITCH regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) technology from MEGTEC Systems at its OSB mill in Houlton, ME. Perched near the NB border, “the plant aims to reduce emissions and improve operating costs,” says MEGTEC business director Rodney Schwartz. “The older RTO was not designed to take advantage of the energy savings provided by structured media.” he notes. The new high energy cost reality is an important factor in today's pollution control environment, and MEGTEC says the CLEANSWITCH RTO offers 99% + VOC removal in addition to thermal efficiencies of up to 97%. More info at

Perched just two kilometres from the border between northwestern Maine and south central Quebec, the small village of Woburn boasts just 686 residents. The main employer is Les Manufacturiers Warwick Inc., a white pine sawmill founded in 1970. The bulk of production in turn goes to Roland Boulanger Co. Ltd, a major molding manufacturer located in nearby Warwick, QC.

Information is king when it comes to making value decisions, but it can also be a royal pain to manage with lumber whistling by at 3,000 fpm and over 170 lugs per minute. Add to the information you’re trying to juggle – MSR, moisture, geometric, and visual defects galore – and things get exponentially more complex.

Two years on the drawing board, six months in construction, and now 10 months in operation, Moose River Lumber Co.’s (MRL) $USD 6.5 million ($CDN 6.3 million), computer-automated, graderless planer mill has delivered as projected. The new planer mill is producing on a single shift as much as the company’s old planer mill did on two shifts, providing significant grade recovery improvements, and reducing both economy grades and trim loss. And it does it all with roughly 25% of the manpower previously required.

When markets get tight, maintenance is often the first budget cut. While understandable when cash flow falters, this strategy can jeopardize a low-cost producer’s ability to survive bad markets?  


Keeping the wheel turning

The RID resurfacing machine from DataSys Technologies is a product developed to re-face a bandmill wheel in about 15 minutes. It can be programmed to produce an exact crown at the exact position required by the operator. The surface finish depends on the surface velocity of the wheel, the feed rate, depth of cut, and the nose radius of the tool insert, depending on operator preference. Free training is available at DataSys Technologies’ plant in Burnaby, BC, and is recommended for both programming and machining.

The program can compensate for wheels which are not plumb vertical when the machine is set up level. After the initial set up, the operator can be 12 feet away from the machine, observing the process. More info and a brochure are available at



Easing the daily grind

Vollmer offers innovative products for sawmills of all sizes, the supplier says, with an array of machines for sawmill sharpening shops and a complete range for sharpening and repairing band and circle saw blades. These include the CA 100 and CAF 100, machines known for easy handling.

The cam-controlled CA 100 sharpens the complete profile of band saw blades, while the hydraulically-controlled CAF 100 was developed for side grinding of band saws. Both machines can be configured for wet or dry grinding according to requirements. The compact design and extremely sturdy, central block based structure guarantee a high grinding performance and grinding quality in both machines. Both the CA 100 and the CAF 100 score highly in day-to-day production, Vollmer adds, as well as in ease of operation, and access to the working and machine areas.

The ultra-robust design of the band saw grinding machine ensures high uptime availability and machine longevity, coupled with high precision and low maintenance. The supplier adds that the machine will increase the tool life of saw blades, for more productive sawmills.

The CA 100 and CAF 100 have a central block based design for top grinding quality, high rigidity for optimal grinding performance, robust, functional machine construction, a compact design, and finally a separation of machine and working areas for longer machine life and reduced maintenance. More info at



Autolog turns 20 in style

It may be hard to find much to celebrate in a market like this, but the founders of optimization and control supplier Autolog Inc. nonetheless cut the cake this past fall to mark its 20th anniversary. On August 26th, 1987, three young entrepreneurs, Daniel Ethier, Sylvain Magnan, and André Nadeau started the high-tech automation company to serve the sawmill industry. Today, they employ 100 and sell their products and expertise across the world. The company has a wide rage of products and services, from a simple PLC automation system to the most sophisticated of optimizers for the hardwood and softwood industries.



Grapples made with industry in mind

The LF series Log Grapples from Rockland Manufacturing were designed with landing and sawmill loader operator’s needs in mind to maximize visibility, reliability, and capacity. A low-profile frame on all Rockland grapples allows the operator to see the tine tips at ground level for improved visibility, while adjustable floating tines automatically compensate for uneven ground, a constant challenge in the logging world. Built with tough, high-strength rectangular alloy steel tubing, these grapples also boast over-sized pins, induction-hardened, heat-treated, chrome-plated rods, and high-temp, long-life O-rings and seals for reliability. Two width choices are available, while the tine spacing is infinitely adjustable. More info at


Rising glue costs and competitive market pres­sures require that plywood producers find savings in their production processes wherever possible. Generally speaking, glue spreaders have been the same for many years. Now, however, Raute foam glue technology may be able to help reduce the amount of glue used in modern lay-up lines, and reduce the labour component as well.

Thermally modified wood is wood that has been heated at temperatures ranging from 160ºC to 245ºC in a controlled environment with a low oxygen content. Heating of wood in this temperature range results in the chemical modification of wood cell walls: degradation of hemicellulose with water-binding properties and lignin reticulation indicating the formation of molecular chemical bonds. The crystalline structure of cellulose could also be modified. These modifications of the chemical components of wood have an effect on its physical and mechanical properties.

I recently received a call from a medium density fibreboard plant who said the plant had been down over 12 hours. They needed me to fly over and help troubleshoot the problem. When I arrived six hours later, there were 10 people surrounding the broken machine looking frustrated and tired due to their inability to fix the problem, including the plant manager, maintenance superintendent, four maintenance mechanics, two electricians, the machine operator, and the production superintendent.



Carbotech has new gate keeper

InterSaw 2008 was on the quiet side, but the Quebec City show still had its share of new gear. Carbotech for one had a new live fence system called Accugate that is designed for high-speed yet gentle and precise board positioning ahead of optimized trimmers. The design is from Sweden, where it has been used in high production mills for four years, and is made under licence in North America by the lumber handling experts at Carbotech, with Autolog controls. It runs above 200 lugs/min, with positioning accuracy very conservatively put at 3/32”, precision not affected by reaction time as even at full speed it allows for 1.5 seconds to move the board. Accugate boasts smooth, positive placement with no bounce-back from a simple, low-cost design. The first Canadian install is slated for Arbec’s high-speed mill in northeastern Quebec during the Christmas shutdown. More info at



RSI spells printing on wood products

The industrial printing experts at RSI Inc. have focused on marking wood products, and the results are available. The supplier says it combines HP reliability with minimal maintenance in a series of products for grade stamping, logos, barcodes, text and much more. RSI bills its systems as virtually maintenance free, easy to use and built using heavy-duty construction. The supplier can offer red, black and blue from a single system, print speeds to 200 boards per minute, and an economical 350-ml bulk ink delivery system.   More info at



Next generation bandsaw steel getting results in Scandinavia

Sandvik Materials Technology says its next generation Durashift bandsaw blades are already netting impressive results in sawmills in Finland and Sweden. Sandvik says the blades offer higher tensile strength and have proven to be more forgiving in operation. The higher tensile strength gives a high and maintained blade tension, producing extra stability in the blade. The manufacturer adds that when combined with a forgiving steel that reacts well to processing variations, the result is a straighter and narrower cut for less yield loss, reduced vibration, and reduced cracking. Sandvik adds that its Durashift bandsaw blades maintain their shape over a significantly longer running time – up to 50% longer before grinding for reduced downtime.
More info at



Removal on the Sly, without compressed air

A new family of dust collectors has been announced by Ohio-based Sly Inc. The RAC Series of Reverse Air Collectors feature an advanced reverse air cleaning system that removes accumulated dust from filter bags without requiring compressed air. Each collector has an internal blower powered by an explosion-proof motor. A cleaning arm with high velocity nozzles directs this air for optimal continuous cleaning of each filter bag on every rotation of the arm. An HD 3/4-hp explosion proof gear drive motor designed for continuous service is used to move the cleaning arm. Sly RAC collectors are available to filter 4,500 to 70,000 ACFM. More info at



Custom dunnage sorter working for Weyerhaeuser

Scanner supplier JoeScan Inc. has worked with Weyerhaeuser’s mill in Grande Prairie, AB to increase operator efficiency by automating dunnage sorting. Under the old procedure, one of the two operators had to leave the station to manually sort dunnage before the placer set it. Now, cracked and broken pieces are automatically identified and discarded without distracting the operator. “The system JoeScan designed for us allows us to do all our stacking with one person instead of two, and that’s on a per-shift basis,” said Guy Gaultier at Weyerhaeuser Grande Prairie. The system uses four JS20-SR profiling scanners to map defects found in each piece. The software, running on a standard Windows PC, grades the dunnage according to Weyerhaeuser’s criteria. The decision is sent to a PLC that controls a gate arm to save or reject the piece. “I’d say things are working very well,” Gaultier said. “Including benefits and related costs, the system is saving us about $180,000 a year.”  More info at



Interest high in auto brazing machines

Cut Technologies Machinery says interest was high at both the BC Sawfilers convention and the Forest Expo in Atlanta in the new Kahny K06 automatic brazing machine. Cut Technologies is the exclusive North American distributor for Kahny, and says the K06 is made with the operator in mind for quick setups and changeovers to different saws and tips. It adds that the K06 delivers consistent bond and higher bond strength, a higher tooth bite, and faster feed rate, for the elimination of tip loss and reduced downtime.  More info at



Next Tellus to reduce downtime

Oil may not be high on the list of sawmill expenditures, but Shell says the use of poor quality oil ranks pretty high on the causes of downtime, which in turn does rank high among sawmill costs. Shell Canada is launching its next generation of Shell Tellus hydraulic oil with this in mind. The goal is to reduce downtime and maximize productivity, and Shell says Tellus helps do that by extending maintenance intervals, protecting equipment, providing flexibility in maintenance scheduling, and thus increasing productivity. The company adds that customers will be able to overcome corrosion, contamination, sludge build up, filter blocking, and increased wear. “Although lubricants are only 2 to 5% of an average maintenance budget,” explains Diane Mcfarlane, general manager, Shell Lubricants, “the cost of repairing or replacing parts from using lower quality lubricants can severely damage a company’s profitability and competitiveness.” More info, and a free tool, at



Weinig Group buys LuxScan

With the acquisition of Luxemburg scanner manufacture LuxScan, the Weinig Group believes it is set to take the lead in future product development. “With LuxScan, we are integrating a company that leads the way in terms of quality and scanning consistency, and is therefore the best possible addition for us,” says CFO Karl Wachter. The Luxemburg company’s product line covers the whole scanner spectrum for the complete solid wood manufacturing process chain. The goal is to offer completely integrated machine and optimization solutions from one source. More info at



  • Smithco offers dry kiln operators parts shipping within 24 hours on its line of kiln propellers to help avoid downtime.
  • Metso Panelboard GmbH, a supplier of continuous presses and energy plants for the panel industry, has agreed to divest its German panelboard press business and to form a strategic partnership with supplier Siempelkamp GmbH. The parties agree to cooperate where Metso’s front end forming and panel handling technologies will be in line with Siempelkamp’s continuous press technology.
  • According to ACIMALL, the Italian Woodworking Machinery & Tools Manufacturers’ Association, its members saw excellent Q2 2007 results, with sales some 15% higher than the previous year.
  • Carmanah Design & Manufacturing has sold two of its Super Chippers to International Forest Products (Interfor) for its new sawmill in Chase, BC, which will replace the existing Adams Lake operation.
  • Biomass Combustion Systems, a maker of wood-fired combustion systems, announces the UL391 safety re-certification of its industrial wood burning surfaces by an independent testing company.
  • The Structural Panels and Engineered Yearbook is now available from APA – The Engineered Wood Association. The 48-page publication includes US and Canadian softwood plywood and OSB production and capacity, US regional production, panel imports by country of origin, panel exports by destination, glulam timber, I-joists, LVL and much more.

Getting the most from your bandsaw leveler requires doing a few basic things correctly, and ensuring that the machine is properly aligned.  Some key things don’t seem logical at first glance, but do indeed make sense when we look a little deeper. Let’s look at both daily operational tactics, and some common set-up problems to look at when things don’t seem to be working.

Daily Operation
Three things are important in the everyday operation of a bandsaw leveler: Where you get your reference “zero”; how you get your reference “zero”; and how you move across the saw.  It’s not surprising that establishing “zero” accounts for two of the three points. Without a proper “zero”, all bets are off.  Let’s look at these one at a time:

• Get “zero” over the saw support rails (figure 1):  Your leveler is intended to put the saw flat, meaning on a plane. The only plane available is the one established by the top surface of the carbide rails, so the only place you can get zero is directly over those rails.  It’s okay to work on the saw out past the rails, but if you establish your zero reference someplace besides the rails you will likely be telling the machine to move the saw to a plane that the rails make it impossible to reach, unless the saw is perfectly flat to begin with! This will cause ridges over and adjacent to the rails.  


• Get “zero” on the fly:  Equally important in establishing zero is having the saw moving.  This will prevent accidentally setting zero on a bump, which will again have the machine trying to move the saw up to the plane of that bump, a place the saw cannot possibly reach.  When getting your zero this way you should look for your indicator (or sensor) to work from zero UP only, because a bump DOWN cannot move past the rail.  On the machines that use indicators (the pretty red machines!) this means the indicator will work from “0” to the right only, and will not move left of “0” unless you run over a thin spot like a weld.

• Take big steps: One of the important counter-intuitive things we have learned is that it’s vital to take big steps across the saw. If you take small steps, the machine will routinely start seeing bends before it reaches the worst part of the bend. It will then start trying to fix the bend too soon, and overwork the saw.  This will cause a saw in rough condition to end up with hard ridges the machine has actually pushed into the saw – these are hard to get out again, and will waste time.  

The worse shape a saw is in, the bigger the steps you need to take moving across it. For instance, if a saw is dished, set your machine to make a couple of passes at 1" or 1-1/4" spacing to get the dish out, then dial it back to 1/2" and let it have another couple of passes to find the little stuff. You’ll save lots of time and get superior results.  Don’t get caught in the “I really want a flat saw, so I’ll set it for 1/8" advance” trap!  Never set your machine for less than 3/8" or 1/2" advance, and if it’s in tough shape open that up to 1" or more and you will get better saws in less time!

Common Set-Up Problems
If after the above you are not getting the results you need, take a look at some of the basic set-up points on your machine.  A good place to start is checking that you are set to fire at the same tolerance on both sides of zero. We set our machines up to fire the first stage reaction at ± .03mm each side of zero. This is three marks on the face of the dial indicators that we use, and is equal to .0012" (one point two thousandths of an inch!).  This is quite a small tolerance – a piece of notebook paper is about 2-1/2 times this dimension. Setting the tolerance closer will not improve leveling, and may cause the machine to simply shove the saw back and forth.  

The second stage on our indicators is usually set at ± .12mm, which is about .005" and is the point where the machine will add pressure for a bump that is worse than this. It is not terribly critical that this 12 mark second stage is exactly the same both sides of zero. Within a couple marks is fine, but the 3 mark (.03mm) first stage needs to be the same both sides (within 1/2 mark).

Now check that you are leveling as close to the gullets and edge of the saw as possible. Set your limit switches so that you move the large diameter flat on the outside of the female roll over the bottom of the gullet, or the sliver tooth or back edge of the saw. This will get you out close to the edges without damaging the indicator.


Another key is getting the height of the bottom leveling rolls correct in relation to the bed line of the machine (established by the plane of the saw support rails and the drive).  The bottom leveling rolls must be at or just barely below this line (no more than .010" lower).  If the rolls are too high, they’ll lift the saw as they move across during processing, changing the measurements. If the bottom rolls are too low when the top rolls fire, they will drive the saw down, breaking the saw over the leading edge of the saw support rails and causing the tension to pop up (figure 2). If you have to adjust these bottom rolls be sure that you turn them the correct direction to keep their eccentrics mated with their top rolls.  On the left hand roll turn it clockwise to raise it (counter-clockwise to lower it), but on the right hand roll do the opposite – turn counter-clockwise to raise it, and clockwise to lower it.

Worn drive rolls can also cause tight ridges that coincide with the edges of the rolls.  This will start to show up after the machine has many hours of service, but these ridges can be very difficult to get out.  It’s a result of the change in diameter of the drive parts from normal wear, which causes them to become miss-aligned.  When they wear enough for their centre-lines to shift apart a bit, they will start to work like a panning roll, but always bending exactly the same place in the saw, creating small hard ridges.  If these parts wear – replace them. If your machine has a steel top drive, replace it with the newer polyurethane replacement, which will last virtually forever.  

If you have checked all of the maintenance and operating items thus far and still are not satisfied with the results, it’s time to look at how the saw support rails are aligned with each other, and how the head moves in relation to these rails.

The two carbide-faced saw support rails must be flat and they must be set up with their top surfaces parallel to each other. Check for flatness by pivoting the hold down rolls out of the way and laying a good straightedge on the full length of the rail.  If wear is evident, get the rails surfaced or replaced. Now use a depth micrometer to measure from the top of each rail down to the plate that supports them on both the leading edge and the trailing edge (as close to the head as possible and as far from it as possible) and adjust the rails until they are parallel.  These four measurements should all be within .001" – .002" of each other.

Once you are certain that these rails are parallel, you need to establish that the workhead is moving parallel to the plane of these rails.  An easy and very accurate way to do this is by mounting a magnetic base dial indicator on the workhead of the machine, resting the point of the indicator on a straightedge laid across the rails, then running the head in and out to verify that the indicator reads the same on both rails and between them (figure 3).  If you find that the indicator is off more than .005" over the working width of the saw, shim the entire support mechanism that holds the rails in place until you get that movement down to within that five thou.


One important note – don’t let bent teeth confuse you when it comes to what the leveler is doing.  The levelers are indispensable tools, but they cannot level the teeth themselves.  If you see problems in the front quarter of your saws after they come off the leveler, make sure it’s not a result of bent teeth.  Move your saw so that the whole tooth is off the anvil. Does that make the problem vanish?  If so, the teeth are bent down! Move your straightedge back so that it is not resting on the tooth at all. Does that make the problem vanish? If so, your teeth are bent up! You can verify this using your leveler. With the mach­ine stopped, move the indicator right out onto several teeth in the suspect area, one at a time. The indicator will tell you very quickly if the teeth are bent in either direction. You can’t level out that far, but with the saw stationary you can use the leveler to measure.

There are lots of other ways that the operation of a leveler can be impacted by worn parts or bad set up, but the ones outlined above are a solid beginning based on our experience with these machines.  If you go through these steps and still need help, contact the firm that supplied your machine, and they will be eager to help get you running right.

Russell Barratt is a sawfiling specialist with Simonds International, based out of wherever saws are being doctored. He has been involved in filing and sawmill gear for 27 years. This is the third in a series he has written exclusively for Canadian Wood Products Magazine.

Sometimes you need a new, and higher perspective to clear up recurring problems. For years, clearing cross-ups in the infeed deck has been a simple, and recurring, fact of life at the Swanson Group Lumber Mill in Glendale, OR. To Mike Lawless, log yard coordinator, it seemed that continual repaving of the yard around the mill was another of those jobs that, no matter how well you do it, you will soon be doing it again.

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