Regular Maintenance to Head Saw Keeps Mills Cutting Quality Lumber
Head Saw Maintenance: Proper maintenance of the head saw helps a company cut quality lumber and run efficiently; two hardwood sawmills discuss their routine maintenance.
Date Posted: 3/1/2009
Maintaining a sawmill is important for running efficiently and cutting quality lumber.
In the articles that follow, we talked to two hardwood sawmills running circle saws and asked them a brief series of questions about how they maintain the head saw. They also shared a few other observations and tips about keeping the head saw cutting smoothly.
Each article has the name of the company and a brief description of their head rig, the saw blade, what kind of logs they cut and what lumber products they make. We also asked them what they do to regularly maintain the blade and to describe any other maintenance issues related to the head saw. These two particular companies rely on BH Payne & Company to supply their head saw blades.
Hoffman Bros. Lumber Co.
Gary Graybill, Head Sawyer
Hoffman Bros. Lumber Co. cuts mainly red oak, white oak, maple and hickory. The mill processes logs in 2-foot increments ranging from 8 feet to 16 feet. Most logs are about 15-16 inches in diameter although it can process logs up to 42 inches in diameter.
The sawmill runs a BH Payne & Company blade that is paired with a Cleereman carriage. The head rig is equipped with a scanner and has computerized setworks. The saw runs at 650 rpm; the carriage moves at variable speed, depending on the sawyer.
The blade is 56 inches in diameter. It is an F pattern, inserted tooth blade (52 teeth) with a kerf of 9/32-inch.
Gary sharpens the blade three times a day. “We start at 6:30 in the morning,” he said, so he sharpens the blade at the first work break about 9:30, then at lunch time, and again at 3:15 when they shut down for the day.
At each appointed time, Gary inspects the blade carefully. If necessary, he swages the teeth, using a swedge and hammer to widen the teeth slightly. “Sometimes I don’t swedge them very much,” he said.
For sharpening, he uses a Jockey grinder. “I pull it back into the tooth several times lightly,” said Gary. “I don’t want to burn the tooth.”
He usually uses two sets of teeth per week. Occasionally the guide needs changing.
Gary normally does not replace the shanks when they are worn. “When shanks get really worn, they won’t clean the sawdust out good,” he noted. “We usually feel at that point it pays to put a new saw in.” The company normally uses about two blades per year.
If a blade needs to be hammered or tensioned, he usually sends it to BH Payne & Company. Gary has had the blades hammered and rolled, another method for restoring proper tension. Rolling achieves a better result, he believes.
When asked about routine or common problems, he said, “I feel that’s something, as you get more and more experienced, you learn…When I’m sawing white oak, I file my teeth for less hook in them. That will make the saw not quite as sharp, but it will last longer. Certain kinds of wood, it pays not to feed the saw so fast, like hard maple. I try to watch how I feed it. Poplar can be fed pretty fast.” He tries to feed the log as fast as he can and still cut “good quality lumber.”
“It’s very important to have a saw that’s really right,” added Gary. “To make nice lumber, you have to have top-notch equipment.”
“BH Payne has a super saw,” he said. “They’re the best saw that we’ve ever had.”
RJS Wood Products
Lake Ariel, Penn.
RJS Wood Products cuts Northeastern hardwoods – “a lot of maple and oak,” said Roger. The company produces furniture grade lumber, flooring, pallet material and some railroad ties.
The sawmill runs a BH Payne & Company blade. The head rig includes a Edmiston carriage with shop-built setworks. The blade runs at 575 rpm and the carriage is variable speed.
The saw blade is 54 inches in diameter. It is an F pattern, inserted tooth blade with 17/64-inch kerf. The company uses Simonds teeth inserts.
How frequently the blade is maintained depends on sawing conditions, said Roger. They include how well the logs are debarked, mud and debris on the logs, and other factors. The mill is not equipped with an in-line metal detector, but it has a hand-held metal detector to ascertain if a log contains any metal.
His normal practice is to sharpen the teeth twice per day or swedge them – or both. Roger uses an Andrus hand-held grinder to touch up the teeth.
How frequently he changes the teeth depends on variables, but he normally gets three weeks of cutting before replacing them. He usually changes the shanks every six months, in the fall and spring.
If the blade only needs minor tensioning, Roger will do it himself. Otherwise, he uses BH Payne & Company and Seneca Saw Works for service.
He normally does not encounter any other maintenance issues as long as nothing gets jammed inside the saw, causing it to heat up, said Roger.
“We do the best we can with proper maintenance and sharpening,” he said.
“A lot of mills…have lost the technique of swaging a saw,” added Roger. “That’s why a lot of guys have gone to carbide. They grind them, and when they’re worn out, they replace them” for about $3.25 each. “I’d like to keep the art of swaging a saw alive in the family if possible.”
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