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Pacific Trail Crosscut Unit Saw Allows 84 Lumber to Crosscut Doug Fir and Remain Competitive
84 Lumber in Las Vegas Chooses Pacific Trail Crosscut unit saw for Crosscutting Lumber

By Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 11/1/2009

Las Vegas, Nevada— Serving the home building market, especially for high volume contractor needs, is different from the pallet business in some ways, but not in others. Both the contractor building business and the pallet business require end trimming and crosscutting large quantities of lumber. The 84 Lumber Company has about 350 stores nationwide; the company specializes in serving the building product needs of home builders. While it may do some over the shoulder business, it focuses on efficiently supplying material for home contractors. This is particularly true of the Las Vegas location that Mike Damato manages.

            About two years ago, 84 Lumber contacted Pacific Trail Manufacturing, Inc. to research its package crosscutting saw options. After 30 years of working in the lumber industry, Mike knew that he needed to explore his crosscutting options. At the time, his location crosscut some of its needs, particularly for smaller orders, but it often contracted out its larger volume cutting requirements. With business getting increasingly competitive, Mike knew what kind of saw he needed. Having seen Pacific Trail saws being successfully used by others, 84 Lumber knew the right supplier to contact. Since installing a Pacific Trail saw at its Las Vegas location, 84 Lumber has installed a few more at other western locations.

            In the Las Vegas market, 84 Lumber specializes in green Doug Fir bought from the Pacific Northwest and western Canada. While they will sell some dry SPF, Doug Fir is the species of choice there.  Mike said, “I wouldn’t buy anything else.”

            Mike’s cutting needs are similar to the pallet industry in that both need significant quantities of lumber cut to specific lengths. They are different in that many pallet manufacturers can use lower grades of material for some of their pallet customers, while typical construction jobs require a consistently higher grade of material. Many pallet companies buy lower grades and high grade them by select cutting; thus they can use lower grades of cut material in lower priced pallets. Because 84 Lumber doesn’t have a market for the lower grade cuts that come from select cutting, it typically buys standard and better or #2 and better lumber.

            Until last year, the Las Vegas housing market was as hot as a fire cracker, but it has really taken a nose dive due to the recession. Since Mike got his Pacific Trail saw running, he has seen business get both slower and smaller. But he believes that business will pick up again sometime next year. Unfortunately, business activity has not improved yet this year. On the other hand, Mike indicates that its Pacific Trail crosscut unit saw stays busy just about all day long. Mike said, “In spite of the slow economy, he has kept his Pacific Trail saw busy; it has really started paying for itself in the last three to six months.”

            84 Lumber sells any kind of lumber product that a contractor needs for home construction. If it’s in a house they can get it. Because large track construction jobs require significant quantities of lumber cut to specific lengths, 84 Lumber in Las Vegas, like many other lumber wholesale yards around the country, needed a crosscut unit saw to end trim and crosscut bundles of lumber.

            When asked if he used his Pacific Trail saw to cut lumber products other than lumber, Mike responded that his crosscut unit saw works beautifully with lumber, but they do not use the right kind of saw chain for cutting panel products with precision. Tom Langton of Pacific Trail indicated that the saw can work efficiently with panel products, but that requires a different kind of saw chain than the one used by 84 Lumber. Pacific Trail supplies carbide saw chain to its customers that cut resin panel products like OSB, MDF, and plywood. Mike buys pulled to length lumber in bundles because random length material does not lend itself well to efficiently cutting significant volumes of specific lengths. There is too much waste if material has not been sorted to length.


Crosscut Unit Saw

            When asked why he selected a Pacific Trail crosscut unit saw, Mike responded, “I had seen Pacific Trail saws in action, and a crosscut unit saw certainly beats hand cutting with a chop saw and stacking when crosscutting a lot of lumber. Recently, we picked up some track work. Our Pacific Trail is working out well.”

            84 Lumber decided to purchase a model Accu-Cut 132-26C Pacific Trail crosscut unit saw. This model has a 1/32” cutting tolerance and a 26’ long carriage. Mike decided not to go with a totally automated system; 84 Lumber just did not need this feature. He chose a model with the in-feed staging option so that the saw can be preloaded while it is making a cut. A vacuum system to capture sawdust is attached to the saw head. This keeps airborne particulate levels in check, a nice feature for a saw being using in a metropolitan area.

            The Pacific Trail crosscut unit saw has an e-stop (emergency stop) on the wire mesh access door, an option on the operator’s platform. When trying to access the saw head or saw chain, the unit automatically stops. It also has a cable e-stop that surrounds the entire saw; if anybody pulls on the cable, the saw shuts down. The operator platform has a protective roof to shield an operator from the sunshine and rain. Protection from the sun in an outside location is important in Las Vegas.

            A waste conveyor system captures all end trim pieces and carries them to a dumpster. Mike disposes of accumulated end trims and sawdust by selling them to either a recycling company or a finger jointing operation.

            A useful preparatory option before crosscut sawing a package of lumber is a FBA-20 flush bump aligner. Tom Langton of Pacific Trail said, “A customer can usually justify the value of a bump aligner if needed length multiples do not leave enough material for end trim cuts. When the customer needs to avoid excessive end trims,  justifying the bumping of a bundle for proper alignment is easy.” Tom indicates that about half the crosscut unit saws he sells include the bump aligner option.

            Mike needed the quantity production of a crosscut unit saw. It has really fit
84 Lumber’s needs. Prior to buying the Pacific Trail, the company was struggling to remain competitive. Mike said, “It was just insane. The manual labor was killing us. We had to use other reman operations. This saw made us competitive.”

            Mike has been very happy with his crosscut unit saw decision. It has solved their problem of efficiently cutting longer lengths into useable lengths for their customer base.

            When asked about maintenance issues, Mike said that quite frankly his Pacific Trail saw has not required as much maintenance as he had anticipated. He had a few bugs initially but soon worked them out. On the rare occasions that a maintenance issue arose, Pacific Trail was there for them. The major maintenance requirements for a crosscut unit saw are cleaning up around the saw and lubricating and oiling the parts on a regular basis. If you know what to look for, you can keep your saw running smoothly.

            84 Lumber recently bought its first additional saw chain since the original six have lasted with just sharpening since it installed the system close to two years ago. They send their blades down the street for sharpening and get 100-125 cuts per blade between each sharpening. They recently sent in their first bar to be reconditioned to bring it back to being straight and true. Both the bars and chains, the major wear items they have to watch, have performed better than originally expected. Pacific Trail provides any needed bar maintenance and service parts. Mike indicates that he had been surprised at how low his maintenance expenses have been. In addition to consistent cleanup and lubrication, they perform preventative maintenance checks weekly. Two employees run the saw.


The Company

            When asked if prefab housing and roof truss markets had impacted his business, Mike said that component plants handle much of this business and that prefab housing has proven itself in some markets. He has been doing track construction business for 30 years. It goes through peaks and valleys, but they can compete today to stay viable.

            When asked if big box stores like Lowes and Home Depot impacted his markets, Mike said that they are not really his competition. They tend to do the smaller jobs, and 84 Lumber typically handles larger construction jobs. 84 Lumber is a nationwide chain of stores that is corporately owned. Mike, manager of the Las Vegas location, indicates that business has grown slower and smaller; these are just signs of the time. There will be winners and losers down the road, but he believes that 84 Lumber will be there to efficiently serve its customers in the end.

Accuracy of a Crosscut Unit Saw

            The Pacific Trail Web site carries an interesting piece on an introduction to crosscut unit saws in its “Our Guarantee” section.

            A crosscut unit saw is also known as a package saw, bunk saw or docking saw. They are basically glorified chain saws. The crosscut unit saw was introduced in the U.S. in about 1985. Since then, the crosscut unit saw design has matured into sophisticated machines never envisioned by the hard hewn loggers and sawmillers of the past.

            If the industry could make a chain saw cut to 1/32” tolerance, the implications were significant. A reman or reload yard could create a whole unit of studs or cut to length lumber in a minute. Cutting tolerances can range from 1/4” to 1/16” to 1/32” and closer, acceptable tolerances in the varied world of many finished wood products. Crosscutting productivity gives good value, but the tolerances need to be consistent. Cutting tolerance is normally what drives the price of a crosscut unit saw. A true 1/32” tolerance P.E.T. cut requires a stationary model which is more expensive.

            Options can be added to stage units to keep the saw cutting while you are loading and unloading. Pacific Trail promotes its commitment to cutting tolerances. Tom said, “We design to support cutting tolerance, fabricate to support cutting tolerance, install to support cutting tolerance, and educate to support cutting tolerance.”

            Pacific Trail’s line of crosscut unit saws includes crosscut unit saws,
deck saws, and paper roll saws to fit just about any crosscutting need. The company has a complete line of bars and saw chains as well as service to keep crosscut unit saw units running efficiently and accurately. For more information, call 800-910-7297.

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