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Cut-Up Lines Reap Benefits of Lubricant
Lubricant a Hit: Pallet companies using Empire Manufacturing lubricant report significant benefits to cut-up operations associated with extended blade life, enhanced blade performance

By Staff
Date Posted: 12/1/2000

Pallet companies using lubricant technology supplied by Empire Manufacturing are reporting significant benefits to their cut-up operations associated with extended blade life and enhanced blade performance.

Empire Manufacturing, Inc. supplies both lubricant and spraying systems to apply the lubricant to cutting tools. The company’s original distribution network was set up for the secondary wood processing market, but in recent years it has marketed to pallet plants and sawmills.

Empire’s water-based Wood Cutting Lubricant (WCL)® is based on a fluoropolymer formula. It protects and seals the cutting surface and adds lubricity, and the water carrier draws heat out from the cutting tool. Empire’s Wood Cutting Lubricant is non-flammable, non-toxic, and will not affect the finish of the lumber.

Empire recommends its technology for bandsaws, circular saws, gang rips saws, moulders, and finger jointers. Performance benefits include prevention of gullet cracking, increased sawing accuracy, reduced guide wear, increased run time of tooling, reduced bench work time, reduced sawing temperature, enhanced saw performance, and increased feed speed.

Empire technology has been used on machines manufactured by various suppliers to the pallet and sawmill industries, and some suppliers are making Empire systems available factory-installed.

Pallet Enterprise first reported on Empire’s product in a 1998 issue in an article on Cahaba Valley Timber Co. in Selma, Ala. Empire’s system and lubricant was paired with a Brewer Inc. thin-kerf gang saw at the pallet manufacturing company. The company, which has an affiliated sawmill business, Cahaba Valley Lumber Co., has been so pleased with the lubrication technology that it expanded its use to other machinery. Empire’s role as a supplier also was the subject of a follow-up article earlier this year.

Other pallet companies have experimented with Empire’s products for their saws and other machinery and adopted the technology for their operations.

At the PalEx plant in Smarr, Ga., the company previously used a lubricating system and a different lubricant on a Brewer nine-head band resaw system but was not pleased with its performance, according to production manager Fred Steffens. He found information about Empire on the Internet and then got a sample bottle of Empire lubricant from Brewer Inc. and tried it out on a Brewer single cut-off saw.

"We used it on a cut-off saw because we run 12-by-12 cants here," said Fred. "We were trying to get the temperature down and cut better on older oak. We tested it and got real good results out of it." The saw ran noticeably quieter. "If it worked real good on a big cut-off saw, I wondered how it would do on a band saw."

The company began conducting tests on its Brewer nine-head band resaw system and later started keeping detailed records on blade performance, Fred reported. The mill retained the spray system but switched to the Empire lubricant last spring.

The PalEx plant operates two shifts; the day shift runs the Brewer system for eight hours, and the night crew, 10 hours. Over the 18-hour period, the Brewer nine-head system used an average of 24.3 blades. Since the company began using the Empire lubricant, the highest average for any month was 14.2 blades in the same time period. The lowest figure has been 11.8. The Empire lubricant has reduced blade use by about half.

The reduction in blade use benefitted the company’s plant in two other ways: increasing production while reducing production costs.

It takes about five minutes to change a blade, noted Fred. Changing about 12 fewer blades per day means the company eliminated about an hour of downtime, so the lubricant increased production by an hour per day. Last January, for example, before changing to the new lubricant, the mill produced 1.3 million board feet of material. In May, after the company was using Empire lubricant, the mill cut 2.2 million. Production costs were reduced.

The company also recently added Empire lubricating systems to other existing Brewer machines, a five-head band resaw line and a four-head line and a cut-off saw that feeds the five-head. Those lubricating systems came on-line in November.

"I would definitely recommend it," said Fred. "You reap a lot of benefits from it."

Bill Hawley, plant manager of Neal’s Pallet Co. in Charlotte, N.C., heard about Empire’s lubricant through contacts with Brewer Inc. at the Richmond Expo in 1998. Bill later called a Brewer customer that was using the lubricant. "He just had rave reviews about it," he recalled.

Neal’s has been using Empire’s spray system and lubricant on a Brewer double-bay gang saw since 1998. "We’ve had a significant increase in production" Bill reported.

As has been the case with the PalEx mill, the blades run longer, reducing down-time to replace them. "I’ve got a lot less down-time," said Bill. "We can run the blades longer." Sharpening costs were reduced 50%, he said.

"I’ve got less blade folding," added Bill, referring to the tendency of blades to bend or ‘lay down’ when going through extremely tough material. Old, dry wood previously "would just destroy the blades," he said. The Empire lubricant has enabled the company to reclaim old material that has been stored in the yard for an extended period of time and dried out.

In addition, Neal’s equipped a Clary Hustler bandsaw dismantling machine with a small lubrication system that dispenses Empire lubricant. "The guys love it," said Bill. "It makes the pallet slide easier and keeps the blade cooler."

At Cahaba Valley, the company now is using Empire lubricating systems and lubricant on all its saws and notching machines. Partnering with Empire, Cahaba Valley has increased blade life, increased output of board footage per set-up, and reduced down-time and blade repair costs, according to Norbert Chabannes, maintenance supervisor. "(Empire) parts and service department have been excellent," he added.

For more information, contact an authorized Empire distributor or Empire Manufacturing direct at (415) 459-2866 or visit their Web site at www.empiremfg.com.

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