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Wood-Mizer Introduces New LT300 Thin Kerf Head Rig
Wood-Mizer has introduced a new sawmill, the LT300 thin kerf head rig; it can saw both grade and pallet lumber at industrial production levels.
By Jack Petree
Date Posted: 6/1/2001
Changes in the sawmill industry over the past two decades and more have had dramatic impacts on the pallet industry as the price, quality, and availability of lumber suitable for pallet manufacturing has fluctuated wildly. The resulting decline in the number of small to mid-sized sawmills has brought some dislocation to the pallet industry, which depends on reliable supplies of relatively low-priced lumber for its profitability.
Wood-Mizer Products, known for its line of portable band sawmills, has introduced a new kind of sawmill that it believes holds substantial promise for markets that require large quantities of affordable lumber.
The Wood-Mizer LT300 thin kerf head rig could help re-establish the small sawmill industry in North America, according to Scott Laskowski, who headed up the Wood-Mizer team that developed the new machine. The LT300 can saw both grade and pallet lumber at industrial production levels. The new sawmill can help pallet manufacturers and other businesses to develop a cost-effective, steady supply of lumber for their operations.
The new Wood-Mizer LT300 has the potential to revolutionize the small sawmill industry, according to Scott. It brings thin kerf technology that has been available for years in the portable sawmill end of the business to the industrial marketplace. In addition, it is priced to encourage small entrepreneurs to enter the sawmill business.
The Wood-Mizer LT300 is designed to be run by only two or three people. It can produce 10,000 board feet of lumber/cants per day — even in hardwoods like oak. It increases yield per log significantly because of the thin kerf technology.
The Wood-Mizer LT300 can be used to start and develop profitable sawmill operations in regions where they have nearly disappeared in recent years, Scott believes. "For less than $60,000, a family business can purchase an LT300 and a Wood-Mizer industrial edger to compete with the big guys in terms of quality," he said. "With production levels of 6,000 to 10,000 feet per day, you can make a very good living, supplying very reasonably priced lumber to the marketplace."
The key to the success of the Wood-Mizer LT300, Scott said, is the blade technology. Thin kerf technology is not new, and Wood-Mizer portable band sawmills have used thin kerf technology for years. The technology has been effective in increasing yield. "But until recently," he said, "no one has managed to get the technology to a level where it could be used in equipment that can truly output at industrial levels of production."
The challenge has been the stress on the blade in a high-production operation. The stress proved too much for traditional blades, and they failed at unacceptable rates. Wood-Mizer has overcome the challenge, according to Scott, by developing a blade technology that can withstand the stress and is affordable.
It is a three-fold technology. The blade itself is made of fine grade steels. The guides incorporate ceramics. And the LT300 uses specialized lubricants. The result, said Scott, is an affordable technology that brings the benefits of an industrial-level sawmill that Wood-Mizer portable mill owners have enjoyed for years.
The blade developed by Wood-Mizer is .055-inch. Heat treating gives it a grain structure so fine that it can withstand the demands of industrial level sawing. The steel is more expensive than other types of steel but the blade is cost-effective because of the increased durability, said Scott.
The Wood-Mizer LT300 is a fully automated sawmill capable of sawing to professional standards. It has a programmable logic controlled, computerized cutting system that maximizes productivity and reduces sawyer fatigue; the system features a sort of ‘cruise control’ during sawing.
Cutting operations are controlled from a movable operator’s station equipped with joysticks. The station is located to allow for optimal viewing of the cutting and log handling functions. Log loading, turning and other functions are all controlled from the operator’s station.
The introduction of the LT300 and its ancillary equipment holds a good deal of promise for manufacturers who have been hindered by lumber shortages, high shipping costs, and regulatory constraints in recent years, according to Wood-Mizer. The loss of small sawmills was a factor in the lumber shortages and rising lumber costs that many pallet manufacturers experienced in the 1980s and 1990s — and are likely to see again in the uncertain future. Wood-Mizer believes a sawmill that can produce 1.5-3 million board feet of lumber per year in hardwoods — and more in softwoods — for a relatively modest investment can help re-establish small sawmills. Some pallet companies may consider expanding — adding a milling operation that integrates their business.
If it seems that Wood-Mizer’s vision for its new head rig is somewhat lofty, remember: not many years ago, when it pioneered portable band sawmills, the machines were considered to be little more than saws for hobbyists. Today, Wood-Mizer alone has more than 27,000 portable mills running; many of their owners use them in a full-time businesses, returning respectable incomes. Add the lumber produced on machines made by other suppliers, and a substantial volume of materials comes from portable sawmills.
In the past 25 years, the portable sawmill industry has grown signficantly, and Wood-Mizer has been a driving force behind the growth. Wood-Mizer’s LT300 may help small to mid-size sawmills become more competitive.
For more information about the new LT300, contact Wood-Mizer at (800) 553-0182, fax (317) 273-7024, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or Web site at www.woodmizer.com.