What do you look for when visiting a hardwood sawmill?

From experience, we have found that our customers, hardwood distributors and manufacturers that utilize hardwood lumber in their products, love to visit sawmills. They find it interesting to see firsthand the complete conversion process from round logs to random width and length boards. Sometimes, sawmill visits give people in the industry new insights into how they can order lumber, develop custom grades or even implement technologies into their own operation.

But not all sawmill visits are the same. We have found that people can maximize the benefit of a visit by pre-planning what to look for. We recommend to our customers that they incorporate these four best practices into their hardwood sawmill visits to maximize their time.

sawyerInspect the hardwood lumber first.

Start with the end in mind. Sometimes starting a tour by looking at the kiln dried lumber in the warehouse helps people gain a better perspective on a mill’s overall capabilities. Look for things such as the thickness of the lumber, the widths and lengths that are being produced, look for over length, and take note of the trimming and edging done. By inspecting these types of things you might be able to determine is the mill has the ability to meet any certain criteria you find valuable.

Look at the quality of logs.

The type of hardwood logs sawmill has access to directly impacts the quality of lumber they can produce. Scan the sawmills log piles. Try to take note of the logs size, diameter, length, and overall quality. Typically, is the sawmill is working with larger logs it can be a key indicator that they will be able to produce quality lumber. Also, look at the straightness of the logs. Crooked logs can cause cross grain issues and tapered logs may result in lower yielding lumber.

Take note of the machinery.

Hardwood sawmills use all different types of equipment. Depending on when they were built and how they have been maintained and upgraded you might see numerous type of equipment combinations. Debarkers, head-rigs, and re-saws are all items to observe. Kiln dried lumber sorting capabilities, laser scanners and hand held tallying devices are commonly used today and are things to take note of as well.

Look at the overall cleanliness of the site.

Sometimes, when a sawmill is focused on cleanliness and the safety conditions for their employees it is a good indication that they pay attention to details and care about what they produce.  It is important for sawmills to keep up with the equipment maintenance needed and ensure their employees are properly trained and managed.  These types of general operating practices tend to lead to better results, higher standards and even improved supplier reliability.

What other things do you look for in a sawmill visit? Let us know, we would love to hear from you.

Tony Cimorelli
Baillie Lumber Co.
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