Company finding success in filling machinery niche with its industrial production, think kerf head rig.
When Wood-Mizer launched the LT300 Thin-Kerf Headrig in 2001, one of the company’s goals was providing a more affordable and safer alternative to circle sawmills.
Using circle sawmills with kerf up to .250-inch to break down expensive grade logs can waste up to 30% of the wood, the company noted, a technology that is no longer economically viable.
The company’s second goal in designing the LT300 was to provide a sawmill that was a step up from stationary versions of portable band mills. In the LT300, Wood-Mizer promised increased yield with thin-kerf band blades yet industrial levels of production that small band mills could not deliver.
The Wood-Mizer LT300 was developed to fill a new niche in the sawmill industry – the niche between small, thin-kerf band mills and high-volume, industrial sawmill machinery.
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.
Wood-Mizer Products, known for its line of portable band sawmills, introduced the LT300, believing that it holds substantial promise for markets that require large quantities of affordable lumber.
The LT300 has been well received in the marketplace, according to Wood-Mizer. The sawmill has been on the market a little over 18 months, and the company has sold units throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America and New Zealand. The LT300 has been sold to customers who upgraded from an existing Wood-Mizer sawmill, others who installed complete LT300 systems in new facilities, and some who replaced circle sawmills. Some customers replaced their entire sawmill equipment with a Wood-Mizer LT300 system. Wood-Mizer has some customers who purchased two of the sawmills and run all their lumber through one handling system.
Some customers use the LT300 to saw hardwood lumber for grade, railroad ties or dimensional parts for furniture. Others are sawing softwood for dimensional purposes, using the LT300 for primary breakdown and a multi-head system for secondary breakdown to manufacture material for fencing, pallets and construction.
Wood-Mizer is also able to provide ‘one-stop’ shopping for other machinery and equipment, including log decks, board transfer decks, conveyors, edgers, moulders and dry kilns.
The Wood-Mizer LT300 can saw both grade and pallet lumber at industrial production levels. It can enable pallet manufacturers and other businesses to develop a cost-effective, steady supply of lumber for their operations.
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. He believes it has the potential to revolutionize the small sawmill industry. The LT300 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 Wood-Mizer LT300 is a fully automated sawmill capable of sawing to professional standards. Powered by a 30 hp electric motor, it features a computer-controlled cutting system that acts like an automobile cruise control, maximizing productivity while reducing sawyer fatigue. Built-in setworks keeps lumber accurate and allows pattern-cutting options.
Separate, high-horsepower AC drives for up/down and back/forth movement of the head allow maximum power to the blade. A separate, 7 1/2 hp AC-powered hydraulic pump moves full-size logs with ease, and a chain-type hydraulic log turner rotates either direction with the flick of a joystick.
Wood-Mizer’s exclusive ceramic block guides hold the blade steady in knotty material and are easy to adjust. Modern air-tensioning with gauge is visible from the operator station.
A unique board-return system guides boards, even large cants, straight off the mill. Finally, a movable operator station with joysticks provides optimal viewing of cutting and log handling; cab and air-conditioning are optional. The LT300 is also available with optional in-feed, and out-feed material handling.
The key to the success of the Wood-Mizer LT300, according to Scott, 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,” Scott 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 high-production operations. 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 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.
As for blade maintenance, the Wood-Mizer Re•Sharp program will remanufacture Wood-Mizer DoubleHard narrow bands for $6.50 each.
The Wood-Mizer LT300 and its ancillary equipment hold 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 LT300 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.