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Shoot-Out Showcases Supplier Differences Side By Side
Independent Sawmill & Woodlot Management Shoot-Out featuring Wood-Mizer, Peterson Portable, Baker Products, Lucas Mill and Select Sawmill.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 7/1/2007
While I had seen lots of machinery run in my time, this was my first Sawmill Shoot-Out®, and I found the event to be very enlightening. It’s not a race as much as a showcase of the different approaches and features of the various machines.
Sponsored by Independent Sawmill & Woodlot Management magazine, the Shoot-Out is a side-by-side demonstration event where spectators watch factory teams set up and run their equipment in a timed event.
The first day featured the higher-production, portable bandmills. Entries included Wood-Mizer with its LT70 and LT40 models, Select Sawmill 3620, Baker Products with its 3665D model, the Lucas Mill 830 model and the Peterson WPF 827 mill.
The Wood-Mizer LT70 finished first in terms of speed with the Baker 3665D not too far behind. The rest of the teams finished in the following order: Wood-Mizer LT40, Select Sawmill, Lucas Mill and the Peterson team.
Setup and a little bit of luck had a lot to do with it. The Wood-Mizer and Baker teams used an edger while the other teams did not. Teams without an edger were at an obvious disadvantage when it came to production speed.
While a crew wants to make good time, it also has to be concerned about the quality and the amount of lumber cut. Each contestant has the lumber it produces inspected at the end of the event.
The models in the competition all had various strengths and weaknesses. Here are some observations about each unit and how they performed during the competition.
Wood-Mizer LT70: This is Wood-Mizer’s highest production portable sawmill. According to the manufacturer, you can expect to cut up to 800 board feet per hour. Advanced hydraulics are standard features of the LT70 — hydraulic loading arms, a pair of hydraulic roller toeboards, a hydraulic log clamp, and a hydraulic chain turner which is 40% faster than standard steel claw turners. The chain turner also moves in both directions for added convenience.
The LT70 model allows the operator to precisely set board thickness and blade speed with centralized cutting controls. It also comes with Accuset, AutoClutch and LubeMizer features. It has a 62-HP diesel engine.
Peterson Portable 8” WPF: Similar to the Lucas Mill in design, this model uses a circular swing blade. The Winch Production Frame (WPF) makes the unit very portable and easy to set up. Setting up the WPF is a simple process that usually takes one person about 10 - 25 minutes (two people about 5-10 minutes). The mill can be packed up within about 5-7 minutes.
Vertical sizing is done simply and accurately using one winch, which is positioned for ease of use. You can also double cut boards to 20 inches without turning the mill or the log. WPF allows easy access to the log, while also letting you cut timber from all sides and ends.
While bandsaws do have a thinner kerf, they may not react well to dirt or abrasive wood. Peterson now offers the MicroKerf blade, using 3.5mm kerf tips — the smallest available in today’s market. According to Peterson, the MicroKerf blade offers a thinner kerf with the benefits of circular saw technology. Peterson claims it has been proven to increase cutting speed by 20-30%.
On the 6 inch and 8 inch 4-stroke sawmill models, the cutting heads are designed to be interchangeable, allowing later upgrades. These 4-stroke units can also utilize a unique attachment which allows cutting of tapered boards for exterior weather boarding.
Lucas Mill 830K: The Lucas Mill 830K uses a circular blade instead of a band blade. This allows the operator to cut logs that are much larger than what a typical band mill can process. It requires a lot more manual effort to power this mill than the others covered so far, but it is more versatile and portable. The 830K can even be completely disassembled and reassembled on-site. It can be set up on uneven ground or directly over logs in about 10 minutes. Everything just snaps, clips or sets in place and the carriage can be wheeled over the rails and simply cranked up into position.
Circular blades require less maintenance and last longer than band blades. When its time to sharpen the blade it takes just a few minutes and you don’t have to remove the blade.
The manufacturer claims its five-toothed, thin-kerf circular saw blade delivers excellent cutting consistency and production capability for a manual mill. According to Lucas Mill, the 3/16th inch carbide-tipped blade offers more rigidity and toughness when encountering dirty, knotty, or irregular grained logs and won’t dodge knots and follow the grain like band blades do.
Lucas Mill’s swing blade design lets you mill the face of the board in one direction and trim the edge on the return trip all in one pass.
The 830K is a manual mill. Log handling must be done by hand. The operator has to push the saw through the log. Adjusting the height is done by controls on both sides of the saw cage. This process has to be coordinated or you could cut crooked lumber.
Lucas Mill equipment is sold in the United States by Bailey’s Inc., a leading woodsman supply retailer.
Baker Model 3665D: Designed to handle big logs and tough jobs, the Model 3665D uses a 65-HP Cummins diesel engine. Beefy design and powerful motor make it ideal for professional operators. Full hydraulic operation reduces operator strain and boosts productivity. It has a four-post, two-rail design.
The 3665D will saw up to a 36 inch diameter log. It comes in both 20 ft. and 24 ft. length modules.
Clyde Reed, Baker’s sales manager, said, “Instead of just trying to get the fastest time this year, we focused on getting the maximum yield.” Reed was confident that his team had done a good job as far as getting the most usable lumber while having as little as possible in the slab pile. Nobody knows for sure what the outcome is until the results are published by Independent Sawmill & Woodlot Management magazine.
Select Sawmill 3620: Select showcased its unique double-cut design, which significantly boosts production. This unit is designed for professional operators looking to maximize production.
Select Sawmill uses a broad band unlike the narrow blades that Wood-Mizer and Baker utilize. The broader blades allow for double cutting and can improve accuracy. The downside is that blade and maintenance cost can be much higher with this kind of blade.
Although it was the first year that Select had entered the Shoot-Out, its sawmill cut around two feet per second.
Luc Tourangeau, sales manager for Select Sawmill, said, “We were cutting faster than the other teams, but we did not use an edger, which slowed us down.”
Tourangeau was also pleased with the accuracy of the 3620 model. He said, ‘We cut 600 board feet and you couldn’t find a wavy board in the lot.”
Select has a larger unit in its 4221 model and is planning on coming out with a single-cut, 2-inch model by the end of the summer.
Wood-Mizer LT40: Offers hydraulic log handling and operation without some of the extras on the larger LT70 model. Hydraulics eliminate heavy lifting and boost production because the machine does more of the work. It can cut up to 400 board feet per hour. The LT40 model is a step up from the manual mills. It is a walk-behind mill whereas the sawyer is stationary with the LT70 design.
The LT40 uses the typical Wood-Mizer monorail system instead of a four-post design that can require more precise setup. According to Wood-Mizer, the monorail system ensures that the cutting head will always follow a straight-line. Wood-Mizer claims the monorail design will cut accurately even if the log deck is not completely level. Wood-Mizer also claims its unique design can improve visibility and safety while reducing strain for the operator.
The LT40 performed well in the contest even though it was not as fast as some of the other more powerful models.
Day Two — Smaller Portable Mills
The second day of the competition featured the smaller sawmills designed for more casual use. The participants included (in order of when they finished): Wood-Mizer LT28, Wood-Mizer LT15, Baker 18HD, Lucas Mill and the Peterson SKILLKILL.
The Wood-Mizer LT28 offers more productivity than its younger sibling, the LT15, but it barely finished before the LT15 team because they worked very quickly.
The LT15 was set up on the ground as more of a stationary mill. Keeping everything low to the ground made it easier to handle the logs and maximize the production from the machine.
Beyond just speed, the LT15 was going for the lowest possible cost per board foot as possible. Dave Scott of Wood-Mizer operated the saw. He said, “Always start with the end in mind. Then roll your cut toward that target.”
The 18HD is Baker’s top of the line manual mill. It has a permanent trailer package. It is designed to saw logs up to 30 inches in diameter x 20 ft.6 in. long. It also features an easy-to-read, vertically-mounted blade height indicator. Known as a heavy-duty manual mill, it has leg posts made with 2 x 6 inch tubular steel.
The sling blade design eliminated log turning for both the Lucas Mill and the SKILLMILL operators. The only electric mill in this competition was the SKILLMILL. Some operators prefer electric mills because they produce no smoke and minimal noise.
Peterson showcased its new SKILLMILL by having the first female sawyer ever in the competition. Kerris Browne, owner/CEO of Peterson Global Sales Ltd., operated the SKILLMILL by herself. She said that she ran the mill to show how easy it is to use without expending a lot of energy. It’s perfect for the person who wants to cut lumber in the garage and is one of the least expensive mills available.
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