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HewSaw Makes the Most of Wood Fiber, Fast

HewSaw is increasing its presence in North America and worldwide.

By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 3/1/2010


ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia — The adage “going against the grain” derived from someone who knew wood (and life). Especially with wood, following the grain yields more productive results.

            Alas, how does one follow the grain when a log is curved, or has a sweep? Sure, the log can be squared to a cant with the inevitable loss of some useable fiber. But there is little to no margin for loss when producing lumber from a small diameter log.

            Enter HewSaw, a machine that brings simplicity, speed and single-pass capability to curve sawing small logs. At the helm of HewSaw Machines, Inc. and HewSaw US, Inc., which are both headquartered (as in all administration) in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, is Ed Mayer. Ed serves as president and general manager at each company. And both entities fall under the umbrella of Veisto Group, which has its headquarters in Mantyharju, Finland.

            Ed started as a HewSaw product manager for a North American distributor in 1991. In 1993, he agreed with the Finnish parent company to work as an independent agent. He helped establish both of the subsidiaries that he now heads, the one in Canada in 1994 and the other in the United States in 1997.

            Yet Ed is much more than a manufacturing and business leader. “[I am] a machinist by trade, [with experience] building sawmill equipment, assembling equipment, installing and starting up equipment,” he said. Indeed, he has managed installations and sold equipment in addition to running companies.

            The main breakdown machine of HewSaw is made in Finland. “All peripheral system components are sub-contracted in North America, as [are] electrical, scanning and optimization, process controls, hydraulics, grinders [and so on],” explained Ed. “The parent company took a strategic business decision not to diversify and concentrate solely on what we do best - developing leading edge small log breakdown equipment. We recognize that diversification may bring in further business, it also dilutes the expertise and effort which compromises quality. We aligned ourselves with other companies of complementary components which have the same philosophy to offer the best of all worlds.” 

            Although Ed’s focus is on North America, he keeps abreast of entries of HewSaw into the global market wherever they occur. “I know of 22 nations” that have HewSaw installations, said Ed. There “may be more.” Swaziland on the continent of Africa is one of the 20 different nations that have claimed HewSaw installations since 2002.

            The popularity of HewSaw machines is anything but surprising. “HewSaw machines can handle the highest diversity of species from all softwood pines, longleaf SYP [southern yellow pine] to eucalyptus from Chile, rubberwood [from the African continent], hemlock from the West Coast [of North America], cedar, hard maple, all oaks, et cetera,” said Ed.

            Its curve sawing capability makes HewSaw a welcome addition to so many facilities. The concept of curve sawing is to follow the grain. All process functions; 4-sided canting, ripsawing, and profiling are processes along the direction of the grain.

            Curve sawing started out as a popular way to approach softwoods and the technique became common for softwood species in the 1990s. Hardwood mills have been a slower adopter, but with the increasing number of small logs, curve sawing is making inroads everywhere.

            As a result, small logs with sweep can be cut along the grain. The idea is that as a board dries out, it will straighten along the grain. The concept has been borne out by research, much of it on particularly twisted wood, such as eucalyptus.

            What the sweep sawing approach means to the bottom line is greater production of coveted lumber. That desirable (and marketable) lumber has more strength, stiffness and dimensional stability than would emerge without the curve sawing.

            Sawyers looking for more grade lumber and more volume from small diameter logs can get a big boost from HewSaw machines. Curve-sawing technology yields more lumber from a single log. Moreover, boards as thick as two inches straighten nicely when dried.

            Several research scientists have completed studies about the advantages of curve sawing. In 2006, for instance, Peter Hamner, Marshall S. White and Philip A. Araman published some relevant results in Forest Products Journal (http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/29368). Their study demonstrated that for hardwood logs with an average sweep of 3.3 inches and greater along 12 feet (base line), curve sawing can increase yield by as much as 12%. With as many as one-third of hardwood logs fitting the “not straight” category, according to the study authors, the gains from curve sawing can be significant.

            Methods for curve sawing tap one of two options. A cant follows a straight path and the saws move to follow the curvature. Or, the cant is rotated through stationary saws. Optimizing and scanning technology make both methods possible.

            HewSaw manufactures many sorts of curve-sawing machines, including an all-in-one design that transforms logs to lumber in one pass. (All our single pass functions this way)

            The features built into all HewSaw machines make the whole truly greater than any of the parts. Based on modular components, HewSaw machines can be configured to fit existing mill space. Above all, the machines are engineered to couple compactness with high productivity.

            HewSaw machines are also designed to be run by a single operator. The speedy and multiple functions of the HewSaw machines have been known to turn heads of fascinated visitors to mills. Multiple functions can be extended well beyond edging with HewSaw modules. It can also be made portable and incorporate a debarker.                   With some ebb and flow, the trend line for the number of HewSaw machines operating in North American has been upward. “We have installed 70 plus machines, but some have been shut down, resold and relocated over the years,” said Ed. “Currently, there are approximately 60 machines operating in North America.” There are “currently 10” HewSaw machines in the United States.

            “Higher producing mills that need to process small diameter logs” are candidates for HewSaw machines, said Ed. In general, he explained, most HewSaw machines are used in “more or less” the same manner as they are in the nation of Finland from whence they came.

            “The biggest difference is that in most other saw-milling areas of the world, [mills] presort their logs first and keep the sawmill process simple,” said Ed. “In North America most sawmills process random logs with scan-and-set.” Wherever customers of HewSaw are located globally, they can anticipate a bump in production.

            Output range is wide, said Ed. But HewSaw mills average “between 80,000,000 and 150,000,000 board feet per year,” he explained. “We just installed [a HewSaw] in a hardwood mill that will be much less [than those big figures], but much higher than normal hardwood production,” said Ed. Softwood, which has a longer history of meeting curve-sawing machines, is processed faster than hardwood.

            HewSaw machines not only add to mill productivity because of their inherent attributes, but they add because of the way they maximize the use of personnel. “We have some lower-producing customers that justify the equipment with higher recovery and simplicity of one operator for the complete mill,” explained Ed.

            Outcomes geared to the needs of an individual mill are part and parcel of the philosophy and business model at HewSaw. “In our organization, we have world-class people with the most diverse experience to help find unique solutions to make customer’s business profitable,” said Ed.

            Moreover, HewSaw can tap a network of partners with which it works to bring the best solution to a customer. Working with those partners, “we propose turn-key systems for complete project integration,” said Ed. It is about “making it easy for our customers,” he explained.

            North American customers can get plenty of assistance with any questions or requests for consultation. “Our main North American office is in Abbotsford,” said Ed. “We have a support office in Quebec. We have a satellite office in [the state of] Georgia.” It is from the facility in the Peach Tree State that HewSaw US, Inc. functions.

            “We are saw-millers ourselves operating our own sawmill, so we know exactly what our customers are going through,” said Ed. HewSaw understands what customers “need to be competitive,” he explained.

            “Very popular in Europe,” said Ed, are mid-size process lines that make short work of logs from four inches at the small end diameter (SED) to 22 inches at the large end diameter (LED). The most popular small log machine quickly breaks down logs from three inches SED to 14 inches LED.

            Like almost every business, HewSaw has been affected by the global recession. “With lower global lumber demands, there [is a decrease in] new project investments,” said Ed. “Our global business diversification has kept us going with projects scattered here and there.”

            As such, HewSaw is poised to grow during economic recovery. “The long-term stable business plan [at HewSaw] is exciting for future potential growth within the sustainable business model,” said Ed.

            Heading up the two Veisto companies dedicated to HewSaw in North America suits Ed because the companies and their parent company are a good fit all around. There is, he said, a “small business attitude with family ownership.” That translates into “having solid values for people, employees and customers.”




 






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