Tour of an Aged Sawmill that Still Works
Dad, Chuck and I just returned from touring Sauders Mill in St. Anthony. If I learned only one thing when touring a sawmill, that would be to bring ear protection next time.
Sauders Mill is small enough that they custom mill lumber for customers, and large enough they produce about 10,000 bf of lumber on a good day.
As can be seen in the pictures below, most of the machinery is quite old. The owner explained how breakdowns are fairly common with his operation. Because of the age of the equipment, most parts are not manufactured anymore and/or are slow to get in stock. To keep business going when a breakdown occurs, they have a small machining shop on site where they can create most of the parts they might need.
Log Loading Area
A loader with a huge fork bucket dumps logs into a pond. The water gives the logs a quick bath to help wash away any rocks or other debris that might interfere with the cutting. The operator (or bather) guides the logs along with a long pole. He butts a log up to a fence where he then uses a 6-foot chained blade to cut each log to a predefined length.
A hydraulic lift then hoists the sized logs onto a log deck to await the fate of the headrig.
Primary Saw Circular Saw
I mentioned the machinery was old. Did I also mention powerful? The ground shook near the main circular saw. And the gang saw rattled the building.
The primary circular saw is joystick controlled. The carriage is hydraulic fed. It rips the logs into dimensional cants in no time. The cants vary in size depending on how large the log is. Sorry, no pictures of the saw because the area was too dark. (That, and I felt very, I dunno, exposed leaning over a wobbly guard rail to snap a picture.)
The circular gang saw is perhaps my favorite machine there. It can cut up to eight boards in one pass.
Once a cant has been cut by the headrig, the cant travels to the gang saw. The gang saw operator changes the settings of the saw based upon the size and quality of the cant in order to optimize the lumber.
Notice the two tires. This was something the owner’s dad invented to keep the wood aligned. Simple and effective.
The cutoff saw was built by the owner’s dad and it works like a charm. Those old timers sure had ingenuity. It operates by one large motor that uses a chain to spin a shaft. The shaft connects to two very large circular saw blades. The cutoff saw operator simply adjusts the fence to the desired board length and then drops the lumber down a shoot. The blades do the rest.
After being cut to size by the cutoff saw, the lumber slides onto the lumber deck. One guy is able to keep up with the whole operation, which was quite impressive. Since the sawmill cuts various dimensions of lumber throughout the day, sorting the lumber is a constantly changing task. He quickly identifies the length and thicknesses of the board, then stacks it on a neat pile using drying stickers.
All debris eventually makes its way to a conveyor system. The large chunks of are broken to chips after passing through this massive chipper.
Seeing an old sawmill like this was a great educational experience.
As you can see, my dad thought so too. ; )