A revolution in the sawmilling industry was achieved a quarter of a century ago by Donald Laskowski and Daniel Tekulve when they invented the Wood-Mizer band sawmill.
Recently Wood-Mizer formed a division to concentrate on its new industrial band sawmills reflecting its progress since its 1982 inception.
Revolutionary sawmill construction
One of the more novel aspects of the original mills was a patented monorail construction with cantilever head. Until then, most band sawmills had a main frame with two rails upon which the cutting head moved. The only advantage was that is was simply manufactured. The Wood-Mizer design added stability, safety, operator comfort and even a certain elegance.
A straight smooth and accurate cut, even on unstable terrain, became possible. With one side of the sawing head opened, the maximum log diameter it could handle was increased. Safety was enhanced since the operator did not cross the line of the cutting head when removing sawn boards.
Actually, the term ‘monorail’ is a rather loose term because there are two rails on one side of the frame, above and below a single beam.
This innovation catapulted Wood-Mizer into leadership of the portable bandsaw manufacturing sector. Sawmill set-up costs were slashed and the precision and thinness (2mm) of the cut saved wood and energy. Now, a sawmill could be towed behind a small vehicle to stacked logs to be sawn on the spot. Dramatic transport savings ensued.
Efficiency, economy and cut quality became the perceived essence of this technological revolution.
These Wood-Mizer attributes fit easily with global efforts to sustain the environment, claims the company. They meet international waste reduction and recycling goals; contribute to greenhouse gas emission reduction; reduce emission of other ‘pollutants’; enhance forest, woodland and grassland health; and cut the need to harvest more trees in those important forests that are in jeopardy.
Now Wood-Mizer band sawmills are used worldwide, reducing resultant timber waste and providing an incentive to recycle naturally occurring waste. More lumber is currently used from trees destroyed by land clearance, right-of-way maintenance, health & safety felling etc. – which formerly would have been mulched, burned or dumped in landfills. Increased amounts of wood are sawn from timbers, pilings and other components from demolished warehouses, docks and similar buildings. Greater recovery of timber from existing landfills occurs.
Each of these developments represents a fulfilled environmental opportunity. More substitution of steel and concrete for reclaimed wood offers energy reduction opportunities.
The possibility to make marketable products from smaller logs after fire-prone forests are thinned is another benefit through use of the narrow band sawmill technology.
In Great Britain the National Wildflower Centre near Liverpool has reclaimed a four-tonnes beech blown down in the gales using a Wood-Mizer. It was crucial that a portable band sawmill tackled the project. Damage to the land was to be minimized and the narrow paths called for manoeuvrable equipment. The 1.5 tonnes mill, towed behind a 4x4 vehicle drove direct to the fallen beech which was sawn on the spot. Ground damage was negligible. The sawn timber is being used for fencing, barn cladding and carvings for the Centre’s restaurant.
Increasing semi-industrial & industrial wood processing
In the past ten years, emphasis in the use of these band sawmills has shifted to stationary installations processing timber on both a semi-industrial and an industrial scale. This is notable in Europe, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. It became apparent that wood processing could be achieved on a commercial scale after much less investment, disproving the original view that the mills would serve only as mobile equipment. A large proportion of the growth which Wood-Mizer has achieved lately comes from the static processing sector. Middle-of-the-range ‘workhorses’ (the LT40s), semi-industrial LT70s and industrial LT300s (launched at Ligna 2003) have carried this breakthrough.
Modular mill options
Wood-Mizer is one of the first band sawmill manufacturers to offer a modular approach with a series of main frames and cutting heads that have differing functions and allow ‘tailoring’ of their equipment. The scheme, alongside active marketing programmes, has been a key factor in its 20% growth in both 2003 and 2004.
European facility expansion
The growth has funded further enhancements at its European manufacturing facility, notably 1 560m2 more floor area that permits production flow reorganisation. Five existing bandsaw blade production lines have moved into this area and a sixth is on the way as the demand for Wood-Mizer blades continues to increase.
New production equipment
To speed up and improve sawmill component work, a Mazak VTC 200C automatic milling machine from Yamazaki, Japan has been installed at the company's European manufacturing centre in Poland. An automated, multifunctional, high speed, computer controlled Mori Seiki CNC machine – the only one in Poland – has also been brought in.
A gas-fuelled SAICO painting booth now finishes sawmill surfaces. Constant paint temperature, controlled air flow, precise lacquer filtration and ventilation have continued to refine finishes.
Wood-Mizer’s service network
Wood-Mizer now has over 100 sawmill service and distribution centres worldwide. Most representatives are sawyers with local timber industry knowledge as well as experience of the mills and their maintenance. During the past two years subsidiaries have been formed in Great Britain, Scandinavia and Russia.
Now that 150 of its new LT300 industrial sawmills operate around the world, a new division called AWMV has being formed to focus on maximising the performance of their owners’ operations.
The company has become a worldwide operation, with 35 000 band sawmills in 100 countries. The family who mostly own and run it in Europe and the USA, espouse religious principles which are reflected in many aspects of its operations. Wood-Mizer is active in charities and supports missions with the provision of sawmills for building projects. Today, five hundred of these mills are working in religious communities around the world.