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Timber processing moves forward in Africa

Timber processing moves forward in Africa A semi-industrial, thin-kerf band sawmill saws a big denya log into saleable boards.

More Ghanaian timber processing set-ups are turning to the thin kerf technique of sawing. Operators explain this with the ability of the sawmills incorporating the technology to deliver high grade boards and beams in an economical and sustainable manner.

As reported in B&FT 17th May, ‘Kerf’ is the term used for the thickness of the cut or material removed by a saw. Too wide, you get more sawdust and less sawn boards or cants. Very narrow, you get less sawdust and as much as an extra board from each log. Hence, theoretically: less trees need felling to convert them to marketable boards. Hence the 'sustainability' attraction.

A smaller kerf also needs less horsepower and cuts fuel consumption. In and around Ghana the thin kerf approach to timber sawing has been used by companies turning out industrial (or semi-industrial) scale lumber. Converting teak for the home market is a principal activity.

One Ghanaian timber processer, Buadac Company Limited in Sefwi Wiawso, saws mahogany, utile, edinam, makore, ofram, wawa and dahoma logs and converts them to boards and lumber, some tongued and grooved, for export. Approximately 4000 cubic metres per year are dispatched to Canada, the USA, Europe and Asia.

The Buadac Company achieves this with a remote controlled, semi-industrial Wood-Mizer band sawmill.

Buabeng Dacosta, the proprietor explains:

"The technique has advantages: reducing waste, cutting accurately, avoiding 'snaking' and processing fast compared with certain big band saws from Europe such as Schultz and others which we used previously.

"Our relatively small thin blade mill can saw very hard woods like denya and even very tricky bubinga", Mr Dacosta adds. Erik Demmer, Wood-Mizer's Accra-based Africa manager comments:

"Indeed, this particular mill combines timber production capabilities of a successful sawmill with a remote control operator standand conveyors and tables for materials handling.

"The remote control stand lets the operator site himself in an ideal position.

From this remote station, he or she controls all aspects of the mill, from log handling, to determining board thickness and controlling the cutting and return movement of the head.

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