What is a sawmill?

A sawmill is a facility that converts raw lumber into dimension lumber for shipment and eventual sale. Prior to the development of the sawmill, locals harvested timber and cut the resulting logs into planks by hand, an often tedious process. Sawmills centralized wood processing in the 1600s, allowing a large volume of wood to be processed in a central location, initially powered by water and later by steam and electricity. Modern high-volume sawmills are radically different from 17th century sawmills, with highly automated systems that rely heavily on computers.


Sawmill: definition

Sawmills are links in the chain of the timber industry. They transform the raw wood which will then be intended for industrialists and craftsmen.  In this article, we are going to talk to you about sawmills but also about the wood industry , this will allow you to better understand the place of a sawmill in the production chain.

Before the sawmill, the forest estate

The first stage of the timber cycle is the exploitation of forests . It is the work of forest workers or loggers who select the trees to be felled according to needs. They choose the trees according to the species, their circumference or their size. They use chainsaws or more sophisticated machines called harvesters to do this, which automates the work. The machine grabs the tree, saws it off at the base and then pulls out all the branches. The logs are then stacked before being transported to the sawmills.

Sawmills, the first step in wood processing

A sawmill is a real wood factory where the logs are transformed to be exploitable by craftsmen or furniture makers. There are so-called integrated sawmills, that is to say that they are part of a whole, for example an industrial group. In this context, they supply their production exclusively to another actor or division of the group which will take care of manufacturing the finished products. Other sawmills operate alone and resell the processed wood.

First, the logs stored in the sawmill will be cut to the lengths required by the specifications. Subsequently, several types of machines are used depending on the expected result. The band saw takes care of cutting the trunksinto trays then comes the edger which is responsible for cutting these same trays into boards or rafters. Some offcuts are reused to make other types of boards, the rest of the waste is intended for the paper industry. All these machines of course produce a large quantity of sawdust which is sucked up using ventilation provided for this purpose. Once the intermediate products from the first transformation are finished, they are stored in a storage area.

Last step, the finished product: parquet, wooden crate or frame

The boards obtained in the sawmill are intended for the furniture manufacturers or specialists in the fitting out of the house who will take care of the last stage of transformation. This consists in giving its final shape to the wooden product, treating it or painting it. Apart from manufacturers, there are also carpenters and joiners who are customers of sawmills. These wood craftsmen transform the wood themselves into tables, chairs, cupboards or frames for individuals or professionals.

More about sawmill

Before being treated, the wood must be classified and sorted. Sometimes this is done at the site of the timber harvest, and other times the grading is done at the sawmill itself. After grading, the logs are debarked and then passed through the head saw, also called the main rig. The head saw roughly divides the wood into boards, which are finished with cutting, drying and planing work to ensure even cutting of the wood pieces. Once the lumber has completely dried, it can be packaged for shipment or stored on-site at the sawmill until there is demand. Waste materials, such as sawdust and wood chips, can be pulped for papermaking or burned to generate electricity.

Working in a sawmill can be dangerous, especially if the sawmill handles a large volume of lumber. Various types of saws are used, along with other heavy equipment, and workers can be easily injured, especially along the green chain, the system of conveyor belts that run through a sawmill to transport advancing timber. In more modern sawmills, operations along the green chain are managed by computer programs that can recognize different types of wood and route them correctly.

In smaller sawmills, the volume of wood processed is much less and employees are usually not as busy. Small sawmills can be owned by small forestry companies, but they can also agree to handle the milling for individual citizens. People can also rent or buy portable sawmills to work on their land. For example, someone wanting to build a log cabin on their property could hire a sawmill to handle the harvesting and processing of the wood, which would make it much cheaper.

Many old sawmills are located near rivers, because the water was used to float the logs downstream from the workings. The traditional use of water to move logs lives on at many sawmills, some of which establish artificial waterways on site to move unfinished timber. Some sawmills have also improved their environmental record by focusing on using a high percentage of the total volume of raw logs they bring in and finding efficient and environmentally friendly ways to manage the inevitable waste from the process. treatment.