July through December 1999 - Issue No. 155
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Bennett Lumber:  Putting Technology to Work


It is no secret among sawmill innovators that mill owner Frank Bennett and head filer Larry Hager are among the best people to evaluate and implement new sawmill technology. Just within the last 12 months, Bennett first added an automatic leveler for their circle saws and then switched to Variable Pitch and Depth (VPD) saws on their three band mills.

Larry Hager
Head Filer Larry Hager has reduced the within board deviation on Bennett’s edger saws by 50% since adding the circle saw Leveler.

Bennett has a tradition of successful technological advances. For example, Bennett began Stellite tipping at their Princeton sawmill in the ‘80s and now all their band and circular rip saws are Stellite tipped. Head filer Larry Hager travels 800 miles round trip to Portland, Oregon at least twice each year to attend the Wood Tech show and the Western Filers meeting to keep up on the latest developments. Bennett now produces 350,000 BF (825 cubic meters) of fir and pine lumber per day.

"Within board deviation has been reduced by 50%"

After seeing the prototype of Armstrong’s circular saw Leveler in action, Larry drove to Portland again to test this machine on his saws. "Armstrong’s Terry Blessing is a filer who helped develop their circular saw Leveler, so he showed me exactly how everything worked from a filer’s perspective," Larry explained.

Jim Osborn
Jim Osborn adjusts a No. 4 Armstrong sharpener that has been especially equipped with 5-lobe cams for grinding low vibration VPD band saws. Note the StrongArm II power clamp for smoother grinding and sharper teeth. The gray box facing the camera is an after-market electronic variable speed control for the number of teeth sharpened per minute.

"I loaded the first saw, pushed five buttons and was leveling the saw within a minute. This leveler picks up on imperfections you can’t even see. That saw came out flatter than a brand new saw in just five minutes. The graph makes the machine easy to operate and it tells you exactly how good each saw is at the end of the cycle.

"I loaded the saw, pushed five buttons
and was leveling within a minute"

"At least 60 edger saws must be repaired every day by Delbert Cochrane and Jim Atkinson," Larry continues. "That number could double when the planned curve sawing edger is installed. So we had to have a leveler that processes saws quickly without losing time for different size saws. It takes us less than a minute to switch from our 26" (660 mm) x .080" (2 mm) plate gang saws to begin leveling our .110" (2.8 mm) plate board edger saws. The machine arrived aligned and we have never had to adjust it."

Bennett crew
The crew at Bennett includes back row left to right: Jim Osborn, Delbert Cochrane, Will Neal, quality control supervisor, Monty Mordaunt, band saw benchman and front, Larry Hager, head filer.

"Within board deviation has been reduced by 50% since we started automatically leveling our saws, so Quality Control is almost as happy about the Armstrong leveler as we filers are. The production manager likes that we have also reduced the number of unscheduled saw changes. These improvements are partly a result of flatter plates and partly because Delbert and Jim now have a little more time to concentrate on doing everything perfectly."

"The graph makes the machine easy to operate"

About their other recent technological change, Larry explains "I had heard about VPD (Variable Pitch and Depth) saws, so I drove to the nearby Potlatch mill to see these saws in operation. Head filer Loren Young loaned me one of their saws to try in my mill. That ‘loaner’ saw completely eliminated the diagonal washboard even when we increased the feed rate. Everyone in the mill was impressed. We could feed faster, the lumber was smoother, and there was less vibration. Mr. Bennett approved our switching to VPD saws almost immediately.

Delbert Cochrane
Round saw filer Delbert Cochrane sharpens gang and board edger saws on the PRO-Filer II. The ShapeUp grinding wheel shaping/truing/dressing system, standard on PRO-Filers, is also available for installation on all Armstrong band saw sharpeners.

"I rebuilt and converted one of our late model No. 4 sharpeners to VPD in a workshop at the Armstrong factory earlier this year. The VPD school was as helpful as the Stellite workshops Armstrong service manager Warren Caltabiano leads several times a year. Now I can rebuild an Armstrong sharpener to grind VPD saws in a weekend. My other sharpeners were too old to convert to VPD, so I traded them in for brand new sharpeners."

"It takes less then a minutes to change saws"

Larry has been filing Pacific Northwest sawmills for 25 years, working as a head filer since 1981. Like many of the best west coast filers, he got his start by volunteering his time in the filing room in exchange for a chance to learn the trade. His following comment about his success implementing Stellite, VPD and automatic leveling technology will help anyone who wants to improve their sawmill’s performance. "First make sure your people understand the benefits of the technology."

Jim Atkinson
Round saw filer Jim Atkinson (pictured) and Delbert Cochrane put at least 60 edger saws on the circle saw Leveler every day. It takes less than a minute to change from one size saw to another.


Congratulations to Frank Bennett and the innovative filing crew at Princeton Lumber Co: Head filer Larry Hager; band saw filers Montie Mordaunt, Ron Berg, and Jim Osborn; round saw filers Delbert Cochrane and Jim Atkinson. A special thanks to Larry Hager for his help in preparing this article.

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