July through December 1999 - Issue No. 155
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First Circle Saw Leveler in New Zealand Improves Quality, Accuracy at Pan Pacific


"We are constantly looking for ways to improve," is how Head Saw Doctor Graeme Basher sums up the operating philosophy at Pan Pacific Industries (PanPac) in Napier, New Zealand. "We keep our eyes open and we are not afraid to try new things. It is the only way to be successful in a very competitive industry"

"Our goals are to reduce kerf, improve accuracy and produce better quality lumber," Tony Ratcliffe continues. Before his promotion to sawmill superintendent, Tony was the head saw doctor at this mill for 11 years. "To be successful in our international market, we need the best ideas and technology from around the world. You will find European, North American, Japanese and domestic equipment and techniques in our sawmill."

"The leveler is helping us turn out better and flatter saws"

As part of their constant search for improvement, Tony attended the Wood Technology Clinic & Show in Portland, Oregon in March 1999. "I went to see how the development of Armstrong's circle saw Leveler had progressed and I was impressed by what I saw. The circle saw levelers I had seen before were too slow, not nearly accurate enough, and weren’t user-friendly.

"The Armstrong leveler is different. Its built-in graph gives instant information on the leveling process. We just press one button on the memory screen to start leveling saws from any of our two gang and two board edgers. It only takes the operator one minute to load and start the machine. A light on the top of the machine tells him when the Leveler is finished making two passes: about 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of the saw."

"The leveler is helping our saw shop crew to consistently turn out better and flatter saws. We have noticed improved accuracy and quality in the sawmill," Graeme explains. "We have a lot of historical information to use for comparison. The key point of measure is ‘within board deviation’."

Hayden Handley
Hayden Handley at the touch screen controls of the Armstrong circle saw Leveler. The built-in graph provides instant information on the leveling process.

The new circular leveler is just one of many innovations at PanPac. Both their quad band headrig and twin band resaw have been Stellite tipped on their Armstrong Autotip since 1988. PanPac installed an Armstrong EQUALIZER band saw dual side grinder – the first in the Southern Hemisphere – at about the same time.

"We have experimented with a 3-tooth variable pitch pattern on some of our bands." Tony explains the difficulty with this technology is that "we don’t have a New Zealand source of laser or waterjet cut band saws, so our options are limited."

"To be successful, we need the best ideas
and technology from around the world"

Another innovation for their circle saws was to recess the center of their guides. "This gives us a better flow of lube between the saw and the guide. It works well for us." Graeme concludes.

"We tried Alternating Top Bevels (ATB) on our edger saws, but went back to flat tops because we started getting too many broken carbide teeth. We have much less breakage with the flat tops." Tony continues "Stellite is less likely to break, but carbide gives us a superior lumber finish. Sixty percent of our output is bought by Japanese customers who are very fastidious about lumber appearance and quality."

Basher and Caltabiano
Head Saw Doctor Graeme Basher (left) and Armstrong Service Manager Warren Caltabiano. Warren recently traveled to Pan Pacific to start-up the first circle saw Leveler in New Zealand.

To benefit the 38 people in the mill, PanPac is also innovative with their workday. "Our morning shift works 6 AM to 2 PM and our afternoon shift works from 2 PM to 10 PM," Tony explains. "If you work the morning shift one week, you will work the afternoon shift the next week."

PanPac was founded in 1971, a joint venture between New Zealand and Japanese companies. In 1993, the company became 100% Japanese-owned, with Oji Paper the major partner.

"The built-in graph gives instant
information on the leveling process"

In November 1997, a NZ$50 million (US$26 million) upgrade to the sawmill was completed. Current daily production of 750 cubic meters (320,000 board feet) of Radiata Pine per day continues to increase. "Sawmill Manager Fred Staples has been very supportive, allowing us to keep up with the technological changes in the saw shop," said Graeme.


Congratulations to PanPac on the success of their new sawmill on New Zealand’s North Island. Graeme’s saw shop staff includes Howard Lane, David Lum, Keith Barrett, Grant Long, Craig Person, Brian Harison, Julian Halbert, Hayden Handley, Shawn Campbell and Mike Lee. Special thanks to Head Saw Doctor Graeme Basher and Sawmill Superintendent Tony Ratcliffe for their help in preparing this article.


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