Manufacturing Basics

tudents ask Bright Wood for homework help every year; most often they want to write a report about their parent's workplace. We created this page just for those Bright Kids who are keen to know more about what we do, how we do it, and the wood products industry. We’ve also included a few links to web sites with more information about lumber and millwork. See our Why Wood page for an explanation of why we believe wood is the best material choice.

Our industry includes primary manufacturers, secondary lumber remanufacturers, and assemblers. Bright Wood fits into the first two categories. Our New Zealand sawmill is a “primary manufacturer” because it converts logs into lumber. Our Oregon plants are called “secondary lumber remanufacturing” operations because we rework lumber into millwork products. Many of these products are sold to assemblers who use them to build doors and windows.

New Zealand Sawmill

BWNZ's Otautau sawmill's main operations include sawing, drying, and planing radiata pine to transform it from logs into lumber.

Logs: The NZ Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry forecasts that the annual quantity of all wood species "available for harvesting will increase by around 10 to 11 million cubic metres by 2020, or 50 percent more than the current annual harvest." The bulk of wood available is radiata pine. BWNZ uses radiata pine logs harvested from the nearby plantation forests of the Otago, Southland, and West Coast regions. Many of these forests were planted on private lands in the 1960s and later. Plantation-grown radiata can mature in just 27 years.Radiata growers take special care to increase the value of their crop by pruning and thinning trees to produce the clearest wood possible.

Debarking: The debarker machine does just what its name implies: It removes the ring of bark from outside the log. This step is important in producing bark-free slabs and protecting saw blades from being dulled by dirt and stones later in the process. BWNZ uses the bark, along with green sawdust and dry shavings, as fuel to heat the dry kilns.

Head Rigging: The initial log breakdown is one of the most crucial steps in lumber manufacturing. The sawyer squares the log by removing the outer boards, called slabs, using a computerized saw known as a head rig. The remaining heartwood block is identified as a cant.

Edging: The edger saw removes excess bark and wane from the slabs and cants. The edger operator's challenge is to remove the least amount of usable wood while ensuring maximum quality.

Gang Sawing: The gang saw makes a series of cuts to the square cant to create multiple lumber boards in one pass. All logs yield select, #1 common, and #2 common grade lumber. An experienced gang saw operator can cut a log in such a way to maximize the amount of higher-grade select lumber.

Trimming: Boards are cut to length and defects crosscut out using the trim saw. The trim operator looks for common defects like splits, rot, and stains.

Grade Sorting: Lumber exits the sawmill by way of the green chain. Here the boards are graded according to Western Wood Product Association's standards and sorted for the dry kilns.

Drying: Drying improves lumber quality and protects the wood from discoloration, rot, shrinking and warping. Boards must be carefully stacked before going into the dry kilns to ensure proper airflow. Bright Wood uses a low-temperature approach to drying and radiata pine units typically spend between four and five days inside the kilns. Conditions inside the kilns, like temperature and humidity, are constantly monitored.

Surfacing: The planer surfaces one or more of each board's four sides and removes any uneven areas or rough edges.

Packaging: Bridiata Pine is typically handled 10 times during its journey from Otautau, New Zealand to Redmond, Oregon. Banding both underneath and above a protective layer of plastic wrap ensures lumber units arrive in the same condition they leave the mill.

And much more. Hopefully now you have a better picture of BWNZ, sawmilling, planing, and kiln drying. This is just a sampling of some of the steps BWNZ people use in manufacturing quality Bridiata Pine lumber products.

Oregon Remanufacturing Operations

Bright Wood's Oregon operations are focused on secondary lumber remanufacturing. The plants rip, cut, finger joint, mould, laminate, etc., lumber to craft the products our customers need.

Ripping: The rip sawyer evaluates both sides of each inbound lumber board. He or she looks for characteristics like knots, pitch pockets, blue stain, etc. The rip sawyer uses a laser or shadow line to visually map out the best rips on each board. Large, clear pieces of wood are more valuable than smaller ones with visible characteristics. Due to the variety and scope of Bright Wood's product line, every piece of wood exiting the rip saw will be incorporated into a quality product.

Cutting: Bright Wood founder, Ken Stovall, once said that a cutter handles more money in a day than a bank teller. So it is no surprise that cutters are some of the most highly trained and respected people at Bright Wood. Their job is to crosscut the ripped boards. It sounds simple enough, but they must balance the need to make the most valuable cuts with customer demand for certain lengths. Bright Wood has developed several unique tools to help cutters quickly make the right decision.

One Bright Wood plant uses optical scanners and computer-controlled saws instead of human cutters. The scanners read all the characteristics on a board in a matter of seconds and send this information along to an optimizer saw whose program calculates the best cuts based on value and order file. The company plans to add more scanners in the future and relocate cutters to other production centers where their skills and knowledge will be welcomed with open arms.

Finger Jointing: Bright Wood purchased its first finger joint machine in 1985. Today the company has 23 finger joint machines; three of them built in-house to suit the company's speed and quality requirements. Finger jointing is the process of cutting rectangles into each end of small blocks and gluing the blocks together end-to-end to form one long piece of wood. Finger jointed material is preferred to solid in many applications because it is less expensive and it can be structurally stronger and more stable. The other big advantage of finger jointing is it creates a sellable product out of small wood pieces that would have been burned as waste 40 years ago.

Moulding: Watching a familiar base or crown moulding being made on a Bright Wood moulder is one of the most interesting stops for a first-time visitor. In goes a square or rectangular shaped piece of pine, fir, or MDF and out of the moulder comes a distinctly shaped piece of trim. The shape of each moulding is called its profile and each moulding plant has its own grinding room to ensure shaping precision. Very few Bright Wood moulders are stand-alone machines. Instead moulders are linked to other machinery by transfer belts so sophisticated products like window sash can be moulded into a shape, cut on the ends to fit together in a window, and moulded again with a finish profile in a matter of minutes.

Laminating: The lamination process is basically gluing two or more pieces of wood together. The most obvious reason is to construct a wider and larger component using small pieces. Like finger joint, laminated product is less likely to warp and it can be stronger than solid. Lamination is also used to apply a clear veneer or other surface to a finger jointed and/or laminated base. The result is a veneered product with the appearance and weight of solid clear wood without the price tag.

Vinyl Wrapping: Bright Wood installed two profile wrapping lines in 2001. Unlike lamination where a flat piece of wood veneer or paper is applied to a flat piece of substrate, profile wrapping uses strategically placed rollers to meld a flat roll of vinyl, veneer, or paper to the curves and corners of a moulded piece up to 16 feet in length. Bright Wood’s profile wrapped products are growing in demand because they offer the cost and performance advantages of finger jointed material, but with the flawless appearance of a solid piece of wood or vinyl.

Additional Information and Resources:

The Discovery Channel explains At the Mill: Processing Timber as part of its How Timber Works series.

Visit the Franklin Adhesives & Polymers' web site to learn about wood adhesives. You’ll be amazed at how many varieties there are and how they differ by application.

From Logs to Lumber video - filmed inside an Idaho sawmill.

What's a Tree Done for You Lately? by Oregon State University's Oregon Wood Innovation Center lists common products we get from trees and explains how they are made.

Western Wood Products Association's Choices: Western Lumber and the Environment -- explains why wood is a responsible choice.