Portable Sawmills, Kerf Ratings and Your Profits

Portable sawmill operators are always looking for ways to maximize efficiency and increase profits, while keeping their costs down.  That’s why it is important to know about portable sawmills and kerf ratings.  This is one area, which can put more money in your pockets without changing your operating style.

When producing lumber, the kerf rating is the amount of wood lost in the actual cut or the amount of wood reduced to sawdust.  For example, if a circle-mill blade is 3/8 of an inch thick, it will have a larger kerf rating than a blade that is only ¼ inch thick.  While this amount might not sound significant enough to make a difference when sawing low volumes of lumber, blade thickness can have a large impact as your lumber production increases.  This is where band sawmills have such a huge advantage over old-style circle mills – bandsaw blades are far thinner than circle blades.

portable sawmill bladeThe only way to lower the kerf rating is to use a thinner blade.  Switching to a thinner blade can be appealing because it will generally cut easier and quicker through the wood making the entire process more efficient. Thinner blades have less resistance than their wider counterparts.  But the real benefit comes out in terms of profit.  Less kerf means more wood produced from the same number of trees.

So, how much difference can a lower kerf rating actually add to production?  In general, you will be able to produce two or three more boards from a tree with the low-kerf bandsaw blade as compared to a circle blade.  Those extra boards translate into more profit; particularly depending on the type of lumber you are producing.   If you are producing approximately 100 board feet per hour this could add up to a significant increase in total production at the end of the day, without having to change anything in terms of your process

There are other potential advantages to lower kerf ratings.  Using a thinner blade means you are able to use a smaller engine.  A smaller engine means lower fuel consumption which in turn means less fuel will have to be transported and maintained on site, depending on where you are doing your cutting. While not a primary concern if you’re working deep in the woods, a smaller engine will also produce considerably less noise.  However, if you’re performing work for a customer on their land their neighbors will benefit from the lower kerf rating as well.

Most portable sawmill manufacturers do offer a range of bandsaw blade options and have the knowledge and experience to recommend the right blade for your particular situation.

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