Woodworking Productivity Optimized by Ordering Ripped Lumber

By Joe Zbicki | Posted: 03/27/2014 11:24AM


The act of ripping hardwood lumber is not new. Manufacturers have been ripping hardwood lumber as part of converting random width hardwood lumber into usable parts for years. Whether it is with a simple table saw or using a more advanced gang rip saw, ripping lumber is a standard industry practice.

What might not be as common is replacing the ordering of random width hardwood lumber with specific hardwood lumber rips designed specifically for your company’s needs.

Industry grading rules alone, which have served us well for years, do not necessarily measure the true value of a board to all manufacturers today. Depending on what you are trying to produce, (cabinets, flooring, mouldings, furniture, etc.), the standard FAS/1F and Common grades leave manufacturers with limited options to control lumber costs.

Many times it is the placement of defects and the continuous lengths of clear fiber in a board, which can be found across many grade levels, that determines the overall board value. So instead of purchasing random width lumber in the traditional grade categories, we believe manufacturers can benefit more from ordering exact widths with the required spacing and placement of defects that would suit their product needs. In other words, have your supplier rip the boards to your specs to maximize the value of each board specifically for you.

Rip Lumber Options

Ripped hardwood lumber categories have evolved in several different options or grades.

SLR1E –Straight Line Ripped One Edge. One full length of the board is completely edged so one side is straight and perpendicular. This is traditionally provided as a product of the grade.

SLR2E – Straight Line Ripped Two Edges. Both edges of the board are ripped providing the blank required with two fence-able edges to work from. This is traditionally provided as a product of the grade.

Custom two-edged rip options are available. These include:

C1F2E – Clear one face and two edges. A sound defect on back face not to exceed 1 inch.

Single Defect – A SLR2E product that can have only one defect in the board.

70% Clear – A SLR2E product that can have multiple sound or unsound defects anywhere in the piece as long as 70% of the board produces clear four face cuts with a minimum size cut of 12 inches.

50% Clear – A SLR2E product that can have multiple defects anywhere in the piece as long as 50% of the board produces clear four face cuts with a minimum size cut of 12 inches.

Key Order Considerations

When working with manufacturers, we recommend the following:

Know your real current lumber yields. Having a true knowledge of your lumber yields can be a complicated process. Many times people only consider the yield reports provided by their saws scanning technologies. This typically does not take into consideration the complete fiber available on the boards. We recommend incorporating a comprehensive yield review which includes measuring the full lumber input into production and comparing it to the full fiber available after ripping in your yield analysis.

Many times we find customers are realizing less than an 80% yield when utilizing random width hardwood lumber even though their machinery indicates something higher.

Think clear lengths instead of lumber grade. The better a company can match the lumber they purchase with the dimensions of clear lengths they need to produce their product, the lower their production costs become. Furthermore, mixing and matching different types and sizes of ripped hardwood lumber products to best suit your needs is a great way to decrease operating costs. Be ready to articulate your need in terms of clear lengths and widths required instead of lumber grade to maximize the benefit.

Determine the board characteristics you must have. If it is number of cuts per board, the length of continuous clears, or something different, know exactly what you need to improve production. By making this a characteristic of each board you will be better able to step out from the industry grading parameters and maximize the true board value.

Editor's note: this article is excerpted from Making a Case for Ripping Hardwood Lumber

Joe Zbicki is a product manager for American Lumber. For more information, contact the company at (814) 438-7888, via email: inquiry@alumber.com or visit ALumber.com.

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