Lets start milling wood! You saw the logs get cut into planks, and you saw the planks get dried. Now it’s time to turn those planks into wood flooring. Off to Balsam Millwork to take advantage of the big machines.
Plane ’em First. Remember that the last machine these boards saw was a sawmill. We’ve got to make them relatively smooth and get them to a uniform thickness. Into the planer they go. They come out about 15/16″ thick, leaving room for the moulder to take off more.
The planer was a monster, 24″ wide with two heads, one on top and one below. We took off 1/4″ per pass. The machine uses carbide insert cutters, 104 per head. There was no slowing this machine down.
Rip to Width. From the planer the boards headed to the gang rip machine. It has three saw blades, a power feed, and lasers that show here the blades will cut. Mike triaged the boards as he handled them, determining if we’d get the most yield by cutting a given board into 3″, 4″, 5″, or 6″ widths. With three blades each cut can produce two boards.
I caught boards on the outfeed side, placing the boards on size-specific piles. At this point the blades are set to produce 4-1/2″ and 5-1/2″ wide boards, 1/2″ wide than their finished dimension. Later we’ll reset for 3-1/2″ and 6-1/2″ rips.
A look inside the gang rip machine. The blades can be loosened and slid along the arbor to hit different widths of rips.
Keeping up with the chips wasn’t easy. We had to stop and swap dust collector bags every 10-15 minutes, and we filled 15 bags. When I say we swapped bags, I actually mean me. How did I get this job? Hmm, pine is delicious.
The other by-product of ripping lots of skinny offcuts. We filled this cart twice. The millwork shop turns a lot of these rips into kindling.The planing and ripping operation took four hours.
Shaped by the Moulder. Here’s what we’ve got. The boards are a little too thick, but thickness is uniform. They’re a 1/2″ wider than their finished widths of 3″, 4″, 5″, and 6″ flooring. Allowing multiple widths provided the most yield from the boards we had. Time to send them through the moulder which will finalize the thickness, machine in the tongue and groove, and put relief cuts in the back.
Moulders have more cutters than Norm has routers! The machine is set to a specific width, and that whole pile of boards is fed through, good face down. Then settings are changed and another width is sent through.
After the moulder each board is “defected.” This means cutting out cracks, large knots, and anything else we don’t want in the finished floor. We didn’t eliminate all knots. It’s pine, after all. There wouldn’t be any floor left.This operation took 6 hours, and we filled 15 more bags of sawdust.
End Matching. The last machining step. Boards are fed in with tongues and grooves on the edges, but square ends.
Boards come out with a tongue on one end and groove on the other, ready for installation.
Contributing Editor Paul Mayer offered to help out (silly man). As he stacks the end matched boards you can start to see what the finished floor will look like. Random lengths, random widths, and random colors.End matching took four hours.
The end result; 2010 square feet of pine flooring. We’ve got 3″, 4″, 5″, and 6″ widths. Boards as short as 9″ and as long as 9′. Net price, $1.10/square foot, and some labor. I’d do this again in a heartbeat. Can’t wait to install it!
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