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April 1997 - Past Issue


One-man sawmilling

Relatively new in Canada, the Finnish-made Kara circular mill - available in mobile or stationary models - offers an alternative to portable bandsaws.

By John Dietz
Copyright 1997. Contact publisher for permission to use.

Common elsewhere in the world but relatively new in Canada, the Finnish-made Kara circular sawmill is like a fine European car: luxurious, durable and fast. That, at least, is the description offered by its Canadian distributor, Kalle Isokauppila, of Kenora.

Isokauppila owner of Kayville International, has delivered about 15 Kara sawmills in central and western Canada in the past three years. The Kara essentially is a one-man precision cutting instrument.

Stationary and mobile sawmill versions are available. The mill can be powered by electric motor, tractor, or a combustion engine. Prices start at $30,000 Cdn. "The complete one-man mobile sawmill, delivered, assembled - with spare blades and a week of training by a technician - costs about $75,000," Isokauppila says. He adds, "With all the automation in place, one man is capable of what three guys would do on the average mill."

As a small professional mill, the Kara is in a different league from band saws. It's ideal for a family-size commercial operation, or for an association whose members have small woodlots. One-man operation, high lumber recovery from sawlogs, easy and quick adjustment, and precision cutting are its main selling points.

Compared to one-man bandsaws, the capacity is more than double, says Isokauppila. In good conditions, he says, one operator of a Kara mill can produce 6,000 board feet of lumber in a 10-hour day. The yield is up to 790 BFM from one cord of sawlogs.

One Canadian user is semi-retired logger Horst Ambs of Kenora, who purchased a stationary Kara mill in October, 1995. He says the mill is paying for itself and he has used it for jobs that include making 20,000 survey stakes for a pipeline company. Ambs made a jib for the angle cut, running through seven at a time.

"For samples, I piled about 10 2x6s on top of each other, set it on 3/8th-inch, and the stakes came off like bullets. The surveyors went nuts about it. The stakes were so smooth you could write on them with a pencil. At 40 cents a stake, I was earning up to $1,000 a day on that contract.''

The standard Kara mill handles logs up to 30' long and 30'' in diameter . Blade diameters range from 700 to 1,100 mm, with thickness from 3.6 mm to 4.0 mm. Because the blades are thin and the cuts are accurate, Ambs says he can get seven 2x6s out of a 6''X13'' cant.

A blade-sharpening machine attached to the mill (powered by a battery) enables sharpening of the blade in place, with preset angles, in under five minutes. An even pitch is assured by a patented device attached to the riving knife. The 1997 models, Isokauppila notes, will have a new device that automatically sets the teeth during sharpening.

For loading logs onto the table of a mobile sawmill, a log lifter is available; for stationary models, a log feeder can be purchased. Both sides of the mill are free for log infeed and for further processing of sawn lumber.

Ambs chose a stationary model and hooked a 60-hp electric motor to it. He loads a deck with logs and made a device with hydraulic arms to feed the logs onto the sawing table, as needed. On the other side, he installed a conveyor to take the boards away from the table.

On the table, logs are turned to optimal sawing position with a patented hydraulic log adjuster/rotary device. "The rotary device is beautiful," Ambs says. Instead of using a cant hook to turn the log by hand, the rotary device "flips and twists it around like it was nothing." With short, rapid, exact movements, the adjuster's combination of hydraulic rotary head and glide head also will lift slabs and un-edged side boards back onto the table.

Once the log is positioned, the operator activates a block aligner and fastener to hold it in place. The aligner presses the log against a fence of five steel rollers. The fastener pushes four steel teeth into the butt end of the log, preventing it from twisting or moving on the first cut. After the first cut, the flat side is flipped down onto the table, and the fastener isn't needed again.

During cutting, slabs are held in place by a flexible backing wheel. The wheel, mounted in bearings, is handled from the operator's position. The feeding roller, with hydraulic pressure pushing away from the operator, is designed for safety. It's also synchronized to the table movement with an angle transmission, giving even feeding speed. The cutting speed is steplessly adjustable, up to 100 m/minute. Table movement and the block feeding roller are controlled by a hand lever.

Cutting thickness can be adjusted by the operator in seconds, while the table is returning to its start position. The size adjuster, with mechanical, hydraulic or electric power, moves the fence together with the feeding roller andguarantees precision cutting.

Ambs says, "I call it a state-of-the-art sawmill. The lumber from a bandsaw isn't anywhere near as accurate as this.''


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Last modified 06/08/97

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