Straight line rip lumber

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Is the added time and waste worth what customers will pay? September 23, 2003

Do you feel that offering straight lined lumber is a big plus today to most retail customers?

Most of our business is retail based, so our orders typically are 100 bf or less. We rarely get asked to straight line lumber, but it is something that we have kicked around as another value added asset to promote future business. What do you charge to straight line lumber for your customers?

Forum Responses
(Value-Added Wood Processing Forum)
It's always nice to get lumber with a good clean edge, butů

First is the waste issue. Why generate more than you have to? It may not be much to start with, but a little adds up over time.

Next, why spend the time if you don't have to? Whether I was in a small shop or in a larger lumber facility, if they didn't ask for it, they didn't get it. It was never a problem to straight line 1000 ft of lumber, but only if that's what they wanted.

I guess for the consumer it would be a value added feature, but most would not understand the waste or board footage lost. If the board had a bow in it and you straight lined it full length, the ends would be narrow. If the consumer cross cut it to rough length first, the yield would be higher. If the board was cross cut first, the consumer could joint one edge. You said your operation was retail, so you might add a saw station that could be purchased for time when the consumer also purchased lumber. Not all employees would be able to run this station, so that might be a problem. The biggest question might be if it would pay or just be a problem.

I charge .08/bdft for SLR. Easy money even with my crappy SLR saw. Around here, bdft is figured before SLR. If you figure it after you have to add about 7% to cover the shrinkage from SLR. I will not SLR the really bowed boards. Too much waste. Most of my competition will, however. Why not spend the time if you get paid well for it? That's what it is all about.

From contributor C:
We do a lot of custom sales of lumber. One of the first questions asked is "How much is your lumber?" Before the conversation gets around to price, I want to know what the lumber is being used for, what the desired lengths are, plus widths and thicknesses. What grade or what kind of defects are acceptable? How quick does the order need to be filled? Quantity of each size? From this conversation, I can make suggestions that might be of benefit to the customer. At the end of this, I can quote a price and time. So I will know if I can sell short boards or if they must be long. Keeps waste to a minimum.

The main reason for using a SLR saw is that the edge is true enough to glue. However, such gluing must be within a few hours; any moisture changes after SLRing will result in an untrue surface and the edge will have to be SLRed again. Further, the surface deteriorates in glue-ability (it is less active) with time. So, in truth, SLR lumber is a waste of time and wood. Perhaps an ordinary ripped edge might be okay and certainly more reasonable. Also, with SLR lumber it is probably impossible to get a true straight edge anyway without long feed tables (in and out) to help carry the lumber's weight.

Most SLR is done to short (22" or so) pieces in manufacturing.

From a yield standpoint, any piece with more than 2" of side bend would benefit from crosscutting in half first and then SLR the two pieces.

I suspect that most requests for SLR are not really needed. The post above has the right approach for sure!

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

From the original questioner:
Gene, how can you provide one straight edged lumber to a customer without a SLR? I am not trying to provide glue line edges to our customers, but one good straight edge so that they have a good edge to rip if required. We are simply trying to weight cost vs. benefit to promote our business and services to present and future customers.

I am considering an older SLR, not for glue line cuts, but good enough to provide us with one good straight edged lumber at the time of purchase. It is hard to rip a 4-6 foot piece of lumber on a table saw without one true edge to work with for most woodworkers.

A rip saw (not a SLR) or sometimes a safely operated table saw or radial arm saw (turned 90 degrees) can provide a good edge for most customers. Getting the feed mechanism so that you can SLR boosts the price.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

I wouldn't even begin to try ripping on a radial arm saw again. Do you value your fingers, Gene? Scary! No table saw could keep up with even a crappy SLR to rip. Been there, done that.

If you think it will add enough value to cover your time, spend the money on an older SLR. You will probably end up like me and want a better one someday, but that's another story. Not all things are as the text books say.

As you probably know, you can't put a straight edge on a crooked board with a radial arm or table saw because both require the use of a fence and straight edge to start with. More importantly, if you do get a SLR, seriously consider a laser also. Will be faster and less waste.

Whenever we get customers that want straight edged boards, we find out how straight is straight. Usually it means putting them on the WM and re-edging. This makes them plenty straight to run across a table saw or jointer.

From the original questioner:
We are a retail operation and do not have milling facilities at hand or have the need for them. We process only KD lumber. I think that a good used SLR is our answer.

How much lumber are you talking about doing at a time? Is the lumber fairly straight or is it really bowed? If it is fairly straight, not very long, and not a large quantity, you might consider a few passes on a jointer to get a straight edge.

That's good advice. I used to use a jointer to edge. It is not a SLR but it is a lot cheaper and a good starting point.