Small Scale Manufacturing of Wood Products

Nearly every day, I describe our forest to finished flooring business to another forest owner.  They will then say, "Wow - that is amazing.  That is exactly what I would like to do on my own land."  Then 99.9% say "But I would not be able to do that myself."  Low Forest Esteem and traditional thinking block nearly all forest owners in the United States from actively managing their timber as a profitable business venture.

Today - all the tools, methods, information, and markets are available so forest owners can now see their timber as a profitable business opportunity.  But most forest owners must learn a new confidence that their trees have great value.  Go to the store and buy some wood - realize that this is a very valuable material!  Take a class and work with some wood - realize that this is a very easy material to work with. 

The Three Dimensions of Woodworking

Wood is worked in the three dimensions - length, width, & thickness.  Three basic skills are needed for manufacturing most wood products. 

Ripping wood lengthwise along the grain changes the width of a board.  A circular table saw is the common tool for most ripping jobs.  I also have several band saws , a two blade circular edger saw, and a hand held circular saw for ripping.  The more teeth per inch on a rip saw increases the power needed to cut wood, but a finer cut will result.  Lengthwise cuts are often re-machined later so most ripping cuts are made with a coarse blade and don't have to be perfectly accurate.

Cross Cutting wood across the grain changes the length of a board.  A chop saw is the common tool today for cross cutting.  A sliding compound miter saw is the ultimate chop saw that lets you make compound angles on the end of wide boards.  The older; radial arm saw, reciprocating saber saw, and hand saws  are also common for cross cutting.  Cutting to length is often a final step in manufacturing, so this has to be done with great precision.  Wood cuts easier across the grain, so a saw blade with lots of teeth is usually used to make an accurate and smooth cut, as power is rarely an issue.

Cutting wood to the required thickness is usually done on a planer.  Wide straight planer blades turning at high speed are the normal method, though abrasive planers using belts of sandpaper are also used to make a board thinner.  Smoothing the surface of a board with a planer or sander is usually the last step before finishing a piece of wood.  Our shop has the 16" one side planer, an 8" jointer, a shaper, and the 4 head molder.

These three skills will cover most woodworking operations.  In nearly all custom woodworking, every piece is fashioned using a combination of these steps.  Learn these simple cuts and you are in business!