Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Canada & Washington Mill Visits PDF Print E-mail

In 2011, we traveled to the Vancouver, B.C. area and Washington State to visit the shingle mills that supply us and came back with many photos and videos to be able to share a view of the milling processes that produce cedar shingles.

While serving the purpose of maintaining quality assurance of the shingles we use, the trip also proved to be very informative and interesting. Most of the mills operate in much the same way as they did 100 years ago and aside from the addition of a few modern production tools, the methods are the same and most of the shingle milling saws are anywhere between 70-100 years old and are still running. Of course regular maintenance and new parts are required but most of the machinery and milling methods are unchanged in many decades.

The mill starts with the raw materials in one of two ways - either from blocks purchased by the mills from woodcutters who process the logs in the bush, often from fallen or downed trees, or they purchase cedar logs which are often floated to the mills via the Fraser River and hauled up the mill deck via cables. They are then cut into rounds and split into blocks. The blocks are mounted on the saws, held firmly in place on a carriage which moves back forth into the path of the saw blade, which is typically 36" in diameter. After the carriage moves back and forth twice for two cuts, a ratcheting mechanism slightly angles the cedar block. After two cycles, the block is angled slightly one way, then another two cycles, it's angled slightly the other way. This creates the taper of the shingle and allows for the even sawing of the block until the entire block is utilized.

After the shingles are sawn off the block, the sawyer places each shingle on a spring-loaded tray which is then pressed down the saw the edge of the shingle square, the shingle is then flipped and the other edge is sawn square. The sawn shingles are then transported via a chute or conveyor to a shingle sorter/packer who packs, labels and straps the bundles. The bundles are then stacked on pallets, neatly manipulated into a very square and even shape and compressed slightly and strapped. Good sawyers are very talented as there is a certain amount of skill and finesse required to mill shingles well, and it's done at a very fast pace in a dangerous and loud environment. Controlled movements and skill are required!