Australia: This radial sawmill makes a concept a reality with timber technology

The logs are first cut into wedges, which are then converted into boards. Photo credit: Tim Lee/ABC News

“Basically we cut up timber differently to other people,” Chris McEvoy, a wood scientist formerly with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and now a joint owner of Radial Timber. (Hyperlink Radial Timber on website) “We cut it up like a pizza or cake, so we’re getting round logs and cutting them into wedges and turning those wedges into boards.”

The boards in question, though, are more stable and durable than timber sawn through conventional means, as the radial cutting technique helps to counter against the natural stresses and strains that cause timber to warp. But it can also convert the smaller logs into useful timber, making it valuable in Australia’s emerging plantation-grown timber industry, and advocates are of the belief that it will quicken the shift from the current dependence on native woodland.

Radial Sawmill, the conclusion of thirty years of innovation and circumspect development, took the progressive idea of radial sawing and made it a reality.

“I’ve always said that once our demand exceeds our supply that really proves that the technology can work and the product can be accepted in the marketplace, so that slow build has been good for us because we’ve been able to iron out any bugs,” McEvoy explained. “And we’ve been able to really develop the technology and the end result is this mill which is going to cut a lot of timber for a long time.”

The radial sawmill uses lasers to ensure the sawblades are aligned. Photo credit: Tim Lee/ABC News

The technology originated in the tall eucalyptus forests that flourish nearby, when inventor and conservationist Andy Knorr grew weary of watching prime sawlogs make their way to a woodchip mill in the district. He came up with a precursor mill that used to 80 per cent of a log, around twice the amount conventional milling uses.

He is still seeking ways to improve on the technology, but a few years ago, he sold his mill in Yarram, a small town in Victoria, Australia, to McEvoy and a few other investors who saw the possibility and integrity of radial sawmilling.

Now, leading architects in Australia are ardent advocates for radial timber.

“Architects have taken our product and taken it to a whole new level,” McEvoy said. “They’ve actually given us even more confidence in our product in what it can do and use it in some amazing designs.”

Some of the designs have gone on to win design awards on the national stage and the timber has gained a following for its aesthetic appeal, durability, and environmental friendliness.

Timber sawn radially is swiftly gaining popularity with architects. Photo credit: Tim Lee/ABC News

Additionally, in Yarram, the new mill spells 15 new jobs in a geographical location where employment can be hard to come by.

McEvoy stated he had never doubt the technology, or that it would work, but he did admit to be constantly surprised by the success of the business. “Probably our biggest area of sales now is inner city. It used to be very rural and used to be very like farm sheds. Now we’re basically the cutting edge of inner city architecture, which is fantastic.”


Source: ABC News