A woodworker’s tools are as much part of the trade as the wood itself. A rather cynical French saying goes that bad craftsmen always just ‘happen’ to have bad tools. However, we think that when the timber you work with is the size or weight of a horse, you’re entitled to some damn good machinery to see your projects through.
From their origins in the mid nineteenth century, a key factor to the success and long life of WL West & Sons Ltd as a company is a keen eye for investment in advanced machinery. Our yard features the highest quality, sturdiest heavy-duty machines available.
From planer tables to huge combination woodworking machines like our brand new MEBOR sawmill, here are six pieces of machinery in which any growing timber business ought to consider investing. We’ve worked with most of these for years; safe to say they’re the best in the business.
6. Weinig “Multi-Rip” Saw
A combination of longitudinal and width cutting, commonly referred to as ‘ripping’, generally makes up the first stage in all solid wood processing. Cutting to size accurately is paramount to all woodworking projects; getting it wrong has massive repercussions down the line.
The multiple blades on this automated saw allow for the size of the cut to be changed while the machine is still running, saving us lots of time and effort.
5. Weinig Unimat 1000 – 7 Head Profile Moulder
Key to a woodworking business with projects as varied as ours is versatility. A 7-headed moulder like our Weinig Unimat allows our joinery department to machine bespoke profiles for each project.
4. Hydraulic Presses
Not technically a machine, but still a very useful piece of kit.
Hydraulic presses of this calibre allow us to laminate (glue) timber together for worktops and table tops.
Using this method we can also laminate beams using a PU adhesive, or external adhesive if needed. We can clamp sections of up to 1.2m wide and 4m long.
3. 5-axis CNC Machine
The latest illustration and design software compared to a toddler’s magic drawing board is the analogy that comes to mind for this marvel.
CNC means “Computer Numerical Control”. The “5-axis” refers to the five directions in which the machine’s cutting tool may move. From the machining centre, the cutting tool may move along linear axes X, Y and Z, as well as rotate on axes A and B.
In the old world, it was necessary to not only draw designs by hand but to also follow them by hand, such that many curves were very difficult to render. But the creativity of engineers needs no longer be frustrated. The CNC system allows for a computerised design to be directly sent to the machine, where an automated cutting tool follows instructions that match the design’s blueprints, themselves created with sophisticated designing software.
As well as ensuring precision to the nearest millimetre, this makes it possible to approach any part of the working material from any direction.
The result? A world of possibilities: with such freedom of movement, our Felder 5 Axis CNC machine can perform complex and intricate tasks to give timber any shape required.
2. Dust Extractor
Be not surprised, reader. Yes, a dust extractor is not only on this list, but damn near first place on it, too. Dust extractors are without doubt the single most important piece of machinery for any timber and sawmill businesses approaching industrial size.
Say your CNC machine is out of order: your lead time may go up but at least you have your premises still standing. If your dust extractor goes out of order, the entire business grinds to a halt.
We love our dust extractor. Without it, we wouldn’t have a business – quite literally. With no extraction system, our entire timber yard would go up in flames every twenty minutes, the way our old one did back in 2018. Steel and flint from the machines sometimes strike sparks into the conduits, which can travel and smoulder out of sight until it’s too late.
Even our replacement extractor system still keeps us on our toes; on occasion, the fire brigade has been called after brief moments of alarm. We’ve learned our lesson: better safe than sorry.
1. Mebor HTZ 1400 Extreme 20
Of course, our huge, brand-new, definition-of-heavy-duty mothership of all sawmills would take the top spot.
Now that our MEBOR HTZ 1400 Extreme 20 is finally in place and fully functional, we’re able to take on even bigger projects. Designed with the planet’s hardest tropical woods in mind, there’s no log this sawmill can’t take (… except maybe giant sequoia or baobabs).
We’ve waxed lyrical about this green monster for months, so we’ll let a video of its capacities do the talking for us.
Second-Hand and Used Woodworking Machinery
Considering investing in one of these or something similar? Try looking for “second-hand” or “used” pieces of machinery. Businesses have to update their equipment every once in a while, but often the machines they replace are still in working order good enough for new users to get familiar with them. Various grades are available to suit different budgets, from fully-rebuilt to simply standard.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to finance an investment by selling your existing equipment, there are plenty of nation-wide companies like Scott+Sergeant that buy used machinery as well as sell it.
We hope this list of advanced and heavy-duty woodworking machinery was informative and helpful.
And remember: dust extractors!
WL West & Sons is a timber merchant and sawmill business with 150 years of experience. We provide timber products and supplies as well as build and install custom projects for our customers.
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