Warning: Dedicated Wide Slabber and Peterson film crew working in the suburbs!
Pete is a Rotorua local who makes money out of his woodworking hobby. He recovers logs for firewood, makes blanks for wood-turning and carving projects, and cuts slabs for benchtops and tables. In 2016, he provided Redwood logs for our Great Peterson Sawmill Demo Day at Peterson Headquarters. Pete’s house in the suburbs of Rotorua is also his business hub. Logs are dropped off here, deliveries are made from here, and chainsaws buzz here.
The other week, he called Peterson’s to say he had a Macrocarpa log, 3ft wide and 8ft long, that he’d like to have cut into slabs.
Peterson’s sawing expert, Chris Browne, suggested he take the Dedicated Wide Slabber (DWS) to Pete’s place. Our Marketing Manager, Layla Robinson, couldn’t pass up the opportunity; “Great idea. Let’s take the camera and video too! We can show how fast and easy it is to set up on the mill ‘anywhere’. Even in the suburbs! I know it won’t take long for Chris to cut that Macrocarpa into slabs. I also bet the neighbours will be happy to see and hear how quick and relatively quiet the wide slabber is, compared to Pete’s chainsaw.”
So, that’s what we do on a sunny Thursday morning in May 2017. The Peterson crew consists of two sawmill operators, Chris Browne and Ash Pari, to ensure reduced/shared work on the wide slabber mill, and three staff with cameras and Go-Pro so we can maximise photography angles. While Layla directs the video footage, Karen and Ezra focus on still photographs of the wide slabber in action.
The wide slabber mill is set up over the log in 5 – 10 minutes. Chris uses a spirit level on the frame ends to ensure that the tracks are parallel and on the same plane. The tracks don’t have to be flat, but they do need to be parallel with one another.
Pete has told his neighbours what will be happening at his place today, and there’s a few people hanging around, waiting for the street-front entertainment to begin.
Chris and Ash line up the mill for the first cut. Pete wants the first slab to be a “bit thicker, half an inch”. Chris lowers the single winch, gets Pete’s approval and starts the DWS.
Pete checks each slab before removing it from the mill. “Give us a hand, this one’s going on the truck,” he says. “Let’s stand this one up against the fence.” He has the neighbour’s kid fill up the watering can so Pete can pour water over each slab and view the patterns. “The wide slabber chain has fewer teeth, not as many as the chainsaw. When the slabber’s been over the log, I can clean off the sawdust with water and can see immediately what the slab’s going to look like. That’s a huge advantage. I can show my customers their finished benchtop with just a bit of water!”
Chris and Ash make 12 slabs from the single Macrocarpa log. Four or five go into the ute for immediate delivery, and the remainder are stood up again the fence. Although Pete has said he has customers for all the slabs, he’s also happy to store product until the right customer comes along.
The wide slabber is working for less than 90 minutes including setup in this residential neighbhourhood. No one seems overly concerned about industrial noise. Pete’s partner sits on the front step and assures us that noise control visits regularly when Pete has the chainsaw going all day. The neighbours will consider an hour of our Dedicated Wide Slabber a blessing. Plus, they’ve had visual entertainment as well.
By 11:30am, we’ve packed up the mill, said our goodbyes, and are ordering coffee before we head back to Peterson Headquarters.