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Author Topic: laser sight for square  (Read 8300 times)

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Offline spencerhenry

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laser sight for square
« on: October 02, 2006, 09:57:07 pm »
i do alot of resawing, both new material, and reclaimed. almost all of it is used in beam form for decorative accents such as trusses. the people i mill for have EXTREMELY high expectations of quality, dimensional consistency, straight, and especially square. right now i use a "big foot" square to check the piece for square to the bed. has anyone ever put a laser sight on a mill that will show when the piece is square? not sure how to do it, but i need to find something faster than checking, and walking back the the controls, and then checking again.

Offline DanG

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2006, 11:39:50 pm »
Spencer, I guess I ain't understanding the question too well.  Not sure just what you're trying to square up. ???

I have played around with some mirrors and one of those laser levels that shoots a line, rather than a dot.  That worked pretty good for making a square corner, but somehow I don't think that's what you're looking for.
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Offline Tom

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2006, 11:42:06 pm »
There is no replacing a square mill.  If your squaring dogs are square to the bed and your blade is square to the bed, and nothing gets under the cant, the beam has to be square.
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Offline Brucer

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2006, 12:34:15 am »
I'll second that, Tom. I've become the preferred supplier to the local timber frame business because my beams are so square. I rely entirely on the side stops -- but I make sure to treat them well:
 - grease them every 50 hours so they don't wear and get sloppy.
 - check them for square when I grease them.
 - don't put too much pressure on with the clamp.

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Offline DanG

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2006, 01:19:30 am »
I totally agree with Tom and Brucer, but I still think there's more to the question than that.  Spencer is an experienced sawyer with a good mill, so I figger he's up against something a little different, like resawing old beams that aren't square to start with, while trying to save as much of it as possible. ???  I get the idea that he's trying to square the top of the beam to the bed while the bottom side is irregular, or something like that.  Maybe you could just send the blade down there to check.  It may not be much faster, but would sure save a lot of steps.
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Offline Bibbyman

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2006, 02:25:01 am »
When Mary and I were touring the Wood-Mizer sawmill facility in Madisonville last month, I noted a vertical laser beam striking the face to the sawhead.   I asked the sawyer about it and he commented it was to check the cant for square. I think it was mounted in the ceiling. I dont know if I caught that in a picture or not.
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Offline spencerhenry

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2006, 07:52:18 am »
relying on the stops is not sufficient, for example say that i have one good face, and one bad face that is not flat which may or may not be parrallel to the good face. the bad face for whatever reason is against the stops. it requires a square to check the good face to the bed.
 secondly, the stops are set for square when they are all the way up. when they are less than that, they can be slightly off of square, the height of the clamp also changes how much force is against the stops, and where in the piece the force is, both can change the amount of deflection of the stops. there is always deflection in the stops, unless there is no pressure from the clamp. the requirement for square dictated by the customer allows me virtually nothing out of square.
 i have spent many hours periodically checking every adjustable thing on the mill. the blade is parrallel to the bed, the stops are square to the bed, the blades run true, and are sharp. this is not a question about mill alignment, but rather a way to CHECK if the beam will be perfectly square from face to edge.

Offline Tom

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2006, 10:08:42 am »
I have sawed timbers in that condition and relied upon my eye.  Here is what I did to square it.

I put the twisted beam on the bed and, by sighting down the surface of the blade, got the top surface as level as I could.  I clamped it there and used scraps of wood under it if necessary to keep it steady.

I then Sawed a very thin piece off of the top to flatten it.

Now, having a flat surface, I turned it over, 180, onto the bed and flattened the other side.

Once these two surfaces were flat, I turned it up,90, agains the squaring dogs and flattened one edge. Sighting it, to level it longitudinally, made it square.

The last side was the easiest because I had two square surfaces against squared parts of the mill.

I know of no other way to square a bowed, crooked, twisted or cupped timber.  You have to get one side flat.

Now, I know that you know this, but that's all I can offer.  I use my eye because I'm not in possesion of a piece of technology that will do what I feel needs to be done.  Perhaps a laser will help.

For a customer to give a twisted 2x8 to a sawyer and expect two, square, 1x8's is pretty unreasonable to begin with.  To satisfy someone who is so meticulous that he wants perfection and doesn't understand the job, is a losing proposition. 

Even an edger or straight line saw will fail on occassion because the product moves.

An end-dogging scragg might be the fastest way if one had the money.

To do the job on a sawmill is still going to make you rely heavily on the squareness of the mill.  If your mill is square, then the rest is an art.  The more he complains, the more I would charge. :)
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Offline DanG

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2006, 11:37:10 am »
The more he complains, the more I would charge. :)

That's sorta what I was thinkin', too. ;)
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Offline tcsmpsi

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2006, 12:24:15 pm »
I've worked with a lot of lumber in a lot of building applications.  There ain't but just so much 'square' one should EVER expect in working with wood, most especially structural wood.   

Now, in a machine shop, working with metal, a little closer tolerance, even to an nth degree can be reasonably experienced. 

Wood moves under normal circumstances.  Even if one mills a precisely square board, the expectation of it remaining 'perfect' is not....reasonable.

In the building business, sure it would have made my life much 'easier' to get precise structural wood.   :D

If I paid $200 a bf for a 12"X24"X40' cedar beam, it would still be just a cedar beam.  ;)

I have found it more of a challenge to keep milling square, to keep up with log/cant movement than anything else.
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Offline Larry

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2006, 12:55:47 pm »
I dunno...on my mill the blade is always perfectly parallel to the bunks and never varies.  My log stops are almost always out of square...guess from the beating and use they get.  Spencerhenry, Ive thought about your question before, and never have come up with a good answer.  Laser would be to hard to see, most of the time outside.

I open one face, rotate 180 degrees, make my second cut, rotate 90 degrees to the log stops, and check for square.  At least this way I only have to check one time per beam.
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Offline DanG

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2006, 01:22:17 pm »
I can't think of any way to employ a laser for this, either.  But, the main goal was to save having to walk back and forth to make the adjustments, wasn't it?  Maybe a low-tech solution would be more practical.  I'm thinking that some sort of manual adjustment for the fine tuning, located at or near the point of checking might be more practical.  Maybe a manual hydraulic cylinder(bottle jack) or some sort of screw assembly clamped to the mill would allow you to cut down on the trips.  You'd still have to walk down there, but only once.

Spencer, I agree with the other guys that your customer's expectations seem unreasonable, but judging from your past posts, I'm not sure "reasonable" is a part of the language out there. ::) :D :D
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Offline tcsmpsi

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2006, 01:30:27 pm »
If one, as you mention, has parallel blade to bunk, cuts two bunk sides...then what?

If one already knows the stops are out of square with the bunk/blade, does one shim the log/cant?  Or, would one compensate their stops to bring them into square (welding/adding material, adjustment, etc.)?

I understand that working with hydraulic stops is a bit different than manual, but if I couldn't depend on my stops being within tolerant square, that would be a required fix.


Even with some type of laser sighting device that would somehow give a consistently accurate 90 degree 'plane', how would one compensate the log/cant?  And would it stay and be accurate during the sawing process the full length of the cut?

Tilting bunks?  But then, the potential of misalignment would be the same as the log stops, wouldn't it? ???

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Offline beenthere

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2006, 01:32:38 pm »
I'm wondering how a laser might me used to help keep the third cut square (Following Tom's procedure, after two cuts one should have two parallel sides, and getting the third cut 90 to those sides seems the trick, as the forth cut will be parallel to the third).

If there is slop in the back stops, and they are not square, then some physical form of measuring and truing up one of the parallel faces would be needed. Be it a square or a level, either should work. Re-clamping if the cant is out of square for the third cut.  I can't envision how a laser would help do this task.  ???
I'm with DanG, that something to contact the vertical side of the log, to view when clamping, might work (I am thinking of a short level on a spring-loaded arm that holds the level against the face). Or spring-loaded contact points that can provide a visual reference when clamping and sawing. (and like tcsmpsi says, fix the non-square stops  :) )

Now, running that two-sided cant off to a swing mill, with a vertical saw square to the bunk, it'd be a piece of cake.  :)

But, how can a laser help ???


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Offline Modat22

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2006, 01:56:48 pm »
If you figure out how to use a laser to do what you want. I would recommend looking at Ebay for a 500mw green laser diode. They are bright enough to see in daylight and will melt holes in black plastic bags (thats about it though)
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Offline Tom

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #15 on: October 03, 2006, 02:03:55 pm »
The "stops", "log-dogs", are actually by use "Squaring Dogs".  They need to be square with the bed to cut any type of lumber relatively accurately.  If they aren't square, they need to be fixed.  

They should be stout enough to stand a cant being turned against them, but care should be used, for the sake of the dogs as well as the clamp, to keep pressure only as a tight as necessary to keep from pushing the mill out of square.


The short-cut way of getting by out-of-square squaring dogs is to use a known square item as a fence.  A piece of steel square tube, or a square beam you cut earlier.  Place this against the dogs and resting on the bunks, put the cant against it and use its vertical surface as a squaring dog and then clamp the cant against it hard enough to hold it, but light enough that you don't tilt the fence.

The squaring dogs should have some kind of adjustment to tune them back into square.  Tilting the bed is attacking the symptom, not the problem.

Welding the dogs surfaces would be a last resort.

Either look for adjustments, or, design dogs that have them if yours doesn't.

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Offline spencerhenry

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #16 on: October 03, 2006, 02:48:42 pm »
the method is use for resawing beams is just as mentioned, one flat face, rotate 180, mill second face, turn parallel faces perpendicular to the mill. as noted, the 3rd cut is really the only one of any difficulty. by applying a moderate amount of pressure with the clamp, and then running the clamp up or down ever so slightly, will move the cant a significant amount. probably on a big piece that was relatively square to begin with, the amount of  "adjustment" is easily + or - 1/16" on a 10" beam. while i do think this guy is a little too anal, he has hired me to do what he wants, it also can be done, though his requirements will make his bill rather large.

Offline Tom

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #17 on: October 03, 2006, 03:09:45 pm »
One no-no is to move the cant while it is clamped.  This is a good way to twist it out of square and put undue pressures on the dogs too.

I you are creating "diamond" cants (unsquare parallelograms) then you need to find out what is unsquare about your mill.

If the difference is a big-end/little-end thing, then you need a planer.

1/16 is hardly the width of a bandblade's kerf.  This guy doesn't want timbers to build with, he wants an erector set.  Is he the nail-hammerer or the architect?  I'll bet that he would really be lost if you took his pencil away and made him get out of the air-conditioned car.

Has it been explained to him what the difference is between a Sawmill operation and a Millworks?
Is he expecting you to be a millworks?
Are you a millworks?
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Offline spencerhenry

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #18 on: October 03, 2006, 07:07:30 pm »
my mill is NOT out of square, the issue that i have is a quality control issue. i was looking for a way to not have to walk around and put a square on the piece to the bed. i can mill the product desired, i just want to be more efficient. the people that want the precise dimensions are the craftsmen. i have done a fair amount of timber work myself, and i know how much easier it is to make perfect joints when the material is "perfect". the amount out of square that i am trying to perfect, is usually less than 1/16" in about 10". most people who mill, most people who use material, and all people without a keen eye will never see the "defect"

Offline Tom

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Re: laser sight for square
« Reply #19 on: October 03, 2006, 09:49:55 pm »
Sounds like you're getting ready to invent something.  I don't have a clue. :)

I misread your 10" as 10' and supposed it might be a longitudinal problem.

You're right, 1/16 across is manageable.  I still don't know how you can fix it without doing what you are doing. 

That is what we call a diamond cant and the only way to fix it is to jack up the low side.  That usually makes your product smaller by twice that thickness, Because you have to do it to both opposing sides.
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