NELMA Ups Educational Offerings With Grader Academy™

NELMA Ups Educational Offerings With Grader Academy™

(Cumberland, ME) – Becoming a certified lumber grader can be a daunting task. The education process typically consists of voluminous amounts of information: the grade rule book, a large binder of information, classes, etc. Followed by laboring over hundreds of boards to learn the dozens of defect combinations that make a grade. But with the introduction of the Grader Academy, NELMA is turning this laborious process on its ear with a first of its kind, multi-faceted, online educational program.

“NELMA works closely with our members to ensure they have the information they need to educate their employees,” said Jeff Easterling, president of NELMA. “From in-mill training classes to regional grading workshops, to the annual Grader Competition, it’s all about education. The Grader Academy takes it to another level by providing necessary information in a visual, easy-to-follow format accessible to mill employees, dealers, and anyone interested in learning more about lumber grading.”

Located at, the NELMA Grader Academy is non-subscription, with no pay-to-use elements. Instead, users can find simple, easy-to-understand grading background information, rules, and more, available 24/7/365.

The Grader Academy program parallels the two most important softwood lumber species and species grouping in the Northeastern and Great Lakes regions: Eastern White Pine and Spruce-Pine-Fir. Courseware, designed to offer a natural learning approach, uses visual images to reinforce all elements of the grading process. Four series are planned: Level 100 – Lumber Characteristics (currently available); Level 200 – Applying Characteristics to Lumber Grades (currently available); Level 300 – Grading Rule Exceptions and Applying Interpretations (Fall 2014); and Level 400 – Advanced Learning: Making the Grade (Early 2015).

Series 200, most recently added to the Academy, ramps up the information sharing with short, 60-second video clips of senior inspectors discussing how to apply learned information to actual lumber grading.

“There are several goals behind the development of the Grader Academy,” continued Easterling. “Key to the lumber industry is satisfied customers. Are the end users getting the grade of material they expect? As a byproduct of the Academy, we hope to raise the level of understanding of the various grades of lumber available from NELMA’s mills by the buyers, which include lumber wholesalers and lumber retailers. ”

Adding an element of fun and extending the reach of the body of knowledge: Above Board™, an interactive game component of the Grader Academy that simulates real-time lumber grading in a mill setting. Offering variable lug speeds from beginner level to more advanced settings, following a simple, free login, the three-level game is available for use by anyone interested in lumber grading. Tournaments are encouraged, and are easy to set up through NELMA.

Audience reach for the Grader Academy is endless, with future graders being the primary target. Beyond them, the information can be used to enrich knowledge bases among existing mill employees, wholesaler or dealer employees, those looking to move into lumber sales positions, and builders or other trades people. The Above Board game opens up the world of grading to consumers, as well.

The Grader Academy and Above Board game are found at

Founded in 1933, NELMA (Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association) is the not-for-profit rules writing agency for Eastern White Pine lumber and the steward of the lumber industry in the Northeast. NELMA is also the grading authority for Eastern Spruce, Balsam Fir, the Spruce-Pine-Fir (SPFs) grouping, and other commercially important eastern softwood lumber species. For more information, please visit and Find NELMA on Facebook at NELMA (Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association) and on twitter @nelma.