In 1970, the Association’s process of certifying lumber graders at a member sawmill mill was officially developed into a more formalized process. In the decades previously, NELMA’s inspectors would work with individuals at a mill to ensure they knew the grades and were competent to apply their learned knowledge to the lumber, but no official testing designated them as a certified NELMA grader.
The 2-tier system used today incorporates a written test in addition to a practical test where a minimum of 200 pieces of lumber must be accurately graded either at an “in-line” grading station in the mill or from a stationary lumber pile. Successful completion of the process by an individual results in the coveted “NELMA Certificate of Grading Proficiency” card (subject to re-certification). A total of five different certifications may be obtained by a grader: Studs, National Grading Rule for Light Framing and Structural Joists & Planks, Board Grades for Eastern White Pine, Board Grades for Western Woods, and Timbers.
It’s important to note that individuals certified by NELMA applies only to the specific mill where they are employed. An individual must be re-certified if they move to another mill operation. This differentiation is significant when compared to hardwood lumber certification where once certified it can be transferable.
According to the Association’s records, NELMA’s Inspection staff has certified a total of 2,038 individuals to grade lumber at one of its member mills over the past 45 years. Of this total, men accounted for 1,907 (93%), while 131 women (7%) have been certified since 1970.
“Lumber grading is a profession that demands a unique set of skills within an individual, requiring the retention of large volumes of decision-making information, quick application of mathematical formulas, and fast, yet accurate decision making abilities,” according to Matt Pomeroy, NELMA’s Director of Inspection Services. “Certification is not an easy process and is a critical component to the overall success of a mill in today’s marketplace.”
So, who will be certified grader No. 2039?