Got an Elsewhere Knot in Your SPF? Let the Grader Academy Help!

In March, NELMA’s Grader Academy expanded once again with the addition of training courses for Spruce-Pine-Fir (SPF).  The 100 Series of courseware is now online, available 24/7/365 for individuals that want to learn more about construction lumber grading.  While the learning modules for SPF will follow similar segmentation as the Eastern White Opening Page Image-webPine courses, there are a variety of characteristics uniquely inherent to the Spruce-Pine-Fir species grouping.

Beginning with the Introduction 100 course, the learning starts with information on “What is SPF and Why SPFs?”  Then begins the introduction of Knots and Wane in Characteristics 101, which includes the answer to what an “elsewhere” knot actually is and how to identify it within a board.  The Series continues with Fiber Failures 102, where timber breaks are defined, then Discoloration Defects 103, where stained heartwood would come into play.  Voids & Distortions and Manufacturing Defects will round out the 100 Series.

As with the Eastern White Pine module, a quiz follows each course to test an individual’s understanding of the information presented.  Any course may be viewed and studied at any time; however each quiz must be passed in order to take the next course quiz.  All it takes is a simple registration to log into the Grader Academy, where the learning progress will be automatically be tracked on a person’s individual profile.

So, an “elsewhere knot”? According to the Academy, “An Elsewhere Knot is any knot in which the center of its displacement (Pith-Center) is not located true to the centerline of the piece of lumber, and the knot does not visibly occupy 50% or greater of a narrow face, and the knot is not occupying both narrow faces.”  Got that?



The Tough gets Tougher – Grader Academy 300 Series

The next level of NELMA’s Grader Training program is now up and running!  Level 300 courseware for Eastern White Pine is the latest installment to this unique online educational series designed as an online resource for lumber graders in-training, experienced graders that wish to maintain their skills, or individuals that want to learn more about the grading.

The 6 courses within the Level 300 series for Eastern White Pine is the next logical step in the learning process, providing guidance on how to handle defects and anomalies within lumber that require further information.  These courses follow the contents of NELMA’s General Definitions and Instructions for Grading Eastern White Pine supplement to the grade rules book.

Remember, any of the individual courses within Level 100, 200, or 300 may be viewed and studied at any time, however, the course quizzes must be taken in sequence.  A simple login is necessary to access this no-fee educational program available from NELMA.  And don’t forget to apply your grader skills in the Above Board game!


Grader Training Screen Shot

Building Products Digest Publishes Eastern White Pine Special Issue

2014 Cover-web2014 marks the 11th consecutive year that Building Products Digest magazine has featured Eastern White Pine in their September issue.  What began as a 4-page news spread in 2004 has grown to a 12-page “Information-Central”, covering the latest from NELMA pertinent to the 16,000+ lumber retailers and distributors that receive the magazine. In addition, ten Association members took advantage of this unique marketing opportunity to advertise their Eastern White Pine product line to these potential customers located in the Eastern half of the U.S.

Articles provided by NELMA include details on the 2014 Sustainable Versatility Design Award, presented annually by the Association to the student architect with the winning project.  The newly-introduced “Wood Geeks” PR program was described, now online at, along with NELMA’s new “Virtual Tour” online marketing tool that provides viewers with a 360 degree look at various ways to use Eastern White Pine in a home. The Association’s Grader Academy, with its ever-increasing educational content, was described within the special section, followed by an article highlighting the revamped website and areas that may be of value to retailers and distributors as a reference information source.

NELMA would like to thank Building Products Digest for this annual opportunity along with the members of the Association that advertised within the September issue.

For a full read of the magazine and the Eastern White Pine Special Issue section, click here.

Grader Academy: Series 200 Courseware

The development of the next level of NELMA’s grader education for Eastern White Pine is set to go live this monthGrader Academy Logo. The 200 series, Application of Characteristics to Grading, is where the rubber meets the road in learning the 5 grades of Eastern White Pine, or should we say where the crayon meets the lumber. As the next logical step after the 100 Series, where the general wood characteristics were introduced, this next educational unit will provide an understanding of how these same characteristics are applied to each grade.


The level of complexity with this section was significant for staff and the developers in terms of depicting a method of online learning that was visually interesting to the users of the program, yet effective as a means of becoming grade knowledgeable. Through the introduction of comparative tables, images, and embedded instructional short video clips, we believe an effective mix of media has been developed for the 200 series. “The video clips in particular will be a key component of understanding some of the more confusing terms when applying characteristics to grading,” according to Matt Pomeroy, NELMA’s Director of Inspection Services. “These selected short visuals with sound bites greatly elevate the ability to understand the written grading standard.”

In June, the NELMA staff and the SOAP Group developers took a day at the HQ Office to video a lucky-13 instructionalYou Tube Screen Image segments that will be included within the 200 series. With most around 1-minute in length, they include information on how to apply the characteristic to a grade in addition to measurement procedures when applicable. Don Pendergast, NELMA’s Coordinator for the Lumber Program and Senior Lumber Inspector provided the expertise and voice-over audio instructions. Click on the image to view a sample clip that will be used in the Grader Academy.

Please note that the 200 series will not be accessible to registered program users until each of the 100 series (Characteristics) is successfully completed.  So if you haven’t already, go online, register and complete the first level to be ready when this next series is made available! And to test your knowledge on occasion, play the affiliated Above Board grading game to see if your score ranks with the best.


NELMA’s Grader Academy is Officially Open!

The Association is pleased to announce its new online program, the NELMA Grader Academy. We are excited about the overall lumber grading outreach that this multi-faceted, online program offers to the Association membership. For NELMA’s Inspection staff, the Academy supplements their ongoing training services provided at member mills. For Grader Academy LogoNELMA’s members, this program will be a 24/7/365 instrument available to all company employees as an educational conduit to better understand lumber grades. And for customers and individuals beyond the Association’s membership, the easy accessibility to learn more about northeastern softwoods is a web link and fingertips away.

The program parallels the two most important softwood lumber species and species grouping in the Northeastern and Great Lakes regions, namely Eastern White Pine and the Spruce-Pine-Fir grouping. Knowing that the typical process of understanding lumber grading rules can be a daunting and boring task, the Academy was developed to incorporate two learning modules to help overcome this challenge:

Grader Training: The courseware follows a natural learning approach that uses visual imagery to reinforce the important elements of grading. A total of 4 series of courses is planned for this module:

Level 100: Lumber Characteristics

101: Knots and Wane

102: Fiber Failures

103: Discoloration Defects

104: Voids and Distortions

105 Manufacturing Defects

Level 200: Applying Characteristics to Lumber Grades (Late Spring 2014)

Level 300: Grading Rule Exceptions and Applying Interpretations (Fall 2014)

Level 400: Advanced Learning: Making the Grade (Early 2015)

At this time, only Eastern White Pine 100 series is available within the program.

Above Board LogoAbove Board: The use of games is a well-known vehicle to speed up the learning process, and lumber grading is no exception. The Academy incorporates an interactive game that simulates real-time lumber grading at a mill setting and includes variable lug speeds from beginner level to more advanced settings.

This program is available for use by anyone interesting in lumber grading. An individual will need to create a login account (a quick process) to access the Grader Training module, however the Above Board game may be played without a login (but your score will not be counted in the High Score list). Creating a login will also provide an individual with a complete record of their grader training progress and a game score history, under the “User Profile” tab.

And as a value-added feature to the Game, companies may set-up an Above Board grader tournament for their personnel at any time by notifying NELMA via email ( or call 207-829-6901. All we need is the start and finish dates and we’ll do the rest!

We encourage everyone to go to and enjoy a new way to learn about lumber grading!


What Happened in Boston Doesn’t Stay in Boston

The Seaport Hotel in Boston played host to the 81st Annual Convention of the2014conBUG Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association (NELMA) on April 10 and 11 with the theme of “Above Board and Online: Where Integrity Meets Technology”. A total of 163 attendees representing 76 companies participated in this largest yearly gathering of the northeastern lumber industry. The meeting began with an Opening Session & General Membership Meeting where a “State of the Association” presentation was given by Jeff Easterling, NELMA President. The membership also held elections for Association Directors and Officers at this session, with Jeff Desjardins of Moose River Lumber – Jackman, Maine elected to a 3-year first term on the Board of Directors. The current officers were re-nominated and elected to fulfill a second year of their term, which included Chairman Terry Walters, Pleasant River Pine – Sanford, Maine; 1st Vice-Chairman Jethro Poulin, Milan Lumber – Milan, New Hampshire; 2nd Vice-Chairman Scott Brown, DiPrizio Pine Sales – Middleton, New Hampshire; and Treasurer Randy Caron, Caron Consulting – Garfield Plantation, Maine.

renderFirst day meetings included the Marketing Committee and the Pine Subcommittee. Jeff Easterling, John Rooks (NELMA’s Marketing Agency, The SOAP Group), and Kim Drew (NELMA’s PR Agency, Drew Public Relations) provided updates on the Association’s marketing projects and activities. Highlights of newly-completed projects included the mobile-version of for smartphones, the revised print advertisement “See the Stamp, Trust the Quality”, recent issues of the White Pine Monographs and accompanying trailer videos, the revised websites and, and the second in a series of “EWP vs.” animated videos, this one comparing Eastern White Pine to PVC Trim.

John Rooks introduced NELMA’s new online marketing promotion, “The Virtual Home Tour”, which showcases homes that have used a variety of Eastern White Pine and SPFs products in their construction. The Tour allows a viewer to navigate a room 360 degrees and includes “pop-ups” that describe the actual pattern, grade, and finish used in each wall, ceiling, or floor Grader Academy Logoapplication. John also introduced NELMA’s Grader Academy, a comprehensive grader training program and grader game that has been in development for more than a year. Each aspect of the Academy, from the first educational module “Characteristics 101” to the courseware quizzes, to the playing of the Above Board grader game was covered in the presentation. A special introductory competition for all Convention attendees was announced, with participation available at gaming kiosks hosted by NELMA’s Director of Inspection Services, Matt Pomeroy, and NELMA’s Lumber Inspection Program Coordinator, Don Pendergast.

Wood Geek LogoKim Drew provided information on PR activities completed or underway on behalf of the Association which included editor contacts with major industry-related media such as This Old House and the Boston Society of Architects. Kim introduced the latest online PR promotion “Wood Geeks”, an ongoing intriguing, question-answering series by important editors and celebrities that may be viewed on the website.

The first day of the Convention ended with the opening of NELMA’s Product and Display Exhibits with 14 forest industry related exhibits available for review by attendees just before and during the evening’s Welcome Reception.

Day Two included meetings of the NELMA Dimension Subcommittee and the Grading Committee. In between these important Association business gatherings, the Sustainable Versatility Design Award Program was held. The naming of the award for this 3rd year annual competition to The Rich Quitadamo Sustainable Versatility Award was introduced by Jim Robbins of Robbins Lumber, a close business and personal friend of the late Rich Quitadamo. This year’s special guest speaker for the program, Jesse Thompson of the award-winning firm Kaplan Thompson Architect, provided insight into competing products with his presentation “Plastic Wood, Maintenance-Free, and the Search for True Sustainability”. Via Skype, Jesse presented the First Place award for this year’s student design competition to Jun Guo, a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Ms. Guo described her winning project, “Shelter House in Chicago’s Grant Park” and outlined the importance of using wood products within the structure.

Following the Design Award presentation and in keeping with the Convention’s overall theme of using today’s technology, a Social Media 101 seminar was conducted. Guest speaker and leading social media expert Rich Brooks of Flyte new media titled his talk, “How Social Media Can Generate Leads and Move More Lumber”. Rich covered the gamut of social media that included Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogging, and YouTube.

The final guest presentations of the Convention were given during the NELMA Board of Directors Meeting. This included Paul Jannke’s Economic Forecast titled, “Are We Out of the Woods Yet: What Are The Main Issues Facing Our Industry and Economy in 2014 and Beyond?”, and an update and important timeline provided by Zoltan van Heyningen, Executive Director of the U.S. Lumber Coalition, regarding the Softwood Lumber Agreement and its fast-approaching 2015 expiration.

A selection of entertainment options was available to attendees during the Convention. The Industry Luncheon featured Humorist, Jeanne Robertson, who utilized her positively funny style to illustrate that a sense of humor is much more than a laughing matter. Also, a theatre trip via trolley to the Boston Opera House to see the award-winning play, “The Book of Mormon” capped off the 81st Annual NELMA Convention.

Full presentations by guest speakers at the Convention will be available for viewing and printing on the NELMA website,  Just login to the “Member’s Area” for access.

Watch for details later this spring regarding the 2014 Fall NELMA Board of Directors Meeting and Golf Outing, set for September 18 & 19 at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort located in North Conway, New Hampshire.