UMaine Hosts Grading Workshop for Students

The University of Maine’s School of Forestry hosted a 2-day grading workshop on May 19 and 20, with 20 students and School faculty in attendance. NELMA’s Director of Inspection Services, Matt Pomeroy, and Senior Lumber Inspector, Don Pendergast presented grading information on both Dimension and Eastern White Pine grades in a condensed format. The course included classroom presentations atPhoto3 Nutting Hall coupled with hands-on instructions provided at the University Forest, using the School’s portable sawmill as an integral part of the program to show students how grades develop from tree to log to lumber.

Using samples of 2-inch thick Spruce-Pine-Fir lumber, they learned the basics of evaluating the major characteristics important to grading structural lumber such as measuring knots for cross section displacement, shakes, splits, and slope of grain. The grades of Select Structural, No.1, and No.2 were the focus for instructional purposes. And for Eastern White Pine, students learned the basics of evaluating characteristics in 1-inch boards, such as knot type and quality, pitch & pitch pockets, stain, skip and wane that determine the grades of Select, Finish, Premium, Standard, and Industrial.

In addition, the group heard from Russell Edgar, Sr. Lab. Operations Manager at UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, who provided an update and insight into their Photo1current project of developing strength properties for Norway Spruce lumber. Students were also introduced to the NELMA Grader Academy that included examples of instructional videos embedded within the academy.

“We were impressed by the students’ high-level of engagement and their targeted questions during each segment of the course”, stated Matt Pomeroy. “They certainly came away with a greater appreciation of the knowledge and attention to detail necessary to accurately grade lumber.”

NELMA would like to thank Douglas Gardner, Professor of Forest Operations, Bioproducts, & Bioenergy at the UMaine, for requesting and coordinating this type of on-site, introduction to lumber grading program for students. We look forward to working with the University to make this an annual 2-day event!

Looking for NELMA Grader No. 2039!

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.

NELMA’s expert staff conducts frequent on-site inspections at each mill to ensure consistent quality.

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”Grader Card Image 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.

Current Pie ChartOf this grand total, 303 certified graders are on today’s active list at mills that receive NELMA’s lumber inspection services; 275 men and 28 women.

“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? 

Robbins Lumber Wins 11th Annual Eastern White Pine Graders Competition

Eleven NELMA mills sent a total of 57 graders to the 2014 Eastern White Pine Graders Competition, held Saturday, June 21 at Robbins Lumber Company in Searsmont, Maine. This year’s event would yield a series of firsts, beginning with; this was the first time this annual competition has been hosted by Robbins Lumber since it all began in 2004.

50 Pieces-web

The contest featured the typical 50 stationary boards, previously selected by NELMA’s Inspection staff, and the 5 minute time limit for each participant to identify the grade of each piece. The test boards featured a variety of widths and lengths and included all 5 NELMA Eastern White Pine grades. The mix tallied out as 2 C-Select boards, 6 D-Select, 3 Finish grade, 17 Premium, 14 Standard, and 8 Industrial boards.

To say the total time to complete the grading ID process was important would be an understatement, as this tiebreaker was used 4 times to determine the final Top 8 individuals. Taking First Place was Jason Fuller of Robbins Lumber by a close 17 seconds over Second Place finisher, Matt Chesley of DiPrizio Pine Sales. Val Sanborn of Robbins Lumber took Third Place, edging out Lonnie Kollander of Limington Lumber (Fourth Place) by 9 seconds. Fifth place went to Nathan Edwards of Hancock Lumber’s Casco mill. Sixth and Seventh Place was decided by a 5 second difference between Mike Rafuse of Irving Forest Products and Eric Graffam of Limington Lumber. Gene Black, also of Limington Lumber took Eighth Place, in a tiebreaker over Cheryl Johnson of DiPrizio Pine Sales.

This was the first time that a female grader has finished in the Top 8 in the 11 years of the Eastern White Pine Competition, with Val Sanborn of Robbins Lumber finishing in Third Place. Ms. Sanborn also placed the highest in the Bonus Round that included all Top 8 finishers in a final challenge to grade 10 additional boards. In all, a total of $1,475 was distributed to the winners of this year’s competition.

Another first: Robbins Lumber Company winning the Team title and Bronze Hammer Trophy, with a total score of 69 points.  Second Place for team title ended in a tie between Limington Lumber and DiPrizio Pine Sales with 66 total points. Congratulations to Limington Lumber for placing 3 individuals in the Top 8! Rounding out the Top 5 team scores: Hancock Lumber’s Casco team in Fourth Place (63 points) and Irving Forest Products finishing in 5th with 61 total points.

Our final “first” was the introduction of a “Guess the Number of Knots in the Jar” contest, which featured a packed container of Eastern White Pine knots for participants to test their visual skills. Final guestimates ranged from 31 to 237, with Dylan Blackman of Hancock Lumber @ Casco accurately guessing the knot total of 79.

Congratulations to all 57 participants in this year’s competition for a job well done and taking this opportunity to enhance your skills and meet & mingle with others within your grading profession. NELMA would like to extend its gratitude to Robbins Lumber Company for their generosity in hosting the 2014 EWP Graders Competition. And kudos to the chef for a great lunch!

Photos from the Competition:

Top Individual Winners-web
Top 8 Individual Winners: Matt Chesley-DiPrizio Pine (2nd Place), Jason Fuller-Robbins Lumber (1st), Val Sanborn-Robbins Lumber (3rd), Nathan Edwards-Hancock Lumber Casco (5th), Eric Graffam-Limington Lumber (7th), Lonnie Kollander-Limington Lumber (4th), and Gene Black-Limington Lumber (8th). Not pictured: Mike Rafuse-Irving Forest Products (6th)








Winning Team - Robbins Lumber Company.  Jeremy Wadsworth, Jason Fuller, Val Sanborn, and Mark Cook.
The Winning Robbins Lumber Company Team with Bronze Hammer Trophy: Jeremy Wadsworth, Jason Fuller, Val Sanborn, and Ralph Bean








Final Review of Test Boards with NELMA's Don Pendergast
Final Review of Test Boards with NELMA’s Don Pendergast








How Many Knots-web
Would you guess 79?