Smart purchasing decisions are crucial, especially when it relates to worker productivity and job site safety. Our competitive business environment, however, often leads to marketing approaches that can ultimately confuse any prospective buyer.
It is unfortunate that the wood products industry has not made your purchasing activity any easier. In fact, the industry has been somewhat negligent in properly educating you, the contractor, about wood plank, and in particular Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL)-type scaffold boards. To be an informed consumer, it is important for you to understand how this engineered wood plank evolved, how it is manufactured, the product attributes and, of course, the crucial questions to get answered when inquiring to purchase.
From the beginning
During the early '70s, environmental pressures and government regulation began to influence the forestry industry. Manufacturers of wood products were forced to evaluate their utilization of wood fiber and seek ways to optimize production yield. This led to the development of environment-friendly, engineered wood products.
In 1974, Trus Joist Corp., Boise, Idaho, began producing a new type of engineered wood known as Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), which is, essentially, a modified version of traditional plywood. Shortly thereafter, McCausey Lumber Co., Roseville, Mich., partnered with FinnForest Corp., Metsa, Finland, to develop a version of Laminated Veneer Lumber. Today, there are more than twenty LVL producers worldwide.
For most manufacturers, production is geared to produce LVL wood beams for residential and commercial construction. Yet, a few have focused more toward producing a select grade of LVL that is made with a special veneer grade composition for industrial applications, such as scaffold plank.
Laminated Veneer Lumber
Laminated Veneer Lumber is an engineered wood product comprised of veneer layers and exterior adhesive similar to plywood, except that the veneer grain is orientated in one direction (unidirectional), not cross-ply or perpendicular to one another.
Some manufacturers purchase kiln-dried veneers on the open market while others peel their own logs, kiln dry the veneers, then select and organize them according to grade quality. The dried veneers are then sequentially fed, relative to grade designation, into the highly automated production line where they are coated with adhesive, slightly lapped end-to-end, and stacked in layers to the desired thickness. The production line precisely controls the exact placement of each veneer, relative to grade quality, and ensures that all lapped joints are dispersed uniformly throughout the entire panel lay-up.
The long continuous ribbon of stacked veneer is then fed through a hydraulic press where, under heat and pressure, they are bonded into a thick, uniform panel known as a billet. Essentially, the billet appears to be a very large plywood panel, but, again, the veneer grain direction is orientated parallel to one another.
Depending upon the production line capabilities, a billet can range from 3/4 to 3-1/2 inches thick, by 24 to 96 inches wide and as long as 48 feet in length. Ultimately, the billet gets precision ripped to width and cut to length relative to the desired product size needed for the specific application.
Obviously, the following description is simplified, but essentially all LVL plants are formatted the same with the exception of some proprietary equipment. This unique manufacturing process provides for a uniform, homogeneous lumber type product with predictable strength. Yet, every mill tries to differentiate by using certain wood species and their own special combination of veneer grades within the lay-up process.