The Sawguide Reformation: Why the Industry Needs to Change

POST DATE Jun 27, 2017


This year marks the 500th anniversary of an extremely annoyed monk who nailed a list onto a church door because he was fed up with the Roman Catholic church.

That monk was Martin Luther and the church was the castle church in Wittenberg. This act was part of what we now call the Reformation. Martin Luther had enough of what the church was preaching and decided to do something about it. It started a huge snowball effect on the course of history.

I may not be a monk, but I’m fed up and I have a list of reasons why.


The Sawguide Reformation

“Fed up” doesn’t really begin to cover the depths of my annoyance at certain suppliers in the sawmill industry. The ones who endlessly pontificate about their products, while at the same time provide customers with incorrect information. 

Here’s my favourite example.

I had a friend call me up the other day and tell me about one of these pontificating (my new favourite word) suppliers. The supplier was speaking at an industry event and going on and on about how great coloured anodized sawguides were.

It was unfortunate I wasn’t at that event, but my friend told me all about it. It’s probably better for my blood pressure that I wasn’t there. 

Like Martin Luther did 500 years ago, I’m airing my list of grievances about anodized sawguides once and for all, and nailing it to this blog.

Here we go. 


What’s Wrong with Coloured Anodizing?

Type II, or “coloured anodizing”, is cheaper to apply than Type III (known as “engineering hardcoat”).

Your vendor using Type II is only trying to maximize their profitability by using the cheaper process!


Type II is significantly thinner than properly applied Type III.

This means the wear resistance is a lot lower with Type II. Just like your aluminum anodized mobile phone – you need to protect its thin coating from scratches. The colour can be nice but the wear resistance is not. Don’t even get me started on the red ones!


Vendors who use Type II do so because they don’t want the thicker coating of Type III to make their sawguides even less accurate than they already are. 

Since Type II is so thin, it does not change the thickness of the machined sawguide very much, and therefore manufacturers can keep the accuracy somewhat close to what was originally promised. I didn’t say “great accuracy”, just close to what was promised!


Vendors try to mislead you by telling you that Type II is the same protection as Type III.

This is simply not true.

Anodizing is changing the surface layer to aluminum oxide. The last time I checked in with a thing called science, aluminum oxide only comes in one hardness. That’s a no brainer.

Saying they’re the same hardness doesn’t justify using a much thinner coating anyway. No wonder Luther was aggravated by the logic of those around him.


“But Type II coloured anodizing makes it easy to distinguish between sawguides!” they say.

This one takes the absolute cake since I could do the same thing with a $1 magic marker.

I really don’t think my blood has ever boiled so hot as when I heard this sentence.

There are many other ways besides coloured anodizing to differentiate your sawguides. Don't use this excuse to justify a cheaper, thinner, non-industrial grade coating.

If you’re being fed this line, your vendor is basically belittling your intelligence by turning a detriment into a benefit. 

Luther had 95 points on his list, and I could probably go on just as long about sawguides, but I’d need a longer paper and a higher door.


The Impact of Coloured Sawguides on Your Mill 

Luther posted his list because he was upset about what was being said and done in the church. Like Luther, I am upset when vendors continually sneak things over the heads of their customers and pontificate on things that aren’t true, and aren’t in their customers’ best interests. 

Let me be very blunt: coloured sawguides are not in the best interest of any sawmill. They are only in the best interest of the vendor supplying them.

If your sawguides are any colour other than a shade of light or dark grey, your vendor is supplying you with an inferior product. 

Why would they do that? 

Simple. They make more money, and can get away with the anodizing not interfering too much with accuracy. Although, what’s the point of not interfering with something that’s crappy from the start? 

If I haven’t made my point clear enough, picture yourself walking across a frozen lake in winter. Do you think a thin layer of ice and a thick layer of ice have the same protection? I dare you to walk out there and prove it. 

Don’t gamble the life of your sawmill on the same logic.

Okay, I’m putting down the hammer for now! Happy 500 years to Martin Luther’s drive to create change. I hope one day I can have even a fraction of that impact in the sawmill industry.


What do you think about anodized sawguides? Leave a comment and weigh in!


Author: Udo Jahn

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