FLAT LINE FINISHING OVERVIEW
Our “Premiere” finishing process takes approximately twelve minutes to transform raw, machined wood into beautifully finished, quality flooring ready to ship to our valued consumers. Quality is achieved on this high-speed system by maintaining a strictly controlled process for consistent, repeatable results. We start our process with incoming material inspections to determine the overall dimensions, moisture content and milling quality of the flooring. It helps us determine the proper set-up for our finishing line as well as the suitability of the product for finishing.
Our line is 52 inches wide and runs at 55 feet a minute, which comfortably accommodates three to five thousand square feet an hour to be completed depending on the species of wood and width of the flooring. Flooring must be at least 9” (and preferably12”) in length; maximum length is 12’. Our finishing operation has a wide array of process stations located along its 450-foot length. It enables us to customize our finish for each customer’s needs.
Our first process station is the sanding operation. It involves two sanders, a “calibration” sander and “surface, polishing” sander. The calibration sander is removed approximately .010” from the bottom of the boards, and the surface sander removes about .020” from the tops. Together, these two operations bring uniformity of dimension to the flooring and a smooth surface for finishing. Minor variances which could cause the stains and finishing materials to be poorly applied to the flooring are removed. A panel cleaning brush cleans dust residue from the surface of the boards before they pass to the next process station, staining or priming.
The staining operation utilizes two precision roll-coaters and stain brushes as well as UV, conventional and IR curing ovens. This station can accommodate waterborne, UV cured stains or tie-coats as required for the particular finish. The conventional stain-curing oven dries water base and solvent stains. It also raises the surface temperature of all flooring to uniform the finish performance from summer to winter.
All stains and primers cause the grain of the wood to rise causing very tiny surface “splinters”. A denibbing station, (a stiff bristle brush) is located after the stain cure to remove “raised grain” caused by the staining process. All stains are smoothed during the denibbing process preparing them for the “fill” operation if needed.
The “filler” station is not needed on all species of wood. If the surface of the flooring is more “open grained” or slightly rough, (in species such as Red Oak), the fill operation will be used. Flooring runs through a roll-coater that packs UV cured material into the pores of the wood and then passes through UV lights for curing. Filling creates a smoother and consistent surface on which to apply the remaining finish coats. Another denibbing station follows the fill operation which smoothes the surface for the first of the sealers.
Premiere boasts the only prefinish line with two fill machines so we can now “double fill” the exceptionally open pore sometimes found on exotic solid woods and many veneers. This additional station provides Premiere with filling flexibility second to none in the industry.
Next is the HA (high abrasion) sealer, a UV cured material is applied which provides the wear resistance guarantee we provide to our customers. The flooring next moves through a UV light curing station. A second sealer is applied, UV cured and then the material passes through either a series of denibbing brushes or a belt sander and panel cleaner. The denibbing brushes are used for all physically distressed, and hand scraped flooring. Smoothly surfaced flooring goes through the belt sander which is unmatched for the smooth finish it provides. Most lines have either a denibber or a sander at this position. We are one of the very few that enjoy the flexibility of having both.
The UV cured topcoat contains Ceramic particles for scratch resistance and gloss retention. It can be applied with up to three (3) roller coaters for a smooth and even finish. The gloss level is determined with the last top coat. Next, the final cure is achieved by a large bank of powerful UV lights, and the flooring is ready to be packed a mere 12 minutes after passing through the sander.
Each piece of finished flooring is examined for finishing and machining defects. All “first quality” flooring is placed directly into a box, labels placed on the box, and it is ready for shipment. Any flooring with defects is removed from the line to be end-matched, re-finished or boxed as “cabin grade,” depending on the customer’s preference. The end-matching and re-finishing processes increase the yield and profitability of the run for our customer.