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Saw Fitter/Filer


Description

From hammers and levels to chainsaws, tools are an integral part of our lives. As technology has developed in all areas so have the tools used to build, manufacture and process various items. The use of specialized tools has created the need for people trained to maintain equipment specific to certain industries. In the forestry and lumber manufacturing industries there is a group of important workers called saw fitters.

A saw fitter is trained to fit all sorts of saws, such as circular saws, band saws, gang saws, and chain saws. Besides fitting saws, they are also trained to repair and adjust saw-sharpening equipment. They understand how all of the machine's parts function together and use this knowledge to maintain the machinery.

Saw fitters also need good hand-eye coordination and physical stamina, as much of the time they are working inside exposed to extreme heat from equipment such as kilns. They often work under pressure, as they must maintain the equipment that processes wood at a pace that allows a mill to make money. Knowledge of automated and computerized systems is necessary as lumber mill occupations have become more automated.

Most people in these occupations work 40 hours per week, but longer hours and weekend work may be required. If you are insistent on a 9 to 5 job this occupation is not for you. Saw fitters may work 12-hour shifts with four days on, rotating with four days off. Some mills and processing plants operate on shifts during days, nights and weekends.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Saw fitters like to work with their hands and use tools to repair and maintain equipment. They have an understanding of the saws and how they work in relation to the rest of the equipment and they are interested in using their skills to maintain and repair equipment. Saw fitters also have the focus needed to work with potentially dangerous equipment while under pressure.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Repair, set and sharpen band saws, chain saws, circular saws and other types of saw blades
  • Fit and repair saw blades according to specifications
  • Straighten twists and kinks in blades using presses and hammers, adjust cutting widths of blades by setting teeth using special tools
  • Controlling presses and milling machines to cut teeth in blades
  • Using power grinders and setting machines to sharpen and set blade teeth
  • Ensure that saw blades conform to specifications using micrometers and other measuring instruments, and adjust saw-filing machines to match blades with angles of saws being repaired and sharpened
  • Repairing defective blades and welding new teeth to blades
  • A saw fitter will usually spend their day indoors sometimes working in extreme temperature conditions. They work shift-work with 8- to 12-hour shifts and may work days, nights and/or weekends depending on their place of employment.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most saw fitters work in the lumber manufacturing industry in mills, plants and companies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
The technical training received through the saw fitter apprenticeship can create the basis for an interesting and financially rewarding career. With experience and exposure to the industry saw fitters can branch off into a variety of areas within the lumber manufacturing Industry such as circular sawfiler, benchperson, or supervisory and management positions.
 

  Educational Paths  
Saw fitter/filers receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a saw fitter/filer, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the saw fitter/filer a certificate of completion.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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