By Paul MacDonald
Richard Coyne can see the future of logging on the coast of B.C.—and it’s going to be steep.
Coyne has been logging on northern Vancouver Island for 25 years—for almost five years with his own company, Hyde Creek Logging—and he knows the region well.
“We’ve done a lot of logging on the valley bottoms, on the easy ground,” says Coyne. “The steeper slopes are coming up on us—and I wanted to get involved before everybody else gets on board.”
And, he adds, he believes moving into steep slope logging using tethered equipment is a sound business decision. “Some people look at it as just a necessity—but I think you can make good money at it, too. The earlier you get on board, the better chance of that happening, I think.”
Steep slope logging, and the equipment associated with it, have taken off in the last year or two, in B.C.
“It’s really become popular in the last year or so, but I’ve been seriously looking at it for the last three years,” says Coyne. “With the steep slope information and conferences that have been happening, it’s been easier for us to figure out the right direction for us to go.” And the direction was the Falcon Winch Assist system from New Zealand-based DC Equipment, supported locally in B.C. by dealer Great West Equipment.
Coyne took a very thorough approach to reviewing what was in the market for steep slope tethered equipment. He reviewed all the systems, and rated them, based on what he was looking for, and wanted to achieve, with steep slope equipment. He pretty much developed a check list.
“Early on, I thought I wanted a two-line system,” he says. “But then I quickly realized there were some limitations to that—such as if you ever want to log wood that is above where you can get your winch machine to. With the DC Falcon single line system, I can do a block and strap on the high side, and still log on the high side.”
He toured tethered systems operating in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, both two-line and single-line systems, and that confirmed for Hyde Creek Logging that a single line system was the way to go for their operations.
Once Coyne decided to go with a single line system, that automatically narrowed the choice of equipment.
At a steep slope logging conference, Coyne had the opportunity to talk directly with the Falcon system developer—and logger—Dale Ewers. Ewers has multiple logging operations spread through New Zealand, using the Falcon system.
“Everything that Dale has developed, he has used in his own logging operations,” explained Coyne. “As far as I’m concerned, people who develop equipment for themselves, and for their own use, are going to make good products.”
He added that there will always be a learning curve for the use of new equipment in logging operations, but the fact that the Falcon system was tried and tested gave him the confidence that the learning curve would be a lot less steep, no pun intended.
The next check on the list for Coyne was the support and availability of parts. With Great West Equipment taking on distribution and support of the Falcon system, that made the choice easier, he said.
Great West Equipment gave him flexibility with the new Falcon system. Coyne was able to rent the equipment for a few months, and try it out in his operations to make sure it would work as he thought. Essentially, Great West Equipment wanted him to be happy with the equipment. He purchased after the trail period ended.
On northern Vancouver Island, Coyne contracts to Western Forest Products, working out of the company’s Englewood Division, in the community of Woss.
“We tend to do all of Western’s challenging ground,” he explains. “I’ve kind of made a career out of working on steep slopes.”
They have been using feller bunchers, and doing hoe chucking in 50 per cent plus slopes for years.
“But there is still a limit to what you can do, with steep ground, rock and the mud, depending on the time of year,” he explained. “Depending on the season, you might not be able to get on to some slopes that you would at other times of year.
“That’s what made a tethering system on steep slopes appealing—it opens up a whole spectrum of wood that we can do, regardless of the conditions or the time of year.”
Adding to the flexibility of the Falcon system is the other harvesting equipment they are using.
Working with the DC Falcon winch system on a Volvo FC3329 carrier are two levelling falling machines. They have two remote controlled tethered systems, mounted on a Tigercat LS855D directional faller and on a John Deere 959M feller buncher with a John Deere FR24B head. Depending on the tree size, ground conditions and slope, Coyne can alternate the machine to be tethered.
The DC Falcon traction assist system increases production for the levelling machines, as they now have constant tension, up and down the hill. This allows the levelling machines to keep their track on the ground, resulting in less ground disturbance, greater tractive effort and more stability.
The single 500 metres of 1 1/8” swaged cable has about 23 tonne holding capacity. It allows the Volvo/Falcon DC winch excavator to be more versatile, to build its own trails if needed. As Coyne notes, it also has the ability to tether the levelling machines above the road, by using hook blocks and stump movement sensors and using the rigging to get down into draws and gulleys.
In addition to the service he’s received from Great West Equipment, Coyne says the ongoing support he’s received from DC Falcon has been very welcome.
“This is still pretty cutting edge equipment, and there continue to be new developments,” he says. “Since I got the machine, there have been further changes —which is a good thing. And they are sharing all those changes with us.
“And if we found that there are things that haven’t worked for us, they will make changes.”
Falcon had added lock valves to the Volvo FC3329 to avoid any cylinder creep while winching. The lock valves were always on, which created some issues with how smooth the machine ran as an excavator. Falcon recognized the issue and came up with an electric lock valve, which only turns on when winching.
Hyde Creek Logging is usually working in a mix of old growth and second growth wood. The first setting they used the Falcon in, the wood was smaller, and in the second setting, it was working in larger old growth wood.
“There are challenges to both,” says Coyne. “Tethering the Deere buncher with the hot saw, it is capable of taking down a bigger tree than our directional felling head, so that gives us more options. And if we’re going to be falling the wood and setting it up for cable yarding, if it’s available, I prefer to use the hot saw because it’s more productive. We are getting more wood for the winch time. But there are other situations where the directional falling head is the smart way to go, such as when we want to have the capability to fall trees and hoe chuck them.”
Coyne recently had the equipment working just outside of the town of Port Alice, on the far north of Vancouver Island. With the Port Alice operation, the wood had probably been taken out by wildfire at some point, and then grew back. It made for some good wood—dense, tall and high volume. They were getting about 1100 cubic metres per hectare.
The new system has been quickly accepted by the operators—one of them being Coyne, who operates the Tigercat directional faller. The cable aspect has taken a bit of getting used to, he says. “That’s probably been the biggest challenge, but that’s because we’re not rigging guys,” he says.
“And then there is that first leap of faith in believing that it is going to work when you first go down the hill.” And, of course, it does work.
But Coyne and the other operator, Chad MacKenzie, who runs the John Deere 959M feller buncher with the hot saw, have quickly adapted. “It took Chad about four hours to get quite comfortable running with the winch system.”
And, he reports that it continues to work well, and deliver productivity improvements, as they learn how best to use it in their logging operations.
“We have been learning things like how much you move the winch machine or where you place it. If you set it up at the right spot the first time, you can reduce the number of times you have to move it. There are all these little things that we are learning, and that are making it more productive.
“One of the biggest challenges to learn and understand is how to Siwash the cable, using a stump to make a direction change,” he says. “A slope is not always straight up and down, and there can be gullies. If you want to go into a gully sideways, with the winch machine above you, you hook the lines on a stump that is cut off high, and then you can get into those spots more easily. There are little tricks like that.”
From what Coyne saw in New Zealand, the ground they are working with in B.C. is more rocky—in some limestone areas, they are working with almost steady rock. This can impact how they do the steep slope work.
“From the logging I’ve done, I know that rock can be many things. It can be grippy—or not. Limestone can be quite crumbly—it can almost turn into a limestone road when you walk over it. Other areas, it can be hard, like marble.
“You have to figure out the rock conditions in areas, and work around them. In New Zealand, they have rocky areas, but they seem to have a bit more dirt on the slopes.”
The slopes there also tend to be more constant, he says. But let there be no doubt—they are very steep. “They have 700 or 800 foot slopes that are almost continuous 100 per cent slopes.”
Coyne noted that after he committed to getting the Falcon system, he travelled to New Zealand, and toured around many operations working with the systems.
“I was kind of like a sponge, talking to the operators and learning as much as I could about how it works. I went to the factory, and met the people who make the equipment. If we have any issues, I can put a face to a name, and contact them directly.” It was worth the trip just for the contacts, let alone all the other things he learned, says Coyne.
“It kind of put my mind at ease, because I had not actually seen a Falcon system at work when we committed to it.”
Any follow-up questions they’ve had have been dealt with promptly, he says.
“When we started working with the system, we had some electrical things to deal with. I sent them an e-mail about it, and we received a reply within an hour that helped us out. We have a good working relationship with the Falcon people.”
Quite often, if they have questions, they will just text the contacts they have in New Zealand.
Working with cutting edge equipment is not new to Coyne and Hyde Creek Logging; they have worked with John Deere to develop new products. They ran a prototype falling head on the 959M for almost a year and passed on modifications that they made themselves to their machine that were made to the Deere production machines. They have a few visits a year from the Deere engineers to discuss how things are working, and pass on any ideas they have.
As he does with the Deere equipment, Coyne is happy to pass on tips to Falcon about their system, and how it might be changed to better work in B.C. conditions. DC Falcon, and its dealer partner, Great West Equipment, are very interested in learning, so they can better develop the market in B.C., and better serve customers.
Coyne said having a local dealer, such as Great West Equipment, on board was very important. Having innovative equipment is one thing, but you need on the ground dealer support, he says. “That’s key. You want to have access to parts, locally.”
In terms of the equipment itself, it’s been low maintenance, he says.
“One thing I learned in New Zealand is that most of the winch machines are really high hour machines. They are basically retired, and they will put new pumps in them, and use them for the winch. They run at half-throttle all day, and do not have to do very much.” Any maintenance usually involves the rigging, and that would mean inspecting it, more than anything, to make sure it is in good shape.
Coyne says they do most of their own maintenance, hiring a dealer mechanic when they need to. In additions to the harvesting equipment, they have three John Deere log loaders, two 3754 machines, and a 3554.
Asked if he had any advice for a logger looking to get some steep slope equipment, Coyne said to look carefully at the systems out there—but to make a decision in a timely way.
“Some people might hesitate, but it’s better to get involved sooner than later. The biggest thing is to get out there and look at all the systems and then figure out exactly what is going to work for you. For me, it was a system that would be flexible so I could cover off different situations.”
In addition to Coyne and his operators learning the new equipment, there’s also a bit of a learning curve for who they work for, the Western Forest Products folks.
“I’ve been spending time with their engineers, educating them on how best to lay out blocks for the winch assist system. We need to set up the settings so tethering makes sense—but that won’t take long.”
The Western Forest Products people are interested in the new system—Coyne has already had calls from other company divisions, interested in working with them. He likes that, because it means job security. But he says it was still a big step.
“It was a big decision to get into tethering. Financially it was a big step because we bought the winch equipment and the Tigercat machine at once. That was a bit of a gulp, but I think it’s all good.
“Besides, I like to be on the cutting edge. I like working with Deere on developing their machines, and I like working with the Falcon. I’ve always had the philosophy that if you don’t get involved, nothing is ever going to change.” And things need to continue to change and evolve in logging equipment and methods, he added.
On the Cover:
When Munden Ventures Ltd. of Kamloops, B.C. moved into logging, they made some well-thought out equipment purchases, and established solid supplier relationships with the B.C. John Deere dealer, Brandt Tractor, and Woodland Equipment, the Hyundai dealership. Munden Ventures sub-contacts out its processing (pictured on the cover) to Randy Janzen who is a Hyundai/Waratah guy (Cover photo courtesy of Randy Janzen).
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Solid business move into logging
Munden Ventures of Kamloops, B.C. got involved in logging more by accident than by design, but it’s turned out to be a solid business decision.
Flying high in steep slopes with the Falcon
B.C.’s Hyde Creek Logging has found the Falcon Winch Assist system from New Zealand-based DC Equipment to be a great fit with the logging it does on steep slopes on northern Vancouver Island.
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Canada North Resources Expo show coming up in May!
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