Buncher powers through

deere’s new 959J  buncher earned  its spurs in BC this  past winter, working  on steep slopes on  the Coast and in  the southern Interior,  and powering easily  through six feet  of snow. 

By Jim Stirling 

Dan Mattey gave his new John  Deere 959J feller buncher the  acid test. He assigned the  machine to the deep snow and steep  slopes of the North Shuswap. The 959J  didn’t let him down. The tracked buncher powered easily  through the six feet of snow and more  on the blocks. It climbed the best—and  worst—of the slopes without problems.  The machine’s tilting capability allows the operator to be more efficient, comfortable  and safe while getting the job done.                           

“The 959J did excellent and basically  through some of the worst conditions  we’re going to get,” says Mattey. And he  should know. He’s experienced them all.  It was 19 8 when Mattey’s dad—Dan  Sr—first came to the Chase region of  British Columbia’s southern Interior.  “We’ve been pretty much trucking and  logging ever since.” 

Mattey’s son—another Dan—  continues the tradition as a processor  operator with Mattey Bros Logging Ltd’s  stump-to-dump log contracting business  in Chase. 

Through the generations, the  Matteys have witnessed and changed  with a mechanical revolution in the log  harvesting business in BC. Dan Sr logged  with horses in the early days. Now,  workhorses like John Deere’s recently  introduced 959J feller buncher are  powered by Deere’s 6081H turbocharged  engine that can crank out 294 gross  horsepower. 

But now, as then, it’s a matter of  dealing as efficiently as you can with  what’s out there. Mattey says last season’s  snowfall in the North Shuswap area was  the heaviest in years, more like it used to  be. The timber is a mix of species with  lots of small pine along with larger spruce,  fir and cedar. Sometimes it’s necessary to  double cut the oversize pieces with the  959J’s 24-inch felling head. 

The machine was working on  Federated Co-operatives Ltd’s licence and  delivering timber to its sawmill in Canoe,  BC. Mattey Bros logs about 120,000  cubic metres annually for Federated.  Total annual volumes for the contracting  company can approach 200,000 cubic  metres, depending on the year, when the  small business program wood for North  Enderby Timber is added. Having the two sides is a real benefit in keeping crews  and equipment working, notes Mattey. 

Helping the new 959J produce those  volumes are two other feller bunchers,  a John Deere 85 and a 6 0 Prentice,  which is also a tilting machine. A fleet of  five skidders, mainly Deere 748s, move  the wood to roadside where Mattey Bros  uses three 200 class processors, two John  Deeres and a Hitachi, equipped with  Waratah processing heads. The company  runs 11 logging trucks, all Western Stars  from James Western Star Sterling Ltd, and  a lowbed to move equipment around. 

Mattey is well satisfied with the  parts and service back-up he receives to  ensure his equipment operates at peak  performance, whatever the conditions.  7  equipmentprofile  Buncher  powers  through  D  (Photos by John Vanden Hengel) 

James Western Star for trucks; Waratah  for the processing and buncher heads  and Brandt Tractor Ltd—which supplied  the new 959J and supports the rest of  Mattey Bros’ Deere equipment—all have  branches in nearby Kamloops, BC. 

David Becker was the man at the  controls of the 959J feller buncher up in  the North Shuswap. He’s been working  in the forest industry for about 16 years,  about half that time with Mattey Bros. The  more he put the 959J through its paces  during 12-hour daily shifts, the more he  appreciated the machine’s features. “The  track power is really good compared  with other bunchers I’ve operated,”  says Becker. “You can get around better  even in poor conditions and get the  wood down.” The track power helps the  buncher work better uphill even in the  deep snow, he adds. 

The machine’s stability is an important  factor when working on slopes. “It’s real  stable, with those big tracks, and it feels  pretty comfortable on the steep slopes.”  The width over the tracks is more than  three metres.  “I really like the rotating feature,”  continues Becker. The 60-degree  rotation and the machine’s reach of  around 8.5 metres allows the operator to  move around less and deal more easily  with blowdown and leaners. “If trees are  lying on the ground, you can flip them  right up. There’s a ton of power.” That’s  true for the boom, swing and track. 

The machine’s tilting ability keeps the  operator’s working position more level.  “It’s much easier on the back after a 12-  hour shift,” observes Becker. 

Among the operator’s cab features is  the display unit for Deere’s Total Machine  Control. The system allows the control  of the engine, upper and lower boom  and levelling functions to suit up to seven  different operators. Becker appreciates  a cab display reporting the RPMs for the  chain saw on the cutting head. In the  deep snow it helps to know when it’s the  right time to grab the tree, he points out.  A window below the foot pedals allows  the operator to see his tracks at a glance  and hold his line. 

“The lights are good at night and the  heater works really good,” reports Becker.  And one more thing. The skylight roof is  not just handy for canopy assessment and  visibility in confined spaces; it’s a heck of  a spot for the satellite radio antennae. 

Brandt’s Kamloops branch has also  supplied one of the new 959J feller  bunchers to another regional logging  contractor. Dan Eaton is principal in  Jaeden Resources based in Merritt, BC.  Eaton is also a partner with Ryan Devissier  in Aquila Fibre Ltd, and that’s the  company the 959J was working for.  to page  The machine’s stability  is an important factor  when working on  slopes. “It’s real stable,  with those big tracks,  and it feels pretty  comfortable on the  steep slopes.” The  width over the tracks is  more than three metres.  equipmentprofile 

Aquila Fibre Ltd’s 959J buncher (above) working on Vancouver Island. The track  power on the Deere 959J allows operators to get around better, get the wood down, and  helps the buncher to work better uphill, even in deep snow. 

The beetle-killed wood in the Interior  isn’t going to last forever so the partners  are looking elsewhere for possible  applications for the machine and to gain  a foothold on the BC Coast, explains  Devissier. And that’s why the 959J was  busy working on an approximately 0,000  cubic-metre job across half-a-dozen  blocks of Timberwest Forest Ltd’s private  land near Mill Bay on southern Vancouver  Island. 

As with the 959J deployed in the  North Shuswap, the application was  demanding but well met by the machine.  “It’s challenging terrain,” confirms  Devissier, “very rocky with wet spots in  between and slopes around 5 to 40 per  cent.” They’re coated with fir, cedar and  hemlock with smatterings of alder and  balsam. 

The 959J represented Devissier’s first  experience with a tilting feller buncher  and he’s come to appreciate its benefits.  “We decided quite early on we wanted a  tilting machine for the coastal terrain and  the heavier wood,” he recalls, “a heavier  machine with a bigger counterweight and  more stability.” Devissier notes a 24-inch  diameter second growth fir on southern  Vancouver Island weighs a lot more than a  similar sized stem in the BC Interior. “You  must sometimes make a second cut and  directionally fall it.” 

Despite such necessities, the 959J buncher with its 24-inch  Deere head was performing well. “I’m confident we were  producing more with it than with a flat bottomed machine,” he  says.  Devissier was familiar with Deere’s Total Machine Control  function and it didn’t take long to be reaping advantages from  it. “I started off slowly at first until I was making as few moves as  possible. As I became more efficient, I ramped up the speeds.” 

The key, declares Devissier, is to keep the buncher operating  smoothly and within itself: it’s easier on the machine and the  operator.  He, too, liked the 959J’s cab layout, including the ability  to see directly behind the machine and ease of access to most  service areas. One exception, shared by operator Becker on the other 959J, is access to servicing the levelling rod pins on the  bottom of the undercarriage: you have to get under the machine  to get at them. But the positive side, as Devissier notes, is that’s  the price you pay for being level and having the opportunity to  increase production.  Aquila Fibre was just using the Deere buncher but was  keeping its options open to add machines or phases as  circumstances dictate. The company is looking forwardto further developing its coastal operations.