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 bestand worstof 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 dadDan Srfirst came to the Chase region of British Columbia’s southern Interior. “We’ve been pretty much trucking and logging ever since.”
Mattey’s sonanother 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 Ltdwhich supplied the new 959J and supports the rest of Mattey Bros’ Deere equipmentall 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
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.