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Delimbinator ably handles small, limby wood in B.C.
A piece of equipment new to the B.C. woods—the Delimbinator—is chopping the time it takes to delimb small, limby wood, allowing loggers to maximize fibre production in marginal timber stands.
By Paul MacDonald
The use of a new-to-Canada flail delimber in logging operations in B.C.’s Southern Interior region looks to be one of those situations where a new approach to harvesting is truly a win-win, with a very significant reduction in the time it takes to delimb small wood. In addition to allowing loggers to maximize fibre production in marginal timber stands, it is also freeing up landbase for future productive forests, and other uses, such as for agriculture.
While the Chambers Delimbinator is fairly new to B.C. and Canada, it has been used in small wood stands in the southern U.S. for many years. The company that manufactures the machine, Chambers Inc., is based in Mississippi.
Westwood Fibre, a forest management company based in Kamloops, B.C., started work with the Delimbinator two years ago.
Westwood Fibre manages the timberland program for the massive Douglas Lake Ranch in B.C. It’s known as “Canada’s Largest Working Cattle Ranch” with over half a million acres of protected and managed land mass, including large timberlands. Marv Kempston, president of Westwood Fibre, explained the situation at the Douglas Lake Ranch which brought the Delimbinator into the picture.
“We had about five quarter sections on the ranch that had been logged about 40 years ago. There was some scrub timber left, and we wanted to clean up the scrub timber and re-seed it for cattle grazing.” Westwood Fibre supplied pulp logs for BC EcoChips, a whole log chipping operator located at Okanagan Falls, B.C. and arranged to move their chipper to the site, and started to log the scrub timber with a buncher and put it through the chipper.
“The chipper has three flail drums before the wood hits the chipper and we figured that would take off the limbs and do the debarking—but this scrub wood was so small and limby, that it really wasn’t working well. We were getting big clumps of needles coming through and going into the chip pile, as well as quite a bit of bark.
“We tried using a variety of different equipment, a regular processor, a pull through processor and a stroker, but this is small limby wood and it was taking over two hours to process a load of wood with all of these units”.
That led to a search for equipment that could do the job better—essentially the right equipment tool for the job at hand.
Darrell Ford, vice-president of operations for Westwood Fibre, found the Chambers Delimbinator online and went down to Mississippi to visit the factory and tour some operations that were using the machine. Ford was impressed with what he saw and ordered a unit, and brought it back to B.C. where he initiated several modifications to make it more suitable for use in the rougher B.C. conditions.
The Delimbinator has two 88” drums which enable the flail system to handle multiple stems at the same time, depending on their size. Inside, the flail drum turns counterclockwise, drawing the stems through heavy chains that remove the limbs and most of the bark. It features a patented open front feeding design. “Its simplicity of design eliminates many expensive wear components currently required on most flail delimbers, with no hydraulics and no gearboxes,” says Chambers. Its dimensions: 16’ long by 8’ 8” wide by 10’ 4” high, and it weighs in at about 22,000 pounds.
The flail area is 7’ 8” deep by 8’ 8” wide, and the feed opening is 27”. The drums have a 10 ¾” outside diameter. There is a 5 groove power band drive for each drum, engaged by a 14 inch Kraft clutch PTO drive.
The machine has 5/8” hardened short length chain, with a 60-chain top and a 60-chain bottom.
The Delimbinator is a self-contained, pull-behind unit, which can easily be transported to each new job site.
Kempston reports that the machine requires little maintenance—the chains last about three to four weeks—and says it is economical on fuel. The machines come standard with a 250 hp John Deere 8.1 litre turbocharged diesel engine.
Kempston noted that the Delimbinator is used on a lot of small yellow pine in the southern states. “The pine grows very quickly, and when it gets anywhere from eight to 12 years old, they can do a thinning for pulp wood. They were using the Chambers flail to take the limbs off the pulpwood in the thinning program, and then sending it to their chippers.”
It certainly solved the problem at the Douglas Lake Ranch chipping operation. It was able to effectively delimb the wood, which could then efficiently be chipped.
The Delimbinator continues to tackle challenges for Westwood Fibre and, not incidentally, bring public timberlands in B.C. back into production. And it’s now helping to meet the needs of a big fibre customer for BC EcoChips, who has the chipping contract with the Celgar pulp mill in Castlegar, B.C. So it’s kind of a win-win-win, says Kempston.
Westwood Fibre initiated discussions with BC Timber Sales, which oversees public timber sales, managing about 20 per cent of the provincial timber cut. “They figured they had more than 40,000 hectares of pine around the Okanagan Falls area that was stagnant—it was 80 years old, and not growing,” explains Kempston. BC Timber Sales was trying to deal with this very small wood by adding a block of it at a time into regular sawlog sales.
With the Delimbinator, Kempston figured Westwood Fibre could economically harvest this wood as a separate sale, and BC Timber Sales could focus on achieving maximum revenue for regular sawlogs. BC Timber Sales agreed to try it out, and began a program of putting up a limited volume of smallwood sales.
Since then, Westwood Fibre has won some of these sales and has found that they can recover small wood down to a 3” butt and process it to a “rat tail” at a processing cost comparable to processing conventional sawlogs. The difference is that the small logs are not processed to a measured length.
“We sort the wood with the buncher and then skid the sawlog bundles to a conventional processor and the small wood bundles to a Delimbinator/Power Clam combination. This can be a “hot” operation or they can work from decked wood,” says Kempston. The Power Clam hauls the Delimbinator up into the bush beside the road or just off the landing area, whatever the situation requires. The Delimbinator tires are foam filled to avoid puncture issues. If they are in larger wood they will re-skid the tops from the sawlogs over to the Delimbinator and recover the tops as pulpwood.
“We found that our waste piles were drastically reduced from what we experienced with conventional operations. In fact we had trouble burning them when we recovered all of the tops because the piles were so dense they wouldn’t burn—they just smoldered. That has led us to balance the top recovery to leave enough larger pieces in the slash piles so that they burn properly.”
It’s no surprise, since this is the B.C. Interior, that they are dealing with some mountain pine beetle-affected wood.
“There aren’t any pine stands of pure small wood,” says Kempston. “The pine stands are always mixed, with a concentration of small wood in them. There’s always some larger sawlog-sized wood, and those are sometimes affected by the beetle. But so far, we have not hit too much of that.”
Celgar is currently working with Interfor at Grand Forks, B.C. to manage a large block of timber on Interfor’s TFL that contains too much small wood for conventional harvesting. Celgar has contracted with Lime Creek Logging to purchase a Delimbinator and harvest this block, as well as future blocks of wood with a heavy smallwood component. They will deliver sawlogs to Interfor’s Grand Forks sawmill, and the small wood to BC EcoChips at Midway, where Celgar has moved the chipper to the Vaagen Canada mill site. Celgar started purchasing other small wood and traditional pulpwood at this site starting in June.
Westwood Fibre has since become the Canadian distributor for the Chambers Delimbinator. “It’s something we talked about with the Chambers people when we were down there,” Kempston says. “We thought we could expand this business to get more wood to Celgar in the years ahead, and we felt that if we are going to get more machines up here, and we are going to upgrade them to work for us, we’d take the extra step and be the dealer.”
Westwood Fibre does about 15 different upgrades to the machine that make it more suitable to cold weather conditions in Canada, Canadian safety regulations, and the rougher ground. “It’s working in much tougher terrain up here. In the U.S. south, they are moving the machines along on roads, but we stick it right out in the bush, and move it with a skidder or excavator.” So far, they have two machines working in B.C. and one in Alberta with the most recent machine delivered to Lime Creek Logging at the end of June.
Kempston noted that so far, the Delimbinator flail system is delivering results for all concerned, essentially taking fibre that had been uneconomic to harvest and chip, and making it viable.
“From the B.C. Forest Service point of view, though, it goes beyond that. In the case of the timber sales, we are working in unproductive ground, covered with trees that are not growing. When we get it cleared, they can get this land replanted, and growing a productive crop of new timber.” And it’s of benefit to Tree Farm Licence holders, like Interfor, as well, he added. “It can result in a significant upgrade in the B.C. wood supply in the long run.”
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