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Handling big timber with ease
It’s not all small, bugkilled pine in the BC Interior these days—a John Deere 2554 carrier paired with a Keto 825 processing head is delivering consistent performance in some big spruce for Stones Bay Holdings.

By Jim Stirling

T he pace of log harvesting in central British Columbia was way down from historic levels during the past summer logging season. Little surprise there. But that said, equipment was working and wood was moving.

Stones Bay Holdings Ltd, based in Fort St James, for example, has barely missed a beat during the tough recent times for the industry. And on one of the company’s logging shows in the summer was another anomaly: big wood.

Big, of course, is a relative term. But in a forest marketplace dominated by small diameter, dead lodgepole pine, spruce 18 inches and better through the butt are a welcome change.

An interesting processing head/carrier combination was taking the wood well in stride at the logging show northwest of Bear Lake, BC. A Keto 825 harvester with a top saw was paired with a John Deere 2554 carrier, and the duo’s consistent performance was helping make owner/ operator Mike Lodge one happy logger. The reason for that was simple. “There’s not been one problem with the Keto head,” reports Lodge, whose dad, Kim, owns Stones Bay. “And that’s after about 3,800 hours of operation.”

The Keto head can process wood up to 34 to 36 inches in diameter in a single cut, so the larger spruce presented no handling problems and the smaller pine were a breeze.

Lodge confirms that with some pretty impressive production figures: The Keto/JD pair were producing about six off-highway loads per 12 hour day, with each carrying about 75 cubic metres. As well, one highway load of telephone poles (about 55 cubic metres) and two loads of dry pulp wood were also being produced at the site daily.

The sawlogs were hauled to Canadian Forest Products Ltd’s Polar Sawmill at Bear Lake. The poles were delivered to Stella-Jones Inc, in Prince George and the pulp material was being chipped in Prince George.

“The Keto is very cost efficient compared with other heads,” says Lodge, who has worked with other major harvesting/ processing heads and is in a good position to make comparisons. “And it’s lighter than most others.”

And another plus: “There’s now parts and service for the Keto in Prince George.” That’s because Quadco Equipment Inc is now exclusive dealer for Keto heads in North America. “If I need anything, one phone call and it’s there,” adds Lodge.

It hadn’t been much of an issue because the Keto had required nothing but regular servicing to maintain production and keep quality wood arriving at Polar’s sawmill yard. “But it’s good to know they’re right there when you need them,” he adds.

“The Keto is very cost efficient compared with other heads,” says owner/ operator Mike Lodge (above), who has worked with other major harvesting/ processing heads and is in a good position to make comparisons. “And it’s lighter than most others.”

The Keto’s track feed and wheels grip system can operate at about four metres a second, making it comparable with the other major harvesting heads on the market. Lodge reports the Keto’s major components have all stood up well to the realities of bush conditions in central BC. The Keto comes with a handy versatility. “You can fall with it. It’s pretty good in blowdown when the wood is still good,” he explains.

The John Deere 2554 carrier has proved a good match with the Keto from Lodge’s perspective. And, as with the Keto, the back-up service component has been right there on the rare occasions when it’s been required. “Brandt Tractor (the Deere dealer in Prince George) has been second to none,” adds Lodge.

He says the 2554 has the power required and works in good balance with the Keto head. It’s also fuel efficient, requiring about 250 litres a day, that again is on a 12-hour-shift basis.

If Lodge sounds sold on his Keto head and its performance to date, it’s because he is. “I wouldn’t hesitate to get another one,” he says.