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TimberWest November/December 2013

May/June 2015

ON THE COVER
Photo of the Schlafer team at Covelo, Calif., with Paul Shandel on the left, loader operator, Ramon Echeverria, in the center and Antone Schlafer on the right.

Nothing Stands in Schlafer’s Way
Schlafer and his small logging crew don’t know the meaning of impossible, and that is one of the keys to his success.

IFG’s Wood-Eating Machine
Idaho Forest Group (IFG) recently unveiled its new HewSaw SL250 3.4 installation at the 2015 Small Log Conference.

Cold Winter Bumps Up Demand for Pellets
Purcell Premium Pellets, based
in Hauser, Idaho, talks pellets.

New Cable Yarder Takes to the Woods
T-Mar sees the need for a new steep slope cable yarder specifically designed to address the increasing volumes of second-growth timber.

Keeping the Wheels Turning
Ever since Joel Olson built his first logging road and bought his first three log trucks, innovation and attention to detail have been key to his business.

Top Five Causes of Forest Equipment Fires
Although most machines are equipped with fire suppression systems, operators can take steps to help prevent fires.

Tech Review
Firewood Processing Equipment

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Schlafer LoggingNothing Stands in Schlafer’s Way

By Mary Bullwinkel

Don’t ever tell Antone Schlafer and his company, Mendocino County, California-based Schlafer Logging, that there’s a logging job that can’t be done. Schlafer and his small logging crew don’t know the meaning of impossible, and that is one of the keys to his success.

“We’re niche loggers. We specialize in jobs that nobody else wants or can do,” Schlafer said. “That’s how we’ve made it so far, and that’s how we stay busy.” He points to one logging job in Covelo, Calif., which included about one million board feet of burned timber. “Fifteen companies looked at it,” he says, “and they all said there was no way to log it.”

Teamwork

Schlafer and his cousin Paul Shandel, who has worked with Antone Schlafer on many logging jobs, went to look at the site and figured out a way to get a truck road built and remove the timber, which was then trucked to a local mill. “My cousin is very adept at building roads,” Schlafer says. “He can see a [road] grade from a mile away.”

After Schlafer does most of the timber falling on his logging jobs, he and his cousin bring together the necessary equipment to get the jobs done. Schlafer brings in his 287C Cat skid steer, D4H High Track grapple Cat, John Deere 2054 heel boom loader, and a Cat 525 skidder.

Schlafer LoggingAntone Schlafer does most of the falling, then he and his cousin come in with the equipment.

Multi-Use Equipment

Schlafer bought the Cat skid steer and a 303.5 mini hydraulic excavator in 2008 and used the equipment to get started doing little backyard jobs. “The skid steer has a four-in-one bucket and a stump grinder and was big enough to pick up short logs,” he says. “I didn’t need to make long logs because I had a short logger,” he adds referring to the 1964 narrow nose self-loading log truck that he used to haul logs when he first got started, which is still in working order and used on occasion.

The excavator was used to stack brush and move logs on some of the smaller jobs. “I would skid the logs with one or drag them as much as I could,” Schlafer says, “or push with one and drag with the other until I could get them to the landing.”

The D4H grapple cat fits with Schlafer Logging jobs because it’s a small piece of equipment. “It was my first piece of equipment,” Schlafer says. He also uses a John Deere 2054 heel boom loader, which he says fits his logging operations very well. “It’s a little bigger than most of our other machines, and I was thinking it might be too big for us.” But Schlafer adds, with some of the smaller jobs he does, he finds big timber and the John Deer loader handles it perfectly. “It’s the perfect size and it’s the first piece of John Deere equipment I’ve ever purchased. I wouldn’t be afraid to buy another one. I like it…I like it a lot.”

Schlafer bought the heel boom and a Cat 525 skidder from another northern California logging outfit, and the heel boom came from its former owners who were logging in Trinity County, Calif., straight to work for Schlafer in Mendocino County. “It didn’t miss a day of work,” says Schlafer, and it has been “100 percent dependable.”

Schlafer LoggingSchlafer Logging prides itself on specializing in jobs others don’t want or can’t do.

Clean Work

Schlafer Logging concentrates on smaller jobs and has a reputation for good, clean work. “Clean, clean, clean, clean, clean,” Schlafer says. “That’s what people want when you are working within sight of their front door. It’s a rarity these days,” he adds, “because many times, it’s cost prohibitive.” But that’s how he learned to log. “If you learn to do good work from the beginning, you can always do good work.”

Schlafer’s logging philosophy: “When I move in to a piece of property, I’m treating it as if it’s mine.” When Schlafer is finished, he wants the landowner, when asked about the logging, to “jump out of their chair and say ‘I’ve got this guy who does really clean work.’”

Bouncing Around

By working smaller jobs, Schlafer and his crew have to move more often, but that’s not a big problem. “We bounce around a lot,” he says, adding he may work at five or six different sites in the same five-month-long season.

“We’ll take jobs that the bigger companies don’t want to mess with,” Schlafer says, “because there may not be enough volume of timber or the equipment might not be the right fit.” Schlafer has a Peterbilt dump truck and tilt trailer, which makes it easier to move his own equipment to the next logging job location.

It’s important for a small logging company, working smaller jobs, to be as self-sufficient as possible. “Our crew is multi-talented to say the least,” says Schlafer. “Everybody on our crew can run the loader, run the skidder, run the Cat, and fall timber, to a certain extent.” He says that contributes to the company’s success. “Everybody knows how to do everything.” “We are all self-starters, so the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. We all know what we’re doing,” he says, adding, “symbiosis at its finest…we are just completely in sync.”

Schlafer LoggingIn the pictures (right and below) , Schlafer Logging works a job in Covelo, Calif., that fifteen companies looked at and said it couldn’t be done.

Planning Ahead

At lunch time Schlafer and the crew sit down to talk about the current job and what lies ahead. “We make a game plan from there and that helps everybody knowing what everybody else is doing.”

Looking to the future, Schlafer has plans to grow, but not a whole lot more. “I would like to add at least one more and possibly two Cats,” he says. One is a D6H Cat that he is going to purchase to use as a road building Cat, and at some point he would also like to add a swing grapple Cat.

Schlafer looks at growth as a key to success. “If I am going to get bigger, if I am going to compete, I have to have new equipment. I can’t stay at that end of the pool for very long without drowning, I have to tread water.”

Next Generation

Antone and Melissa Schlafer are the proud parents of three boys, Tucker, Sawyer, and Cooper Wayne. The two older boys, ages 9 and 7, like to tag along with dad on his logging jobs, and no doubt the youngest (almost 2) will when he gets a little older. Every chance they get, the two older boys head to the woods.

“Tucker likes to watch skidding the logs, and Sawyer likes to watch timber falling.” Schlafer says he will let the boys decide if they want to join the family business, but he wants them to go to college first, stressing that in the world of logging today, “education is the key.” He adds that it’s not just about picking up a chainsaw and going to work or turning the key and skidding logs. “It’s more about crunching numbers and being able to do all aspects of the job. The competition is so tight nowadays, you really have to have your head wrapped around the business.”

A Passion for His Work

Despite the hurdles facing the logging industry, especially in California, Schlafer is optimistic about the future. He describes himself as “addicted” to the logging industry, proudly declaring, “It’s the only drug I’ve ever done.”

He says, “You have to have a love for what you do to be in this industry. You have to love the industry, and you have to love the people in the industry…and you’ve got to be about half-crazy,” he adds with a chuckle.

Schlafer Logging