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Summary: John Deere set out to build what contractors want: a lighter, narrow-profile buncher that could still durably handle 22'' timber. Early 653E users in Ontario and BC think they have done just that.

By Tony Kryzanowski
Copyright 1996 Contact publisher for permission to use

Equipment manufacturers have discovered that today's purpose-built carrier must have the skills of a ballroom dancer — it must be light on its feet, have the ability to swing 360 without damaging smaller growth or untouchable species, while having the ability to harvest and swing heavy timber effortlessly.

The JD 653E feller buncher weighs in at about 38,000 lbs. This is considerably lighter than its 853 Ti ge rc at big brother, but several contractors have been amazed by its agility and strength, despite its smaller size. Contractor Benoit Levesque, owner of BL Logging, has about 1,500 hours on his JD 653E feller buncher, with a Rotosaw head. Levesque harvests poplar and jack pine for Tembec, about an hour from Timmins, Ontario. His cutblock is about a 50-50 mix, with sizes ranging up to 22'' for poplar, and 20'' for jack pine.

During the summer they tend to work on steeper slopes, while during the winter they focus on frozen, swampy areas that tend to flatten out. He's operated feller bunchers for about five years, and traded in a John Deere 693C carrier for the newer, lighter JD 653E. "When I first saw it, I really didn't believe in it. But I went to look at it anyway," he says. "After I saw it working, the first thing I said was 'I'm buying one.'"

Levesque has cut about 400 loads of larger poplar this past winter, working with his brother who handles the skidding. He reports that he has experienced excellent production. They have often had to put two skidders to work just to keep up with what Levesque has harvested in one shift. "It's very surprising what it can do," he says. "Its small, but when you are sitting in it, it feels like a big machine because it's really strong and fast. You can manoeuver the big trees, no p ro bl e m ."

Levesque points out that the JD 653E is also a forest-friendly carrier. "It doesn't have that big tail at the back so you don't have to cut everything around you," he says. "It turns on itself, it can go between birch, and you don't have to cut 10 trees that are no good just to get one. Sometimes the wood is sparse ." He adds that he'll never go back to a larger carrier.

Branch manager for Coast Tractor in Williams Lake, BC, Dan Callaghan, says the JD 653E is only now showing up in Canadian forests, even though it's been on the market for a couple of years. Heavy demand from the factory has resulted in most early units selling in the US market. Callaghan says the 653E is a perfect exam-ple of how more stringent forestry codes have impacted equipment specs. He feels there is no doubt that the dealership lost a few sales because they couldn't previously offer contractors a lightweight machine. But that's history, and at this writing Coast had sold four units in BC.

One of those customers, Ernie Leclair of Mons Lake Logging in Williams Lake, bought two of the machines, both with Rotosaws. A 30-year veteran in the bush, he works about 130 km west of Williams Lake, contracting to TimberWest. The company is generally in flat terrain in average 20'' pine. The operation involves skidding to roadside for delimbing and loading.

Leclair says he converted to JD by going to the 653E, pri m a ri ly because its light weight would reduce ground disturbance, in line with the Forest Practices Code. Another Coast customer, Kenny Ilnicki of Ilnicki Bros. Logging in Williams Lake, reports that the 653E shines in selective-cut situations, or in narrow confines. He says they have about 1,000 hours on thei r 653E carri e r, also fitt ed with a Rotosaw head. So far, they have worked it along trails harvesting fi r, and in cuts where they have had to cut the pine and leave the spruce.

Currently, they have it working on a clearcut, harvesting 4'' to 20'' pine for Timber West. "The 653 is a little lighter and it's not quite as good as the 853 on a side hill," Ilnicki says. "But you can put down more wood." It also works almost as effectively as a bigger carrier in a clearcut situation, he adds. However, he has experienced a few design problems with the carrier for his particular application. The terrain in Ilnicki's area is rocky, and he says the rock guards are too low, causing the pads to wear out.

Also, he says the head is hitting the stick and boom when completely retracted. A welded steel plate will solve that problem, and Coast Tractor is analyzing his rock guard problem. Other than a few minor problems with changing out the interior joysticks, Ilnicki says the 653 is easy to maintain. They have only had problems with two loose hoses since it was purchased five months ago. Levesque reports servicing his carrier is fairly standard, with only the usual problems associated with broken hydraulic hoses.

Otherwise, the units have operated problem free. Both contractors have John Deere dealers in close proximity, so parts service is either same-day or overnight. "I operate my own machines so I know I'm careful," says Levesque. "If you take your time and work at a steady pace and not try to finish your day before it gets started, you'll have no problems."

Three separate panels in the carrier's upper structure swing open for easy access to the engine, hydraulic system, filters and daily service points. With or without its counterweight, the JD 653 has zero tail swing over the back and front. It has a 4'' swing over the side without the counterweight, and 12'' with. It rotates 360, with a swing speed of 9.5 rpm. A sealed wet multi-disc controls swing braking. In terms of head configurations , this JD carrier can operate a continu-ous- type disc saw l i ke a Cameco 18' ' , an intermittent-type saw like a Rotosaw model 1800T or 11821T, or one of the variety of harvester processor, accumulating bar-type saws, directional bar-type saws, and shear heads available. It sits 10' 7'' tall, with an overall track length of 13'. The maximum reach with an 18'' saw is 23' 6''; its minimum is 9' 9''.

Cutting sweep is 13' 9'', and it has a lifting capacity of 4,400 lbs. It also has a ground clearance of 23'', and has a track gauge of 7' 6''. Ground pressure is where the unit really excels for minimal rutting. John Deere offers two selections here. The double grouser, heavy-duty, 24'' setup, as well as the single grouser, clipped corner, heavy-duty 24'' setup, offer 6.3 psi. For soft terrain, the manufa cturer recommends the double grouser, heavy-duty 36'' setup with only 4.2 psi. The engine is a John Deere 6068A turbo-charged and intercooled engine, rated at 2,200 rpm and a net horsepower of 155 hp.

Yvon Nadeau is a John Deere sales representative for Tundra Industrial Equipment located in Timmins. He says t h ey we re without John Deere feller bunchers for about two or three years before the 653 and 853 Tigercat arrived on the market a little over a year ago. So far they have sold three 653s, with the larger Tigercat attracting more attention. This unit is comparable to the popular Timberjack 618. He adds that its no surprise that the Tigercat is more popular than the smaller 653E. "We recommend the Tigercat for customers with big poplar contracts," he says.

The smaller 653 is more suitable for contractors working on soft ground with smaller wood. Tundra Industrial Equipment sells the carrier with a variety of heads for about $355,000. The carrier alone sells for around $300,000.

April 1996 articles - Forest Expo Show Guide

  • New Deere Buncher
    Eastern and western contractors assess the new 653E.
  • Riverside Forest Products
    A $17 million upgrade produces a 12-percent recovery gain
  • OSB Fast Track
    Ainsworth opens its second OSB plant in as many years.
  • Caribou-Friendly Harvesting
    A look at a working study in BC's Chilcotin region.
  • Eye on the Orient
    With a confusing Timber West/Fletcher Challenge ownership behind it, the Elk Falls lumber mill invests $16 million to retool for Asian markets.
  • Unmasking the Eco-Myths
    Ex-Greenpeace activist Patrick works these days to counter the forestry myths and misinformation put forth by radical environmentalists. Most don't have a clue what they are talking about, says Moore.
  • Ancient Enterprise Still Thriving
    The oak forests and processing industry of France predate the Romans. LSJ's peripatetic editor Reg Barclay takes us inside a highly efficient plant in Burgundy, France.
  • Diploma Mill with a Difference
    A Crestbrook Forest Industries program that combines on-site industrial training with high school completion courses is well-accepted by employees.
  • Marketplace: Supplier NewsLine
    Equipment information including the Implemax Equipment skid steer grapple, the Dynaweld detachable trailer model, the Imac PowerSwivel, the Morbark Model 1300 Tub Grinder, and more.
    This month: Kiln controls including Drystar Computer Kiln Controller, Winkiln Control System, Custom Dry Kiln PLC and more.
  • New Era in Bush Communications
    Forest companies working in remote locations will welcome TMI Communications' new mobile satellite communications network.

Return to the April 1996 - Table of Contents

Last modified 6/10/96

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