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Tech Update

Harvesting and Felling Heads

Tech Update Editor: Mel-Lynda Andersen
Copyright 1997. Contact publisher for permission to use.


With five models available, the Hytec Harvester is touted as the machine that was tried and proven by the logger, having undergone several years of intensive planning, field testing and improvements. According to the manufacturer, advantages of these heads include enclosed hydraulic components, one-minute troubleshooting inspection panels, a lock-out feature on both roller and stroke when the saw is not in full retractor position, large-diameter stump capability, and holding jaws with strength enough to cut and harvest a 28"-diameter tree. Hytec harvesters are compatible with all boom-operated feller-type carriers and are available with 120' or 270' tilt options. Options include guard/hydraulic packages for logging excavator-type carriers or adapter kits for logging purpose-built carriers; computerized rollers/counters with two or six presets; roller harvesters with or without stroke options; lower accumulating jaws; automatic chain tensioning; topping saw; automatic/manual upper jaw tensioning; automatic float rotator; and automatic harvester pivot.


The HSG-140 and HSG-160 single-grip harvesters from Hahn are ideal for plantation thinning and select cut operations. Capable of felling, delimbing, measuring and bucking, they have fingertip processing controls, electronic length measuring system, a rugged 3/4" pitch felling/ bucking saw, two-speed roller feed, automatic saw oiler, and alloy steel construction. Both units allow a controlled fall rather than a free fall; aggressive roller design, large drive motors and four delimb knives ensure quality delimbing in all conditions.

Wood King The Woodking 650 single-grip harvester offers the latest technology available to loggers. It provides the necessary power and accuracy for efficient felling, delimbing, measuring and cross-cutting operations. The Woodking features two sets of moving knives, high torque feedrolls and variable geometry feedroll supports. Together with two idler wheels each of these attributes make the Woodking fast and precise by increasing the net feed force and delimbing ability. Features include DASA 280C computerized measuring system with versatile memory card hookup, strong C-frame that allows -31 tilting, expander bolts on all joints, automatic chain tightener, North American specified hydraulic system, and clean hydraulic design with multi-station manifold and only four connecting hoses, according to the manufacturer.

Harvest Systems Inc.

Developed by one of the largest forestry contractors in Finland, the Forest One (F1) harvester has been built to withstand North America's rugged timber environments. This head has been tested and developed over five years, and has received three international patents. The first patent concerns the construction of the harvester. A folding frame design pivots in the middle, ensuring a good grip on any size stem. Feed rollers are mounted directly to the frame which greatly reduces the number of moving parts. The saw moves with the frame for good cutting and improves bar and chain life, says the manufacturer. This design allows the use of shorter, sturdier delimbing knives. The diameter of the stem is accurately measured according to the angle of the frame, enabling precise sorting. The measuring wheel is mounted on its own hydraulic cylinder/spring combination and provides accurate lengths. The second patent deals with a self-adjusting mechanism of the delimbing knives. The company maintains that good delimbing is ensured in all conditions by the 4+2 knife combination.

The delimbing knives are controlled by a mechanism that maintains the proper distance of the knives from the stem. The third patent covers the Moipu feed roller construction, in which track pieces are installed over rubber rollers which give better contact with the stem compared to the traditional roller. More delimbing force is achieved, although the holding pressure is quite low. This low holding pressure speeds up the feed rate and reduces damage to the stem from the feed rollers. The company says these specialized feed rollers have been proven to last many times longer than rubber rollers with chains, and require less maintenance.


The Rotosaw SlingShot harvesting head is a single-grip, stroke-type processor that combines felling, accumulating, delimbing and processing into one attachment. The SlingShot maintains total control of the tree in a vertical position so it can accumulate several smaller trees and multi-stem process. The head has the same delimbing power and speed in both directions and can effectively delimb difficult hardwoods and softwoods. All delimbing debris can be placed in front of the carrier as a cushion to extend the life of undercarriage components and prevent ground disturbance. The SlingShot can be easily serviced and maintained without specialized knowledge or training. Basic mast length is maximum 110'' maximum; the RotoSaw base is available with 18'' or 21'' cut capacity up to 24''.

Keto Hakmet Ltd. offers a complete series of five Keto harvesters, a line that is manufactured in Finland by Koneketonen Ltd. Because of the high efficiency and low weight of Keto harvesters, they can be adapted for mounting directly onto most base machines and excavators. The construction of these harvesters is easy to service and protects the motors, valves and electric components. They also feature simplified hydraulics, improved sawing equipment, and can quickly be fitted to most measuring devices, according to the manufacturer. Optional extras include separate saw lubrication, lower knife, double-action felling cylinder, raised working pressure 240 bar, and colour marking with various colour alternatives.

"During the first three days with this system, our average was 66 trees per hour," says Brown. "In one week, we were at 92 trees per hour, and that's where we've been ever since. We doubled our production. We get the same production in 14 hours as we were getting in 20 hours."

He employs a team of operators for both harvesters, and says they find it easy to stay focused on production.

"They know that they are only going to be there for four hours, so they don't stop for coffee, for a cigarette, nothing," he says.

In addition to better operator productivity, Brown has earned huge gains in equipment availability. In fact, he has created an operator bonus program based on equipment availability, not production. Brown says many contractors have tried to develop a bonus system based on availability, but he has succeeded with his approach. The lynch pin to his system is time clocks in each machine showing daily production hours. His equipment availability is 94 per cent on the 1270, and 88 per cent on the 990, even though the older 990 has 19,000 hours on it.

The equipment maintains high availability because of regular preventive maintenance within Brown's shift system. Operators work together for an average of one hour per day, in daylight, to conduct regular maintenance. And if a problem occurs on the late shift, the second operator has plenty of time to fix the machine because he is finished by 8:00 p.m. His bonus is not only tied to machine availability during his shift, but availability on both shifts. So, the bonus system encourages him to ensure that the machine is ready for production by 5:00 a.m. the next morning. That's barring a major breakdown.

"You've got a chance to work on the machine," says Brown. "You've got to do maintenance, and if you are running your machine 20 or 24 hours a day, well, then your availability goes down."

The system has some limitations. Firstly, contractors must operate live-in and mobile camps, or cutblocks have to be close to home base. As cutblocks are located more further afield, that is not always possible. Also, Brown says contractors in other areas are handcuffed by operator union agreements that will not allow for this split-shift system.

Cut-to-length harvesting has become popular with sawmill and pulp plant owners because it offers year-round harvesting, sorting in the bush and less environmental damage. Abitibi-Consolidated encouraged Brown to try the cut-to-length system, and helped him finance the equipment.

One complaint about cut-to-length equipment, however, is consistent processing accuracy. Operator fatigue is one contributing factor, as computer measuring systems require that they keep on their toes.

Brown says they achieve 96 per cent accuracy on average, and adjust their production should adverse factors, such as peeling aspen or limby, crooked wood crop up.

"You have to adjust your production to your accuracy," he says. "When you get into poorer wood, you've got to take a little more time to make sure you get your accuracy." All the more reason to have an alert operator. All things considered, he believes cut-to-length accuracy can compare favourably to a slasher.

Brown is a stump-to-dump contractor and a cut-to-length contracting pioneer to the area immediately north of the US border. He operates in the High Rock Forest, which extends from Fort Frances to east of Atikokan, and north about 80 km toward Dryden. He began in forestry 20 years ago, working nine years in site preparation for the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Today, he is one of eight Abitibi-Consolidated harvesting contractors, and cuts 50,000 m3 per year of conifer, and 10,000 m3 of deciduous for the Boise Cascade paper plant. Starting this fall, he will ship aspen to the Voyageur Panel Ltd. OSB plant 50 km west of Fort Frances. The OSB plant is majority-owned by Boise Cascade. Abitibi-Consolidated has a smaller interest, and will manage all harvesting operations for the OSB plant. That ties in well with Brown's business.

Fred Brown Equipment Ltd. is a family operation with 14 employees. Brown's Finnish grandfather settled north of Fort Frances, in Finland, Ontario, and also worked in forestry. He says his family's European experience of forest management and minimal environmental impact explains his interest in cut-to-length harvesting.

His support of cut-to-length meshes nicely with Abitibi-Consolidated's forest management plans. This spring, they moved from a block cutting system, to a fire line cutting system.

"We'll be cutting larger blocks, but doing it like a wild fire would," says Brown. "We'll leave snag trees for birds, leave low areas, leave tops of trees here and there, and that's for management of the ecosystem." Abitibi-Consolidated's new system anticipates the work of scientists studying the boreal forest at the Canadian Centre for Forestry Excellence at the University of Alberta, and how contractors can mimic nature in harvesting practices.

Brown's history as a careful and quiet operator has opened up a new wood source for his client - shoreline removal of 30 to 50 per cent of standing timber. In the past, this area was untouchable despite tying up as much as 15 per cent of the company's annual allowable cut. The Fort Frances area is a prime tourism destination, with many lakes and rivers.

"We did some on an experimental basis with MNR, and they liked it," says Brown. "It's more expensive to harvest, but it's cheaper than hauling from 300 km away."

Brown has conducted several trial cuts involving thinning and advanced growth harvesting for Abitibi-Consolidated, because of his equipment setup.

"Sometimes, we get paid by how many trees we leave behind," says Brown. "They'll (Abitibi-Consolidated) go in and do a regen survey, and see exactly what's left there." If there is enough regen left so that they do not need to plant or scarify, Brown is compensated.

"They see the advantages of the cut-to-length system," says Brown. He says he has had terrific support from Timberjack and will likely move up to their new 1270B harvester model. However, because of strong production, he plans to trade in his 1010 forwarders first for the larger 1210B models. That's to haul more tonnage and to withstand the rocky, swampy and hilly terrain.

"You can get all the deals you want in the world (on equipment)," says Brown. "But if you don't have the backup, forget it."

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