May 2005 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal
The new LogMax 12000 head is receiving praise for its performance in processing large second-growth wood on the BC Coast for contractor D & D Logging.
By Paul MacDonald
The British Columbia coast may still have the reputation as being the home of fallers taking down giant old growth timber, but mechanized harvesting continues to make some strong inroads into the logging industry in the region, notably in second growth wood. The latest example of this comes with the giant LogMax head being used by D & D Logging, a medium-sized logging outfit based in Powell River, BC. A LogMax 12000 head has been matched up with a Madill HT2250B carrier, and the result has been nothing short of high production for D & D.
The company has been using mechanical harvesting equipment in coastal logging for some time, but this latest LogMax/Madill combination seems to have taken things to a brand new plateau. “It’s bulletproof,” says operator Jeff Erickson. “The LogMax makes an awesome package with the Madill. “I first had the LogMax 9000 on the machine. It weighs 4,000 pounds and I thought it was great. But the head was a bit too small. And when we put the 12000 on, at first it seemed heavy. But in time, like everything else, I got used to it and now I’ll go pretty much anywhere with the machine.”
The head handles the big second growth wood very well, and the Madill 2250 carrier, in turn, handles the tough terrain well. The production numbers tell the tale. “The production we’ve been getting is amazing,” says Erickson. “In decent-sized wood, I’ll cut an average of 80-plus cubic metres an hour and that’s falling, processing and piling it. You can’t ask for much more than that.” Even in smaller wood, he’s doing 60 cubic metres an hour. And with the giant LogMax head, he’s been able to cut up to 51-inch diameter trees. The head has also delivered in terms of being bang-on with log lengths. Erickson has to deal with a good variety of timber lengths. “We start at 10-foot and then it’s almost a sort for each foot up from there,” he explains. “We do a lot of export wood and poles here, so the quality has to be excellent.”
On the equipment side, Erickson notes that stories circulate in the logging community about heads struggling to get a firm hold on big timber as it is being run through the head. Some heads can handle it—and some can’t. “The 12000 holds really well. We can easily run the big wood through and still be very accurate.” Erickson and D & D Logging owners Albert Randle and Brent Rothwell were the first to use the 12000 head. That meant they had to go through a bit of a de-bugging phase, but that phase has been relatively short and painless. As of earlier this year, there were 1,500 hours on the head and 2,000 hours on the Madill 2250, and both were performing well. “The LogMax guys told us that 95 per cent of any problems we would have could be solved over the phone, and that’s been the case,” said Erickson.
When problems cropped up, Erickson and company mechanic Kalvin George would get on the radio phone with LogMax technicians and do some brief trouble-shooting and some small fixes. Some adjustments still have to be made on the head’s computer, but Erickson says these are minor, and involve tweaking of the equipment, rather than anything major. He anticipates they will see solid service from the head, a judgment based on experience. A LogMax 750 head he operated previously never had a full day of downtime in 18 months. As of earlier this year, there were other adjustments still to be done. LogMax is going to change the knives on the unit; during the manufacturing process, the knives seemed to have gotten a bit too hot during welding, which made the cutting edge soft. And the tilt pins need to be anchored a bit better. “That is pretty much it,” says Erickson. In terms of specs, the 12000 head weighs in at a solid 9,680 pounds, with height to the upper knife being 97.9 inches, and a height to the upper rotator pin of 116.8 inches.
On the feed unit, the maximum opening between the rollers is 36 inches. LogMax lists the maximum feeding speed on the 12000 as 984 feet/minute. Its motor displacement is 96 cubic inches. The standard saw bar on the unit is 40 inches, but D & D opted for the optional 45-inch saw bar. The investment in the new equipment has also paid off for the company in terms of the carrier. The Madill HT2250B, with its tilt features, gets around very well in the steep ground that D & D is working in around Theodosia River Valley, near Powell Lake. Most of the area they are working in is steep sidehills. And what little ground there is that appears to be flat, is not. “It’s really broken ground area,” says Brent Rothwell. “It may look nice and flat, but there’s lots of rocks in there. The Madill handles it really well. And it climbs like you wouldn’t believe on the sidehills.” D & D has done some minor modifications to the 2250B.
Jeff Erickson and Albert Randle designed a metal deflector and installed it at the front of the machine. It helps the machine slide up and over stumps more easily. It works like a charm, and another will be installed at the back of the 2250. As mentioned, mechanical harvesting equipment is nothing new to D &D. Back as far as the late 1980s, they tried out a Cat 227 with a hot saw. “Even back then, we could see it could do a nice job and put the wood on the ground in a hurry,” says Rothwell. But just as today, you need a lot of wood to keep the equipment running, and the large amount of wood wasn’t there for them at the time. The operation used to have a 445 Timbco with a Keto 1000 and it took down its fair share of big wood through the 1990s.
Having a sizeable mechanical harvesting component is a must these days to be competitive on the BC Coast, says Rothwell, reviewing a stack of papers on his desk. All these packages for doing harvesting work call for doing mechanical harvesting wherever possible, with only a small amount of hand falling. “We do everything we can with mechanical harvesting, and then if there is something left, like a steep bluff, we will hand fall.” “We get a much better product,” adds Albert Randle. “When it goes through the processor, we get a clean log, cut to length with no branches, and when you go to grapple yard or hoe chuck that wood, it’s all ready to go. Overall, we are handling the wood far less.” Randle notes they are able to get 500 to 600 cubic metres a day with the Madill/LogMax, and would have to have five handfallers out there to get a similar amount of production. In the time it takes a hand faller to fall, clean and buck a tree, a processor/carrier can do eight or ten trees. And then there is the safety element, as well.
Employees are far safer in a cab than they are out falling, especially in the notably large and sometimes unpredictable timber on the BC Coast. Prior to their involvement with D & D, Rothwell and Randle were both working at A Byrne Trucking, owned by Rothwell’s father-in-law, Andy Byrne. The three men—Rothwell, Rangle and Byrne—bought D & D in 1988. A Byrne Trucking handles trucking for the operation with Kenworth, Mack and Pacific highway logging trucks with Barko self-loaders, and a Kenworth 850 off highway truck with a Vanguard self-loader. It’s a good combination between the two—Rothwell, who has a trucking background, handles the business side of things while Randle, who is a heavy-duty mechanic, handles the bush. “We started out doing 10,000 cubic metres a year for MacMillan Bloedel years ago and things have grown from there,” says Rothwell. “It eventually got to the point where we couldn’t drive the trucks, pull wrenches and run the company anymore. We had to get down to business and manage it.”
Rothwell still gets out to the bush to handle the low-bedding, however. And Randle, naturally, stays involved on the mechanical side. “We’re hands-on with what we do and that’s probably part of the reason why this has worked for us.” The work they have been doing with the Madill/LogMax is on 5,000 acres of private land owned by Merrill & Ring, a forest management company based out of Seattle, Washington. In addition, they have upwards of 20,000 cubic metres of contracted Bill 13 harvesting with Weyerhaeuser, whose coastal operations were recently taken over by Brascan. “With the work we do, we fall, we process, we dryland sort, we boom, we build everything,” says Rothwell. “We’re a small company, but we’ve got enough equipment to do all that we need to do.” Today, the D & D equipment line-up includes a Madill 122 grapple yarder, two Cat front end loaders, a 4300 Link-Belt log loader, four excavators (two 3400 Link-Belts, a 290 Link-Belt and a John Deere 2554), and a Link-Belt 3400 High Walker with a 750 LogMax processor in addition to the new Madill/LogMax combo, and a variety of low bed and gravel truck equipment.
Rothwell points that they have a solid and versatile crew, people who are able to switch from one piece of equipment to another. “They are able to do whatever has to be done.” Both Randle and Rothwell would like to ramp up their operations to get more use out of that equipment. This year, they will do about 60,000 cubic metres a year for Merrill & Ring, in addition to the Weyerhaeuser/Brascan harvesting and other work. “Another 40,000 to 50,000 cubic metres would help to round out what we do now, and make sure we are busy,” says Randle. There may be some opportunities on the BC Coast to ramp things up, but they are far from certain opportunities. The provincial government has launched a clawback of harvesting rights from the major tenure holders, the large forest companies. This timber will go to First Nations and community groups, and be put out to bid. And Brascan taking over Weyerhaeuser’s major timber operations on the BC Coast may open up some opportunities. “It’s hard to say how it’s all going to shake out, but there are definitely a lot of things going on out there now,” says Rothwell.
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