Logging and Sawmilling Information for the Western United States

January  2001 - Volume 26 Number 1



Coastal Logging

Weyerhaeuser's Shawnigan operation on finds the Hultdins 851/Madill 3800B combination to their liking

By Rick Crosby

The Hultdins/Madill combination falls the wood directionally so that when another machine is brought in to shovel log the timber, it's all in a pile

Maps of cut blocks have been tacked on to one wall of Weyerhaeuser's Shawnigan operation meeting room and operations office near Duncan, British Columbia and colour photographs of guys with 25 years of accident free work hang neatly on the opposite wall. Outside the window on a distant hillside, second growth forest is coming up on ground that was logged 15 years ago. "You can see the new style retention logging," says Dennis Ramshaw, a supervisor for 35 years, nodding towards the left of the hillside. In terms of what he thinks of this logging, "it's okay," he says. "It's pretty good in that type of ground, but in steep ground it's a little more of a problem." 

Vancouver Island is a region where many logging practices have been implemented over the decades as loggers continue to harvest the resource, a lot of it using hand falling. But more and more harvesting is being done with mechanical equipment like the Hultdins 851 Superfell directional felling head Weyerhaeuser is using, most recently to fall trees and widen the road system on a particular site. Manufactured in Sweden, the Hultdins 851 felling head is mounted on a Madill 3800B log loader and can fall trees up to 34 inches at the butt. There are a variety of features logging contractors like about the 851, beginning with its low maintenance and quick change around. "An operator can be loading logs in half an hour," Ramshaw says. "It puts lots of wood down and is very easy to look after. It's just a straight machine and works really well." Coupled with the Hultdins 851's practicability is the lack of downtime. 

Downtime can be a huge problem with heavy equipment in the forest industry. If machinery needs repair, a logging operation can be shut down anywhere from a day to a week. "You loose a machine and you can have everything else tied up waiting for it," Ramshaw continues. "You may have a loader in the area and if no trees are being fallen, you're not getting any wood on the ground." Weyerhaeuser personnel did some looking around and checked out different felling heads before purchasing the Hultdins 851. "We usually get stuff in here on a demo and demo it for a couple of weeks and see how we like it," Ramshaw explains. The Shawnigan operation has had the 851 for about a year and tested the machine for six months before purchasing it. The company decided on the 851 because it produces. "We were looking for something that will get wood on the ground for us," Ramshaw says. There are other factors to consider in addition to the mechanics and productivity before a decision is made about new equipment. 

A logging operation can get behind in adverse weather conditions, especially snow. Snow can make working conditions difficult for fallers but the 851 can work right through. The head is also easy to move. When an operator is finished in one area, he can put the felling head in the back of a truck and transport it anywhere in the division. "We haven't taken the machine out of the division yet," Ramshaw says, "but, we could have that machine moved in an hour." The Shawnigan operation and Chemainus dryland sort, Nanaimo River operation, are part of Weyerhaeuser's South Island Timberlands. About 17 loads of wood are brought into the Shawnigan operation per day by off highway truck, where the wood is graded, sorted, and scaled then reloaded onto highway trucks and transported to Chemainus, 23 kilometres up the highway from Duncan. 

The wood is put into booms at Chemainus and shipped to sawmills on the mainland or to local mills on Vancouver Island. The productivity of a piece of equipment like the Hultdins 851 felling head plays a role keeping the whole operation going. "This machine falls the wood so that when we bring in another machine to hoe chuck it's all in a pile," Ramshaw continues. "The 851 also brings wood one throw closer to the road so there's in fact less hoe chucking." The 851 mounted on the Madill 3800's 38 foot boom has simplicity built in so the operator can get to work right away. "There's just one pin in it," Ramshaw says. "There's half an hour from the time you get to the setting to the time you remove the head and put the grapple back on." 

Fortyfive minutes out from the marshalling shack at Shawnigan operation's dryland sort grounds and up on a setting above Skutz Falls, log loader operator Stan Gorle is bunching logs. Gorle gets out of the Madill 3800 to walk through the cut block to show the sections of timber he's falling. His enthusiasm for logging is obvious. "This tree had an 'x' blazed into it," he says, pointing to a large fir tree. In the 1930s and 1940s that fir would have been saved as a spar tree for the yarding process. Gorle does not go back that far in the logging game, but had been with MacMillan Bloedel, who were bought out by Weyerhaeuser in 1999, for 28 years. He started his logging career setting chokers on a spar for MacBlo, worked as a hook tender on a grapple yarder, then ran a grapple yarder for another ten years. 

He's also run long boom and worked cherry picking with a line loader. His experience with felling heads includes operating a Waratah processor head on a Timbco carrier. "I ran that for a couple of months off and on, then we rented a LinkBelt 3400 with a felling head," he says. "I ran that for three months and then they started looking seriously at a Hultdins 851. The Hultdins 851 is a prototype with a bigger bar and chain than its predecessor and it's been on there for a little over a year." Gorle has been working on this setting cutting wood averaging two feet at the butt for about two and a half weeks. He compares the 851 to other felling heads favourably. "The other one I was exposed to had electronics that got shook up when you were falling," Gorle begins. "The big difference is there's less out there on the end of the Hultdins - it's a grapple with a bit of hydraulics." 

The previous felling head that was used to do a variety of work had more hydraulics, delimbing arms, a saw and topping saw. Essentially, there was a lot more mechanics which made the head prone to things going wrong. "The 851 is so simple because there's nothing out there to get shook up," Gorle continues. "It's just straight hydraulic grapples with a hydraulic saw, making it dependable and durable for falling." Like most new equipment, there were a few startup problems but once those were worked out the head ran dependably. In one setting where Gorle was falling with the 851, he was putting down 40 cubic metres an hour and now production is even better. "We had to reroute the hoses because the head had not previously been mounted on a Madill," Gorle confirms, "but once that was worked out, the head has worked all day with very few problems." People from Madill and Hultdins consulted with heavy duty mechanics to make the changes, which included extra valves and pipes that had to be put in to run the saw and tip the head up. "You need to have two extra circuits running out to the end of the boom," Gorel explains. "On a regular grapple on a loader, you have open and close and rotation. 

There are four pipes run out there to do that. You have to have these extra tubes; one to run the saw and one to tip the head up so it stands upright to grab the tree." Gorle knows full well what it's like to work with equipment that isn't reliable. There have been times when days have been taken trying to work out an electrical problem, a computer glitch, or problems with hydraulic valving. That's when your operation is affected. "It's costly because now not only is the machine not producing, but you've got a mechanic and an operator tied up as well," Gorle continues. "That's the other beauty with this falling head. If something does go haywire with it an operator can just take that pin out, put the grapples back on, and the machine can go back to work. You're not tying up the whole carrier ." Gorle gets into the Madill and takes the machine into the bush. 

Each tree he falls will have two logs in it when the tree is processed. It'll take him three quarters of an hour to an hour depending on the ground to get a load for an off highway truck. This is where the 38-foot boom attached to the 851 comes into play. "I can swing a tree that's 30 feet out in the bush from the machine right out to the road," he says. "That's a big benefit because your hoe chucking costs are down." 

Operator Stan Gorle with the Hultdins 851 head mounted on a Madill 3800B. "The 851 is so simple because there's nothing out there to get shook up," says Gorle. 

Craig Lennox is hoe chucking with a Hitachi 480 a short distance from where Gorle works. Lennox, who has hoe chucked for four years and worked behind the 851, agrees with Gorle about the efficiency of the felling head. "As far as the hoe chucking part of it, it's good," he says standing on the back of his machine. "Wherever his machine has gone, this one can go." Like all logging operations safety is paramount. When Gorle goes into settings where there is fairly big wood, he'll be working with fallers as part of the A team. A guy in a cab isn't going to be too worried about a limb hanging from a tree but that limb can kill a faller. Adding to the efficiency of the 851 is the ease of servicing in the field. "I service the head every day because you have to put in chain oil", Gorle says. "I like to keep it full in case I'm out in the bush falling and I can't get to the road that night to service it. I'm comfortable leaving it knowing I've got lots of chain oil to get through the next day." Parts are also easily replaced in the field. "There's very little that you'd have to go to camp for because it's no harder to work on than a set of grapple," Gorle say. 

Weyerhaeuser tried taking small wood out with the 851 before falling bigger wood. This worked well in one place and not as well in other places but by accounts so far the 851 is a felling head that delivers. "Definitely," Dennis Ramshaw states, "or we wouldn't have bought it."

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