May June, 2004





NEW GRAPPLE SAW Increases Efficiency AND Enhances Safety

Alaska Pacific Logging reports success with new Hultdins equipment in blown-down harvesting.

By Thomas G. Dolan

I don’t know of anything else like it,” says Bob Hild, president of the Marysville, Washington based Alaska Pacific Logging. Hild is referring to the Hultdins TL580 Grapple used in conjunction with the Super Saw 750S. It’s this unique grapple/saw combination that Hild has found helpful in a big, blown-down job in Alaska. “The project is in Yakutat, on U.S. Forest Service land about 200 miles north of Juneau,” Hild says. “It’s about 24 million feet of fairly goodsized timber, up to five and six feet in diameter, and at least 60 percent blown-down, all shovel logging.” Hild contracted for the job with Alcan and says he plans to have it completed by the end of the year. It is next to a similar project he did on native land. For safety reasons those trees were cut as high as 14 feet from the ground. “Afterwards, the stumps popped back in the ground and it looked like a bunch of tombstones,” he says. “When that happens you lose the majority of the value of the log. My thought was to cut the trees off at two, three, or four feet. When we first went in there we thought we’d have to have two cutters and two loaders. But the Hultdins does it with one person. We’ve saved about 3 employees, so it worked out better than we ever thought it would.”

Without the Grapple Saw Perhaps the best way to describe what this unit has done for Hild is to first detail what he would have done without it. First of all, when a large number of big trees are blown over, the branches are tangled and it takes one or two men to go into the area with hand chain saws to cut through the debris. Once at the desired tree, the worker needs to cut as close to the stump as possible, but only as close as is safe. If the tree is under tension, its sudden release could whiplash to either side unpredictably. Mud or dirt has to be cleaned off of the tree before cutting, to not hurt the chain saw. Then the logger works his way back, cutting through the limbs and branches, measuring off the desired log lengths from 30 to 40 feet, cutting. When this work is done, the grapple then comes in and hauls the logs out.

The Linkbelt log loader equipped with the Hultdins TL580 grapple makes quick work of the trees blown down at the Yakutat, Alaska site.

The Right Machine for the Job
Hild says the grapple saw goes in with only the man in the cab. The machine cuts through the debris, scrapes the dirt and bark of the desired area close to the stump and cuts it off. The TL580 Grapple has a 58” opening. The attached Super saw 750S, equipped with a 3⁄4-inch pitch saw chain, has a cut capacity of approximately 36 inches. By double cutting, trees up to 4 feet in diameter are bucked with the Grapple Saw. The shovel logger yards whole trees to roadside or landings. The grapple features a tapered sleeve pin design to eliminate any joint motions. And its compact design provides the strength to withstand high loads in all directions. The saw unit has an automatic chain tension system, so that the chain will not become too tight and snap or too loose and flip off.  Although the grapple saw plays an important part in Yakutat operation, it is only one of piece of a larger whole, including Cats, Linkbelts and Hahns, among others. (For a full break down, see sidebar.) Together they keep things going strong.

The Home Team
Hild runs about 25 employees in Yakutat, and another 40-50 at Soda Bay, Prince of Wales, where he builds roads for Sea Alaska and puts logs in insurable rafts. He also employs three to five people who work at Klawock Rock and Redi-Mix, a small rock and concrete business also on Prince of Wales Island. Hild started logging in Washington in 1960 and then in Alaska in 1989. His two-person administrative headquarters is in Marysville. Add another four employees at Menzel Lake Gravel of Granite Falls, running about 50-60 loads a day. Hild’s son Rob runs that business, plus the gravel and concrete business on Prince of Wales.

Hild says its hard to find trucks to haul the logs with the fuel prices rising and the regulations the federal and state governments are imposing.

“We quit logging in Washington at the end of 2002,” Hild says. “The reason is the cost of doing business in this state. Because of all the environment and employment laws, we couldn’t afford it anymore. We used to work 10-12 sides.” Hild sold off most of his equipment, some to a former partner who is still working a small operation. “You’ve got to be a real small owner/operator to log here today,” Hild says. “You have to pay so many benefits, and the government regulations and taxes increase costs every year while the prices for logging are going down. You just can’t afford to run logging tower sites any more.” In addition, Hild says, there is a problem with finding trucks to haul logs, as state and federal laws and fuel prices are making many of those companies go out of business. He also says it’s very difficult to find young people who are willing to work hard any more. “Most of our men are in their 40s and older,” Hild explains. One solution for Hild has been to move his logging focus to Alaska. The other is to depend more on mechanical equipment. “You always want to have the right machine for job,” he says. “You have to be willing to try something new whenever possible.” He’s happy that he took the risk with the Hultdins grapple saw. “We’re getting another of these units to buck the oversized trees at the landing,” Hild says. “That will save us another two to three employees.”

Alaska Pacific Logging Fleet
Even though Alaska Pacific
Logging and downsized its logging
operations in 2002, their
fleet is still sizable.

Logging Equipment
Cat 530B grapple skidder
Cat 330LL log loader
Cat 988B loader
Cat 988F loader
Linkbelt 290LXTL log loader
Linkbelt 370LX log loader
Peterbilt Model 357
Skagit 739 tower
Skagit 739 yarder
Sterling 8500 fuel truck
Sterling Acterra service truck
Sterling Mack log truck
Thunderbird TSY255 swing
Yakatut Site
Cat 14G grader
Cat 325L log loader
Cat 988B wheel loaders (2)
Hahn 3-axle harvester
Hahn track harvester
Hultdins TL580 grapple saw
International lube truck
International service truck
Kenworth C-540 log turck
Linkbelt 290LXTL log loader
Linkbelt 370LXTL log loader
Linkbelt 4300Q log loader
Linkbelt LS4300Q log loader
Mack dump truck
Timbco T445 feller buncher

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 28, 2004