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Contractor Input

Alberta contractor Rick Eliuk has been providing Lako Oy with important feedback on its 650 single grip harvester.

By Tony Kryzanowski

When it comes to single grip harvesters, the tag "European" has sometimes come to mean "lightweight" for many cut-to-length contractors. While that may have been true as recently as five years ago, a number of European manufacturers have since responded to North American contractor demands with more robust equipment.

Lako Oy is one Finnish company that seems to have worked extremely hard to build a product based on plenty of North American contractor input. The company is owned by Turkka Lastunen, the son of the Lako company owner. He has sold such products as the Lako 60 for years.

Lastunen has since struck out on his own with a completely separate company and product line, including the recently introduced Lako 650 single grip harvester. Although he is on his own now, Lastunen was involved in helping to develop many of the best ideas incorporated into older Lako single grip harvesters. Those ideas are still part of Lako Oy harvester head designs, with new features incorporated to improve log manipulation and general wear and tear.

For example, Lako Oy markets several versions of the 650 harvester. Heads used exclusively for processing come with extra heavy duty guarding because of the extra wear these heads experience over time.

Contractor Rick Eliuk requires that his harvesting equipment have the ability to accurately harvest and process logs in a variety of lengths, since he sorts logs at the stump for many diverse uses. With proper communication between the harvester and the forwarder operator, the sorting process is manageable, he says.

Alberta logging contractor Rick Eliuk tested the first Lako 650 prototype in 1995 and for a couple of exhaustive years helped Lastunen improve the product. Hintonbased Eliuk is a cut-to-length, stump-to-dump contractor and has worked for Weldwood Canada for the past 10 years. He has owned a number of Lako harvesters, including the Lako 60 attached to excavator conversions.

Eliuk now operates two harvesters. One is a LinkBelt excavator conversion with a 550 Lako head. The second is a new Tigercat 845B purpose-built carrier with a Lako 650 head. To forward the wood, the company uses two Rottne six-wheel drive forwarders, and one eight-wheel drive forwarder.

As an experienced single grip harvester contractor, Eliuk has a realistic understanding of the head's maintenance requirements.

"Single grip harvesters are a high maintenance tool," he says. "But they have become more reliable than they used to be. A lot of the problems have been addressed ." He adds that many of the problems that arise concerning chains, hoses, bolts and even cracks in the frame can be related back to the operator, more so than specific mechanical or design problems with the head.

He harvests 125,000 cubic metres of pine, spruce and balsam fir annually, with the logs measuring on average between 10 and 12 inches in diameter. His company, Eliuk Transport Ltd, operates 10 months a year on gently rolling terrain on the very edge of the Rocky Mountain foothills. What Eliuk requires from his harvesters is the ability to accurately harvest and process logs in a variety of lengths. He sorts his logs at the stump for many diverse uses.

For example, 12, 14 and 16 foot pine logs are placed in one pile. Spruce measuring 16 feet are placed in a separate pile, as are balsam. Pulp logs are also sorted separately, as are 17foot peeler logs that are transported to Sunpine's LVL plant in Rocky Mountain House.

With proper communication, the sorting process is manageable, however. "The harvester and the forwarder operator have to communicate," says Eliuk. The system works best when the harvester operator sorts the logs in a consistent pattern. The forwarder operator must ensure that each species is gathered separately. In many cases, an experienced forwarder operator working for Eliuk will graduate to operating the harvester. By that time, he will have acquired a strong start on understanding the sorting procedure.

Rick Eliuk's equipment lineup includes a new Tigercat 845B purpose-built carrier with a Lako 650 head. Eliuk started working with Lako harvesters in 1990 and continues working with the product because of its familiarity and recent product improvements. Three Rottne forwarders are used to move the wood.

Eliuk says it's a fact that sorting does slow production. Contractors contemplating a switch from conventional logging to cut-to-length need to carefully analyze exactly how much they will handle each log so that sorting is taken into account when they negotiate a rate with the mill. Eliuk began with Lako harvesters in 1990 and since that time he has continued working with the product because of its familiarity and recent product improvements.

"What I like about the Lako head is the wheel arm geometry," he says. "It's unique. I like its ability to hold a tree and feed it. The knives don't work so hard as with some other heads. Also, with some other heads the knives actually have to hold the tree up. With this one, they do hold the tree up, but you are not totally depending on the knives. The wheels are holding the tree as well ."

The Lako 650 harvests trees up to 30 inches and has a feed speed of 15 feet per second. Lako Oy also manufactures a 550 and a 450 model. The 450 harvests trees up to 21 inches, and the 550 up to 25 inches. They come with either steel or rubber feed rollers.

Eliuk says he is processing to about 95 per cent accuracy, adding it is important that the operator monitors measuring wheel pressure to ensure that it is calibrated to deliver accurate measurements. "You don't have to watch it all day long," says Eliuk. "Once it is set, it seems to stay. However, you need to check it every once in a while just to ensure that it is working properly. Our Lako 650 has been working very well ."

The head is controlled using a Motomit, DOSbased computer. "Once you learn it, you can adjust it a bit more than some other computer systems," says Eliuk. "Some other computers may be really easy to use, but you can't adjust them. Our computer is capable of 99 different length and diameter measurement settings, but we only use four or five. You have the ability to adjust the pressure on your knives and rollers in about five seconds. The computer also comes with four different levels of usage ."

The Tigercat 845B is Eliuk's first purpose built carrier. A major motivating factor in his buying decision was that it was Canadian-made, with many proven components.

It has been on the market for about a year. According to Brandt Tractor in Edmonton, the dealer that sold the carrier to Eliuk, there haven't been many major changes to the B model because the 845 was a well-designed carrier to start with. Among the most noteworthy changes is a bigger cooling system for the engine and hydraulics. The cab has also been redesigned so that gauges are now at eye level instead of behind a joystick.

Eliuk says he has realized a 15 to 20 per cent production improvement with the Tigercat 845B purpose-built carrier versus his excavator conversions. The main reason is that the Tigercat delivers more horsepower and is a better fit with the harvester head. "I ran it for a couple of hours the other day and actually had to turn the speed down a little ."

It has a Cummins 6CTA8.3 engine that delivers 230 hp at 2200 rpm. It burns about 150 litres of fuel in a 10 to 12 hour shift. Eliuk says there really was no price advantage in opting for a purpose-built carrier. What he wanted, however, was simplicity, durability and reliability. He wanted an undercarriage that would last and, with its D6 size, Eliuk was confident that the Tigercat would fit the bill.

"If I were to build a machine, I'd build one like that," he says. It appears to have a simpler hydraulic set up, Eliuk says, because it isn't an attempt to convert something manufactured for excavation work to forestry use.

"There's plenty of hydraulic strength in that machine for the head," he says. The upper has 360degree continuous rotation with a 47inch ball circle diameter on the swing bearing. Also, the cab is designed for forestry with good visibility. It has a strong undercarriage and comes equipped with proper guarding right from the factory.

With its small tail swing, the Tigercat also provides Eliuk with the flexibility to consider selective harvesting in addition to clear cutting. He did not opt for a tilting cab on the carrier because it is not required in the terrain he works in. The 845B works equally well with either a single grip harvester or feller buncher head. The harvester boom system has a maximum cutting radius of 30 feet, and a minimum cutting radius of 11 feet.

The Lako 650 single grip harvester along with the Tigercat 845B cost Eliuk about $540,000. So far, he hasn't experienced any serious unscheduled downtime with either the carrier or the head and, when his operators conduct regular maintenance, the service points are very accessible.

In terms of service support, Eliuk says he keeps a small inventory, but depends on Lako's British Columbia location for overnight parts delivery. Eliuk adds that the relationship he has developed with Lako Oy has a lot to do with how well the product is working for him. "In the last five years, I've gotten to know the manufacturer personally and I can talk to him," he says. Many of the suggestions he has made have been incorporated into the product.

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