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Flexible Iron

A Deere carrier and Gilbert Tech head combination allow Ontario contractor Roger Otis Logging to be adaptable to different logging prescriptions.

By Tony Kryzanowski

Customer service is no different in the forest industry than in any other business. Logging contractors, especially in today's world where regulations are a constant moving target, need to remain versatile and adaptable to meet the requirements of their forestry clients. Chapleau, Ontario contractor Jean Castonguay believes he has found an equipment combination that will keep him busy year round, while keeping his main customer satisfied. He harvests wood in a conventional clearcut and a careful logging environment, both with the same combination of equipment. Castonguay, a former logging supervisor with Green Forest Lumber-now Weyerhaeuser- in Chapleau, is coowner of Roger Otis Logging with partner Rock Pilote. As logging supervisor, he witnessed a number of different harvesting approaches. Now that he has joined the contracting ranks, he has found that the John Deere 653E zero tail swing, purposebuilt feller buncher with a Gilbert Tech 1249 head and Quadco saw best helps him fulfill his harvesting objective of 110,000 cubic metres per year. The company also owns and operates a John Deere 648GII skidder. Working in extremely hilly terrain complete with rock and muskeg, Castonguay and his partner put in two, eighthour shifts daily, cutting a mixture of poplar, jackpine, balsam fir and spruce averaging eight to 10 inches at the butt.

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Ontario contractor Jean Castonguay, coowner of Roger Otis Logging, opted for the Deere 653E carrier in part because it was lightweight, an advantage in rocky terrain. Castonguay and his partner Rock Pilote selected the Gilbert Tech head because of its tilting feature.

They started contract logging three years ago, purchasing an existing company that owned a John Deere 653E with a Cameco fixed head. About a year ago, they went shopping for a new feller buncher and opted for another John Deere 653E. Castonguay says they investigated several zero tail swing carriers, but eventually settled back on the John Deere carrier. Price was the first, but not only, consideration. "What I like about the machine is that it is lightweight," he says. "That is an advantage in rocky terrain because we don't wear out the undercarriage as quickly." The carrier alone with double grouser 24inch track shoes weighs in at 34,850 lbs. "For its size, it has a lot of power," he adds. "The hydraulics are very quick, and it will climb as much as you want it to climb." The 653E comes with a John Deere 6068T turbocharged engine, rated at 155hp net power at 2200 rpm. He estimates they burn about 500 litres of fuel in 16 hours. One major difference between this carrier and Castonguay's older unit is the amount of counterweight. He says he has twice as much counterweight-in excess of 1,450 lbs.-on his new 653E and he has noticed a significant difference, particularly on hills.

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He is able to turn, grab and lift a tree on the downward side of the slope without feeling that the carrier is unstable. While they shopped around for a carrier, the owners of Roger Otis Logging really had their sights set on a Gilbert Tech head. Recent modifications to the head's tilting feature convinced them that a Gilbert Tech head was a good investment. The manufacturer changed the location of the gear, which controls the head's tilt feature, making it less likely that the tilting movement will pinch a hydraulic hose. The Gilbert Tech head allows Castonguay to capture trees up to 19.5 inches. Their older head could not achieve this without major modifications to its butt plate.

The Gilbert Tech head also rotates 220degrees. "With the tilt feature, you don't have to backtrack to make a reasonable bunch," says Castonguay. "So that means less wear and tear on my undercarriage. I just swing and tilt when the bunch is behind me." He says that the head's sorting ability is particularly handy in mixed stands, where he can easily sort poplar from his fir and spruce bunches. The geometric design of the head also delivers an added bonus. "The wood doesn't cross in the head when you accumulate trees," he says. "They always come in straight, so when you dump, you don't have what I call a partridge tail." The head's long grab arms have proven invaluable especially in a careful logging environment. "When you have to pick a dead tree up off the ground to clear a trail, instead of moving the machine, all you have to do is tilt the head and saw it," says Castonguay. "The grab arms are so long that your saw doesn't dig into the dirt. The grab arms bring the wood into the saw." One modification they have had to make was in the head's saw, exchanging the Gilbert Tech saw with a Quad tooth Quadco saw.

They had experience with one on their Cameco head, and it delivered superior wear and tear. "Gilbert Tech's saw was fine but it had no resistance in rocks," says Castonguay. While this combination of a zero tail swing John Deere carrier with Gilbert Tech tilting head works well in a clearcut, it performs particularly well in a careful logging environment. "In careful logging, you want to keep the natural regen standing," says Castonguay. "With zero tail swing, you are not swinging against the regen. Where ever your tracks go, that is all you are affecting. And with the tilting head, you can put your bunches at a good angle. When the skidder pulls it out after it has been placed at a proper angle, he's not knocking down regen." Excellent parts and service support from the John Deere dealer Ontrac in Timmins is another reason why Castonguay and his partner stayed with the 653E. "They really take care of us."

As the operation is year round, they needed to ensure they had a combination that could deliver production in all sorts of extreme weather. They found it was necessary to clean their hydraulic oil cooler at least once a week to maintain production from one week to the next in hot weather. In terms of cab comfort, Castonguay says it is not as comfortable as working in a larger feller buncher. "It's a little more shake, rattle, and roll in there," he says. "But I look at that as an advantage, because when you ride over rocks and stumps with a big feller buncher, you don't feel it as much. What you don't feel as much, you don't watch out for as much. So with my carrier, whenever it shakes, I'm being more careful in how I am moving around." The owners of Roger Otis Logging have not encountered any unscheduled downtime with this carrier or head, and other than wishing they could order a bigger undercarriage for more stability, they are satisfied with their equipment combination. "I really like my machine," Castonguay concludes.

Deere Delivers Improvements
Changes to John Deere's new G series 653 feller bunchers lean heavily toward improved component accessibility on this zerotail swing, purposebuilt forestry carrier, as well as thicker steel in key areas and improved cab comfort. Logging contractors will find that a number of options that were ordered on a high percentage of the older 653E models are now standard equipment on the base G unit. Among the most noteworthy improvements is the 130gallon fuel tank, with a capacity that has been increased by 15 per cent. The steel thickness of the walls, engine compartment and hose guarding has been increased to 3 /8 ". The popular 1,450lb. counterweight option on the 653E is now standard on the 653G base machine. Another standard feature on the new G series is the bell crank arm. This allows for more head tilt rotation, which is especially important when equipping the machine with a cut to length head. In terms of serviceability, the 653G uses three separate panels in the upper structure to access the engine, hydraulic system, filters, and daily service points. Hose connections on both control valves are now O ring ports for better service of the hoses.

The number of hydraulic filters on the G series has been reduced from four to two, reducing the number of hoses, filters to keep in stock, and general servicing time required. Contractors working late evening and night shifts will be pleased to hear that the sevenlight work package is now standard. There have also been a number of creature comfort improvements, including a considerably larger cab. The front face improves forward and side visibility, and provides more legroom. Windows are flush mounted to prevent trash from getting between the window and cab. One of the 653E's attractive features was its skylight window. The G series has a larger one. The fabric covered seat has improved suspension and a stronger, simpler design and is adjustable for weight, height and backrest angle. It also adjusts independently from pilot control levers and pedals. John Deere has recognized that contractors now carry around more electronic devices, so they have equipped the cab with two, 12V power port outlets on the control panel.

While there has been a lot of consolidation going on in the forest industry lately, the heavy equipment industry was the source of some bigtime consolidation news of its own recently when two world leaders in the production of forestry equipment announced they will join forces. In December, Deere & Company announced that it will buy the Timberjack Group, the world's leading manufacturer of forestry equipment, from the Metso Corporation of Finland for $600 million (US). Metso had earlier said that it intended to sell Timberjack as part of an overall review of strategy and core products. "The acquisition of Timberjack represents a major step in our global growth strategy. We are pleased to have a company of such strength join the John Deere family," said Hans W. Becherer, chairman and chief executive officer of Deere & Company.

The companies said that the forestry products operations of both Timberjack and John Deere are important for the long-term success of the union. It's expected that Deere and Timberjack will achieve cost savings in product design, supply management and manufacturing efficiencies while further enhancing Deere's customer support capabilities. What does this mean for logging equipment buyers? In some markets, Deere says, some products will be dual branded for distribution to both Deere and Timberjack dealers. This broadens the product line available to Deere dealers and gives Timberjack dealers access to services from John Deere Credit and Deere's customer support infrastructure, according to the company. 

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This page last modified on Monday, November 03, 2003