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Past Issues Archive

Homegrown New Brunswick Processor

By Harold Hatheway
Copyright 1996. Contact publisher for permission to use.

Summary: Developed by a retired Mirimichi logger, the Inchworm processor is simple, rugged, portable, adaptable to a variety of carriers — and very cheap.

Visit the Inchworm Web site

A new processing machine developed in Mirimichi, New Brunswick stands in sharp contrast to the trend of high-tech, high-cost, do-it-all machines. The Inchworm, invented and manufactured by retired New Brunswick lumberman Al Kingston, is a unique processing unit designed specifically for the small or medium-size operator who is already equipped to fell and carry out wood, and who is looking for a cheaper way to delimb and accurately cut to length.

Kingston’s machine is simple, rugged and portable. It mounts easily on just about any kind of grapple-boom equipped carrier and is intended to follow a feller buncher or a chainsaw operator. It can handle most logs east of the Rockies; output is competitive with other equipment; maintenance is simple; it’s easy to operate; and, in this day of sophisticated “do everything” machines costing up to $500,000, adding the Inchworm to what most smaller operators already own carries a price of only about $60,000. The heart of the Inchworm is a rugged, hydraulically driven bar with one set of jaws on the outboard end and another on the cylinder into which the bar retracts.

In the “ready” position the bar is drawn in, putting the jaws close together. The butt end of the log, or bundle of smaller logs, is placed in the open jaws, the fixed set grips firmly, and the jaw on the end of the bar closes to the delimbing position and is driven 4' (1.2 m) down the stem. Then the fixed jaw opens, and the jaw on the bar grips firmly and moves the stem forward 4' (1.2 m). At this point, depending on the function chosen, the delimbing function is repeated or a precise 4',12' or 16' (1.2 m, 3.6 or 4.8 m) length is cut off by the built-in chainsaw harvesting bar. The operator has complete control and flexibility throughout the operation. He can abort, adjust position, trim rot or abnormalities, reset the length of cut from 4' to 16' (1.2 to 4.8 m), tilt or swivel the unit to ensure easy insertion or separate piles of different prod-ucts.

Inchworm Basic operating instructions take up lit-tle more than one page, and experience proves an operator with grapple boom experience can be functioning efficiently within an hour — a striking contrast with the training and up-to-speed learning curve requirements of Scandinavian-type processors. Capacity is 20" (50 cm) at the cutoff saw and 18" (46 cm) at delimbing jaws. Larger butts seldom have limbs, and can usually be set ahead so that the delimber can function effectively.

Inchworm hydraulics are off-the-shelf and readily obtainable from most equipment dealers. Specs call for a widely available 30- gallon (135 litres) minimum capacity at 2,000 to 3,000 psi. (13.8 to 27.6 MPa) operating pressure. The unit comes with a 50- to 70- gallon (225-320 litre) reservoir, detached for easier installation. (The range of specs reflects the options open to purchasers.) The whole operation is controlled by a small, off-the-shelf computer, programmed so that while individual loads are being delimbed and cut to length, the operator is free to prepare another load, clear debris, load his bunk or, while the top is being automatically cleared, move the carrier on to the next location, speeding up the level of production.

Simple, well laid-out controls are on the top of the computer container, which is placed so that the operator only has to rotate his seat to have full access to boom, proces-sor or carrier. The Inch wo rm is a striking example of good things coming in small packages: it is approximately 39" high, 30" wide and 5'4" long with the bar retracted (99 cm x 76 cm x 163 cm) and weighing about 1,500 lbs. (680 kg). With all the major stress internal-ized in the unit itself, it can easily be adapt-ed to single or double-rack porters, skidders, Bombardiers or heavy-duty farm tractors.

In half an hour or less it can be detached, lifted by the carrier’s grapple — using a cleverly located centre-of-balance point — and transported by a half-ton pickup. No need for a costly mobile machine shop on site. Tests under normal work conditions, and a detailed study carried out by the Vocational Forest Worker Program at the Miramichi campus of the NB Community College, showed production potential of five to seven cords (18 to 28 m 3 ) per hour behind a feller-buncher, and three to five cords (11 to 18 m 3 ) per hour following a chainsaw operator. This rating was completed with an operator who was recently introduced to the earliest version of the Inchworm.

Joakim Hermelin, former Director of Extension Forestry with NB Natural Resources and small-scale forestry specialist, was impressed by the Inchworm’s performance, pointing out that it has combined today’s high technology with the simpler machines of the 1950s and 60s. He noted that buyers should understand exactly what they are getting. The Inchworm does exactly what it is designed for — and well — but it requires a source of wood on the ground and a carrier with a grapple. Very heavy limbs or logs with serious sweep/crook will slow production; so, for consistent, good results the saw or feller-bu n cher operator must know when to delimb or buck out bad sweeps.

Al Kingston is a retired logging contractor who never forgot the simplicity of the horse, axe and crosscut saw logging of his boyhood. His conviction that “there has to be a better way” led him to think out the principles of a machine that could do what was required with fewer complications and less cost. He taught himself the sophisticated CADCAM computer designing program by “hitting the keys to see what would happen,” and put his concept on paper. While building the prototype, neighbour Ivan Woods, a computer applications specialist with Rep ap’s Miramichi mill, saw the potential and persuaded Kingston to switch from a mechanical to a computerized system of sensing and control. Within six months the prototype was built, tested and taken to a local mechanical manufacturing firm, Sunny Corner Enterprises Inc., a success story in itself.

Owner Eugene Nowlan immediately saw the potential and assigned Leandre Bourque to work with Kingston to produce a production model. Two units are currently working in the Maritimes and will provide the practical experience required for the company to take its next step into full production.

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