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TimberWest November/December 2013

Jan./Feb. 2014

Still Building Roads After All These Years
Cascade H & A builds 15 to 18 miles of logging roads throughout Snohomish, Skagit and King Counties each year.

The Woody-Biomass Two-Step

The New Kid on the Block
Tom Sutherland moves from employee to employer when he purchases Round Logging.

Meeting Challenges Head On
With a shortened working season and more state regulations, logging can be a struggle for California’s Walker Logging.

Guest Columnist: Get More from Your Trade Show


In the News

Association News

Machinery Row

New Products



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Sutherland LoggingSutherland Logging purchases Round Logging

The New Kid on the Block

By Kathy Coatney

Timber is in Tom Sutherland’s blood. At the age of eight, Tom started working with his father, timber faller William Sutherland — who is still falling today at 73. Logging isn’t just a job for Tom. It’s part of who he is.

Tom Sutherland, owner of Sutherland Logging. Tom says he rebuilt one of his two Thunderbird yarders from the ground up. Today, it’s running like a champ.

After graduating from high school, Sutherland starting falling trees for Pacific Lumber. Later he took a brief hiatus to work for the local school district in the bus garage but soon began taking the summers off to fall trees. Eventually, he quit the school altogether and went back to falling timber full time. He ended up signing a falling contract with Round Logging, and when Round fell onto hard times, Sutherland purchased the company in November, 2012.


The purchase included the shop and an array of equipment.

  • Two 255 TSY (Thunderbird Swing Yarder)
  • Three log loaders: Caterpillar (CAT) 320C heel boom loader, Madill 1800, CAT 325C
  • CAT 12E grader
  • CAT high track D7H bulldozer
  • Stihl chainsaws, 460 and 461
  • One water truck and two service trucks

Stihl are Sutherland’s chainsaws of choice. When he first started following, he used various chain saws and ran into problems — carburetor problems, motor mount problems — and found himself turning to Stihls. “They run flawlessly,” he says.

He chainsaw repair bills are also down. “We run the Stihls on the landing, and this year alone I’ve bought 10 new chainsaws,” says Sutherland. “You just cannot keep bubble-gumming stuff back together.”

Sutherland LoggingThunderbird 255 yarder

Keeping It all Chugging Along

Before Sutherland purchased Round Logging, he secured a deal with Roseburg that promised a certain amount of volume per yarder for five years. With that deal, he felt comfortable purchasing two of the three yarders Round was selling.

From the transmission to the clutches, the two Thunderbird 255 yarders were in need of extensive work. Sutherland tore one yarder down to the ground; he took the engine apart, replaced every inch of gaskets, changed water pumps, replaced all the hoses and all the wiring, and added a fresh coat of paint.

Sutherland says that one hundred thousand dollars later, the entire machine had been gone through from top to bottom, and it looked just like the day it came off the showroom floor.

A hundred thousand dollars is a hefty expense when you’re just starting out, and Sutherland is justifiably proud of the work he and his men did, but most importantly — the yarder runs like a champ.

“The first three days, we got 57 loads without one bobble,” he says, and after 10 months of steady operation, it has been down only one day. Prior to refurbishing, it would be down for weeks at a time.

The other yarder is in equally rough shape and has been down frequently, so at the end of the season, it’s scheduled for a similar overhaul.

Putting the Equipment to the Test

It wasn’t just the yarders that needed help with Sutherland Round Logging. All the equipment had outrageous hours on them and needed plenty of TLC, Sutherland says. The CAT 320C loader, for instance, had 17,000 hours on it, and the CAT 325C loader had 28,000 hours. The CAT 325C loader is just used for backup because of the number of hours it has.

Sutherland hopes to buy a new 320D CAT (loader) next spring, but after paying off the other two loaders, he’s reconsidering and may overhaul it instead.

John Deere and CAT each had their pluses and minuses, Sutherland says. “The John Deere loader has duel swing pumps, which is good if you’re using a pull through. In comparison, CAT only has a single, but the CAT has a higher resale, and they were a few thousand dollars cheaper than the John Deere.”

Sutherland LoggingHe comments that the John Deere offers different style frame stances that are higher and wider track, which are more comfortable when loading, and they don’t rock as badly. CAT doesn’t offer that, but even so, the CAT 320 has been a good machine.

“The only bad drawback about the John Deere is that they have a longer boom on them,” Sutherland says, and to counteract that, the counter weight sticks out the backend. “On a yarder, you sit in the middle of the road, and you’re going scrub on the bank. You’ve got to tip the bank in order to be able to turn,” Sutherland explains, “but with the CAT, it’s shorter and there isn’t that problem.”

As far as the way CATs operate, Sutherland is very happy with them. “Bar none.”

Sutherland says it’s important to fix the machines correctly. “This stuff has to run or you’re not going to be here. Not fixing stuff right is just complete foolishness,” Sutherland says. “Bottom line — down time costs you money.”

Two Sides Keep Him Busy

Thunderbird 255 yarder and Madill log loaderThunderbird 255 yarder and Madill log loader at one of the Sutherland sides. Sutherland planned on falling, but keeping his new business going is a full time job.

Sutherland runs two sides, both cable logging because of the steep slopes. And, Sutherland chooses to use a running skyline versus a standing skyline with a motorized carriage. “The cable logging pays more,” Sutherland says. On the flip side, “There’s a lot of expense in upkeep of equipment, and you don’t realize the cost until you start adding up all the little expenses.”

Two sides are plenty to keep Sutherland busy. “I originally planned on falling,” he says, but just all the day-to-day operations of keeping the business running is a full-time job.

Since Sutherland only has one water truck, he needs to keep both yarders together. “If you split them up on different road systems, I can’t cover the roads.”

Some of his recent jobs have included five million board feet harvested at Slate Creek and then up to Soda Creek on a job called Snowman. Winter logging depends on the weather, and Soda Creek is iffy.

“That’s pretty high for winter. I really don’t know how much we’ll get done this winter up there.”

No Rest for the Wicked

While Sutherland likes owning a logging business, it requires a tremendous time input. “To get everything to run, you can’t go home on the weekends,” he says, and keeping the equipment running, means working whenever necessary.

Downtime in the winter means working on equipment. According to Sutherland, “There is no not working, just working on something else.”