Oregon Logger Chris MartinMartin Timber Harvesting’s Komatsu 931XC harvester processes a tree it felled. Chris Martin has a mixed fleet of equipment that also includes Ponsse, Ecoforst, John Deere, and TimberPro.

Strong Support from Supplier Is Key, Says Oregon Logger Chris Martin

By Jan Jackson

ROSEBURG, OREGON – If you mention a passion for logging, big equipment, or bass fishing in Roseburg, Oregon, it’s likely Chris Martin’s name will pop up. Born and raised in this self-acclaimed Timber Capital of the World, Chris started doing cut-to-length (CTL) in his dad’s logging operation when he was a high school sophomore. When his father retired, Chris started his own company and kept on going. Today, like everyone else in the business, the owner-operator of Martin Timber Harvesting is just trying to stay up with an ever-changing industry.

Oregon Logger Chris MartinToday, I mainly only work for Weyerhaeuser, and as rewarding as that is, I do mourn the lessening demand for short logs over long logs,” said Chris. “I do have a TimberPro TL755 West Coast feller buncher to harvest the burn and clear-cut stuff for other loggers and landowners, but I like the fact that I can process the trees at the stump. It gives less soil disturbance by pulling them through the stand on the slash. I mean, half my jobs have been tree length jobs, skidding them with a clam bunk, and processing them roadside just like you would in a normal operation, but I’ve been cutting to length for 22 years, and it’s still my favorite.”

Heat and Smoke Rules

Chris supports the new Oregon OSHA permanent rules that were created in July to protect industry workers from wildfire heat and smoke.

“I’m not the guy who likes to go chase fires, and I had hoped we could have escaped them this season,” said Chris. “However, between the heat and smoke rules, I think the heat rules will affect us the most. We don’t really have smoke issues unless we have fires or there are fires around us blowing smoke into us. So, the biggest thing that is going to affect us is going to be the rules about heat. It’s just another thing, not a bad thing, but we have had instances of guys having problems with the heat, so we need to help them prepare for it. It does put a little bit more burden on us, but as employers, we need and want to take care of our guys.”

Oregon Logger Chris MartinChris Martin operates his TimberPro TL755 feller buncher. Martin Timber Harvesting works mainly for Weyerhaeuser.

“Working for Weyerhaeuser, we already follow very strict safety rules,” added Chris, “so it isn’t that big a deal to add the new ones. Weyerhaeuser requires a lot of the same stuff that’s already required by OSHA, but they ramp it up a little and heavily enforce it. Personal protection equipment is a huge thing for them. When you’re driving, headlights, seatbelts, all that stuff that is normal everyday stuff like high visibility clothing, hard hats all the time when you’re outside the machine, three points of contact are huge, work boots that actually protect your ankles.”

Weyerhaeuser wants to know a company’s safety plan, said Chris. “And they work with us on things they think maybe we could improve. They do safety reviews and audits with us and have what’s called paired leadership visits, where our foresters and upper management for our company go out and go over things, talk about stuff, and tell us how we’ve been doing.”

Weyerhaeuser sent out information about the heat and smoke rules earlier this year. “Just reminding us of what’s required,” said Chris, “making sure everybody’s on the up, knowing what’s going on, and what’s required of them.”

Mixed Fleet of Equipment

By his sophomore year in high school, Chris was running his father’s CTL operations with a Timberjack 1270B harvester, a John Deere 1410E forwarder, and a Valmet 941 harvester. He enjoyed operating and taking care of the equipment, and he’s continued taking care of his own. When his father retired in 2017, rather than take over the family business, Chris started his own company from scratch.

Oregon Logger Chris MartinMartin Timber Harvesting is equipped with this Ecoforst Twinch 10.2 to tether equipment that operates on steep slopes.

“I guess I felt like I just wanted to see if I could do it starting from basically nothing,” Chris said. “I didn’t have a vehicle or pickup or anything, and I got my own financing so I could pay Dad good money for a 2014 Ponsse Ergo with a H7 harvester head and a 2016 Ponsse Buffalo forwarder and started my one-man business. I would cut first and then stack with the forwarder. As business grew, I added employees. Now, five years later, as short logs are encroaching on the long log market, I’m scaling back to a one-man operation.”

In praise of modern equipment and good sales reps, Chris had lots to say about the importance of good machinery, maintenance, and service.

“I am not only passionate about owning good equipment, but I think daily maintenance is critical,” said Chris. “I sincerely believe 90 percent of your success with equipment is going to be the relationship you have with your service rep.”

Chris has a mixed fleet of equipment that includes a Komatsu 931XC harvester, a Ponsse Buffalo forwarder with a 1410D Synchrowinch, an Ecoforst T-Winch 10.2, a John Deere 2156G shovel, and a TimberPro feller buncher. He recently invested in a new Komatsu D61EX bulldozer to replace a 22-year-old model.

“I grease every day, fuel the truck each night, and keep the equipment clean,” said Chris. “Besides the fact that well-maintained equipment operates better, it fetches a better trade-in value than a busted-up hunk of iron.”

Chris emphasized the importance of solid relationships with dealer and manufacturer reps in order to keep running. “One of the things I’ve learned is, even though a specific company may have something out there that’s a little better than their competitor, everybody builds good stuff. However, no matter which brand you buy, what color it is, or whose name is on it, we all know something is going to break. Because nothing ever breaks at the right time or when you are ready for it to break, that’s when you need a good relationship with your rep, the dealer and-or the manufacturer. I’ve been at dinner with Ed James, my rep at Modern Machinery in Medford, and have seen him answer calls from customers at eight and nine at night. That’s the kind of support you need from your supplier.”

Oregon Logger Chris MartinEd, who has been with Komatsu since 1996, has worked with Chris since he came to Modern Machinery in 2017. “At the end of the day, all equipment must move dirt, but Chris’ motto is to see how much production he can get out of it, see how nice you can keep it, and see how much you can sell it for in the end,” said Ed. “Time is money, whether it’s my time, their time, or my vendor’s time. Everything just starts to add up.”

Ed commented on what Chris aims for with his equipment purchases. “I think Chris looks for fit, finish, comfort, and product. I think he went with the TimberPro because of the open line of communication to the factory. He ran it provisionally, and he felt there were some changes that could be made. The factory engaged with him and valued his opinion and made him feel like one of the family. My job is to try to do it as efficiently as possible, give the best deal at the best price, with the best delivery schedule.”

The Lure of the Big Bass

The last-but-not-least of Chris’ passions, and the one that is the hardest to make time for, is competitive largemouth bass fishing. Though trout is the most popular game fish in the state, Chris has his own reasons for preferring to fish for bass.

“It’s a challenge, and I really enjoy a challenge,” said Chris. “Just trying to figure it out, even as frustrating as it can be – and we’ve had some stints where it’s been very frustrating. I fish tournaments when I can, and we’ll have a day that we don’t do so great, but four or five other teams did really good.” The fish can be caught on any given day, but “you just have to figure them out.”

Bass fishing is not as mainstream in Oregon as it is in the Eastern states, but it’s a lot bigger than you might think, said Chris. “The spring is my favorite time to fish because that’s when they start spawning, and they get a little bit more aggressive. The fish are as big as they’re going to be all year. That’s when your time to catch the fish is a lot more productive, so I try and fish more then. Actually, I try to fish anytime I can on the weekends.”

The Future

When asked if he still enjoys being a logger as much as he did when he started, Chris said, “Of course, of course.”

The industry has advanced by leaps and bounds for a long time, he said. “Now we are just tweaking stuff. We’ve got equipment that’s very efficient, and we get more with the same package, but the production level has leveled off. Every iteration of machines is not jumping your production per day by huge amounts, even though…the cost of equipment is jumping by huge amounts. Still, I have a huge passion for this industry that I’ve been in and around my whole life. It’s made a good living for a lot of people, and we love it, but it’s still a hard industry to be in.”

Photos by Jason Davenport

TimberWest November/December 2013
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