March-April, 2002





The Right Head  
to Stay Ahead

Manpower, mechanization and maintenance are
the driving forces behind Bob Danielson's operations

by Barbara Coyner

It's a kid-in-a-toy store scenario. Turn a logger loose at a logging show and out comes the equipment junkie instinct every time. Bob Danielson is no exception, but, being a businessman too, he tries to keep his head about things. The 1997 Oregon Logging Conference, however, had him not only keeping his head about things, but buying a new head. The northern Idaho logging contractor recalls that his old harvesting head was about ready to give up the ghost so he went shopping for a new one and the Swedish-made Log Max caught his eye. 

Since buying that first one, he's added three more to his mechanized stable. "I was one of the first in the country to have one," Danielson says of his decision to go with Log Max. "I could tell by the way they were made that they had what I wanted. Rubber feed rolls were in over steel or spiked, because of fiber damage, plus you get a better grip with rubber. They also have more delimbing power and accuracy, and they hold up better. I like the simplicity, the fact that they are cost effective and accurate, plus they're simple to work on. 

Komatsu with Logmax 750 Head

I haven't had any down time with them, and they're operator friendly. I could put a rookie on one and he could run it with no trouble at all." If Danielson sounds bullish about the head, it's because he's given it the acid test. He runs his more seasoned 750 Log Max heads on a 228 Komatsu and a 200 Komatsu, on his two tree-length sides, while his newer Log Max 5000 replaced a worn-out head on a 1270 Timberjack. 

A 445C Timbco was modified with a South Fork squirt boom and another 750 Log Max to round out the processing equipment line-up. "I like the Log Max for hew wood and it really shines at saving fiber. It works well on small wood down to two-inch tops, and I'll take it over a stroke delimber because it's a one-step operation. You can cut the saw log, the hew wood and the fiber, and actually sort with that head without ever letting go of the stem. 

Our log quality awards and good operators make the Log Max a standout." Danielson is sold on single-grip systems for his type of work, which is mostly thinning on private lands, and industrial jobs for both Potlatch and Stimson. He also removes a lot of timber impacted by the tussock moth epidemic in the area. At this point, he double-shifts his Timberjack 1210 forwarders to keep up with production demands. When all is said and done, this is one logger that relies on three M's - manpower, mechanization and maintenance - to stay in the game. The manpower part is key, with his crew of 24 being mostly long-time employees who adapt easily to changes in equipment and industry techniques. 

Bob Danielson standing next to a Logmax 5000 on a Timberjack 1270.

All have gone through the Logger Education to Advance Professionalism (LEAP) training, which acquaints them with tree species, basic forestry principles and high standards. "Even on our industrial sites, we try to make our jobs look as appealing as if they were beside a freeway. We've picked up a lot of work because people see exactly what we can do. The crew and the machines together create the combination necessary to reach today's forestry standards." 

The can-do of mechanization definitely recruits business, which is why Danielson constantly keeps his eye on equipment changes and innovation. But the whole formula would unravel if he neglected maintenance. "We steam clean all our equipment and give the machines regular maintenance. Maintain them and they'll give you good service. What's good about the Log Max is that they've updated the 750 to make the valving even simpler. But my older models are still as quick and you really can't tell the new ones from the ones that are a couple of years old. The frames don't wear and they're still close to tolerance." 

Danielson credits part of his success to his shop because his team can supply steady maintenance, repair, and fabrication, if necessary. Because he was one of the first Log Max customers in the country, the company especially sought his suggestions and modifications. "The company's field representatives stay right with the new owner until the system is up and running," Danielson says. "And if there's any troubleshooting to be done, they'll be right there. "With the Log Max, it's mostly a matter of maintaining the measuring wheel, and we determined early on that we needed one for both summer and winter when we're tree length processing. 

The company didn't have that at first, so we gave the field rep our suggestion and now they build them. We were building our own, and that helped them develop the right specifications. You put more wear on the measuring wheels when you are digging logs out of a deck than if you are just harvesting out of a tree-length deck. 

I would say we put more wear on delimber knives and measuring wheels than any other place in the world when we're tree-length skidding, because of the ash and our abrasive soils." Danielson estimates that if he's tree-length skidding, the heads go a year before he has to replace the knives or build them back up, but when he's single-grip harvesting, he can more than double the life of a head. His shop can often do much of the maintenance and retempering. Since the late 80's, it's no secret that Bob Danielson has been a strong convert to Scandinavian equipment, and his trip to Sweden last summer made him even more enthusiastic about that country's innovations. 

Accompanied by his wife, Sally (the company's office manager and chief number- cruncher) and daughter Leslie, Danielson viewed Log Max manufacturing first-hand. "Welds are robotically welded and every framework on that head is blueprinted and X-rayed. Every one has a file, and if it is not the right penetration, the frame is taken back. 

The pins are zero-tolerance, and the snug fit is what makes Log Max so good. It's also made of really good steel, the best in the industry. The quality control of the framework ensures its ability to be rebuilt time and time again." Danielson came home from Sweden enlightened about more than equipment. He also gave the country high marks for its forestry practices, some of which have been adopted over recent years by the State of Idaho and private landowners such as Stimson and Potlatch. "In the early 1600's, the forests there [in Sweden] were just about gone because they used their timber for everything. 

Now they are sustained yield. They knew as Vikings that they had to take care of themselves, so they made a plan to manage their forests better. Now when I get back here, I see we are so far behind in thinning that it will never get done in my lifetime. In Sweden they do some nice logging and they're very meticulous. If the U.S. would send people in government over to see what they've done in the past years, it might make a difference here. It's the law there that you will manage for productivity, and if you don't, the government will - and they'll charge you for it." Back in the United States, Danielson still gets frustrated at how national forests are managed. 

He, however, saw a bright spot recently when a Forest Service employee contacted him about evaluating forests in the southern Idaho. "The Forest Service called me and many of them weren't aware of the new equipment and what it can do. They have tremendous needle depths there and the trees are eight feet apart, so something has to be done. All it would take is one kid with a match to take everything out. But now there is no sawmill within three or four hundred miles of the area, so it won't be an easy fix." 

Danielson shakes his head at the dark ages mentality that's crept into the national agencies managing forests for the public good. Maybe what the feds need is a trip to a well-managed local site - or perhaps a plane ticket to Sweden - to learn how things are done.

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