Utah Firewood Business Adds Logging Operations

by | Jun 5, 2024 | 2024, DIY, Small Scale, May/June 2024, TimberWest Magazine, Value Added

DUCHESNE, UTAH –  Picture a cord of firewood, a stack four feet tall by eight feet long and four feet wide. Now picture 1,000 cords. Placed side by side, they would cover 32,000 square feet, more than two-thirds of an acre. That’s how much firewood Chris Ivester and his Utah company, Ivester Tree, produced last year.

Of course, they didn’t cut and split all that firewood by hand. They had the help of a DYNA Products SC-16 Rapid Split firewood processor.

The company, with six employees in addition to Ivester and his son, Noah, 17, is based in Duchesne in northeast Utah, about 115 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Duchesne is south of the Ashley National Forest and the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Ivester, 36, has done civil engineering, trucking, and tree service work. He began producing and selling firewood part-time in 2005, and it became a full-time business for him in 2021. He started his logging business in 2023.

Chris Ivester and his son, Noah.

Most of Ivester Tree’s logging work has been on state and federal lands, although he also has bought timber on private land, plus mulching brush in power line corridors and other lands to reduce the threat of wildfire. Revenue from timber harvests on land managed by the Utah Trust Lands Administration supports the state’s public schools. On U.S. Forest Service land, Ivester Tree works on forest health projects, primarily thinning and performing select cuts.

Although he only began logging last year, so far a typical logging job is 400-600 acres, which generates about 300-500 loads of wood. The dominant species are Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine, and subalpine fir.

“Last year we had a Forest Service project with seven units,” said Ivester, “and we completed harvesting on three of them. We go in there and harvest and process the timber, leaving the forest looking much cleaner when we’re done. We plan to get the other four units harvested this year, along with a state lands sale, so by the end of this year we will have brought something like 350 truckloads to our wood yard.” That pencils out to a volume of about 1.75 million board feet.

All logs are hauled to the 15-acre wood yard and sorted and stacked. Grade logs are later delivered to sawmills. The unmerchantable logs are used to produce firewood. Engelmann spruce and lodgepole pine are the preferred species for firewood. Most Douglas fir and white fir logs are supplied to sawmills. Firewood sales account for about 40 percent of Ivester Tree’s business.

Ivester Tree is equipped with a Timbco 445EXL feller buncher, a Link-Belt 240LX excavator with a Denharco stroke delimber, John Deere and Timberjack skidders, and a John Deere log loader. A Hitachi EX270 excavator handles logs at the wood yard. The company has one log truck, so Ivester also uses trucking contractors for hauling wood.

In addition to this John Deere skidder, Ivester Tree is equipped with a Timbco 445EXL feller buncher, a Link-Belt 240LX excavator with a Denharco stroke delimber, a Timberjack skidder, and a John Deere log loader.

For forestry mulching the company has a pair of Kubota mini-excavators, a KX080-5 and a U55-5, and a Rut Mfg. disk mulcher with Quadco teeth.

Ivester bought his first firewood processor from DYNA Products, a model SC-15, in 2021. To increase productivity, he traded that machine in for an SC-16 in 2022 and then for an upgraded SC-16 Rapid Split model this year.

The DYNA Products SC-16 Rapid Split is powered by a Kohler 56 hp diesel engine. It has a 25-inch bar saw for bucking, so it can process logs up to 22 inches in diameter. The DYNA SC-16 Rapid Split comes with an adjustable 4-way splitting wedge; 6- and 8-way wedges are optional, and Ivester has one of each.

DYNA Products SC-16 Rapid Split is powered by a Kohler 56 hp diesel engine. It can process logs up to 22 inches in diameter and 24 feet long.

“A lot of guys think that the wood processors with bar saws are not as good as processors with circular saws,” noted Iveter. “With the wood we cut — no hardwoods, except for aspen — the DYNA’s bar saw is phenomenal for us. It goes through the wood faster than any of the processors with circular saws that I’ve seen.”

The SC-16 Rapid Split can handle 24-foot logs, but Ivester’s team expanded the log deck to hold longer wood. “Instead of bucking them, we can run a full 41-foot log right through our processor,” he said.

Among the new features are a two-speed splitter autocycle and adjustable stroke length. “The SC-16 Rapid Split has a lot more electronics instead of hydraulics, so it’s a much faster, more productive machine,” said Ivester. “We set the stroke length at 20 inches, since we cut all of our firewood at 16 inches in length, rather than having the plunger go out to the full 24 or 26 inches,” Ivester said. “The photo eye sensor on the splitting plunger automatically returns the plunger when it hits that 20-inch length. The plunger goes only as far as we need it to go, and no longer do we have to return the plunger manually, which makes splitting each piece quicker.” In addition, the hydraulic hoses on the SC-16 Rapid Split are larger than previous models, allowing the plunger to move faster.

“The older SC-16 had something like a seven-second cycle time,” said Ivester. “With the auto-return feature, we’re seeing cycle times right around 2.8 to 2.9 seconds.”

DYNA Products is based in Michigan. The company manufactures firewood processors, firewood splitters and conveyors, tumblers for cleaning firewood, and the Vortx brand of brush chippers. It also distributes the Boxer 700HDX mini skid steer. (For more information about DYNA Products, visit www.dyna-products.com.)

Ivester Tree also has two DYNA Products 20-foot firewood conveyors; one is used for home-heating firewood and one for bundled firewood. An employee sorts the pieces as they are split. The company also has a Timberwolf 12-foot conveyor that handles for scrap wood caught by flashing that was added under and around the firewood processor.

Firewood for home heating is placed in special sacks on pallets that, when full, are moved to separate drying areas for green and seasoned wood. After processing, the firewood is allowed to air-dry, uncovered, in the sacks. The heavy-duty, nylon mesh sacks hold 1/3 of a cord. They have loop handles for lifting by a forklift or other machine. The bags can be reused 8 to 10 times, Ivester said. A moisture meter is used weekly to check the moisture content of green firewood. In most cases, the moisture content of firewood produced from standing dead trees is less than 30 percent, which is dry enough to burn.

“By using these sacks, the firewood is ventilated on all four sides,” explained Ivester. “I had racks specially designed so we could store our firewood and never have it touch the ground. With our arid climate here in Utah, it only takes two to three months, even in winter, to go from 50 percent moisture content down to 20 percent moisture content.”

Ivester’s delivers firewood in sacks to residential customers throughout a wide area. One of the company’s two trucks can carry 24 sacks on pallets, or eight full cords in total; the other can carry 18 sacks. In some cases, the delivery crew tips one or more sacks off of the truck, empties them, and then folds them up for later re-use. In some cases, ranchers or others who have forklifts or loaders unload the sacks of firewood themselves and sometimes keep the sacks. The company also sells firewood directly to people who come to the wood yard.

Ivester said he is impressed by the quality of DYNA Products equipment as well as its customer service.

“I daresay this machine could probably handle up to 3,000 cords a year,” he said. “With our other work, we’re not producing firewood five days a week, eight hours a day. We’ll run the firewood processor for a week or two and get 300 or 400 sacks filled and then focus on some of our other projects. Right now, home heating firewood sales are tapering off, because we’re coming to the end of the winter season.”

A DYNA Products bundling machine wraps bundles of firewood with plastic film. Ivester Tree sold about 45,000 bundles of firewood last year. The bundled firewood includes smaller pieces up to three inches in diameter, with fewer knots and straighter grain, which is easier to bundle. Bundled firewood is sold to grocery and other stores throughout the state, primarily in the Salt Lake City area. Ivester has a warehouse for storing bundled firewood in Tooele, which is near Salt Lake City.

Ivester plans to expand his business by adding a portable sawmill. He has ordered a portable band mill from Alabama-based Cook’s Saw Manufacturing. Ivester chose a model AC-36 with the high-production package. According to Cook’s, the mill can cut more than 10,000 board feet per day.

“It’ll all be rough-cut dimensional lumber,” said Ivester. “People like to use rough-cut wood as siding or beams,” said Ivester. “We’ll be able to cut up to a 40-inch log, 24 feet long, so we can make pretty much any beam that anybody needs.”

Ivester plans to construct a concrete pad and shed for the new mill and likely will hire two or three workers for the mill operations. When the shed is built he will move the firewood processor into it, too.

Ivester and his employees built a dry kiln that he plans to use to produce biochar from scrap wood. He potentially can sell it to Scott’s Miracle-Gro, which has a plant in the Salt Lake City area that produces a variety of bagged garden soils and soil amendments.

“None of our product goes to waste,” Ivester said. “We capture all of the sawdust and waste material from our firewood processor. The sawdust typically goes to farmers and ranchers who use it for their livestock pens and as a soil amendment, and there are oil companies that buy a lot of it to use as an absorbent. And we’re going to start turning scrap wood into biochar that we’ll sell as a soil amendment. Biochar sort of super-activates the soil and allows the bacteria and nutrients in the soil to thrive, so there’s more nutrition available to plants.”

In his free time Ivester enjoys riding motorcycles with his eldest son, snowmobile riding with his family, and hunting. He and wife have two boys and she is pregnant with their third child.

In addition to his other business duties, Ivester handles marketing for firewood. “I do a lot of social media,” he said. “Ninety percent of my advertising is through social media, and people ‘like’ and share the messaging. We also sponsor the Duchesne County Fair — it gets our name out there and helps keep the community going.”

Hitachi EX270 excavator handles loading and unloading chores in the company’s wood yard. All logs are hauled to the 15-acre wood yard and sorted and stacked.

Steve Wilent



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