Family Firewood: Logger Finds Brute Processor Makes Firewood Profitable Side Trade
NORTH SEBAGO, Maine — When Mark Ware started a small, part-timefirewood business under the name Family Firewood some 15 years ago, he had no idea that itwould grow into a substantial enterprise and provide significant income.
brute1.jpg (34392 bytes)”I started the firewood business to provide somesupplemental income,” said Mark, a logger who lives and works in southwest Maine.”I had no idea how much the business would grow when I took it on.”
Mark has increased the firewood business to the point where now hecuts, splits, and sells more than 250 cords of wood per year on top of running his loggingcompany. He recently bought a Brute F/P 140 Self-Powered Firewood Processor that hebelieves will double his production without increasing the amount of work he has to do tobring it to market.
“I started small about 15 years ago,” Mark recalled. “Ithought firewood would be a good side trade. I found out that there is lots of demand forfirewood, but that there is not a lot of margin in the business, so you have to be veryefficient if you want to make money at it.”
He has gradually expanded and added better equipment as the businesshas grown. He bought a skidder to get the wood out more efficiently; he currently runs aClarke F665 grapple skidder. He also has owned numerous skidders over the years.”I’m on my seventh skidder right now,” he said.
Because he operates his firewood business in conjunction with hislogging operation, Mark has steady access to the raw material he needs. Logs are purchasedand harvested in conjunction with his logging operation, which cuts both costs and effort.”Anything that’s not log quality — but isn’t too rough to run throughthe machinery for firewood — goes to the processor,” he said. Schedulingcontract truckers to back haul whenever possible helps to hold down the cost oftransporting wood.
Mark considered buying a firewood processing machine for some timebefore deciding on a machine from Brute. He came close to buying one about three years agobut was not convinced that the value it would add to his business outweighed the pricetag. He changed his mind, however, when Brute recently introduced a new machine to themarketplace.
“The new machine is very reasonably priced compared to the othermachines I’ve looked at, yet it gives me the production I need. I’ve usedBrute’s equipment for a long time, so I knew it was durable. And the people you workwith there are terrific individuals, so I decided to go ahead with the purchase once I sawwhat it could do for the price.”
brute2.jpg (41762 bytes)The machine brings a real innovation to the firewoodindustry, said Lyn Norton-Griffiths, a spokeswoman for Brute Manufacturing Corp. in NorthClarendon, Vermont. “Up to now you haven’t been able to saw and split at thesame time with a smaller processor,” she said. The machine has two engines andseparate hydraulic systems. “They enable the splitter to operate independently of thecutting and log handling operations, thus providing the parallel processing capabilitiesof the larger, more expensive machines,” she said.
Despite the added capabilities, the Brute remains priced competitively.”Our new processor sells for less than $20,000,” said Lyn. “Yet it providesapproximately the same production capacity of larger machines that typically run into therange of $30,000 and more.”
The new Brute firewood processing is rated to cut and split between sixand 10 cords of wood per day with optimum log sizes of 6 inches to 16 inches and up to 22feet long. “Users have been very enthusiastic about having an easily maneuverablemachine selling for a fraction the cost of larger processors and still providing theproduction levels of a large machine,” said Lyn.
Count Mark, who previously had a Brute 105 splitter, as one of thosesatisfied customers. He has been “pretty much amazed at what this machine can docompared to anything I’ve had before,” he said.
He gave high marks to the new Brute firewood processor for versatility.”I had heard you needed almost perfect wood to be efficient with a splitter, but thathasn’t been the case at all,” he said. “You can run some pretty rough stuffthrough the machine successfully. That’s important when you’re trying to run anefficient operation and have to compete for the wood.”
The increased production also has impressed Mark. “With myprevious set-up, between sawing, splitting, and loading it would take me about three hoursto fill a two-cord truck. “The first day I had the new machine, I did it in two and ahalf hours, and I’d never run the machine before. This last weekend I did 10 cords.
“Just as important to me is the fact that you get the increasedproduction at the same time you are reducing the actual physical work you do. It is almosteffortless to run the new machine when you compare it with the work you used to have toput into the wood. I wish I’d have bought one of these years ago.”
The market for firewood has been good recently, and the new Brutefirewood processor will allow Mark to comfortably take his business to a new level whilecontinuing to operate it in conjunction with his logging company.
brute3.jpg (34590 bytes)Mark’s typical customer is a middle-aged couple witha nice home. “The ice storm we had a couple of years ago and the concerns about Y2Khave brought about a real awareness of the need to have supplemental heat, even if woodisn’t the primary heat source in the home,” he said. “Right now I’vegot 140 cords of seasoned wood on hand, and I expect to see much of that move out soon aswe are into the firewood season.”
In years past, Mark has produced about 250 cords per year. With the newBrute firewood processor, he expects to reach about 500 cords.
“That’s about where I want it to stay,” he said. “And that’sbeen the best thing about the new equipment. With this machine I can expand without havingto put a whole lot more labor into it. The machine is doing the work for me while I getthe benefits of being able to produce more firewood. This is proving to be a great machinefor me.”