Canadian Switches to Mechanized, Cut-to-Length

- Advertisement -

T.H. Wood Logging – Canadian Switches to Mechanized C-T-L, Pairs LogMax and Tigercat

Tigercat 850 Carrier Paired with LogMax 750 Processing Head; ‘I’ll Never Buy a Different (Combination) Again’
By Diane Calabrese
Contributing Author

BAIE VERTE, New Brunswick — Terry Wood has been in business for 15 years as T.H. Wood Logging but only recently began specializing in cut-to-length timber harvesting.

For years Terry’s business relied on chain saws for felling and cable skidders to move the tree-length stems to the landing. In order to increase production, however, he decided to mechanize his operations. At the same time, he opted for cut-to-length machinery for cleaner operations and to help conserve the forest floor. “I went to cut-to-length because it utilizes more fiber than other mechanized methods,” he said. But by mid-spring of last year, the entire operation was mechanized.

The company is averaging from 35 to 45 cords of pulpwood per shift, according to Terry, or about 20,000 cords per year. “The production depends on the size of the tree,” he said.

- Advertisement -

When it came time to choose machinery, Terry decided to match excavating machines with cut-to-length processing heads, combining equipment from four different suppliers.

The combinations match Terry’s approach and also the preferences of the employees who operate the machines.

T.H. Wood Logging has a Tigercat 850 carrier teamed with a LogMax 750 processing head and a John Deere 790 excavator paired with a Koehring 752B processing head. The Tigercat-LogMax combination is the newest of the two, bought last spring. It gets high marks from Terry.

As for how Terry settled on the Tigercat and LogMax combination, he had a simple explanation. “I let the operators decide. They tried out the Tigercat and wanted it. I just paid for it.” Terry has good reason to put that kind of trust in the men who run the machines. “Most of my operators are also mechanics,” he said, “and two of them are certified welders.”

The Tigercat has a “roomy cab,” said Terry, and the space is certainly a plus for men who spend 40 hours each week inside it with the computerized controls as their only companions. But the operators also were sold on it for other reasons. “The crawling ability, the tracks and the swing capability are great features,” said Terry “[The Tigercat] will outdo any carrier.”

Tigercat provides factory installation of LogMax processing heads but Terry chose to buy the carrier and head separately. He bought the LogMax from a dealer, Rocan Forestry Service Ltd., in the nearby town of Moncton because he wanted local service. He also got one week of on-site training from Rocan.

Terry is so pleased with the Tigercat-LogMax combination he said, “I’ll never buy a different [combination] again.”

LogMax offers several different size harvesting heads. The Swedish-made LogMax 750 weighs 3,135 pounds, according to Alan Anderson, owner of Rocan Forestry. The processing head features case-hardened pins for durability and integrated hydraulics, except for the rotator. The maximum cutting diameter is 28 inches. There is an optional top saw; Terry did not add a top saw although he may in the future.

“I like the LogMax because of its capability with bigger wood, hardwood,” said Terry. “It is an exceptional head in hardwood. But we are not in big hardwood stands, so I didn’t get the topping saw.”

For transporting the wood to the landing, T.H. Wood Logging has two Rottne eight-wheel forwarders, The two forwarders, one at 16 tons and the other at 12 tons, feature low center of gravity and high clearance. They move the delimbed and bucked stems to waiting transport trucks. At the landing, the wood is loaded on the transport trucks with a John Deere 690 ELC excavator equipped with a Rotobek three-quarter cord grapple.

T.H. Wood Logging does all its own hauling, so trucks are important. Terry owns five of them, four Fords and a Peterbilt. Each tractor pulls a Superior flatbed trailer.

In true cut-to-length logging, all processing is done in the woods. When the wood is loaded onto the trucks, the next stop is a sawmill or pulp mill.

T.H. Wood Logging harvests timber 10 months of the year. The processors are operated for two shifts although the forwarders run only on one. Each shift is nine hours long. The men running the processors work for eight hours and then take an hour to maintain the machines. Terry came up with the idea of shifts that overlap for one hour, and it has proved good for the equipment and the operators. The men get to know each another and interact with the company mechanic; the have an opportunity to share information about production and keeping the machines in optimum condition.

For running two shifts, the processors are equipped with xenon working lamps Terry also bought from Rocan Forestry. The NBB Gamma D2 lamps are made in Sweden and provide excellent illumination. “It is just like working in daylight,” said Terry. “There are no shadows. There is no glare. And there is no [eye] strain.”

The xenon bulb costs about 16 times more than a halogen bulb of equivalent size, according to Terry and Alan. However, the costs are comparable when the bulbs are evaluated by cost per hour of light. “The bulb is filled with xenon gas,” explained Alan. “It has about 3,000 hours of life. A halogen lamp has about 200 hours of bulb life.” In addition, the light quality of the xenon bulb and its resistance to vibration make it an attractive alternative to halogen lamps. The halogen filament is quite sensitive to vibration.

Terry’s home base of Baie Verte — which means green bay — takes its name from the strong green color of the bay’s eel grass, especially when the tide ebbs. The village has only about 100 residents, but it is contiguous to a municipal area, Moncton, which has more than 100 times as many inhabitants. The two communities straddle the border between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

About half of T.H. Wood Logging’s production goes to T.P. Downey & Sons Ltd. sawmill in Hillsborough, New Brunswick. T.H. Wood Logging harvests timber on land owned by Downey & Sons, which produces about 15 million board feet of lumber annually.

“We cut another 50 percent on private land,” said Terry. “We buy [the land or the right to cut] and sell on the open market. We cut black and white spruce, and, in the hardwoods, some poplar, maple and birch.”

Terry’s company, which has 30 employees, also has a construction arm. “We build our own roads,” he explained. The construction unit also contracts for other jobs, clearing land, building roads, and installing water and sewer lines. Last summer the construction crew cleared land for a company that was putting a natural gas line from Nova Scotia to Boston.

Most of the company’s timber harvesting operations are carried out within about 60 miles of Baie Verte, although some jobs take the loggers 200 miles away. Because winter — with the ground frozen — is such a good time for logging, Terry usually runs two shifts of trucks; he uses three hired trucks and drivers in addition to his own five trucks and drivers. When the spring thaw arrives in April and conditions are soggy, Terry shuts down and the company tackles major maintenance projects on the machinery.

Terry hired a new foreman about a year ago, Lisa Cole, the only woman on the T.H. Wood Logging team. Like Terry, Lisa is a certified forest technician. Both earned their certification by a year of study at the Maritime Forest Ranger School in Fredericton, New Brunswick. “You don’t need the certification now to be a logger,” said Terry, “but [the requirement] is coming.” Lisa also had logging management experience in addition to her forester technician certification when she took the job at T.H. Wood Logging.

“She does time studies, production reports and equipment scheduling.”Terry said, describing Lisa’s duties and activities. The company also is active in trade organizations, and Lisa represents T.H. Wood Logging at their meetings.

Looking toward the future, Terry observed, “It’s going to really change in the next five years. There will be less clear-cut and more select cut. We are already in transition.”

“I had 40 chain saws six years ago,” he recalled. “In six years, I’ve changed to computerized harvesters.”

“There’s a big learning curve with the harvester — about eight months for an operator. The operator reaches a plateau of about 300 trees per shift after two months, and then in about five months he jumps to 500 trees, and after nine months it’s 800 or 900 trees per shift.”

One operator is in training now, but three operators have been with Terry more than 10 years and two have been with the company for five years. “It is important that operators know how to fix the equipment, that they don’t call the mechanic unnecessarily. I can’t afford to have too many mechanics.” Terry has one full-time mechanic.

Terry is committed to keeping up with trends and the rapid rate of change in the industry — and not just him, but the entire logging crew. “I take all forestry employees — all those in the logging operation — to a trade show each year,” he said. “It’s good for the operators to talk to the manufacturers of equipment, to find out a lot of the newer technical [information first hand].”

Terry quit school while in grade nine. Soon after, he left New Brunswick. “I went to northern Manitoba and Ontario to log for four years. I had a job for six months once outside of logging. I punched a time clock. I didn’t like it. I like the freedom, the fresh air, the challenges of logging.” Terry worked as a foreman for J. D. Irving Ltd. for 12 years before going into business.

Terry and his wife have three grown daughters; one is a chef, one a teacher, and the other an X-ray technician.

Rising fuel costs hit Terry’s company hard this winter. “(The winter of 1999-2000) was the first winter in nine years I never ran the trucks on two shifts,” he said. According to his records, the week of Feb. 6-10, 1999, T.H. Wood Logging used 15,000 liters of truck fuel. “And a year later, it cost me $3,500 more for the same period for the same volume of fuel.”

Although Terry is philosophical about the changes in the forest products industry, he is also pragmatic. He noted that his father bought a forwarder (his first) in 1973 for $24,000; 25 years later, Terry paid over 10 times as much for a machine.

Although Terry anticipates increases in productivity and improvements in durability can offset the higher cost of equipment, he does not believe the escalating fuel prices can continue without serious consequences for loggers. “One gallon of fuel cost 50 cents in 1973,” he said. “Five gallons of hydraulic fuel cost $4; today it’s $35.” Stumpage prices also have risen, he added.