Canadian C-T-L Logger Is Model of Efficiency

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G.L. Fenton Forestry adds second TigerCat 845 machine and is impressed by its speed, versatility and reliability.

TRURO, Nova Scotia — MacTara Limited is a huge sawmill in Eastern Canada. In fact, it is the largest sawmill in Nova Scotia. Located in Upper Musquodoboit, the mill produces 170 million board feet of softwood lumber a year.

G.L. Fenton Forestry, which is owned by Garnet Fenton, harvests timber exclusively for MacTara. Because MacTara contracts for extremely specific activities, Garnet’s company focuses on cut-to-length logging.

Three big pieces of equipment keep the cut-to-length (c-t-l) operation at G.L. Fenton Forestry humming. The newest machine in the line-up is a Tigercat 845 feller-buncher with a Koehring saw head. It was purchased in 2001. Garnet purchased another Tigercat 845 two years earlier and fitted it with a LogMax 750 processing head. He also bought a Fabtek 546 forwarder the same year, 1999.

With six employees, G.L. Fenton Forestry is a model of efficiency. Three men work on a shift, and there are two shifts in full swing five days each week. Each man runs a machine. Sometimes, as needed, Garnet fills in as a substitute. Given the opportunity to get behind controls, he said, “I like to run the processor” because it plays such a key role. He enjoys running the Tigercat 845 with the LogMax head because of strong performance.

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Garnet recalled the first time he saw a Tigercat 845 working on a job site. He was impressed by its agility. “I was working beside one,” he said, “and I watched it all week.” He noticed it was “fast,” and had “high-clearance.”

He quickly became convinced that the Tigercat 845 harvester was a “well-built machine” and soon decided to invest in one. At the time, he noted, many loggers he knew were using conversion machines — harvesters or processors added to excavators. Once he saw the Tigercat 845 in action, he had no doubt the machine had superior capabilities.

The Tigercat 845 helped to get Garnet’s newly established business off to a good start. G.L. Fenton Forestry was established in 1999, although Garnet had been logging for about six years in other contractual arrangements before launching the business. He is happy being the owner of a company, and said the fact that he “got tired of working for other people” pushed him to begin his own logging contracting business.

The Tigercat 845 is a very versatile machine. It can be used alone to fell, process and buck smaller trees. It can also work after a feller-buncher, processing trees the feller-buncher has harvested. In 2001, Garnet purchased the second Tigercat 845 to expand the options for harvesting timber. When he decided to add the second feller-buncher, Garnet was such fan of Tigercat equipment that he settled immediately on a Tigercat 845 feller-buncher with a Koehring saw head.

Prior to 1999, Garnet relied on chain saws to fell trees. And in the early years of his logging career, all the work he did was with chain saws.

MacTara has very specific requirements for its contracts, and it hires different companies for various aspects of the work. Road construction and trucking, for example, are performed by different contractors. When the merchandised wood is ready to go the MacTara mill, G.L. Fenton Forestry only is required to transport it to the road, which it does with the Fabtek 546 forwarder. Pulp wood, for example, is picked up at the road by a company that is contracted to provide chipping. MacTara strives to “use the whole tree,” noted Garnet, who estimated that 70% of what his company cuts is used for saw logs.

G.L. Fenton Forestry also performs thins in hardwoods. Most of the stands where it operates are mixed hardwood and softwood.

In all types of harvesting jobs, and especially select cutting, the Tigercat 845 harvester and Tigercat 845 feller-buncher have proven themselves. Minimum tail movement means they can put down a tree within a defined area and avoid damage to residual trees in the stand.

With both Tigercat machines running, production is “eight to 14 tons per hour,” said Garnet. Recalling the days when he swung a chain saw, he added, “It’s a big difference. We cover a lot of ground with the feller-buncher.”

There are times, of course, when a chain saw is needed. Over-size stems are bucked to more manageable size with a Husqvarna chain saw.

Most trees harvested by the company average from 6-8 to 14 inches in diameter, although some have ranged as large as 27 inches in diameter.

The Tigercat 845 feller-buncher and the Tigercat 845 harvester are both track machines. The undercarriage of each has 30 inches of ground clearance. Different options are available for the processing head on the harvester; although Garnet chose a LogMax 750, he could have selected a Woodking 650.

Both machines have factory installed lights. Garnet’s crews get plenty of use out of them. Working two shifts at high latitude nearly all year long, they operate equipment in the dark more often than not. The only time Garnet shuts down operations is for a few weeks in March during the spring thaw.

The LogMax 750 can fell and process trees up to 30 inches in diameter and delimb branches up to 23 inches in diameter down to 1 inch. It can feed as fast as 16 feet per second. The head is made to grip a tree, fell it, delimb it and cut it to a desired length. But the Swedish-made LogMax must be matched with a suitable carrier, and that is where the Tigercat 845 harvester enters the picture.

The Tigercat 845 is built for the specific purpose of being combined with a processing head, so the pairing of the machine and the head functions smoothly. The engineering design of the Tigercat 845 takes into account how the machine will be deployed.

The Tigercat 845 harvester can sense load weight and respond accordingly with flow-on-demand hydraulics. Given the range of tree sizes that Garnet’s harvester/processor confronts, the feature is a particularly good one to have. The Tigercat 845 feller-buncher also has load sensing and flow-on-demand hydraulics as well as simultaneous control of all machine functions. Both the harvester and feller-buncher are factory equipped with Cummins C series 230 hp engines.

Garnet’s company usually works within an hour’s drive of Truro, which is located near Cobequid Bay, an inlet of the Bay of Fundy. The small town, with about 12,000 residents, is home to Nova Scotia Agricultural College, which dates to 1905.

The predominant native trees in Nova Scotia are pine and spruce. Hemlock, birch, maple and balsam fir also are abundant.

MacTara has long had a reputation for extracting the most value from every tree it harvests. For several years it has been producing wood pellets from its residuals. The pellets, which are burned to generate steam and electric power, have been shipped as far as Sweden.

MacTara also supplies bark and sawdust from its mill operations to Fulghum Fibrefuels, which is affiliated with Fulghum Industries Inc. in Wadley, Ga., a well-known manufacturer of wood processing equipment.

Besides using every possible part of a tree, MacTara takes a very active role in reforestation. The company works with private woodlot owners and the Nova Scotia Dept. of Natural Resources to plant trees. The cooperative effort makes environmental and economic sense because the landowners are an important sources of standing timber for the company.

G.L. Fenton Forestry mirrors the efficiency that is an integral part of the history of MacTara. Garnet wants to see every part of a tree going into a merchandisable product. And he knows he sets each tree on a good path with the equipment he uses to handle it.

“I am a strong believer in Tigercat,” said Garnet. Not only is he “very happy with the service” he gets, but maintenance on the equipment is as minimal as one could hope to find, he said. Garnet deals with Strongco Equipment in Truro for all his local service needs. Tigercat is based in Paris, Ontario, and Garnet admired the way that even Tigercat representatives at the company’s headquarters understand the challenges that loggers face in the woods. In any case, service requirements are few. Speaking about the Tigercat 845 harvester, Garnet said it is “hard to believe” but he virtually has to “do nothing on it” to keep it maintained.

“Everyone asked me why I bought it,” said Garnet, noting that it would have cost less to convert an ordinary excavator carriage for logging. He was convinced that the Tigercat purpose-built machine was a better choice and would perform better, a conviction that has been borne out in his experience with the equipment.

The other loggers stopped asking him why he bought it. Apparently, they thought the machine made sense. “I had the first Tigercat harvester in Nova Scotia,” said Garnet. Now, he added, there are nine of them operating in the province.

Garnet is interested in seeing the new Tigercat forwarder when it becomes available. “If it is as reliable as the other Tigercat equipment, it will be a good machine,” he said.