Gilman Logging Makes Tracks with Cutters

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Virginia logger is pleased with move to Timbo track feller-bunchers, which cut gullies and handle steep conditions well.

ASHLAND, Va. — Buddy Gilman has been using feller-bunchers a long time in
his logging business, and it was a long time coming before he decided to move from a wheel machine to a track cutting machine. A tornado helped push him in that direction.

“I go back a long way in feller-bunchers,” said Buddy, owner of Gilman Logging.

Buddy, whose logging company has been mechanized for many years, had looked into buying new equipment prior to the twister. He researched new equipment and already was seriously considering investing in a track machine. With the help of Mark Fleisher at Pioneer Machinery’s dealership in Glen Allen, Va., Buddy had been evaluating the way
a Timbco track feller-buncher would fit into his company. The tornado accelerated his plans.

“The first (Timbco) I bought, we were cutting some timber where a tornado had gone through the county,” said Buddy. Confronted with working in the path of destruction left by the storm, he decided the time was right. The 360-degree rotation capability of the Timbco 445 track feller-buncher was just what he needed to maximize cutting with minimum movement, Buddy explained.

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That was four years ago. Buddy liked the Timbco 445 immediately. In fact, the machine did so well for him that he added a Timbco 425 two years later.

The Timbco machines “enable me to buy timber I couldn’t,” said Buddy. Gilman Logging performs mostly clear-cuts. Working in the Piedmont and coastal plain regions of Virginia, the company nevertheless encounters gullies and other steep conditions. Wheel feller-bunchers are not as well suited as a track machine for cutting timber in gullies and other steep terrain, Buddy noted. The Timbcos “can cut gullies a whole lot better.”

Buddy has been logging since 1963. After graduating from high school, the native of Ashland, Va. spent four years in the U.S. Navy. He was discharged in 1962. When he arrived home, he soon started what would eventually become Gilman Logging. “I bought a chain saw and six-wheel truck and got going,” he said.

Ashland is a small town (population 5,800) within Hanover County located about 15 miles north of the state capital of Richmond. Home to Randolph-Macon College, Ashland became known in the mid-nineteenth century as a resort for health-conscious travelers.

Of course, the logging business is very different from when he launched his company nearly 40 years ago, Buddy observed. One of the biggest changes has been the amount of regulations under which loggers now work. Another big change has been the increased mechanization in the logging industry.

Now it is rare when Gilman Logging workers use a chain saw. When they do, the company relies on Husqvarna. “We use the Husqvarna for limbing up trunks and big trees,” said Buddy. Mechanized felling and delimbing has replaced the need for most chain saws.

Overall, Buddy has been pleased with the performance of Timbco’s machines. “It does a good job,” he said.

The Timbco 445 has wider tracks than the Timbco 425; one reason that he decided to add the Timbco 425 was because of the smaller size. “I like the narrow tracks a little better,” said Buddy. The narrower tracks give the machine an edge in maneuverability, he said.

The Timbco 445 and the Timbco 425 share many features, including four-way cab leveling. Working on two-cylinders, the leveling system keeps the machine and the operator in a horizontal position even while working on a slope as steep as 51-degrees. The outside track-to-track width of the Timbco 445 is 10 feet, 4 inches; the same dimension for the Timbco 425 is 9 feet, 8 inches.

The Timbco 400-series machines have Caterpillar undercarriages; the Timbco 445 has a Caterpillar 330 (D7) undercarriage, and the Timbco 425 has a Caterpillar 325 (D6) undercarriage. The Caterpillar 300-series undercarriages incorporate heat-treated idlers to prevent shaft
deflection, and correspondingly, reduce wear. That translates to a longer lifetime
of service. The undercarriages are equipped with sprocket teeth, and the shoes are clipped and relieved like those on tractors, which reduces build-up of
mud and snow.

Timbco designed the placement of the engine carefully for balance. For example, when it swings into position, the boom can serve as a counterweight on steep ground, providing added stability. The Timbco 400 series machines are designed so they may be equipped with any type of cutting or processing head, including cut-to-length processing heads.

Timbco Hydraulics was purchased in 2000 by Partek Corp., considered among the pioneers in mechanized logging equipment. As its name suggests, Timbco Hydraulics puts great emphasis on state-of-the-art hydraulic systems. Timbco 400-series machines have load-sensing, pressure-compensated hydraulic systems with a baffled, 110-gallon hydraulic oil reservoir. The large reservoir improves circulation and cooling; the longer the oil is stored in the reservoir before returning to service, the cooler it is and less likely to contain air. Heat and air bubble cavitations in the oil are what cause trouble for hydraulic systems, and the Timbco design minimizes both, reducing machine downtime.

Timbco offers a number of optional features on the 400-series machines. When it comes to engines, for example, customers may choose from a Cummins or John Deere power plant ranging from 215-260 hp.

The most important aspects of the machine’s performance to Buddy are its maneuverability and stability. The ability to rotate the cab 360 degrees means the machine can do a considerable amount of cutting while stationed in one place. The stability provided by cab leveling is particularly important while maneuvering and cutting up and down gullies and ravines.

Buddy has been very satisfied with the maintenance requirements of his Timbco machines. Swing-out guards and panels make service areas accessible quickly and with little effort.

Gilman Logging is also equipped with a Tigercat stroke-boom machine with a Denharco delimbing head, four Timberjack skidders (a model 660 and three model 450 machines), two Prentice 410 EX loaders and a pair of CTR 550 delimber-slashers.

The Tigercat-Denharco combination, purchased from Atlantic Equipment and now three years old, has performed well and benefitted the company. “I’ve had good luck with the Tigercat stroker,” Buddy said. “It gives us more leeway in buying timber because now we can use tops.”

Pioneer Machinery’s dealership in Glen Allen serves customers from the Piedmont region of the Old Dominion and south into North Carolina. Mark works closely with customers to help them find the best equipment solution for the terrain where they work and the species they cut. He and Buddy have collaborated for many years. He has received a lot of good advice from Pioneer Machinery and Mark, said Buddy, and has done business accordingly. “I’ve been pretty loyal to Pioneer,” he said.

Mark had been talking with Buddy before the tornado struck about the versatility of the Timbco track feller-bunchers. Many loggers initially are attracted to the Timbco 400-series machines because of their cab leveling capability and performance on sloping ground, Mark noted, but they also operate efficiently on flat terrain. The Timbco D-series machines will cut more trees per hour than wheel cutters even on flat ground, he said. The combination of the tracks and the machine’s 360-degree rotation provide good maneuverability and also reduce soil disturbance.

Another factor in Buddy’s decision was timing; Mark had the machine on Buddy’s job promptly when he was ready to try it. “He brought it out when I was cutting the storm-damaged timber,” recalled Buddy, who was not surprised by the results he got with the machine or its performance.

Gilman Logging has eight employees working in the woods year-around. They form two crews, but they generally work on the same job. “I try to keep them together as much as I can,” said Buddy. Working on the same job makes site preparation and operations at the landing more efficient.

“We do our own road-building,” added Buddy, with a John Deere model 750 dozer and motor grader. The company has six trucks to haul wood — a Mack, Kenworth, Ford, Western Star, and two Volvos — and also uses some contract truckers.

Becoming a logger came naturally to Buddy. His father was a logger although he died when Buddy was very young. “I guess I took up where he left off,” said Buddy. Two uncles also were loggers.

His son, Howard, has followed Buddy into the forest products industry. Howard manages two scragg mills operated as Falling Creek Log & Lumber Co., One mill, the newer of the two, saws both pine and hardwoods. Built in 1997, it is equipped with a Cooper end-dog scragg that removes two slabs to break down the log into a two-sided cant. The cants go to a Ligna Machinery combination gang-edger. Remaining flitches go through a Ligna edger, and boards proceed next to a Ligna end-trim saw and then a stacker. Lumber is sold rough to planing mills. The Ligna Machinery equipment has been a good match for processing small logs, said Howard, and the company’s location in Burlington, N. C. is reasonably close.

The second mill, the older of the two, saws only pine. Built in 1993, it has a Wilson cradle scragg with chain carry-through followed by a Corley gang saw. “We use it like a board edger,” Howard said of the gang saw. The pine mill produces mostly 4×6 and 6×6 that are sold to local planing mills and other companies that remanufacture them into finished lumber.

The company also operates a chip mill that is currently idle. The chip mill is equipped with a drum debarker and a Precision 96-inch chipper. Falling Creek had a contract to sell chips to an overseas market, but the company lost the contract in the competitive marketplace. Buddy and Howard hope to contract to supply another customer and get the chip mill up and running again as soon as possible.

The two scragg mills employ 28 people year-around, matching the activity of the logging crews. Buddy buys timber to keep the mills supplied with logs, and the Gilman Logging crews cut it. The mills also buy wood from other loggers as needed.

In addition to the lumber produced by the mills, the company sells some pulpwood to paper companies and sells grade logs to other sawmills.

Gilman Logging harvests roughly equal volumes of pine and hardwoods. Buddy prefers to work close to home in order to minimize travel time. “We try to stay within a 50-mile radius of Ashland,” he said. Within that area there is plenty of timber available on private land, he indicated.

Buddy and Howard enjoy their work, but they are candid about the challenges they face. The forest products industry has grown more competitive, Buddy noted; competition from Canada, particularly in pine, is very keen, said Howard.

A member of the Virginia Forest Products Association, Buddy said as much
as he likes running his business, he appreciates taking some time away from it.
“I like to hunt, and I like to fish — especially fishing,” he said. “But work keeps me busy.”