Firewood Dealer Invests In First Processor

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Rainier Hydraulics Chomper firewood processor enables Connecticut business to boost production.

NORTHFORD, Connecticut. — Paul Prusinski learned to wield a splitting maul as a young boy, working on a friend’s family farm. After high school he launched a roofing business, but soon he decided to divide his year between roofing in the summer and processing firewood in winter.

For several years, Paul made firewood the old-fashioned way: bucking the logs with a chainsaw and splitting the wood with a maul. He bought his first hydraulic splitter, a Lickety-Log, in 1984 and built a four-way wedge for it. Six years ago he upgraded to a newer splitter. Splitters were good, but he wanted more capability for his business, Paul’s Firewood, which is located in Northford, Conn. “I kept looking at firewood processors,” said Paul. “I knew I needed a processor.”

Last year, while exploring options for equipment, two things happened. Paul saw an advertisement in TimberLine for the Rainier Hydraulics Chomper firewood processor. He also learned of a used Chomper that was for sale in a neighboring town, so Paul called and inquired about it. Although it had already been sold, the seller, who was moving to a bigger machine, spoke highly of the Rainier Chomper.

Paul was interested in the machine and contacted Warren Aikins at Rainier Hydraulics, which is located in Rainier, Ore. After watching a demonstration video, he ordered a Chomper. He put the new Chomper model 116PDA, equipped with an 80 hp John Deere engine, into service near the end of last summer.

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Immediately he began to see firsthand everything he had read and heard about the Chomper. “It dries the wood faster,” said Paul. Instead of a bar saw for bucking, the Chomper uses a shear to cut logs into fireplace-length wood; the hydraulic-driven shear actually squeezes out water as it bites through the wood. Also, since the ends of the wood are fractured, it results in a shorter drying time. In fact, the Chomper squeezed so much water out of the wood that Paul began processing in August that he sold it three months later. Customers told him the firewood “burned great,” he recalled.

Paul is “amazed at the fairly clean cut” of the Chomper. Some of his logs are covered with mud, and the ability of the Chomper to cut that kind of wood is important to him. The Chomper, which essentially is self-sharpening, cuts well with wood covered by dirt and even embedded with small rocks, he said. Another benefit of cutting with a shear blade is that no sawdust is produced. Paul chooses to hydraulically adjust the splitting head to two-, four- or eight-way, depending on log size.

Rainier Hydraulics also makes two smaller models of the Chomper. The smallest version, the Simplex 14 model, is powered by a Honda 18 hp engine and can process logs up to 14 inches in diameter at the butt end. There was a period of adjustment in switching to the Chomper. While getting acquainted with the operation of the new machine, Paul was glad he could call on Warren, who “was always very helpful,” he said. “The auto-cycle is very fast,” said Paul. “In the beginning, it was so fast you had to be careful.” Because of the speed, Paul initially chose the manual option to learn how to run the machine.

Now he is acclimated to the speed, and Paul is looking forward to producing more firewood in less time. “I sell a minimum of 75 cords to 200 cords per
year,” said Paul. “With the Chomper, I hope to do a minimum of 200 cords and up to 300 cords.”

Faster production is important to Paul because besides running Paul’s Firewood, he works full-time for the South Central Regional Water Authority (SCRWA) in Connecticut. He also wants more time to spend with his family. The SCRWA sells permits for harvesting firewood on its land, and in the course of using his permit, Paul met Robert A. Hart, a certified Connecticut forester. Robert has since retired from the SCRWA and now runs Yankee Forestry Services II, located in Branford, Conn. Paul credited Robert with teaching him an enormous amount about trees and forestry. Paul sells mostly mixed species, loose loads in one-quarter, one-half and full cord quantities. Red oak, hickory, ash, and sugar maple are the most common species. He also works with white oak, black birch, beech and tulip.

In his job at the SCRWA, Paul is called on for a lot of emergency water main breaks. His unpredictable work schedule dictates how much wood he buys to process and how much he cuts himself. “Some years I may cut 100 cords myself,” he said. “Other years I buy five log-truck loads to 15 loads.”

Another benefit of the Chomper is that it processes tree-length wood, eliminating the need to cut the logs with a chain saw. In addition, the machine uses a cable winch to pull logs on the ground into the shear, so there is no need for a log deck, and log handling is reduced. For moving log-length wood in his wood yard, Paul relies on a Timberjack 240D skidder and John Deere 510 backhoe with thumb. On the rare occasion he needs to use a chain saw to cut longer logs into firewood length, his preferred brand is a Jonsered.

When Paul first began working for the SCRWA, he planted trees, cleared land for roads and cleared out drainage ditches. He enjoyed the work very much, but when a filter plant was built, it reduced the amount of time he got to spend in the woods, which he regrets. Paul is an outdoor person through and through. His home is on a five acre site adjacent to SCRWA property. “I really enjoy being outside,” he said. “I like to hunt and fish on my own property and on state land.”