Loggers in Tennessee, South Dakota involved in design of new Timberline DL 3800
HUNTINGDON, Tennessee — Don Bush has been logging for 27 years. He owns Bush Forestry, a company that has been fully mechanized for almost a decade.
Don recently had the opportunity to share ideas culled from his years of experience with Timberline Equipment, an Oldenburg Group Co. headquartered in Kingsford, Mich. The engineers at Timberline wanted Don and other customers to tell them what would be on a delimber ‘wish list.’
The collaborative approach that Timberline took with customers has resulted in the Timberline DL3800, a machine built to go to the stump and make quick work of delimbing big hardwoods and bulky softwoods.
A prototype of the DL3800 is being beta-tested. The first machines will be in the hands of loggers soon.
It is no surprise that Timberline turned to Don to hear what he would like to find in an ideal delimber. Don has had two Timberline ST-3530 delimbers in use for years. One of them joined his roster of equipment in 1995.
Don has been very happy with his two Timberline ST-3530 machines, but over time he realized how they could be made even better. He began discussing his ideas with two engineers at Timberline in 1998, and they have been receptive to his suggestions.
“We do a lot of select cutting and going to the stump,” explained Don.
Some things about the Timberline ST-3530 were just right, such as the leveling system. “They’ve had the leveling system for years,” Don noted.
Don believed and suggested to Timberline engineers that some improvements could be made in their big delimber. In the course of the conversations, Don traveled to the Michigan headquarters of Timberline. In order to get a first-hand picture, Timberline designers traveled to Don’s job sites. One of the Timberline ST-3530 delimbers that Don had in service became a working model for the DL3800.
The ST-3530 at Bush Forestry that has been retrofitted includes most of the features the actual DL3800 prototype will have. “We’ve made major changes to the hydraulics,” said Don. Splitting the hydraulics systems allowed the company to eliminate some exposed hoses, which previously could become snagged working in confined select cuts. The changes also will make service much easier on the DL3800, according to Don.
The Timberline DL3800 will retain the best attributes and features of the ST-3530 and add to them. One of the outstanding characteristics of the ST-3530, said Don, is its ability to handle big hardwoods.
“We run a Timbco feller-buncher,” said Don. “It will cut a 33-inch butt in one pass. Pretty much anything the Timbco cuts the Timberline will handle.” Hardwood limbs up to 6 or 8 inches in diameter are “no problem” for the Timberline delimber, he said.
Don uses a bar saw on the Timbco for felling hardwood and a disc saw when cutting in softwood.
When he talked with TimberLine, Don was working in softwood, cutting ice-damaged pine at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. In softwood, the Timberline can get way ahead of the Timbco, said Don.
The Timberline ST-3530 that has been reconfigured to serve as a prototype of the DL3800 has been a great producer, said Don. It can delimb four to five loads per hour in pine and three loads per hour in hardwood.
With the TimberLine delimber working in tandem with the Timbco feller-buncher, chain saws are virtually never used in Bush Forestry operations. “It’s a rarity,” said Don.
A three-man crew produces about 20 loads of wood per day, usually a mix of oak and hickory logs. Most delimbing is done at the stump. Occasionally the crew will skid wood as much as a mile and put a big load together, especially in wet conditions.
Whatever the circumstances, Don is ready to adapt to them. He knows logging inside and out. “I’ve logged with everything from a come-along to a helicopter,” he said.
Everyone does not share Don’s commitment to a hard day’s work, however. It was the difficulty of hiring dependable employees that motivated Don to get his first Timberline delimber. “You couldn’t find help,” he said. “They wouldn’t show up. The workforce is just not out there in the industry.”
Don can count on his son, Heath, who has helped out at Bush Forestry since he was 11 years old. Today, at 27, Heath is an equipment operator. Don’s wife, Jeanna, is also instrumental to the success of the business. “It’s just hard putting together anything without her,” he said.
“I’ve got a super skidder operator, Mike Jones,” added Don. Mike not only operates the skidder but also maintains the machines to keep them running in top condition.
“I’ve got a good loader operator, Jeff Ray,” said Don. “I’ve got some good people.” Bush Forestry employs eight workers year-round.
Don believes in staying on the leading edge of the industry curve and investing in the equipment he needs to stay there. The limiting factor now in loads per day is the distance for deliveries. The company relies on five Mack trucks with Pitts trailers. To make sure that every load is as close as possible to the allowable weight, Don is installing Vulcan On-Board Scales on all his trailers.
“We’re going to on-board scales,” said Don. “You can’t go light” or you lose too much money. “If you go light, you lose $175 per load” or more, which adds up very quickly.
With fuel costs soaring and the need to stay within legal road weight limits, which differ from state to state, precision weighing is the only way to go, said Don. Moreover, he explained, mills to which Bush Forestry delivers will not accept delivery on any trailer that is overweight. Don said he knows the Vulcan On-Board Scales will “pay for themselves” in a very short time.
The same sort of strategic thinking that Don does is matched day in and day out at Timberline Equipment. As Don has been working with his retrofitted ST-3530 in and around his base of Huntingdon, Tenn., Timberline has been consulting loggers from across the country about what they would like to see in the Timberline DL3800.
The Timberline DL3800 has been in development since June 2003. Timberline refers to it as the “do it all delimber” because it can delimb cut-to-length or full tree, at the landing or at the stump, said Mark Rossi, sales and marketing manager at the company. Incorporating a discharge chute or “side dump” is what makes the flexibility possibility, he added.
The first factory built Timberline DL3800 prototype was on display at the Oregon Logging Conference in February. The machine is now undergoing more tests at the factory. Soon it will be heading to Whitewood, S.D., where a long-time user of Timberline delimbing equipment will be beta-testing it.
Arlo Potter, the owner of Potter Logging Inc. and Black Hills Timber and Equipment LLC, is slated to test the DL3800. He expects to get the machine as soon as spring break-up ends.
Like Don and other users of machines from Timberline, Arlo also talked with engineers at Timberline Equipment about what would make the ideal delimber for tackling big trees at the stump. “Before they started building it, I went back and talked to… the engineer,” said Arlo, recalling his trip to Timberline headquarters.
Arlo’s focus was on the bottom line or “how they could make it less expensive for loggers to operate it,” he said. He is confident the DL3800 is going to work very well because it includes many proven features from the Timberline SDL2 delimber — “the same boom, same head, same drive chain.”
By investing in a Timberline ST-3530 in 1992, Potter Logging made its transition to mechanized operations. In 2003, the company added a Timberline SDL2a delimber. Arlo has his delimbers paired with Timbco feller-bunchers.
Potter Logging works mostly in stands of ponderosa pine, a species that presents more than one challenge. The species “is real heavy,” explained Arlo, and the limbs can be quite bushy.
The Timberline SDL2a “really shines in real tough wood,” said Arlo. “It can hammer big limbs all day and hold together.” He knows that the DL3800 will have the same durability and strength.
The Timberline DL3800 will also have some improvements, Arlo noted. “The cab has been all redesigned,” he said. “There’s a lot of room in it.”
Because the weight of DL3800 has been reduced a bit, it will be able to get by on slightly smaller tracks than the SDL2a, said Arlo. That means it will be easier to maneuver and reduce fuel consumption.
Arlo will not be using the DL3800 at the stump. Consequently, he likes the fact that loggers have the choice of buying the machine with leveling capability or not. For loggers who plan to use it for delimbing at a deck or landing, as he will be, there is no need for the leveling capability, he noted.
The two-cylinder, four-way leveling system is very useful on steep terrain. It also augments swing torque when limbs are being removed and the machine is situated on a slope.
The computer that guides the DL3800 will be as easy to use as the one in the SDL2a, said Arlo. It is not complicated, and operators learn how to use it quickly. The Timberline Smart System is the optional measuring system on the DL3800.
The input that Arlo has been able to make to the development of the DL3800 comes not only from his experience as a logger but also his experience listening to other loggers who rely on his Black Hills Timber Equipment dealership. “We sell Timberline and Timbco,” said Arlo, as well as TimberPro. “We also deal with LogMax heads and Quadco heads with the disc saw.” The dealership has service trucks that can go to logging sites to help customers.
Knowing the potential the new Timberline delimber has, Arlo is eager to test the DL3800 prototype as well as to demonstrate it to potential customers.
For his part, Don said that without the availability of equipment like delimbers from Timberline and his Timbco feller, he would not be logging. “If I had to give my delimbers up, I’d quit,” he said. “Same thing with the Timbco.”
But there is no need for Don to plan more time fishing, an activity he very much enjoys when he gets a few free hours. And as much as Arlo likes to find spare time to travel to the Pacific Coast of Oregon, he will have the machines he wants for as long as he would like to log.
Timberline plans to keep its focus trained on continuous improvement of its equipment. Reaching out and working with loggers like Don in Tennessee and Arlo in South Dakota is the way it learns exactly what it can do to make changes that benefit loggers.
The home base of Potter Logging is Whitewood, a town of 900 residents in far western South Dakota. It is just 10 miles southeast of the historic town of Deadwood, once known as Dead Tree Gulch, where Wild Bill Hickock was killed in 1876 and gold seekers once swarmed.
The forested land around Whitewood is quite different from the forested land around Huntingdon, Tenn. But both regions present a similar challenge to loggers in that the trees are large. In the West, where Arlo’s crews work, the multiple limbs demand a tough delimber. In the heartland, where Don’s crews work, the sheer size of the limbs also put a delimber to the test.
The DL3800 was built from the ground up. “With the ability to go to the stump,” said Mark, “we give the contractor more flexibility than an attachment delimber mounted on an excavator.”
A Cummins 215 hp engine is standard on the DL3800. The ‘38’ in the name refers to the patented, high-strength 38-foot boom. Options available on the DL3800 include feed rollers to achieve speeds similar to processor heads and a Cummins 240 hp diesel engine.
Several structural features will make the use of the Timberline DL3800 at the stump even easier. The greasing points are centrally located and the fuel capacity is large. The hydraulic tanks are also large.
Oldenburg Group, the owner of Timberline, is a Milwaukee, Wis.-based manufacturing company that puts an emphasis on diversified endeavors. For example, the ISO 9001 certified company makes mining equipment under the Oldenburg Stamler trade name. Oldenburg Lake Shore provides goods and services that support industries well beyond forestry and mining, including shipbuilding, automotive and aerospace. The company can trace its earliest root to 1858.