Starlite Logging relies on Timbco machines, Rolly II head for harvesting operations
WARRENS, Wisconsin — Nothing beats first-hand experience with a piece of logging equipment, especially when evaluating whether the machine has the mettle to take on a tough job day in and day out.
Bill Franklin, owner of Starlite Logging, had a great opportunity to get to know a variety of felling and harvesting machines.
Prior to launching Starlite Logging in 2000, Bill worked for other mechanized loggers and ran harvesting equipment for them. In the three years just before he started his own company, he worked for Delaney Forest Products in Warrens, Wis.
Starlite Logging currently has an exclusive, five-year agreement as a subcontractor for Delaney Forest Products. Starlite focuses on felling, delimbing and cutting to length.
Rick Delaney of Delaney Forest Products wanted to specialize in the forwarding aspect of cut-to-length logging, according to Bill, so he decided to sell two of his cut-to-length harvesters some four years ago. In order to get Starlite Logging going, Bill bought two used Timbco 415 machines from Rick. One Timbco 415 is a 1999 model and the other is a 2000. Each Timbco track carrier is fitted with a Rolly II harvesting head.
Timbco has been part of Komatsu Ltd. since Dec. 2003. The Rolly II head is made by Risley.
The Timbco 415 and Rolly II pairing suits Bill well. “In my opinion,” he said, “they’re my favorite.” They cannot be beat for control, he added.
“With the fixed head,” said Bill, an operator is better able to make the best use of space and position when stacking wood. An “operator can make the piles as big as he wants,” he said, and they are “high and straight.”
The experience Bill had with Timbco and Rolly equipment before buying it extends to maintenance. “I had been taking care of three Timbcos for Delaney,” he explained, working as both foreman and an operator. Consequently, Bill knew the equipment and he liked what he saw in terms of performance and endurance.
Starlite Logging runs as a two-man company. Bill and the operator he employs each run a Timbco. Bill and his employee perform all the maintenance on both machines. “Our goal is 550 cords per week,” said Bill. “But we do that and we do more than that.”
“Just a few weeks ago,” he added, “we did 1,000 cords in one week with two machines.” That particular week the men worked five 10-hour days and a half-day on Saturday.
On the harvesting end of logging, Bill has used many kinds of machines. “I’ve run four or five different types,” he said. Among them, the Timbcos with the Rolly II heads get the top marks. “They’re the most powerful and versatile,” he said. “They can cut big wood and plantation.”
Starlite Logging cuts about 90% oak. The remainder is jack pine, red pine, poplar and maple. “I would say that the type of logging we do is a little bit of everything — ties, bolts, some pulp,” said Bill.
The Timbco-Rolly II combinations at Starlite Logging have seen a lot of service, all while routinely handling 20-inch oaks. “Both have right around 7,500 hours on them,” said Bill. “I’m looking to trade them in next year to get the new heavy-duty Rolly.”
Although Bill has not yet decided exactly when he will upgrade, the Timbco EX-Rolly II got his attention. On tracks, the Timbco EX-Rolly II gets a good rating for its ability to minimize substrate damage. At the same time, it has a lot of power and maneuverability. It also has a Sisu diesel engine as the standard power source.
Bill never had any concerns about starting his business with used equipment for two reasons. He knew Timbco and Rolly equipment. And he knew that Ron Beauchamp, the owner of Woodland Equipment, a dealership in Iron River, Mich., would stand behind the machines. When the machines were new, Ron sold them to Delaney Forest Products. Ron continued to provide support for them when Bill bought them.
“I really can’t say enough about Woodland and Ron Beauchamp,” said Bill. Ron understands that minimizing breakdowns and downtime is the key to a successful logging business, he said.
“Woodland Equipment takes such good care of us,” said Bill. “With all the expertise there,” he said, he knows that Starlite Logging can get in the hours it must each week. If he needs anything — whether parts or technical advice — he gets it fast.
Bill got into logging as a hand-feller with a chain saw. “Initially, we’d hand cut for years when I was younger,” he explained. He worked first for his uncle and then for another company before joining Rick’s company and later founding Starlite Logging.
Recalling the transition he made to mechanized logging, Bill can vividly remember the experience 10 years ago. “The first time I set foot in one of the machines, I was in awe” of what it could do, he said. “I was intrigued.”
A member of the Wisconsin Pro-Logger Association and a certified Pro-Logger, Bill enjoys the industry enormously. He is enthusiastic about logging and also about being a business owner. “I like being my own boss,” he said, “and I just like the outdoors. It’s not the same old grind.”
Matter-of-fact about the technology associated with cut-to-length logging, Bill noted that different machines and equipment have different controls, and there is a learning curve. Once an operator has mastered the logistics of operating a boom, however, the ability transfers readily from one machine to another, he said. The boom “is something you get used to,” he explained, and do not forget.
A native of Warrens, Wis., Bill chose the name Starlite Logging because he lives on Starlite Road in Warrens, where his company is based. Warrens, a village of only about 300 people, is in the west-central part of the Badger State.
The population of Warrens swells during the annual cranberry festival, which was held for the first time in 1973. The festival celebrates the productivity of the cranberry marshes in the region, which yield 285 million pounds of berries per year. The September festival in Warrens is now the largest among the cranberry celebrations across the world.
The marshes are a boon to cranberry farmers but they are a bit tough on loggers. “There’s a lot of swamp land,” Bill said of the region. The swamps must be frozen for logging, otherwise the machines would cause rutting in the wet ground, he said.
Most jobs for Starlite Logging are within a 40-50 mile radius of Warrens. As a subcontractor for Delaney Forest Products, the work that Starlite takes on hinges on Rick’s firm. Rick’s company is over 30 years old. As a certified master logger, Rick can tackle many forest management tasks for his clients with the approval of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Services offered by Delaney Forest Products include forest management plans, timber sale set-up, appraisals, and road location and design.
When Bill takes time away from his work, he has some definite interests. “I fish, hunt and spend as much time as I can with my family,” he said. “We do a lot of ATV riding.”