Timberline Field Tests New Delimber

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Prototype of Timberline DL 3800 stroke boom delimber gets tryout with Colorado loggers.

ECKERT, Colorado — Treading lightly is the name of the game in Colorado. Years of drought and lots of forest fires have made residents of the state recognize the need for forest management. However, they are determined to ensure that it is done with the lightest possible ‘footprint.’
As a result, Colorado citizens ask many questions of businesses engaged in any sort of work that involves trees, and especially trees in watersheds. They see a benefit to planned cuttings that lead to forest fuel reduction, but they want thinnings done with exacting care.
Bruce Many, owner of Woodland Treatment Specialists, and J.C. Lowman, owner of Valley Tree Farming, have considerable experience cutting trees in Colorado, and especially careful thinning operations. They know the terrain, both physical and political. Bruce and J.C. typically work a job together although each man is an independent business owner.
In September, Bruce and J.C. were working on a watershed area near Denver. The job involved forest fuel reduction, said Bruce, the sort of work they frequently do.
On the job site, both Bruce and J.C. were putting some new equipment to the test. In J.C.’s case, he was trying to decide whether he would adopt the equipment long-term while providing feedback to the manufacturer, Timberline Equipment. J.C. was testing the prototype DL3800 delimber from Timberline, an Oldenburg Group Co. headquartered in Kingsford, Mich.
“I’ve run various Timberline machines before this,” said J.C. “This one was a complete turn-around. They changed the cab to the other side of the machine, made it roomier.”
David Dodd, sales representative for Dodd Diesel Inc. (DDI) in Grand Junction, Colo., works with both Bruce and J.C. on a regular basis. David said that J.C. is an excellent beta-tester for the prototype of the DL3800 delimber.
As Timberline continues to assess and fine-tune its DL3800, the company wants to hear from capable and critical machine operators like J.C. “He’s a really good operator,” explained David. “He’s such a seasoned operator. They got it in the right hands.”
J.C. had been using the leased DL 3800 from Timberline Equipment for about 60 days when TimberLine talked with him in September. Because he has had experience with delimbers of many sorts, including Timberline delimbers, J.C. has a great context for evaluating the machine.
The visibility that the new cab arrangement provides gets a very positive review from J.C. He also likes the shorter boom on the prototype of the DL3800. It makes it possible to delimb at the landing and in the woods, explained J.C. — which works out well for the variety of contracts on which he and Bruce often find themselves working side-by-side.
“In the 3800, they’ve put the motor behind you, which has increased visibility,” said J.C. “You can look under it. You can see behind you.”
The enhanced visibility provides a number of benefits, but one of them takes precedence. The improved safety of the additional visual range “is real good,” said J.C.
Not only is the Timberline DL3800 prototype being evaluated for performance as a delimber, but it has also been fitted with a higher horsepower engine that is being assessed. The predecessor to the DL3800 had Cummins 215 hp diesel engines standard. The DL3800 that J.C. is using has a Cummins 6BTA 240 hp engine.
Because the more powerful engine is paired with an air-to-air cooler, the higher horsepower Cummins can deliver extra power without heating up beyond an optimal range. “It hasn’t had any problems,” said David.
As for his expertise as a delimber operator, J.C. said, “I get along with that kind of machine.” He prefers running delimbers and processors; he has never really been interested in felling, although he has tried it in the past.
J.C., Bruce and often another contractor or two work on the same job site. This adds up to a team approach that suits the participating companies and makes things go smoothly. “Bruce cuts the trees,” said J.C., and arranges the trees for the delimber. “We’ve worked together so many years, there’s no problem” with communication or method.
Bruce was using a TimberPro 620 when he talked with TimberLine in September. He got it about the same time J.C. got the prototype of the DL3800. The six-wheel drive TimberPro was being operated with EcoTracs to add stability in the steep terrain where Bruce was cutting.
“We were looking for a heavier machine,” said Bruce. They tried out a TimberPro with EcoTracs. “It works okay,” he explained, but he is going back to a track machine, a Timbco, because he wants a track carrier.
Erv Meeks, another independent contractor, was working with Bruce and J.C. when TimberLine talked with them. He runs a Timberjack 460 grapple skidder, skidding out the wood for J.C. and Bruce.
Although Bruce has operated everything except trucks, including construction equipment, he has focused on cutting, operating Timbco machines with a variety of saw heads and Quadco mulching heads. He has also owned and operated two Timberline delimbers over the years.
The DL3800 from Timberline Equipment retains the best features of the ST-3510 and builds on them. One thing that has not changed is the leveling system for which Timberline is known. On the DL3800, however, hydraulic hoses are no longer exposed, eliminating the risk of the hoses snagging on a tree or limb.
J.C. said he welcomes the many changes made to transform the ST-3510 to the DL3800. “They’ve got back jaws and front jaws on this delimber that are interchangeable,” he explained. That “can save downtime.”
“There are a lot of little things that I’m really impressed with,” said J.C. “It’s got a good measuring system. I can keep within about an inch” of the target length.
JC does not keep track of how many logs he processes in a given time, although he timed himself once on the new machine and he produced one truck-load of wood in an hour. Even a fast machine slows down in the hands of a less experienced operator, J.C. noted. Speed in some part depends on operator know-how, he explained.
Although the Timberline Equipment DL 3800 delimber is still being tested and perfected, J.C. already likes the results he has seen. “I think they’ve got a super product when they come out with it,” said J.C., anticipating a good reception for the DL3800 based on his experience with the prototype.
In any piece of equipment, J.C., looks for “durability, number one” as a priority. Bruce agreed.
When Bruce was running his own Timberline ST-3530 delimbers, he was delimbing Ponderosa pine. “Especially working in pine,” he said, “a heavier delimber makes all the difference.”
Bruce worked with DDI Equipment when purchasing his delimbers from Timberline Equipment. He continues to work with the distributor now that he is using the Timbco and felling exclusively.
Before moving to Colorado, Bruce worked on the East Coast, doing tree-trimming work in urban areas. He had plenty of experience working in dense forests and with harvesting regulations.
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), a program of the American Forest & Paper Association, governs the work sites where Bruce and J.C. take jobs in the West, usually in Colorado, but sometimes in neighboring states, such as New Mexico. Being certified under SFI is a must, Bruce said.
On the managed tracts where Bruce and J.C. perform thins, the goal is not just to reduce fuel wood but to do so in a way that leaves a natural-looking forest. Many landowners and land managers prefer a park-like landscape with groups of trees, explained J.C. “The people we’re working with don’t want a forest that looks like a plantation,” he said.
“A typical job,” said J.C., “we try to cut down the volume of trees per acre.” The whole idea, he explained, is to restore a buffer zone around the most heavily forested areas on protected federal and state land, producing a spacious, park-like perimeter that will not provide an easy path for flames.
Field testing the DL3800 prototype has been a good opportunity, said J.C. “This 3800, you know, they’re still working on it,” he explained. “You’ve got to accept it for what it is,” a prototype. A representative of Timberline visits on a regular basis to get feedback from J.C.
Ponderosa pine is a species with many limbs, said J.C., and it is what he often tackles. The DL3800 prototype “does real well in it,” he said. It also does well in Douglas fir, which J.C. has been seeing a lot of since he put the DL3800 in service.
So many mills have pulled out of Colorado, noted J.C., that “it is hard to merchandise logs anywhere.” He and the other contractors, such as Bruce, have been resourceful in finding markets for the wood. “We’ve been able to merchandise some of this stuff,” he said. For example, some logs can be sold to mills while tops can be sold to markets for firewood.
J.C. grew up in a logging family in Washington. His father logged along the Pacific Coast. “It kind of gets in your blood,” said J.C., who moved to Montana and logged there before relocating to Colorado.
In the decades that he has logged, J.C. has used every sort of method, from hand felling and chokers behind skidders to fully mechanized logging. “It’s an occupation that when you get done at the end of the day, you can look back and smile at a job well done.”
Similarly, Bruce said there was never any time when he thought he would not be cutting trees, once he got started. “It’s what I enjoy doing,” he said, “being able to work outside.”
Bruce’s company, Woodland Treatment Specialists, is based in Eckert, in west-central Colorado. J.C.’s company, Valley Tree Farming, is based in Olathe, about 20 miles south of Eckert.
A town of 1,600 residents, Olathe is known for its annual August corn festival, which draws about 13,000 people. The agricultural area grows much more than corn, though, including broccoli, apples, cherries, peaches, onions and pinto beans.
Bruce and J.C. both travel some distances to get to job sites. They have gone as far as 330 miles from their respective home bases, as they did last year when they worked a job at Los Alamos, N.M.
Mobility matters when so much travel is the norm, so the DL3800 fits in well. “One of the features we really like about it,” said David, is the machine can quickly make the transition from working on a job to being ready for transport.
Oldenburg Group, the owner of Timberline, is based in Milwaukee, Wis. and has a wide scope of industrial activity. ISO 9001 certified Oldenburg Group makes mining equipment that is sold under the trade name Oldenburg Stamler. Logging is just one of many industries supported by Oldenburg Group companies. The companies also manufacture machinery and equipment for the shipbuilding, automotive and aerospace industries.
The approach of putting a prototype machine in the hands of experienced operators and soliciting feedback is the norm at Oldenburg Group companies, such as Timberline. Engineers want to know what actually happens in the field. One thing Timberline heard from delimber operators early on during the design of the DL3800 is that loggers wanted a machine flexible enough to handle both large hardwoods and bulky softwoods.
Some things work so well, of course, they are incorporated into newer models, not supplanted. For example, the Timberline SDL2 delimber has a boom, head and drive chain that are nearly identical to those in the Timberline DL3800.
The new DL3800 features structural changes that will make it easier to maintain and use. Among them are centrally located greasing points and increased fuel capacity.
The hydraulic system also has been modified. “This 3800 has one hydraulic pump,” said J.C., which provides “more flow gallons per minute” and faster boom speed. The SLD2 had three hydraulic pumps.
With the improvements, Timberline was able to reduce the weight of the DL3800 enough so that it can ride on smaller tracks than the SDL2. The more compact the machine, the better, in most settings, and particularly where minimizing impact on the ground and surrounding trees is essential.
Despite enjoying their work, Bruce and J.C. both value their free time. “I usually do quite a bit of dirt bike riding or camping with my kids,” said Bruce.
J.C. likes to watch NASCAR races on television on Sundays. “I found out last year that I have a lot of relations in North Carolina,” said J.C. He had just returned from a two week visit to North Carolina, and he is eager to return.