Vermont company relies on Timberwolf Mfg. machine for processing firewood
STRAFFORD, Vermont — Brett Lewis formed B&J Wood Corporation 12 years ago. Brett’s company tackles various kinds of contract jobs, but almost all of them are connected to trees.
“We do various things,” said Brett, “thin out wood lots, logging. We cut for views, pastures.”
B&J Wood Corp. also cuts and sells firewood. Now and then the company also does some excavation work in conjunction with site preparation.
“Generally on every job there is a mix of pulp and saw logs,” Brett noted, so some of the pulp logs can be culled for firewood. “This stuff isn’t suitable for saw logs.”
Brett decided to expand the firewood component of his business in 1997 by investing in a firewood processing machine. He bought a Pro-HD firewood processor from Timberwolf Mfg. in Rutland, Vermont. In 2002 he traded in his first Timberwolf Pro-HD firewood processor on a new one.
Brett initially considered Timberwolf because it is so close, just 50 miles from his home in Strafford, Vermont. However, he also was sold on the economy of scale the Timberwolf Pro-HD offered, especially the “dollar for dollar” value of what he got for what he could invest.
The one thing that mattered even more when he bought his second Timberwolf machine was the interaction that Brett had with Timberwolf over the years. “I get good service” from Timberwolf, he said. Brett expects the same sort of conscientious service from his vendors that he provides to his customers.
“Our biggest season is April 1 to December 15,” said Brett. He also produces firewood by special order the other months of the year.
Brett uses mainly mixed hardwoods for firewood, including maple, beech, ash, oak and yellow birch.
B&J Wood Corp. offers customers both seasoned and green firewood. Seasoned firewood is cut in December-February and stored to dry for the following winter. The company sells firewood only by full cords.
Vermont residents may be a bit more serious about firewood as a heat source than are people in urban areas farther south, who often consider it an amenity rather than a necessity. Brett has a wood furnace to heat his house, relying on propane back-up only for the toughest periods of sustained cold temperatures.
Taking care of any piece of equipment is the key to maximizing its longevity, and Brett takes seriously the maintenance of all his equipment. He greases the Timberwolf Pro-HD firewood processor daily. Every 100 to 150 hours he changes the oil and filter. At 500 hours he replaces the hydraulic fluid.
In addition to selling between 650 and 800 cords per year through B&J Wood Corp., Brett also processes firewood for himself and also takes jobs to produce firewood on-site for certain customers. “I do a couple of hundred cords for others,” he said, towing the Timberwolf firewood processor to their land.
Brett tows the Timberwolf Pro-HD firewood processor with a pick-up truck. The processor comes standard with a 2-5/16-inch hitch, highway safety lights, and electronic brakes that are approved by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.
The Timberwolf Pro-HD firewood processor performs well even when exposed to cold and snow on a regular basis. “We’ve used it (at temperatures) as low as 25 degrees below zero,” said Brett.
Most logs are big enough to use the four-way and eight-way wedges on the Timberwolf although some are small enough only to be split in half. Timberwolf also offers its customers a six-way wedge, which Brett does not use. All the splitting wedges come standard with the Pro-HD.
Brett has one employee. His equipment roster includes a Clark Ranger H67 grapple skidder, a Hood loader, a Hood slasher, and a Case bulldozer. The Hood loader is five years old.
The Timberwolf Pro-HD is powered by a John Deere 80 hp diesel engine. Brett is a big fan of John Deere engines and has a John Deere engine in his Hood loader, too. He also likes Cummins engines very much, and has one in his Case dozer.
“I like Hood log loaders,” said Brett, but he explained all his equipment gives him the results he expects. “They’re all pretty good machines,” he said. And he knows the equipment well from firsthand experience. “I operate any of it at any time,” he said.
B&J Wood Corp. contracts for felling with another logger who owns a Timberjack 608 feller-buncher. Brett also contracts for all trucking except for delivering firewood. From time to time he also contracts for skidding.
Over the years that he has built B&J Wood Corp., Brett has given careful consideration to what a machine will add. “Everything I have fits in a puzzle,” he said. The equipment he has is what he needs to keep working under all conditions of seasonal, meteorological and market shifts.
“Everything has its place,” said Brett. “It makes us a little more diversified” to have the Timberwolf firewood processor. For instance, he explained that if it is not possible to work in the woods because of substrate conditions, he is able to process firewood and keep a revenue source flowing.
The same routine glitches that would affect any firewood processor, said Brett, can produce a pause in the Timberwolf Pro-HD. “If you get frozen, dirty wood, it can be a problem in any machine,” he said.
Having handled his share of frozen and dirty wood, Brett explained the Timberwolf has come through fine. “Timberwolf — it’s a good, reliable, machine,” he said.
Brett got into logging through his grandfather. “We did (logging) on and off along with farming,” he said. “We milked 500 cows until I was 18 or 20.” After that, Brett went to work in construction for a few years before returning to logging and wood products.
Strafford is located in the east-central part of the Green Mountain State, about 20 miles southeast of Montpelier, the state capital. Rutland, which is home to Timberwolf Mfg., was the birthplace of industrialist John Deere (1804-1886). (Brett’s uncle is a John Deere dealer in Vermont.)
Strafford has a population of about 1,000 people. The town is built at an elevation of 925 feet. Besides wood products, Vermont is known for its marble, granite and maple syrup. Tourism is an important year-around industry.
“We work central Vermont, central New Hampshire and eastern New York state, generally not over 100 miles from Strafford,” said Brett.
When Brett decided to commit to logging, he did so enthusiastically. “I belong to the Vermont Loggers Association,” he said. “I’m a certified timber harvester.” Since 1987 Brett has been taking additional training through the professional loggers training the association and its precursors offered.
The Vermont Loggers Association, headquartered in Greensboro, incorporated in June 2000. It was formed to represent the interests of individuals in the business of timber harvesting or trucking logs. The Vermont Loggers Academy, which runs under the auspices of the VLA, has been recognized by the state legislature for four years.
The relationship between Vermont loggers and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), a certification program of the American Forest & Paper Association, has been tempestuous. An essay by Roberta Borland, president of the VLA, which is available at the VLA website (www.vermontloggersorg/SFI.html), recounts the history of the friction and the movement toward common ground.
In an analogy to which generations of Vermont dairy farming families can relate, Borland hypothesizes what dairy farmers would say if milk companies told them that more training would make them better farmers, they would have to pay for the training, then continue training and paying. In addition, they would get only two out of 33 seats on a panel implementing the program.
When the SFI program was launched, many Vermont loggers felt they already had been working safely and ensuring sustainable forestry for centuries. They found it odd that anyone would question their commitment or professionalism.
To be sure, Vermonters have a long history of individualism. From year to year, depending on population shifts, the state ranks 48th or 49th among the 50 states in size. But the tiny state’s output of ideas and natives who have gone on to fame has been rather large by comparison.
According to Allan Carpenter and Carl Provorse, writing in The World Almanac of the U.S.A., Vermonters grew weary of the isolationism of the U.S. and declared war on Germany two months before the nation did in 1941. Two presidents, Chester Arthur and Calvin Coolidge, were born in Vermont. The religious movement started by Brigham Young might be most strongly associated with Utah, but he, too, was born in Vermont.
The independence of Vermonters manifests itself in many ways. For his part, Brett enjoyed building his own home from the raw materials he took from the forested land.
“My home is all built out of wood,” said Brett. He completed the house in 1992. Framed with hemlock, the floors are oak.
Brett selected each tree that was used to make lumber for his house. He did the initial processing of the trees and then took the logs to a portable sawmill to have them sawn into lumber.
Ruggedness also characterizes Timberwolf machines. The Timberwolf Pro-HD processor is the ‘flagship’ machine in the Timberwolf Mfg. line. It has a twin axle tubular frame of heavy-duty construction.
Timberwolf offers many features on its line of firewood processors to make things easier for the operator. The Pro-HD has an 8-second cycle, according to Timberwolf. Under optimum conditions, it can produce about three and one-half cords-plus per hour with the addition of electric auto-cycle.
A full cord in the part of the country where Brett sells firewood is a stack 4 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long. A face cord, an amount that is popular in the Empire State, is one-third that volume.
The Timberwolf Pro-HD can process logs up to 20 to 24 feet long, depending on trough length selected. The chain saw on Timberwolf processors is powered by hydraulics. A retractable live deck makes it easier to move the processors.
A drop-through grate lets debris fall away from the wood when it is cut and split, which makes the finished firewood cleaner.
Safety is built into the control the operator has over all the operations from one position. Live deck, feed trough, cut-off saw, wedge and splitter are all under the control of the operator from a single point.
The hydraulic system is made more durable by the incorporation of re-generation valves — return valves, auto cycle valves and electric cycle valves.
The Pro-HD firewood processor also features Timberwolf’s patented top roll clamping system to hold the log securely while it is cut.
For all the special features that Timberwolf provides to simplify the process of using, maintaining and moving its equipment, there is another factor that matters a great deal to Brett. Working with Butch Rogers, the general manager of Timberwolf, over the years has been a pleasure, he explained.
“Butch is a real good guy,” said Brett. “They’re very nice people” at Timberwolf. The good rapport with Timberwolf personnel complements the most important aspect of Brett’s decision to buy and stay with Timberwolf. “They build a good product,” he said.
A native of Randolph, a town about 15 miles west of Strafford, Brett said he is happy that he decided to pursue a business that puts him firmly in the logging industry. “I like working outside,” he said. “I like being my own boss. I like working with people.” And making firewood deliveries and negotiating contracts gives him plenty of opportunity to do the latter.
When he gets a bit of time away from his work, Brett has some definite interests. “I’m a baseball fan,” he said. “I hunt.