Firewood Service Aids Needy in Idaho Tribes

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Shoshone – Bannock Tribes use Iron & Oak splitters for high volume firewood production

FORT HALL, Idaho — As the person in charge of seeing that hundreds of needy families have enough firewood to keep them warm during the long Idaho winter, Susie Buckskin went looking for a high production firewood splitter.
Susie is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Fort Hall, Idaho. She heads a program to deliver firewood to low-income tribal families.
There are about 1,400 households on the reservation. Of these, 783 qualify as low-income families, and about 400 of them have wood stoves. The wood stoves generally are a second source of heat after electricity. The heating season in Idaho is from October to March.
Susie and her crew harvest and process all the wood needed for these families, though sometimes they supplement their supplies by buying additional firewood from vendors. Some tribal families cut their own firewood.
The households that Susie and her workers serve need at least two cords of firewood during the heating season, and some use four or five.
“We chose the Iron & Oak commercial firewood splitter because we needed the quantity,” said Susie. “We needed to process and deliver seven to nine cords a
day.” The program supplies about 400 cords of firewood during the season. “We use Douglas fir the majority of the time,” said Susie, “for it’s a good wood and available.”
The firewood program was started in 1996. “We’d send guys up to the mountains to saw down trees and bring them down,” said Susie. “At first they split the logs into firewood by hand. We delivered about 200 cords that year.”
They tried renting a splitter, but it broke down too often to be much use. Then they bought a firewood splitter. It worked better and lasted about three years, but then it began to break down.
“It suffered from metal fatigue,” said Susie. “The bolts began falling off, and we had to have them re-bolted. “You had to pull a string to get it started, and in the cold it wouldn’t start.”
The program recently acquired an Iron & Oak BH4003 commercial firewood splitter. It has helped to significantly increase the production of firewood, Susie reported.
To serve the number of families aided by the fuel wood program, the tribes needed a machine that could achieve commercial production levels. Bill Bontemps, marketing director for Iron & Oak Commercial Products in Streator, Ill., said the BH3004 model “is built for people who make their living processing firewood. It has the power for tough, high volume applications, plus the features to handle nearly all of your splitting needs.”
The Iron & Oak model BH4003 firewood splitter is powered by a Honda 11 hp GX engine. There are two variations relating to hydraulic power and cycle time; the larger of the two, a 5×24 clevis-type steel cylinder with 30 tons of splitting force, has a cycle time of 12 seconds. Other features include a 25-inch log opening, an 8×8 heavy-duty H-beam rail, a 12-inch compounded angled wedge made of high carbon steel, and a 16-gallon hydraulic system capacity. The machine’s large capacity hydraulic-powered lift arm can pick up 600 pounds of wood from ground level and raise it to the splitter.
“The lifter arm is extra large so several logs can be lifted at one time,” said Bill. “And when the lifter is raised to the horizontal position, there is plenty of room, so it serves as a functional work table for the operator.”
Hydraulic power also makes it easy to position the four-way splitting wedge for wood of a different diameter. “One of the best ways we’ve found to handle the larger logs is to simply raise the wedge about four to five inches,” explained Bill. “The first pass will cut two finished pieces from the bottom while the 12-inch high carbon steel vertical wedge splits the rest of the log into two larger sections. The operator can now use the work table to hold the large pieces while he finishes splitting, adjusting the wedge up or down, depending on the size of the pieces.”
Joe Fidoe, a salesman for Iron & Oak, said, “The splitter is much higher off the ground, bringing it to the level of the men who are working, so they don’t have to bend over. Bending over for 10 hours can become uncomfortable for the operator and wastes time.”
“The hydraulic system loads the logs and raises them up to the splitter so the men can handle them without bending over,” noted Susie. “It’s a good feature. You can get four to five or maybe six logs up there at one time, and that really helps. The men also like the speed of the ram, which is faster than the old machine, and this one starts real easy.”
The hydraulic log lifter is on the side opposite where the operator stands. “We designed it this way with safety and productivity in mind,” said Bill. In a two-man operation, the material handler can easily load the logs to keep the splitter operating at full capacity while being in full view of the operator and out of the way.”
The four-way splitting wedge moves up and down hydraulically in order to set it for logs of different diameter, noted John. The wedge does not have to be removed for small diameter logs. “If you have say, an 8-by-10 piece of wood that you just need to split in half, the wedge can be lowered flat on the beam so you don’t have to take it off.”
The pusher plate at the end of the cylinder that pushes the logs into the wedge can be put on an automatic cycle or can be used in a manual mode to increase production. “Pushing both levers forward starts the automatic log splitting cycle that extends the cylinder to the end of the stroke and then fully retracts it,” explained Bill. “This auto-cycle mode is commonly used when splitting logs 18 to 24 inches long.”
On the other hand, Bill continued, “We know that every operator develops his own routine for fast, safe splitting, so we’ve designed our controls with this in mind. We also know how saving one or two seconds on a split can add up to big time savings during the course of the day. When splitting logs less than 18 inches long, the operator can pull back on the inside control valve lever as soon as the logs splits in order to retract the cylinder right away and get ready for the next log.”
The split firewood will fall to the ground. However, the front tow hitch assembly can be easily removed. “This allows room for a bucket from a tractor or end loader or a conveyor belt,” said John. “So this means the wood will never have to be handled again, and you can spend more time splitting logs than picking up pieces. That’s a two-way ergonomic benefit. The log lifter raises the logs, and the firewood falls into the bucket or conveyor without a man needing to bend over and lift in either activity.”
The Iron & Oak BH4003/4 splitter with 20 ton capacity and Honda 11 hp engine is priced at $5,950, while the BH4003/3 with 30 ton capacity is priced at $6,230. Price includes free shipping anywhere in the continental U.S.
Iron & Oak sells an optional flag safety kit to improve visibility of the splitter when it is being towed.
Iron & Oak offers a variety of firewood splitters ranging from 8 to 34 tons of splitting force, including machines for both horizontal and vertical splitting.
In addition, Iron & Oak manufactures a series of log splitters with an ultra-life rail and wedge system called Duro-Glide. These models feature a distortion-free top plate of ½-inch by 6 inches of close tolerance cold roll steel bolted to the rail. The wedge is precision machined. The system is equipped with 12 composite guides to eliminate metal-on-metal contact and wear, which provides long life. The Duro-Glide system does not require lubrication and was specifically designed for extended use in the rental markets.
Iron & Oak Commercial Products was founded in 1982. In addition to manufacturing wood splitting equipment, the company also makes other wood processing products and two lines of log skidders.
“Since our founding, the name Iron & Oak has stood for quality and reliability when comes to log splitters and wood processing products,” said Bill. Iron & Oak has gained a reputation in the U.S., Great Britain, Japan and Canada for its high quality equipment, strong service and support, and competitive prices. Iron & Oak equipment is manufactured year-round, so the company is able to respond efficiently to a customer’s immediate needs.
Yet Iron & Oak is one in a group of five family owned and operated manufacturing companies based in Illinois. The others include U.S. Truck Body, a manufacturer of dry freight and moving van bodies for trucks. Streator Dependable Manufacturing produces a full line of custom material handling products for large manufacturing operations and Fortune 500 companies; its products include metal containers, pallets, racks and reels. Mushro is a producer of close tolerance CNC machined products, and Anthony Liftgates Inc. has manufactured hydraulic lift gates for the trucking and hauling industry since 1941. PMW Holding Inc. serves as the parent company of the five businesses.
“As part of this organization, we now have over 300,000 square feet of manufacturing capacity and close ties to our nearby subsidiaries,” said Bill. “Our engineering department has years of expertise in designing steel fabricated products and hydraulic equipment. In addition, we have complete in-house manufacturing capabilities in all areas of steel cutting, fabricating, welding, finishing, assembly, quality inspection and shipping.”
“As a manufacturing company and as an organization, we will continue to review our designs and manufacturing procedures and upgrade our facilities as needed to provide our customers with the highest quality products,” said Bill. “As a people-oriented company, we will continue to do our best to offer outstanding service, support and personal attention.”