New Hampshire Logger Looks for Better Way

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Cut-to-Length Logger Pairs Tigercat 822 Feller-Buncher with Risley Rolly II Processing Head

MILAN, New Hampshire — Pat Gagne, 35, is always looking for a better way of doing things – whether it means tweaking a machine to fit his purposes or pairing separate machines to perform in a unique way to suit his logging business.
Supervisor of family-owned Gagne and Son Logging Co., Pat recently convinced the owners of Tigercat and Risley Equipment that his idea to match up their equipment would enhance his cut-to-length production.
“We have a good and long relationship working with Pat,” said Clyde Norman, Eastern region manager for Risley Equipment in London, Ontario, Canada. “We’ve relied on him to do field testing for us because he’s a good innovator and fine-tuner. He’s never happy until he gets the best out of a machine.”
Pat’s idea was to pair a Risley Rolly II processing head with a Tigercat 822 feller-buncher. “This is my third Rolly,” said Pat. “I’ve had them on Timbcos before, but this time I wanted to try something new using different hydraulics.”
Pat contacted Mike Burrington and Mark Bourgeois of CJ Logging Equipment. They have been installing Rolly processing heads since 1996 and are very knowledgeable about the product. After discussing Pat’s idea, it was determined that the best course of action would be to visit the Tigercat facilities and discuss the installation of a Rolly II with Tigercat engineers — since it would be the first Tigercat 822 to be equipped with a Risley processing head. Reg Risley, owner of Risley Equipment, also flew to the Tigercat factory. “We all sat down and discussed the best possible scenario,” said Pat.
At the factory, Pat was given a tour of the plant. He walked through the whole manufacturing process, seeing how Tigercat forestry machines are built — starting with a sheet of steel.
“I liked the way they are always concerned about their customers’ uptime and how they consider this in their engineering development,” said Pat. “They really put a lot of thought into the whole machine as far as the way the cooling system is laid out. The accessibility to everything in the machine is phenomenal, and if you do break down, you can be up and running a lot quicker because of the easy accessibility.”
A major factor in Pat’s decision to choose Tigercat was the machine’s cooling system. “This was key for me because when you run a processing head, you flow a lot of oil and it takes a big cooling system to keep the machine cool,” Pat said. “Other machines I’ve run before were never that good at doing this, but this Tigercat really does a superb job for us.”
Another benefit the Tigercat offers is its ER (efficient reach) boom system. “It’s much easier to learn than a conventional boom system,” said Andy Hoshel, product manager for track machines at Tigercat. Just two levers control in-out and up-down movements — rather than using a main boom and stick boom. “So when you are trying to send the head out on a parallel path, it’s a lot easier to do than trying to coordinate the two boom movements,” Andy observed.
“The original intent was to save fuel, which this machine does very well,” Andy added. An ancillary benefit of the ER boom system is that it is easy to use and operate.
The Tigercat also requires less horsepower to run the boom, so more horsepower is available for other functions. Coupled with the Rolly II head, the Tigercat has a high lift capacity. “It can lift the head at full reach,” Andy noted. “With the fixed mounting of the Rolly II head, the Tigercat allows you to fell trees like a conventional fixed bar saw while giving you the flexibility to process in the woods.”
Pat chose a circular felling saw for the machine. “I needed more hydraulic flow than the previous machines I had that just had a chain saw bar to do all the cutting,” Pat said. “But this has a big circular saw on it because I felt the Tigercat has enough oil flow and it could also handle the weight of the circular saw because the machine is a lot heavier.”
This is one of the first Rollys to use a high-speed circular saw, which is another innovation that Pat helped to develop. “The Rolly head does 90 percent of the work because it’s cutting the tree down, limbing the tree and then cutting it to length — so it’s working very hard,” Pat said. “Risley has always been open to any ideas I have, and everything I’ve suggested to them has worked quite well.”
Risley is a company that is eager to listen to customers and their ideas, said Pat. “Throughout the years I’ve given them input on designs for the Rolly head,” he said. “I helped them design the system on the Rolly that measures logs, and we worked together on prototypes for this cut-to-length combination. I can call the company anytime and talk to the owner one-on-one if I have an idea to pass by him, and I know he will always listen.”
This third Rolly is a track machine. His first one was mounted on a track machine and the next one was carried by a wheeled machine. “Because he wanted to go to a disc saw,” said Norman, “he needed more stability, and that’s why he went back to a track machine this time.”
Working range is about 24 feet from the center of the machine. “So this is great for select cuttings and reaching over and down and up to get oversized trees,” said Norman.
Before he even approached Tigercat or Risley with his idea, Pat did extensive research on the machines. “I thought the hydraulics system on the Tigercat was a lot more efficient…and that it would do very well operating with a Rolly,” said Pat. “It’s been running great ever since I took delivery in May 2004.” (He bought his first Rolly in 1997 on a Timbco 425.)
Pat bought the Tigercat unit from CJ Logging. “Their knowledge and service has been great,” he said. “I am serviced out of the Wheelock branch, which Mike oversees. I get 100 percent support from them.”
This was the first Tigercat machine Pat bought after seeing them at a trade show in Canada about five years ago. He liked the machines when he saw them exhibited, especially the way the Tigercat was built for rugged applications in the woods.
“Once they brought me to the factory and showed me how they were putting them together, that answered a lot of my questions about how this machine is built to last,” he said. “They use good components, and they really stand behind their products.”
Pat does most of his work for Wagner Forest Management, which owns forest land throughout Coos County in northernmost New Hampshire. He also works very closely with the state of New Hampshire.
Pat specializes in thinning sensitive forest areas, such as along the Andro­scoggin River and along the Thirteen Mile Woods Scenic River Corridor ­­— a stretch along Route 16, running parallel to the Androscoggin. He also does extensive work in the state’s largest deer yard, a wintering area used by deer during severe weather. It is also located in Coos County.
“We cut within this area of 9,000 acres under the guidelines of the state of New Hampshire,” said Pat, “and I work very closely with Will Staats, the state’s deer biologist.”
A typical workday in the woods includes Pat and his one employee, Micky Poirier, who operates one of two Timbco 815 forwarders that Pat owns. “I usually cut wood four days a week and run the forwarder the fifth and sixth days,” Pat said.
Pat runs the harvesting equipment — the Tigercat 822 with Risley Rolly II head. “I go into the woods and process the wood the way Wagner tells me to do it, as they usually give me a prescription to follow. I do a lot of thinning for them in sensitive areas such as along brooks, rivers, ponds and highways. A lot of it is more aesthetically sensitive than anything, and because I have the cut-to-length equipment, I can do a nice thinning job without leaving any of those wide skid trails.”
After the trees have been cut and processed, Micky runs the forwarder to pick up the logs and bring them to the landing. Pat’s brother, Mike, owner of Gagne Trucking, operates a self-loader and picks up the logs and trucks them to the sawmills or paper mills.
Although Pat usually harvests softwood predominately (mostly spruce and fir), he has been working recently in hardwoods. “This is another nice feature of the Rolly in that it can handle softwood and it has enough power to handle hardwood as well,” Pat said. “This gets back to the reasons behind my equipment choice. When I was looking to move into the cut-to-length method, I had to consider choosing a machine that could do any kind of work I might have to do in the woods. This is why I picked the Risley Rolly II head.”
Cut-to-length processing is efficient because it begins and ends at the tree, Pat noted. “You are doing all of your processing at the stump and getting the log ready to send to the mill. Once a tree gets cut down, I decide right there what length it will be, and I make separate piles for saw logs and pulp logs. Then the forwarder comes in to pick up the wood.” Pat bucks the logs to lengths ranging from 8 feet to 16 feet with log diameter ranging from 6 inches to 30 inches.
The logging method also eliminates skidding, so the logs are not dragged along mud or dirt. “We can also eliminate having to limb or slash the logs with a slasher on the landing because I am doing it all right there in the woods,” Pat noted.
The cut-to-length logging machines exert low ground pressure, Pat added. In addition, the machines travel over the slash material, which further protects the forest floor. “This makes it easy for us to work in a variety of ground and weather conditions — unlike conventional logging operations that have to stop work in certain conditions, such as mud season.”
The Tigercat and Rolly combination has worked well over the past year for Pat, who has built a solid business niche by specializing in thinning. “One of our strong points is we can work in these sensitive areas year-round with this equipment whereas other people in this region have to shut down for mud season,” said Pat. “We can still work because we limb all our wood in our trails, and we use the brush as a mat to travel over.”
Loggers in New Hampshire’s north country have been slow to embrace cut-to-length logging methods, according to Pat. “It’s still new up here, and people don’t believe in this way of doing things,” he said. “You get a lot of negative feedback from people who say it’s a lot of money for a little bit of wood.”
But Pat has done the math and production numbers are definitely in his favor. “I figured it out based on how many loads per man it would take to do a typical North Country job – which includes a slasher, crane, boom delimber, a couple of grapple skidders, and a saw hand to cut the trees down,” he said. “So that means you would need at least five guys and they would be doing about 30 to 35 loads a week – or six loads per man.”
Cut-to-length has been a real boost to his production. “There are just the two of us, and we are doing between 20 and 30 loads a week – or 10 to 15 loads per man,” said Pat. “So we are producing a lot more wood with fewer men.” It equates to between 600 and 700 tons of wood per week. Cut-to-length also essentially eliminates the normal debris generated from conventional logging methods because the limbs and tops are used as a cushion in the trails and are broken up in the process.
The approach also saves on costs for insurance, workmen’s compensation insurance, and fuel. “So there is a rippling effect on cost savings throughout the operation,” said Pat, whose company was named Outstanding Logger of the Year in 1997 by the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association.
Pat has extensive experience working in the forest products industry, having worked in a sawmill while still in high school and then working with his father, Ricky, who is retired but is still the owner of the company. Pat plans to eventually buy the business from his father.
Pat will continue to think of new and innovative ways to combine machines to get the most out of each one of them. “It’s really a fine-tuning kind of thing I did in configuring these two machines together,” he said. “I always approach things a bit differently when I am considering buying something new. I want to meet with the owners of the companies one-on-one.”
As for his future in the business, Pat said, “If I can keep producing high-standard quality work we are doing now, I see no problem in always having a decent job. We excel at what we are doing, and I plan to keep excelling at everything we do. This will keep the door open for continued work for us.”