Morbark Grinders Provide Backbone of Operations for Shelton Logging & Chipping
STONEVILLE, North Carolina — There are any number of critical facets to logging and land-clearing operations, including cutting, skidding, chipping, hauling, grubbing and grinding.
To be able to provide support in any of these areas can prove both professionally and financially rewarding. To be able to offer customers the complete package — taking a prospective development from wooded area to one that is clean and ready for grading — can separate a contractor from the rest of the pack.
Such is the case with Shelton Logging & Chipping. Each time the Stoneville, North Carolina-based firm bids a new job, it offers its customers a range of expertise that few in the Winston-Salem-Greensboro-Highpoint region can match. As a result, the firm’s workload fills up quickly.
While all its equipment plays an important role in keeping things moving smoothly, company employees say its grinding equipment is undoubtedly key in the breadth of its success.
STAYING CLOSE TO HOME
Started in 1966 by veteran construction worker David Shelton, who is still actively at work operating heavy equipment with the company, Shelton Logging & Chipping has since added sons Brian and Ernie to the list of company principals.
According to Brian, the company will sometimes venture outside the ‘triad’ geographic region mentioned above, but such instances are rare.
“When times demand it, we obviously go where the work is,” said Brian. “As a result, we’ve been to Charlotte and Raleigh, but we generally try to stay within 70 miles of our home. While it’s true that we can make more money in Raleigh, in many cases our operation is all about the chips and the value they bring. All the chips that we would generate would still have to come back to Winston-Salem, so any extra pay we make would be offset in costs.
“We have seven or eight builders in this area who are steady customers of ours,” he continued, “and we rotate between several of them at any given time, so that just as one is finishing up, another is starting. It has really served us well.”
ADDING TO THE MIX
Operating as a dedicated land clearing company at the outset, David saw, over time, that a real market — boiler fuel — was developing for the wood waste he was generating in his projects and. He bought his first chipper in 1980.
“Our first unit…served us well for a number of years until we realized that we needed better production than we were getting,” said Brian. “We first contacted Morbark in 1986 about getting a chipper from them, and when we saw what it could do, we bought it. Its performance was powerful, steady and reliable. In 2000 we decided to add a tub grinder to the operation to handle the stumps we were generating in our projects. We went right back to them and bought a Morbark Model 1300. Today we can take a site from full wood to ready-to-grub to a marketable material in no time, and our grinding equipment made the difference in bringing that about.”
Faced with different challenges and demands on each project, there’s little doubt that Shelton Logging & Chipping’s business philosophy is “give the customer what they want.” According to Brian, that can call for varying the way each job is approached.
“Generally we won’t grind material from a site it if we don’t log and chip it, but there have been instances when a customer will ask us to cut the timber but leave the grubbing for them,” he said. “In that case they will grub it and pile it, and then we will come in and grind the piles. Others will ask us to grind the material and leave it for use in different areas of the site.”
“So we have a pair of 30-ton and 23-ton haulers, which we bought used at auction, to take the material from the grinder to the areas on-site. In construction of any type, you need a good truck to haul dirt, but even a good used one will put you back anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000. But since these trucks will sometimes sit for months without being needed, we could never justify the cost of a new one.”
The trucks perform an additional service in situations in which the terrain is challenging — either naturally or due to heavy rain. “Usually we will lay a road, then grind and windrow material, pulling the grinder along as we go. However, when conditions are tough, it would take us too long to lay a road down, so we simply reverse the process and use the trucks to take material to the grinder.”
Saw logs are graded and sent to a local lumber mill; the pine goes to a Virginia facility and also two smaller mills. Selling by grades has proven the best way to maximize the value of the logs.
“The prices we get are driven by the markets the mills themselves have, but grading is a necessity,” Brian noted. “Generally all our good grade will go to one mill, but other mills might pay better for second grade timber than for first grade. It can really vary. We also try to haul to several different mills to keep our options and our opportunities open.”
MORE THAN PERFORMANCE
Shelton’s Grinders — the Morbark Model 22RXL Total Chiparvestor and Model 1300 tub grinder — are used to prepare material for use as boiler fuel and for on-site use. Brian has chosen to stay with Morbark because of the performance he gets from the equipment. However, he added, it is much more than that.
“Morbark is excellent for support,” he said. “We keep going back to them — not just because they make a good piece of equipment, but because they stand behind it. Parts availability is never an issue for us. Richmond (Virginia) is the closest Morbark parts store, so I can call and it will be delivered the next day.”
“I had a serious situation last year that was caused by my own fault, and it ended up costing us a mill,” Brian recalled. “Morbark found me a replacement mill, helped us with the installation of that replacement unit, and we were back up and running in less than a week. That’s what we need in an equipment supplier, and we always get that level of support.”
Brian has been so satisfied with Morbark that he recently purchased a second Model 1300 tub for the company’s operations. “This was probably the easiest sale any salesman ever had,” he said. “I just called our local Morbark sales rep and said, ‘Give me the same as my old machine.’ ”
“Because this new machine has some design changes, it seems to be about 10 to 15 percent more aggressive than our older one. Mind you, I rarely run both tub grinders at once — I actually bought the second unit to allow me to use as a backup — but there have been instances when I’ve needed both, and it has been a nice luxury.”
“Over the years,” said Brian “we’ve always been very impressed with what our chipper can do, and we still are. But we’ve really come to appreciate the power of a tub grinder. When you see a machine eat a 22-inch diameter tree or stump, that’s pretty amazing.”