Vail Products Now Manufactures New Stump Shear Developed by New England Contractor
UPTON, Massachusetts – It’s a case of wanting something done right and knowing you have to do it yourself. This is what Doug Cook, 42, might tell you about the stump shear he designed and patented and now is manufactured by Vail Products of Horton, Kansas.
It began about five years ago when the equipment Doug was using in his land clearing and wood recycling business was not performing to his expectations. Doug saw nothing else on the market that would match his objectives, so he decided to build his own version. He wanted a more efficient shear that could increase production.
The stump shear he had at the time “was so frustrating to work with because it just didn’t have enough power to break the material in two,” recalled Doug, president of Cook Company, Inc. “It didn’t have the power where I needed it, and the geometry was all backwards.”
Doug designed a stump shear with a unique geometry. “When you need the power, it’s there,” he said. “I also wanted to design equipment that is easy to get on and off an excavator and something that’s portable and easy to use.”
Doug is no newcomer to the forest products industry, having graduated from the University of Maine with a B.S. in forest engineering and a B.S. in civil engineering. Throughout college, Doug worked for logging contractors. He has operated his own land clearing and wood recycling business since the mid-1980s.
Cook Company does a lot of contract work for local governments, such as cleaning up fallen trees from storms. In fact, the company is an approved contractor for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and was awarded a large contract to clean up debris following Hurricane Katrina.
Doug has been using the Vail stump shear for almost three years. Vail continually improved the design to develop the toughest stump shear he has ever used. His production has increased by 170% with the new shear, he estimated.
Doug designed the stump shear and received two patents for the design. Now he leases the design to Vail Products along with the two patents. “Vail has been manufacturing the stump shear for about two years now, and they are doing a great job making it very rugged,” he said.
The Vail stump shear can pull stumps and split them; it can also shear stumps still in the ground, thereby eliminating the need for any additional digging.
The Vail stump shear is available in two models. Model 4050, weighing in at 2,400 pounds, is designed to attach to excavators in the 40,000-pound to 55,000-pound range. The larger Model 5500, weighing 6,500 pounds, is designed to attach to excavators ranging from 55,000 pounds to 100,000 pounds.
Both models have an exclusive and patented dual-pivot design that enables them to pull stumps in closer to the throat during the cutting and splitting operation. The shears have the widest mouth opening (116 inches on the Model 5500) available on the market, and both models are manufactured with severe-duty welded construction using high-strength, abrasive-resistant steel. The dual-pivot design allows for a wide mouth opening so stumps and wood debris can be pulled immediately into the throat of the stump shear when the anvil or knife are actuated.
Operating under pressure of 5,000 psi, the 4050 delivers an impressive 50 tons of cutting force while the 5500 delivers over 70 tons of cutting force. Stumps can be split in the ground or pulled out of the ground. If the stump is too large for the excavator to pull out, the shear can cut it up into smaller pieces that can be pulled out. Breaking stumps apart and eliminating un-crushable material prior to grinding increases the speed at which a grinder can process wood material. The stump shear can double as a grapple for easy loading into horizontal or tub grinders. Or one operator can break up stumps and other wood debris while another loads the grinder, increasing grinder production rates.
The Vail severe duty stump shear has been designed with replaceable, hardened bushings in all the pivot points, thereby increasing the life of the shear. The knife’s cutting edges can be sharpened with a grinder or replaced after years of use. The teeth on the anvil are Hensley extreme service teeth with locking retainer pins that hold them securely in place. The no-weld attachment design and heavy duty construction equates to increased excavator versatility since the stump shear can be removed and other attachments can be used on the same excavator.
Doug explained his design. “In layman’s terms, it has all its power at the very beginning of the process, when you really need the extra power. It’s similar to when you go to split a piece of firewood, where you need all your power at the beginning of the strike in order to get the wood cracked in two. After you have a split started, the rest is fairly easy in cutting firewood.”
The same principle applies to cutting a stump with a shear. “Once you get that first split, the rest is easier going,” Doug continued. “The Vail stump shear has all its power when it’s fully open — while other brands on the market have all their power halfway through the split.”
The equipment grabs the stump and breaks it into pieces. Doug compared the shear to a human hand: the ‘fingers’ grab the stump in a bucket motion and the ‘thumb’ or knife splits it in two. “The knife works off a third valve and a piston that drives the knife into the stump,” explained Mark Karli, operator of the stump shear.
Anyone working in stump removal operations knows the care needed to ensure that stumps are clean of debris such as rocks, dirt and metal, which can damage grinding equipment.
“Once the knife slices into the stump, rocks (and other debris) fall out, and everything goes much more smoothly and safely through the grinders,” Mark added. “So the production through the grinder is much better because you don’t have to look and pick through everything, and there is less downtime.” The result is clean wood grindings that can be sold for fuel and other products.
Cook Company’s services include land clearing, wood waste recycling, production of mulch and chips, and storm response clean-up. The company’s wood waste recycling operations include custom grinding at municipal transfer stations, landfills, land clearing sites and railroads.
Set on about 50 acres of land, Cook Company, Inc. occupies one 8,000 square-foot building. The company employs 12 workers in the field and operates three crews, one for chipping and two for grinding. Most of the chipping operations are performed at job sites while grinding is done at the company yard to produce mulch. On a typical job, Cook Company workers are operating heavy equipment, including the chippers, grinders, and the excavators, cranes, bulldozers and loaders that feed them. The company also operates its own fleet of late-model Kenworth tractor-trailer trucks.
“We do large land clearing for projects like construction of commercial buildings, sub-divisions and golf courses,” said Mark. The company recently completed a land clearing contract for about 400 acres in Connecticut for two side-by-side 18-hole golf courses. “We cleared the land, stumped it and ground the stumps,” Mark said.
On a typical land clearing project, such as for the construction of a golf course, workers will remove trees with a Caterpillar 322 track feller-buncher or a Hydro-Ax feller-buncher. The trees are transported by Caterpillar skidders to a landing to be delimbed with a Hood 2400 loader operating with a delimber and slasher. The pulp logs are chipped by a Morbark Model 30 chipper, and the chips are discharged into company trucks. The chips are sold for fuel or transported to the Cook Company yard to be processed into landscape mulch. Cook Company also produces colored mulch with a Becker-Underwood Sahara mulch coloring system. Saw logs are sold to sawmills, including Canadian mills. Most of the wood is white pine or oak.
The stump shear, attached to a Caterpillar 330C excavator or the smaller 320C excavator, works off the hydraulics of the excavator. The company operates two Caterpillar front-end loaders that load the trucks and feed the mulch coloring system and grinders. Cook Company also is equipped with a Caterpillar D8 bulldozer.
Once the crew finishes removing the trees, the excavators and shears are used to remove the stumps. “They pull the stumps out, clean them as they come out of the ground, and pile them up,” Mark explained.
The stumps are processed in one of three machines — a Hogzilla tub grinder, a Continental Biomass Industries horizontal grinder, or an Olathe grinder. No matter which grinder is used, the stumps and other large wood debris are split first with the Vail stump shear, increasing the efficiency of the grinders and reducing wear on the machines.
Some wood grindings are used at the job site for erosion control; grindings also are sold for boiler fuel to power generating plants in northern New England. Some chips are composted with loam to produce topsoil and some goes to the Cook Company yard to be processed into mulch and colored mulch.
“That is one phase of our operation,” explained Mark. “The other phase involves the same process, but it’s just more centralized and localized here in our yard.” Other contractors bring in stumps from more jobs. “These are jobs that are not really big enough to warrant us taking all our equipment to the site,” said Mark. “So they bring the material here to our yard and dump it.” Excavators, stump shears and grinders process the wood material collected at the company’s yard just as they do on job sites in the field.
The company markets and sells its wood products through newspaper and trade magazine ads, signage on company trucks, and at trade shows. It sells firewood retail to consumers and also wholesale to distributors.
When asked about recent working conditions, Mark chuckled. “It’s New England we are talking about, so it’s all woods and hills, and it’s rocky and wet,” he said. “It’s very rare that you find a nice flat piece of ground. Mostly it’s less than desirable, and you learn to work with it and deal with it.”
‘VERY SIMPLE TO MOUNT’
More than a year into using the production model of the Vail stump shear he designed, Doug and his crew are pleased with the impressive results. “This is the last prototype Doug designed, and it’s absolutely working just the way we want it to,” said Mark.
The machine, working off the hydraulics of the excavator, is very user-friendly, noted Mark. “There is nothing that has to be welded to mount this shear onto an excavator. There is just one pin and the extra valve plumbing coming down the side of the machine, and that’s it. So, basically, it’s just a matter of fastening one or two pins and the straps, and it’s ready to go. It’s very simple to mount and simple to operate.” Cook Company is still collecting data to monitor how the equipment is performing and how parts are holding up to wear.
If you ask Mark what he likes best about the Vail stump shear, he will tell you that it will split anything. “It’s very tough. It’s really rugged and easy to manipulate the material once you get the stump split. The teeth are Hensley severe-duty teeth — so the machine is top-notch and wonderful!”
Reducing material handling is another factor helping the company achieve its high production levels, said Mark. “We are always trying to acquire newer and more innovative equipment, like the Vail stump shear. This is a piece of equipment that Doug designed from scratch with a goal in mind to achieve greater efficiencies using less horsepower from the excavator, which makes the excavator much more efficient and results in less breakage on the unit itself.”
When Doug, the father of three children, is not dreaming up other innovations for his business, he volunteers as a coach for junior high school hockey. You can also find Doug on the ski slopes of New England’s major mountains or on the ice playing hockey.
As for the future of his business, he sees a trend away from raw forestry work and an increase in waste wood grinding and wood recycling. “This is primarily what we use the stump shear for anyway,” he said. Further into the future, Doug anticipates more global opportunities as foreign countries eye wood chips as a viable source of fuel.
If you ask Doug what his company does well, he might start by answering that his company has an impeccable reputation in New England for taking care of waste wood, including stumps, railroad ties or brush at collection yards. “We are the ones everyone calls on because we were one of the first companies around in New England for handling that kind of work,” he said. “I also go out of my way to give my customers as good a service as I possibly can.” With the full complement of equipment that Cook Company has available, it is ready to provide wood recycling services.
Doug understood what he needed to do to achieve higher levels of production and efficiencies. He rolled up his sleeves and designed an innovative piece of equipment that became the Vail severe duty stump shear. The unique dual-pivot design brings both higher productivity and rugged longevity to an industry that needs both. Now other companies are using the Vail severe duty stump shear to increase grinding production.
Doug hates to give up trade secrets, but this one was just too good not to share.
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